Some years ago I pulled open the nightstand drawer in the room of the hotel in which I was lodging. Inside I found the familiar Gideon’s Bible. With nothing much to do I pulled the book out and opened it up. Upon opening the book I discovered that some previous hotel guest had taken the liberty of scrawling a message on the inside cover in blue pen: “This book,” he (or she) had written, “is God’s word to you. It is his revelation. It will change your life.”
That is the way millions of people have thought about the Bible, that it is God’s revelation. And revelation it may be. But is there a danger that by focusing on the Bible as revelation, we might fail to grapple with the extent to which this book also contains profound and penetrating human reason?
Yoram Hazony thinks so. Professor Hazony is a distinguished Israeli philosopher, political theorist and President of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is also author of The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (Princeton University Press, 2012). In this book Professor Hazony argues that the Hebrew scriptures, aka the Old Testament, should be viewed as works of philosophy. And not just any works of philosophy. Professor Hazony believes that they offer truly profound philosophical wisdom, a wisdom which has been often missed precisely because we have determined to view the Bible solely in terms of divine revelation. Professor Hazony is not denying the divine dimension of the text. He simply wants to ensure that by affirming it we don’t lose the human side as well.
In my ongoing quest to populate The Tentative Apologist Podcast with the most interesting minds, I recently had the chance to meet Professor Hazony in Baltimore, Maryland and to explore his ideas on the Bible as philosophy. At the beginning of our interview I describe The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture as one of of the three best books I’ve read this year. That isn’t just the empty blather of a sycophantic interviewer. I really mean it. I have found The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture to be a delightful and challenging book. And I can say the same about our conversation. I trust that you’ll find this to be a rich and reasonable discussion … and just perhaps a revelatory one as well.
To learn more about Yoram Hazony you can visit him online at http://www.yoramhazony.org/