The Bible in the Jewish Philosophical Tradition
Understanding what the Bible says and means has been the central concern of the Jewish philosophical tradition. Jewish philosophers have assumed that the biblical text, as God's revealed word, is true. In principle, then, what is true in the Bible must cohere with what is known to be true from other sources of knowledge. Given the limitations of human knowledge, however, no one philosophical reading of the Bible can be definitive; all readings are necessarily partial, incomplete, and amenable to correction. Committed to the pursuit of truth, Jewish philosophers “translated” the Bible into other languages, composed commentaries on the Bible, expounded the particularly difficult or significant sections of the Bible, and theorized about the relationship between knowledge discovered by human reason and knowledge revealed by God. All of these activities were regarded as expressions of the religious obligation to love God.
Although the Bible played an important role in all phases of Jewish philosophy, the philosophicaltools for reflections about the Bible have changed over time, reflecting the transformation of Jewish culture as influenced by its general surroundings. In ancient Alexandria, medieval Spain, Provence, and Italy, modern Germany, and contemporary America, Jewish philosophers have engaged diverse philosophical schools, including Platonism, Stoicism, Kalam, Aristotelianism, Enlightenment, Kantianism, Existentialism, Phenomenology, and Post‐Structuralism. By thinking about Judaism in light of these philosophical traditions, Jewish philosophers not only fathomed the depth of the Bible anew but also acted as cultural mediators between Judaism and surrounding cultures.