Religion and Modernity in Our Day
April 20, 1996
In this essay a comparison is proposed between the positions of Jewish Orthodoxy in modernistic Western society before and after World War II. It is assumed that the differences arise as a result of major changes in the cultural nature of modernity. The differences are defined, and it is then claimed that they have led to a radical change in the role of all the Jewish modern Orthodox movements. (As a specifically successful example of integration between Orthodoxy and modernity before the war, the changing role of the religious kibbutz movement is particularly examined.)
The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus by Harvey Shulman
April 25, 1995
The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus is Spinoza's great work directing us to his view of the superiority of the political-secular jurisdiction of the state over its religious dimension. For Spinoza, biblical exegesis and hermeneutics were autonomous scholarly endeavors, separate from traditional biblical homiletics. His theological political approach leads him to hone and explicate the prophetic texts for their secular and political implications, undermining the belief that a definitive sacred history took precedence over the secular narrative. The Bible becomes a vehicle for affirming, or refuting, political interests, historically, and for Spinoza's own time. Through his biblical commentary, Spinoza articulates a commitment to a secular, liberal, republican politics, where philosophers have the security and freedom to reflect on ideas, free from any religious dogma and interference. Spinoza's use and abuse of the Bible are also an indictment of two millennia of Jewish scholarship and faith, and also implicitly undermines Christian beliefs about Christ's divinity and sacred dogma.