Biblical and Rabbinic Ideas

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

Print this page Print this page

…from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth. (Deuteronomy 13:8)

9. God is omnipotent

I know that you canst do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

10. Man possesses freedom of choice

I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil…therefore, choose life… (Deuteronomy 30:15‑19)

11. Man's essential nature is reason [one of many interpretations of this verse].

Let us make man in our image. (Genesis 1:26)

12. Man's final goal is love of God    

Love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul… (Deuteronomy 6:5)

13. Man should be modest in his conduct

Righteous eat to the satisfying of his desire… (Proverbs 13:25)

Rabbinic Literature

While the rabbis had some familiarity with Greek philosophic ideas because Greek philosophy had appeared by the time of the Talmud, research has shown that for the most part the rabbis were not familiar with formal philosophy. The names of the major philosophers are absent from the rabbinic writings, and the only philosophers mentioned by name are Epicurus and the obscure second‑century Oenomaus of Gadara.

In rabbinic literature, the term epicurean (apikoros) is used, but it usually refers to a heretic rather than to someone who embraces Epicurus' doctrines. Jewish philosophers were prone to cite rabbinic sayings in their writings as they did biblical quotations, for support of their views. Table 1‑2 is a brief listing of rabbinic quotations and the philosophic ideas that they represented.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

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.