- Pathfinder

Reply To: After completing this course, do you agree with the statement, “Hebraic Thought is the greatest intellectual tradition in the history of humanity.” Why or why not?

John Gay

I think I’d say “yes with several asterisks.” The “yes” part is obvious – divine revelation is the highest thing that has been revealed to us and to meditate deeply on it is the best way to gain wisdom.

Asterisk one: Christian theology was expanding from very early to absorb things from the Greek intellectual world. Figures like Aquinas, drawing from Aristotle, offered powerful arguments for God’s existence, answers to the problem of evil, and so forth. They’ve been deeply absorbed into contemporary Christian thought, especially in Catholic circles. I think this is more in accord with the way of reading Scripture promoted by the Center for Hebraic Thought than the way I read the course to be arguing. The course – and the second episode that Biblical Mind podcast did with Rabbi Ari Lamm, talked about the importance of the Oral Torah and of community and tradition in bringing the Written Torah to life in concrete, modern situations. The Greek-influenced Christian theological tradition is, to my mind, the closest thing Christianity has to an Oral Torah, in that it’s an ancient yet living way of pursuing a Christian life in the modern world and across a range of issues.

Asterisk two: I’m a little wary of the precise way of understanding what the Bible is that is embedded in the idea of a Hebraic intellectual tradition *within the Bible*. That is, it seems to me that this view says that the Bible is to be understood as an interlocking set of explorations of man’s relationship to God and that the main way it does this is to return to something thematically across several types of Biblical literature, and that not everything in there gets this thematic treatment. I’m really basing this on the line in one of the lectures or maybe the supplemental podcasts that you’d be foolish to base your whole theology on one verse. Maybe I’m over-reading that one line, but it seems like it’s establishing a kind of hierarchy within revelation, with thematic stuff at the top and non-thematic stuff at the bottom. The course’s discussion of the woman caught in adultery seemed to square with that sort of reading: that this long-canonical set of verses has an air of dubiousness about it because it seems out of step with the themes.

Maybe I’m just misreading the intellectual project behind the idea of a Hebraic intellectual tradition. The work they’re doing is clearly bearing great fruit – I learned a lot in this.