The relationship of humankind and nature according to Psalm 8
Mngqibisa, Oscar Themba
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This dissertation focuses on studying the relationship between humankind and nature in Psalm 8. The study of this relationship was triggered by Psalm 8 which, when closely examined, reveals a relationship suggesting an interrelatedness between humankind and nature. This research investigates the cause, nature, and result of that interrelatedness. The hypothesis that has guided this study has been that humankind and nature form a oneness or holism and partnership, and this oneness or holism and partnership lead to interrelatedness between these two entities. Our appreciation of this can be enhanced by approaching it from a Xhosa perspective. This approach also makes a contribution to Seventh-day Adventist theological reflection. In support of this hypothesis an exegesis of Psalm 8 is presented. Psalm 8 is one of the several Old Testament texts that seem to reflect this oneness and partnership, suggesting the interrelatedness between humankind and nature. In this exegesis a close reading approach was employed. The close reading approach refers to the studying of the language in the text, the style of the writing, the metaphors, and the relation of these to one another [Childs 1983:33, 34]. Xhosa and Seventh-day Adventist perspectives of the relationship between humankind and nature have been considered in this discussion: the Xhosa perspective because of my affiliation to these people, and also because Xhosas maintain that there is oneness or holism between humankind and nature. The Seventh-day Adventist perspective has been incorporated since I am a Seventh-day Adventist and have derived my theology from this tradition. Exegesis of Psalm 8 reveals a oneness or holism and partnership of humankind and nature, and this oneness or holism and partnership of these two entities leads to their interrelatedness. Moreover, this oneness and partnership that leads to the interrelatedness of the two entities is rooted in the creation of Genesis 1 of which Psalm 8 seems to be a development. In this relationship each party (humankind and other created beings) plays a role. Humans play the role of leading and representing the group in such a way that their actions or the results of those actions – good or bad - influence all members of the partnership. On the other hand, the other members of this partnership are there to serve the rest of the body, including humanity. In short, the emphasis on the relationship of Psalm 8 is that humankind and nature are so connected that they can hardly survive without each other. The benefit of this research is two-fold. First, it has provided an alternative perspective into the modern theological debate of the relationship of humankind and nature based on the Old Testament. This alternative is that humankind and nature form oneness or holism. Therefore, rather than separating humankind from nature and focusing the attention on humanity to the exclusion of nature, let the debate recognize this oneness and inseparableness.