Among biblical scholars, philosophical approaches to the Hebrew Bible are rare. However, a recent history of anti-philosophical sentiment in biblical theology has more recently been matched by a “philosophical turn” to a variety of philosophical sub-disciplines. Some of the now well-known and utilized auxiliary philosophical sub-fields include ethics, hermeneutics, social philosophy, political theory and philosophy of literature. However, there are still several philosophical sub-disciplines that remain neglected for a variety of reasons. These include metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of religion, etc.
Over the last decade or so, a few biblical scholars and philosophers have, just begun to explore these fields’ potential for understanding the Hebrew Bible’s own assumptions on related themes:
- Annette Schellenberg, Qohelet und die alttestamentliche Diskussion um das menschliche Erkennen (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003)
- Michael Carasik, Theologies of the Mind in Biblical Israel (Peter Lang, 2006)
- Ryan O’Dowd, The Wisdom of Torah: Epistemology in Deuteronomy and the Wisdom Literature (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009)
- Eleonore Stump, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford University Press, 2010)
- Yael Avrahami, The Senses of Scripture: Sensory Perception in the Hebrew Bible (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2012)
- Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
- Jaco Gericke, The Hebrew Bible and Philosophy of Religion (SBL Publications, 2012)
- Dru Johnson, Biblical Knowing: A Scriptural Epistemology of Error (Cascade Press, 2013)
As the publication of these studies suggest, contrary to popular belief, philosophical perspectives need not imply the distortion of meaning in the biblical discourse. On the contrary, such research show that historically-conscious philosophical readings can be an aid in exposing the anachronistic philosophical-theological assumptions present in other forms of exegesis.
In addition, since philosophy is perhaps the most fundamental of all types of inquiry, it could be argued that if philosophical analysis is neglected, Hebrew Bible scholars have not made a beginning in coming to terms with the biblical world-views’ own elementary building blocks. In light of the above, this SBL session provides a place where participants from a wide variety of ideological, methodological and cultural backgrounds can have a platform to discuss issues related to the theme chosen for the slot: Hebrew Bible and Philosophy.
The objective here, as the title suggests, would be the sharing of research findings from philosophical readings of the biblical texts via the perspectives available in the neglected philosophical sub-fields mentioned above.
—Jaco Gericke & Dru Johnson