Is the Bible a book of Philosophy?
After the great mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal died, a note was found sewn into the lining of his jacket:
“Fire…the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Not the god of the philosophers”.
Nonetheless, I think Pascal would approve of the goal of this little project: to explain the philosophy of the Bible. For he himself was a fervent believer and renown philosopher, and never viewed these two things in conflict. His hand-written note was not a repudiation of philosophy, but a way of doing philosophy.
For he knew one simple fact: we are all philosophers. Everyday we make decisions which reflect our belief in what is real, what is valuable, what is true, and what is right. And these four questions constitute the bulk of what philosophy is about.
So if the Bible has any coherence at all, it will have a philosophy. The Bible is not a book about philosophy, but a story. But that story, if true, must be based on certain core beliefs about reality, value, truth and ethics. One may be able to write a limerick with no philosophical underpinnings, but not scriptures.
This sounds like a good start to your new project.ReplyDelete
I am curious - will you be delving into the philosophy of the Jews who wrote the scriptures? I have discussed the writing of the scriptures with some rabbis, and their take on the reading of scriptural stories is fascinating. For the most part, they find the fundamentalist Christian stance insisting on the scriptures being absolute truth as far as historical and scientific statements to be....odd. And wrong. Highly regarded Jewish scholars of the scriptures primarily teach that the scripture was written by men, inspired by God, but not intended to be read as a history or science text. Their ideas on the scripture seem to match your viewpoint regarding them as a philosophy.
I am REALLY looking forward to reading your upcoming posts. Thanks for providing this for us!
Ruth, I will try to let the ancient writers speak for themselves, as best I am able to discern that. I certainly don't think they intended their writings to be read as a history or science text; as far as I can tell, the Torah (and the entire Tanakh) were shaped to describe God's persistent plan to redeem His good creation, in spite of human failure. It is a theology, in the shape of a story. Not a textbook or an answer book.Delete
At least, that is how I understand it.
Ruth, you'll find a wide range among Jewish scholars. Some of the Orthodox and Hasidic Jews are as fundamentalist about the bible as Christian fundamentalists. If you haven't read novels by Chaim Potok, I highly recommend him. Also, the work by Abraham Joshua Heschel, God In Search Of Man: a philosophy of Judaism is a classic, and time I picked it up again.Delete
Ted, I haven't read any of Chaim Potok's books in years. I should probably re-read some of them. Your other recommendation looks interesting; I think I will try to read that book.Delete
And yes, the Jewish scholars are as widely separated on their theology as Christian scholars. The primary difference is that those who would be considered fundamentalist are typically only found in specific sects, as you mentioned, unlike Christian fundamentalists who can be found in almost any denomination.
Looking forward to this (and your upcoming book).ReplyDelete