Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Theology

First Advisor

Dr Steven Thompson

Second Advisor

Dr Laurence Turner


220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)


Contemporary work (or lack of it) can be a source of satisfaction or stress, of elevating a sense of self-­‐worth, or contributing to low self-­‐esteem. The question asked was what contribution could or did Christian theology offer to everyday human work. A study of the history of Christian theologies of work noted significant changes over the centuries to Christian understanding. Since all theologies of work were linked to Genesis material, a complete study of the Genesis narrative was undertaken.

Utilizing the methods of narrative theology and reception history of Genesis passages, the prologue, primordial narrative and patriarchal portions were examined, and the findings compared with the contemporary co-­‐creationist theology of work. It was found that the Genesis narrative has a strong theme of work, and this is matched by a notable theme of curse in the primordial narratives and blessing in the patriarchal.

The study asserts that the Genesis narrative has a chiastic structure that offers illumination to the issues connected with human work, and that the vision of human work portrayed in the co-creation doctrine of work is not supported by the Genesis presentation. The primordial narrative portrays the negative results of human work unaided by divine guidance, and the patriarchal narratives show the struggle of humans to learn to work with, and wait for, God.

Importantly, the patriarchal narrative demonstrates that human efforts to expedite divinely promised blessing tend to result in delayed blessing and relational distress. The concluding Joseph novella offers encouragement regarding what God can achieve through a human dedicated to him. Joseph’s work embraced a full spectrum of work from slave to senior government official. The success he achieved even as a slave is repeatedly attributed as entirely due to the blessing of God.

The theology that emerges from Genesis could thus be described as a blessed relational theology of work, with the focus on relationship with God, and the privilege of co-operating with him and with other humans to achieve the divinely intended good.


Used by permission: the author

A print copy of this thesis is held in the Avondale College Library (SC Theses 222.1107 Os7).

The final, revised and updated version of this thesis is published as: Ostring, E. (2016). Be a blessing: The theology of work in the narrative of Genesis. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.

The published version of this thesis can be purchased from the publisher website here