Literature Study GuidesFear And Trembling

Fear and Trembling | Study Guide

Soren Kierkegaard

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Soren Kierkegaard

Year Published



Religious Text


Allegory, Philosophy, Religion

At a Glance

Søren Kierkegaard wrote Fear and Trembling at least partially to dispute the Danish reception of the beliefs of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831). Kierkegaard saw Danish Hegelianism as squeezing the life out of true religion and turning the Danish State Church into a conformist bureaucracy without the inner passion of the early Christian faith. Kierkegaard saw himself as on a mission to "introduce Christianity into Christendom," and some might say the book continues to serve that purpose today, but in a much broader sense.

Kierkegaard is also considered to be the "father of existentialism," which can be broadly defined as a philosophical position arguing that an individual in every moment is free to choose what it means to be human. Fear and Trembling is written from an existential standpoint. However, it also brings to light that in every moment, people choose how they will conduct their relationship with God or the absolute and that it might be fruitful to do so more consciously.

About the Title

The title of the book is taken from Philippians 2:12 of the Bible's New Testament. In it Saint Paul addresses the Christian community at Philippi, admonishing them to continue to work out their salvation with "fear and trembling." Fear in this context is commonly interpreted as awe and respect for God's majesty and dread for the loss of salvation. In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard refers to the fact that people who have stepped outside the boundaries of conventional morality after making a leap of faith will rarely turn into "unbridled beasts" and are more likely to be among those who know "how to speak with fear and trembling." The title perhaps also refers to the anxiety that people feel when they realize they have absolute responsibility for their own lives.


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