The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture: An Introduction

Cambridge University Press  2012


Yoram Hazony, an Israeli political philosopher and founder of the Shalem Center, wants to create a paradigm shift in how we view and understand the Bible. Never one to shy away from ambitious goals, Hazony gives us his newest work, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture: An Introduction, a book that attempts to undo generations of misguided thinking as to the general nature and purpose of the Bible.

Essentially, Hazony contends that we think of ancient books in two crude ways: either as books of philosophy or books of revelation. According to Hazony, philosophy bases itself on the greatest thought and logic of man, while books of revelation connote stale stories based on the artistic whims of ancient writers. Hazony attempts to collapse this false dichotomy, or better yet, to make a case that in truth the Bible belongs as much to the realm of philosophy—and therefore a contemporary conversation on politics, social trends, and general thought—as do the works of Plato or Socrates. After Hazony makes a lengthy argument to prove this point, the rest of his book attempts to apply this new method to highlight the novel ideas we can now glean from the Bible.

Both of these sections suffer from the same problem, and succeed because of this same problem. Hazony, a brilliant thinker, engages in wishful Aggadic thinking in order to fit his theories into a notoriously malleable text. His philosophical excursions about the nature and purpose of the Bible end up more as his own wishful, albeit intelligent thinking than anything that can be said to arise from the actual text of the Bible. In that same vein, when he applies his new tools of textual and conceptual analysis to famous biblical stories he emerges with ingenious ideas, but ideas that speak more to his Aggadic mind than to an illumination of the text. As a close reader of texts Hazony flounders, but as a builder of philosophical edifices based loosely on the Bible, Hazony succeeds and deserve both acclaim and a large audience.

However, though riddled with many methodological flaws, or at least methodological questions that Hazony barely seeks to explore, the book represents an important semi-academic work that raises interesting questions for both the Biblical scholar as well as the Biblical laymen.

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