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The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture

The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture [Kindle Edition]

Yoram Hazony
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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'It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of Hazony's splendid work. This bold attempt to distil the intellectual essence of biblical wisdom deserves the widest possible audience and the most careful attention, regardless of religious denomination or lack of it, from philosophers.' Standpoint Magazine

'Not only is The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture a must for philosophy scholars, but also for every thinking Jew who wants to understand and appreciate the Torah from an intellectual perspective. Written in an accessible style, it casts new light on biblical characters and narrative, encouraging us to use our minds to understand its psychological and philosophical complexity.' Doreen Wachmann, Jewish Telegraph

'As an approach to the Old Testament as philosophy, worthy to be placed alongside any 'reasoned' later work it is something of a masterpiece.' Church Times

'First, Hazony's work is an important contribution to understanding the dynamic of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Second, Hazony's argument is important for understanding not just Genesis 4 but as a radical critique of the general understanding of the entire Hebrew Bible.' Steven D. Ealy, Books and Culture

Product Description

What if the Hebrew Bible wasn't meant to be read as 'revelation'? What if it's not really about miracles or the afterlife - but about how to lead our lives in this world? The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture proposes a new framework for reading the Bible. It shows how biblical authors used narrative and prophetic oratory to advance universal arguments about ethics, political philosophy and metaphysics. It offers bold new studies of biblical narratives and prophetic poetry, transforming forever our understanding of what the stories of Abel, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David and the speeches of Isaiah and Jeremiah, were meant to teach. The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture assumes no belief in God or other religious commitment. It assumes no previous background in Bible. It is free of disciplinary jargon. Open the door to a book you never knew existed. You'll never read the Bible the same way again.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1942 KB
  • Print Length: 393 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0521176670
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (16 July 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0096BCVPG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #511,542 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In his introduction, Hazony makes two major points. The first is that the history of philosophy as taught in the universities and in general text books, pays next to no attention to the philosophy of the Hebrew Bible: for them the history of philosophy begins with the Greeks and with Christianity. (Teaching, as I do, the philosophy of Biblical Judaism as part of my History of Philosophy course, I had been quite unconscious of this first point.) The second point is that, while they ignore the fact that early Greek philosophers like Parmenides, Empedocles and even Socrates claim that the philosophical positions they expounded were attained with the help of the gods, they dismiss as unworthy of philosophy any position in the Hebrew Bible that is attributed to a revelation by God. The distinction, let alone the clash, between Reason and Revelation, Hazony believes, simply did not exist before the Fathers of the Christian Church first adopted it, to be vigorously resumed by the Enlightenment as part of its denigration of Revelation.

In the rest of the book Hazony then shows the philosophy that is to be found in the Hebrew Bible. He writes that the many books that make up the Hebrew Bible as we now have it were collected, EDITED and then presented to us to make a coherent philosophical whole. The Redactor saw the historical books from Genesis to the Babylonian exile as central, and the books of the Prophets as a philosophical, political, ethical and, above all, critical commentary on especially the later parts of that history. There is further philosophical material in Psalms, Proverbs, Job and Kohelet (Ecclesiastes).
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4.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable intellectual workout 25 Aug 2014
By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
Yoram Hazony makes a spirited case for treating the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as philosophically respectable. Arguing that Socrates was not averse to citing deity in support of his reasoning, Hazony draws mainly on what he calls the ‘primary history’ (the Pentateuch plus the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, usually known collectively as ‘the former prophets’) as sources for his argument. An identifiably philosophical approach to understanding events and how to live in the light of them can, the author claims, be ‘read out of’ these books. While his distinction between this approach and the New Testament’s supposed character as revelation rather than a reason-based corpus of writing is tendentious and overdrawn, there is a case for seeing the scriptures he cites as seeking to establish patterns or general truths from specific narratives which are about ‘not what happened, but what always happens’ (79). In them, truths unfold partially and gradually, with blind - as opposed to reasoned – obedience rarely required of the biblical protagonists. Exemplifying this – in what was for me the book’s best chapter – is the ‘ethics of the shepherd’, the outsider (Moses, or Jacob, for example) seemingly mandated time and again not only to challenge human authority and power, but also rewarded for wrestling with God in defining and pursuing the right and the good.

Hazony reads a political philosophy out of the texts that warns against anarchy (the book of Judges) while advocating (1 Samuel 8) a social contract as the ideal underpinning for the Israelite state, provided it is one whose leadership pursues what is right and just. This is a standard set out discursively in law, covenant and teaching to which the prophets frequently hold those in authority.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Compelling Argument 15 July 2013
By T
Yoram Hazony presents a compelling argument: the Hebrew Scripture can and should be read as a work of philosophical reason. He does not altogether dismiss the place of Scripture as a work of revelation (`miraculous knowledge'), however, he rightly challenges the historical claim that Scripture can only be read as revelation - a view taken up by the Church Fathers in Antiquity as a positive against philosophy, and then used by Enlightenment thinkers negatively against the church. The patristic reading of the Hebrew Bible is `an alien interpretive framework that prevents us from seeing much of what is in these texts', suppressing the Bible's appeal to reason (p. 3). The Hebrew Scriptures, however, predate the reason-revelation dichotomy by five hundred years, and are written in a unique language with a unique understanding of the world. Hazony believes the Hebrew Bible has been too long overlooked as a work worthy of philosophical worth, thus rendering it irrelevant for the purpose of study in schools and universities alike. However, it holds valuable insights that speak today to both Jew and Gentile.

In the introduction, `Beyond Reason and Revelation', Hazony illustrates how the great Greek philosophical texts often refer to the inspiration or revelation of deities (for example, Parmenides' goddess and Socrates' daemon). However, this does not preclude them from being considered great philosophical texts. Far from it, they are the bedrock, so if ancient Greek philosophy can accommodate divine revelation then why the objection to the Hebrew Scriptures?

`Part I: Reading Hebrew Scripture' consists of Chapter 2, `The Structure of the Hebrew Bible', Chapter 3, `What is the Purpose of the Hebrew Bible?' and Chapter 4, `How does the Bible Make Arguments of a General Nature?
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