Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.75 shipping
The Hebrew Bible and Philosophy of Religion (Sbl - Resources for Biblical Study (Paper)) Paperback – October 12, 2012
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
Jaco Gericke is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities at North-West University (Vaal Triangle), South Africa.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Gericke's book is in two parts: The first argues that philosophy (or more exactly, "philosophy of religion") is crucial to the study of the Hebrew Bible. The second consists of case studies in the theology, metaphysics, epistemology and ethics of Hebrew Scripture, which seek to show that the theoretical discussion in the first half of the book is more than just talk. Both parts reflect a staggering quantity of reading in the relevant disciplines, and Gericke's careful citations are going to be a crucial roadmap for anyone approaching the question of the relationship between Bible and philosophy from now on.
Are philosophical tools really crucial for the study of the Hebrew Bible? Gericke's argument is refreshingly candid: The biblical texts, he says, are riddled with concepts and assumptions--"metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical assumptions about the nature of reality, existence, life, knowledge, truth, belief, good and evil, value, and so on"--that are different from our own. Without a conscious effort to reconstruct these concepts and assumptions, we cannot "prevent ourselves from reading our own anachronistic philosophical-theological assumptions into and onto the biblical discourse." Tools for engaging in such philosophical reconstruction are familiar and are commonly employed by scholars who seek to describe the views of other ancient philosophies and religions, but "for a number of historical reasons, the study of ancient Israelite religion has been one of the few" such areas of study that have remained "utterly lacking in a philosophical approach." Consequently, there exists a "yawning philosophical gap in research on the Hebrew Bible."
Gericke believes that Old Testament scholars have frequently expended their energies on anachronistic readings that have forced the texts to express late theological conceptions that were entirely unknown to the biblical authors. His hope is that with the introduction of philosophical techniques for reconstructing the actual ideas found in the biblical texts, we can enter into a "new era" in the academic study of the Bible--"one in which both believer and skeptic can together read the ancient texts" from a "relatively neutral" perspective such as that which is normally accepted when approaching the study of Greek philosophy or any other ancient culture.
Gericke is at his best when he is cataloguing and demolishing various anachronisms that have been dragged into current readings of the Hebrew Bible from medieval or modern theology. Among these are "dualist metaphysical assumptions," including the distinctions between supernatural and natural, transcendent and immanent, reality and appearance, religious and secular. The absence of such oppositions means, for example, that the Bible knows of no "other" world, and that gods, far from being "ineffable," are for the biblical authors a "natural kind." Similarly, Gericke turns time and again to debunking the claims of "perfect being" theology to be describing the God of Hebrew Scripture. He shows that medieval conceptions of God's perfection are responsible for creating the so-called "problem of evil," and that theodicy in the modern sense is unknown in the Hebrew Scriptures because the biblical God is not assumed to be all-powerful, all-knowing, or all-good. Gericke also questions whether the biblical authors would have recognized a distinction between "revelation" and "nature," and suggests that in biblical narrative, worldly events may have been accepted as evidence that God has "spoken."
Gericke offers some powerful constructive arguments, especially in the area of ethics. He rejects the common belief that the biblical ethics is a form of "divine command theory" (i.e., that God's will defines what is morally right), and shows convincingly that the Bible assumes a standard of right that is independent of God's will. But he is not as confident in his claims about biblical metaphysics and epistemology. For instance, Gericke makes a great case for the need for a careful clarification of the biblical concept of a "god," but the results of his study on the subject are inconclusive. His tentative suggestion that the authors of the biblical narratives may have known that what they were writing was fiction covers old ground, and I don't think Gericke's version of this proposal is any more persuasive than its predecessors. A more credible and interesting suggestion, also presented tentatively, is that the biblical texts tend to rely on an evidentialist theory of knowledge--that is, the view that one's beliefs can only be justified by evidence.
Overall, Gericke's case studies are more successful in clarifying what the Bible does not say than in reconstructing what it does. I don't see this as an objection to the book. Gericke says his constructive proposals are preliminary. His principal aim is to propose a research agenda that will introduce profound changes in the way the Hebrew Bible is studied and taught in the university setting, and to describe methods by which this agenda can be pursued. And this he does in a manner that is compelling and much needed.
I do have some questions about the way Gericke frames his vision for a "new era" in Bible scholarship. In particular, I wonder at Gericke's references to the "folk philosophical presuppositions" of the biblical texts, and to their "precritical" or "prephilosophical" character. Occasionally, he will also mention that the texts are "naïve" or "primitive" as well. All of this makes it sound as though the authors of the Bible were only capable of dim premonitions concerning the metaphysical or ethical issues that we later readers are fortunate enough to have firmly in our grasp.
But if Gericke is right that modern "biblical scholars have not made a beginning in coming to terms with the conceptual content" of the Hebrew Bible, then all these judgments about the supposedly naïve and uncritical nature of biblical thought may be premature. Perhaps an impartial philosophical elucidation of the Hebrew Bible such as Gericke proposes will lead to the conclusion that the prophets and scholars who assembled these texts were in fact quite conscious of the positions they were advancing in opposition to their surroundings and to one another? Perhaps what Gericke is calling the "philosophical assumptions" of the biblical texts, or at least some of them, are actually the intended philosophical teachings of these works? Indeed, the fact that such a possibility is so foreign to so many scholars may be a consequence of the very same prejudices that Gericke is at such pains to combat.
This is a wonderful book, brimming with intellectual energy. I cannot help marveling at the love of the Hebrew Bible that Gericke continues to exhibit, given the pain and disappointments in his personal spiritual life, which he is trusting enough to mention to his readers in passing. I have no doubt that there will be others who will be moved by the vision he articulates, and who will wish to take part in pursuing it.