The Bible and Philosophy (2009)

The Bible and Philosophy: Rethinking the Fundamentals

Conference in Jerusalem, Israel, October 25-28, 2009

Philosophers have gradually become accustomed to the idea that the classic texts of Indian and Chinese religion can be fruitfully interrogated for insights in the philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and other fields. But the classical texts of the Bible remain largely outside the scope of philosophical discourse.

To be sure, there is a rich tradition of “theistic” philosophy, which begins with the medieval thesis that the God of the Bible is “the most perfect being”. But in recent years, philosophers, theologians and scholars of Bible have asked whether this tradition accurately reflects the worldview(s) of the biblical authors; and whether this discourse exhausts the possible subjects for fruitful philosophical investigation of the biblical texts.

The department of Philosophy, Political Theory and Religion (PPR) at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem invites submissions for a conference on “The Bible and Philosophy: Rethinking the Fundamentals,” to be held in Jerusalem on October 25-28, 2009.

Participants to include: Lenn Goodman (Vanderbilt), Alan Mittleman (JTS), David-Hillel Ruben (Birkbeck College London), and Howard Wettstein (UC Riverside).

Interdisciplinary papers are invited on subjects related to the philosophical elucidation of the Hebrew Bible, or to the relationship between philosophy and the biblical texts. Although papers on later interpretive traditions (rabbinic, Catholic, Protestant, etc.) will be considered for presentation at the conference, priority will be given to papers involving direct philosophical engagement with the biblical texts.

Questions philosophers, theologians and scholars of Bible and religion may wish to investigate in the context of this conference include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Are there distinct biblical concepts of truth, being, justice or love?
  2. Does the Bible have a distinct approach (or approaches) to familiar questions in ontology, epistemology, philosophy of language, or hermeneutics?
  3. Does the Bible have a distinct approach (or approaches) to human nature? To the nature of the mind? To the nature of the spoken word? To what does the biblical concept of the soul refer?
  4. What is the biblical authors’ view (or views) of reason and argument? Of the search for wisdom, knowledge, and truth? Of conscience?
  5. To what does the biblical concept of God refer? Does the Bible really conceive of God as perfect being? And if not, then what?
  6. Is there a distinctive biblical approach (or approaches) to morals? To self-improvement and virtue? To law? How does the biblical concept of holiness differ from its meaning in other traditions, and how is it related to goodness?
  7. Does the central narrative sequence of the Bible (Genesis to Kings), if considered as a whole, raise questions of philosophical significance? What about the corpus of the later prophets (Isaiah to Malachi)? The biblical compilation as a whole? Is there a distinctive biblical approach to history? To narrative? To time?
  8. Do particular biblical stories or books of the Bible advance philosophically significant teachings or points of view? What about the “biographies” of particular biblical figures?
  9. What do the various genres by means of which the biblical authors express their ideas (narrative, law, prophetic oration, psalm, etc.) tell us about the content of those ideas?
  10. How do biblical concepts, issues, and viewpoints compare with those of ancient? Of the ancient Near East and India? Of later Western philosophy, including modern philosophy?

Abstracts of no more than 400 words should be submitted together with a current CV no later than May 22, 2009.

Select conference papers will appear subsequently in a conference book. A limited travel fund will be available to assist graduate students wishing to attend the conference.