The Philosophy of the Hebrew Bible

August 1st, 2017 by

Last month I no longer found myself sitting in the bright, sunny, and scorching hot Mediterranean climate of Pasadena, rather I found myself sitting in the bright, sunny, and hot Mediterranean climate of Jerusalem. So why was I in Jerusalem? To engage with a similar sort of project that the AT project is engaged with at Fuller Seminary. I was there to think through the relationship between Scripture, analytic philosophy, and the life of faith. Given the similarities between our project at Fuller and the Herzl Institute’s project in Jerusalem, I would like to share some thoughts, in blog form, about what has been going on at the Herzl Institute this summer.

From June 12th– 22nd a group of Christian and Jewish scholars, whose expertise included biblical studies, political philosophy, and analytic theology, gathered to discuss Yoram Hazony’s book, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.

In this book, Hazony contends that Western culture has made a major mistake in not seeing the Hebrew Bible as a significant philosophical work. Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Plotinus’s Enneads are all part of the Western philosophical canon; why isn’t the Hebrew Bible? Hazony argues that the reason it isn’t is because the Hebrew Bible has been deemed a “work of revelation” as opposed to a “work of reason.”

According to Hazony, the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures are “in fact closer to being works of reason than anything else” (Hazony: 2012, 3). He laments the fact that Western culture, due to Christian influence, has read the reason-revelation-dichotomy into the Hebrew Scriptures. This dichotomy, in turn, has affected the standing of Hebrew Scriptures within public spheres. By reconceiving the Hebrew Scriptures as a work of reason, Hazony hopes to restore its standing in public dialogue. Not only does Hazony argue that the Hebrew Scriptures are works of reason, he also argues  that the “Hebrew Scriptures can (and should) be read as works of philosophy, with an aim to discovering what they have to say to the broader discourse concerning the nature of the world and the just life for man” (Hazony: 2012, 4).

Hazony’s attempt at constructing a philosophy of the Hebrew Scriptures has two major parts, which respectively, make up the structure of his work as an introduction to the philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. First, Hazony provides a methodological framework by which one can begin to read the Hebrew Scriptures as works of philosophy. He then proceeds to provide some examples of how the authors of Scripture were engaging philosophical discourse. This latter part addresses topics like metaphysics, epistemology, and political philosophy. In addressing such topics, he provides plenty of fodder for further reflection by philosophers and analytic theologians.

Over the next few days I hope to write a bit more about Hazony’s larger project; so you can expect a few blogs on ideas from the book, the young scholar’s workshop, and the conference following the workshop.

Christopher Woznicki is a PhD student in the Analytic Theology Project at Fuller Theological Seminary. He received a MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and a BA in Philosophy from UCLA. Christopher has written several journal and encyclopedia articles on Jonathan Edwards.

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