Biblical and Rabbinic Ideas

Neither the Bible nor rabbinic literature are explicitly philosophical, but they nonetheless contain precedents invoked by later Jewish thinkers.

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Reprinted with permission from Every Person's Guide to Jewish Philosophy and Philosophers, published by Jason Aronson Publishers.

Both the Bible and rabbinic literature contain explicit views about God, man, and the world. These views, however, are not presented in any formal systematic way, and thus it is more common to speak of biblical and rabbinic theology rather than philosophy. Nevertheless, Jewish philosophers throughout the ages often use and quote biblical and rabbinic sources in support of their various philosophic views.

Table 1‑1 is a sampling of biblical verses concerning God and human nature that are often cited by Jewish philosophers in their works. Each verse is accompanied by its central message.

Biblical Theology

Table 1‑1.

Biblical Verses Concerning God and Human Nature

Message

1. The One incomparable God [to which Israel should be loyal]

Verse

Hear O Israel, the Lord our

God, the Lord is One. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

2. God creates and acts in the world

God said: Let there be light and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

3. God is imageless

You saw no shape when the Lord your God spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. (Deuteronomy 4:15)

4. Israel is God's chosen people

If you will listen to Me and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own treasure from among all peoples. (Exodus 19:4)

5. God has attributes

The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth… (Exodus 34:6)

6. Moses' prophecy was superior [to the prophecy of all other prophets]

Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom God singled out, face to face… (Deuteronomy 34:10)

7. God punishes wayward behavior

Be careful, lest your heart be deceived and you turn aside and worship other gods. And the anger of God be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven. (Deuteronomy 11:16‑17)

8. The heavens and the earth are finite

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Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.

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