Linking Emotion, Cognition, and Action within a Social Frame: Old Testament Perspectives on Preaching the Fear of the LORD


  • Anathea E. Portier-Young



Modern accounts of the meaning of “fear of the LORD” in the Hebrew Bible have tended to distance this important concept from the emotion of fear, offering alternative understandings as worship, obedience, or wisdom. This essay examines phrases such as “fear of the LORD,” “fear of God,” and “God-fearer,” across four sets of texts in the Hebrew Bible: 1) narratives in Genesis and Exodus; 2) Deuteronomy and other Deuteronomistic literature; 3) wisdom literature; and 4) Psalms. I argue that fear of the LORD/God in the Hebrew Bible typically does connote an emotional fear response that has in view divine power over life and death. The links between such fear and worship, and obedience, and wisdom that are attested in numerous biblical texts are not evidence of synonymy but a recognition of the fundamental link between emotion, cognition, and action. Recent developments in the study of emotion illuminate their interrelationship and the ways in which fear of the LORD/God is also socially shaped and shaping.

Author Biography

Anathea E. Portier-Young

Anathea E. Portier-Young is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina. She co-edited with Gregory E. Sterling Scripture and Social Justice: Catholic and Ecumenical Essays, Lanham, 2018.