JERUSALEM--(Shalem College described as a “historic scholarly insurgency” more than 80 leading thinkers and scholars from North America, Europe, Australia, and Israel gathered last week in Jerusalem to determine what happens when Hebrew Scripture meets philosophy.)--In what Prof. Martin Kramer, President-designate of
“The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture: An Introduction”
From June 26 to June 30, physicists and philosophers, classicists and literature professors met to break down what they see as the illegitimate boundaries of “fields” and “disciplines” as they relate to this emerging school of thought.
Shalem Center Provost Yoram Hazony said, “Dozens of dynamic rock-star professors and doctoral student wanna-be’s came here to say something nobody says—and only they believe. This new generation of Jewish thinkers came to argue that Jewish texts can be read as philosophy. That the Bible was never intended to be approached solely as a vehicle for an out-of-this world revelation, but also as a human investigative project not so different from that of Plato or Hobbes.”
Under the auspices of The Shalem Center’s conference on the “Philosophical Investigation of the Hebrew Bible, Talmud and Midrash,” the Bible was discussed, interpreted, disagreed with and debated for the first time as one of the great classical works of reason of all time—forever transforming our understanding of what the stories of Abel, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Solomon, and Jeremiah were meant to teach us.
Hazony added “This is a revolutionary idea. Right now, no student in any academic philosophy course has to lose sleep over the possibility that a question on the ideas of the Bible will show up on his or her final exam. Even students studying Bible and religion in the universities know they won’t be tested on the ideas of the Bible—just on how the book of Genesis was written or its quality as a literary work. And for at least some religious Christians and Jews, this will be radical to the point of heresy—allowing a reading of Hebrew Scripture that isn’t really about faith in God, so much as it is about ethics, political philosophy, and metaphysics. For non-believers, it means a whole new way of approaching what has until now been the closed Book of Books.” said Hazony, author of the forthcoming “The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture: An Introduction,” from Cambridge University Press.
This was Shalem’s second annual Bible and philosophy conference. The first conference was marked by skepticism. Now, 18 months later, the project has won a $1.1 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation that is slated to support three years of international conferences, workshops and fellowships, and books arguing for incorporating Bible into philosophy have begun to appear.
This second conference signals the coalescence of a new Jewish school of thought—a new school of philosophy created by Jews – as potentially as revolutionary and transformative as anything happening in the Middle East now.