Interview with Marc Van De Mieroop on his new book Philosophy Before the Greeks (Princeton University Press, 2016).
From the publisher:
“Epistemology and Biblical Theology: From the Pentateuch to Mark’s Gospel pursues a coherent theory of knowledge as described across the Pentateuch and Mark’s Gospel. As a work from the emerging field of philosophical criticism, this volume explores in each biblical text both narrative and paraenesis to assess what theory of knowledge might be presumed or advocated and the coherence of that structure across texts.
In the Pentateuch and Mark, primacy is placed on heeding an authenticated and authoritative prophet, and then enacting the guidance given in order to see what is being shown—in order to know. Erroneous knowing follows the same boundaries: failure to attend to the proper authoritative voice or failure to enact guidance creates mistaken understanding. With a working construct of proper knowing in hand, points of contact with and difficulties for contemporary philosophical epistemologies are suggested. In the end, Michael Polanyi’s scientific epistemology emerges as the most commensurable view with knowing as it appears in these foundational biblical texts. Therefore, this book will be of interest to scholars working across the fields of Biblical studies and philosophy.”
Dru Johnson is an associate professor of biblical and theological studies at The King’s College (New York City, NY); Templeton research fellow at the Logos Institute (University of St Andrews, 2017–18); co-chair of the Hebrew Bible and Philosophy unit in the Society of Biblical Literature; associate director of the Templeton Jewish Philosophical Theology Project at The Herzl Institute (Jerusalem, Israel); and a Templeton Research Fellow in Analytic Theology at the Institute for Advanced Studies—Shalem Center (Jerusalem, 2012–13). His recent books include: Knowledge by Ritual (Eisenbrauns, 2016) and Scripture’s Knowing (Cascade, 2015).
James Diamond responds to Levenson’s critique of Seeskin about the possibility of the Hebrew Bible doing philosophy within the Jewish tradition. You can read the article HERE.
From the publisher:
Consisting of a brief history of (anti-) metaphysical theories of whatness and essence from Socrates to Derrida, the relevant ideas are adapted and reapplied to the use of Elohim as common noun in the Hebrew Bible. As such it is a prolegomenon to future research related to the question by creating awareness both of possible alternative ways of conceptualizing the research problem and of the need for a more nuanced manner of speaking about what we mean in our asking of the question about what we mean when we talk about God.
From the publisher (amazon.com):
“There is a growing recognition that philosophy isn’t unique to the West, that it didn’t begin only with the classical Greeks, and that Greek philosophy was influenced by Near Eastern traditions. Yet even today there is a widespread assumption that what came before the Greeks was “before philosophy.” In Philosophy before the Greeks, Marc Van De Mieroop, an acclaimed historian of the ancient Near East, presents a groundbreaking argument that, for three millennia before the Greeks, one Near Eastern people had a rich and sophisticated tradition of philosophy fully worthy of the name.
In the first century BC, the Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily praised the Babylonians for their devotion to philosophy. Showing the justice of Diodorus’s comment, this is the first book to argue that there were Babylonian philosophers and that they studied knowledge systematically using a coherent system of logic rooted in the practices of cuneiform script. Van De Mieroop uncovers Babylonian approaches to knowledge in three areas: the study of language, which in its analysis of the written word formed the basis of all logic; the art of divination, which interpreted communications between gods and humans; and the rules of law, which confirmed that royal justice was founded on truth.
The result is an innovative intellectual history of the ancient Near Eastern world during the many centuries in which Babylonian philosophers inspired scholars throughout the region–until the first millennium BC, when the breakdown of this cosmopolitan system enabled others, including the Greeks, to develop alternative methods of philosophical reasoning.”
Dru Johnson reviews Jaco Gericke’s The Hebrew Bible and Philosophy of Religion in tandem with Seizo Sekine’s Philosophical Interpretations of the Old Testament, specifically thinking about their divergent methodologies.
Calum Carmichael, Cornell University, Presiding
Danilo Verde, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Qoheleth’s Epistemology: Thinking Critically at the Crossroads of Different Traditions (30 min)
Ryan O’Dowd, Chesterton House, Cornell University
The Painful Pedagogy of Proverbs (30 min)
Stephanie Nordby, University of Oklahoma
Metaphor and the Mind of God in Nevi’im (30 min)
Dru Johnson, The King’s College (New York)
Pictures of Epistemic Justification in the Early History of the Hebrew Bible (30 min)
Discussion (30 min)
From the publisher’s website (eisenbrauns.com):
“What do rituals have to do with knowledge? Knowledge by Ritual examines the epistemological role of rites in Christian Scripture. By putting biblical rituals in conversation with philosophical and scientific views of knowledge, Johnson argues that knowing is a skilled adeptness in both the biblical literature and scientific enterprise. If rituals are a way of thinking in community akin to scientific communities, then the biblical emphasis on rites that lead to knowledge cannot be ignored. Practicing a rite to know occurs frequently in the Hebrew Bible. YHWH answers Abram’s skepticism—”How shall I know that I will possess the land?”—with a ritual intended to make him know (Gen 15:7–21). The recurring rites of Sabbath (Exod 31:13) and dwelling in a Sukkah (Lev 23:43) direct Israel toward discernment of an event’s enduring significance. Likewise, building stone memorials aims at the knowledge of generations to come (Josh 4:6).
Though the New Testament appropriates the Torah rites through strategic re-employment, the primary questions of sacramental theology have often presumed that rites are symbolically encoded. Hence, understanding sacraments has sometimes been reduced to decoding the symbols of the rite. Knowledge by Ritual argues that the rites of Israel, as portrayed in the biblical texts, disposed Israelites to recognize something they could not have seen apart from their participation. By examining the epistemological function of rituals, Johnson’s monograph gives readers a new set of questions to explore both the sacraments of Israel and contemporary sacramental theology.”
The Hebrew Bible and Philosophy unit will be hosting two sessions:
1) invited papers from scholars of bible, theology, and philosophy examining the basis for philosophical criticism of Hebrew Bible, and
2) an open call for papers that propose to examine specific biblical texts or the Hebrew Bible as a whole for philosophical content. Preference will be given to proposals that consider neglected philosophical sub-disciplines in Hebrew Bible scholarship (e.g., metaphysics, logic/rationality, epistemology, philosophy of religion).
See https://hebrewbibleandphilosophy.wordpress.com for the motivations of this program unit and examples of examinations of the bible’s philosophical content.
Proposals for session 2 can be submitted HERE.