Philosophical Investigation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Talmud and Midrash 2011

Location: The Shalem Center, Jerusalem
Dates: June 26-30, 2011


To view conference program please click here.
To register for the conference please click here.


  1. Rachel Adelman (Harvard Divinity School), “’Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On’: Imagining God’s Body in the Narrative of Redemption”
  2. Ira Bedzow (Emory University), “Must we be Satisfied with Modern Jewish Thought or Can There be a Contemporary Jewish Philosophy?”
  3. Louis Blond (University of Cape Town), “The Paradox of Perfection Theology”
  4. James Diamond (University of Waterloo), “The Biblical Moment of Perception: Angelic Encounter as Metaphysics”
  5. Jeremy England (Princeton University), “Staff or Serpent? Expectation and Perception in a World of Laws”
  6. Michael Fagenblat (Monash University), “Kabod: Phenomenological Metaphysics in the Hebrew Bible”
  7. Lenn Goodman (Vanderbilt University), “God and Israel as Lovers: The Song of Songs”
  8. Hannah Hashkes (Shalem Center), “Torah’s Seventy Faces: Rabbinic Hermeneutics and Metaphysics”
  9. Yoram Hazony (Shalem Center), “Wrestling With God”
  10. Jacob Howland (University of Tulsa), “Cosmos and Philosophy in Plato and the Bible”
  11. Dru Johnson (St. Mary’s College), “Phenomenal Theology?: Some Pentateuchal Cautions for Analytic Theology”
  12. Asa Kasher (Tel Aviv University), “Radical Negative Theology”
  13. Steven Kepnes (Colgate University), “Holy, Holy, Holy:  The Language of the Nature of God in Isaiah”
  14. Sam Lebens (Birkbeck College, London; and Yeshivat Torat Yosef Hamivtar, Efrat), “How to Cut a Sentence into Bits: Logic and Law in the Talmud and Beyond”
  15. Berel Dov Lerner (Western Galilee College), “Divine Plans and Human Obligations”
  16. Joseph Isaac Lifshitz (Shalem Center), “The Judicial Ground of the Talmudic Style of Discussion”
  17. Michael Miller (University of Nottingham), “Examination of Metatron and the Principal Angelic Figures Within Early Rabbinic Tradition”
  18. Alan Mittleman (Jewish Theological Seminary), “The Problem of Holiness”
  19. Dani Rabinowitz & Kelly Clark (Oxford University & Calvin College), “Abraham and the Nature of God? Introducing the cognitive science of religion to rabbinic texts”
  20. Shalom Rosenberg  (Hebrew University), “Competing Trends in Talmudic Ethics: Piety Versus Wisdom”
  21. Tamar Rudavsky (Ohio State University), “Time and Eternity as reflected in Scripture and Philosophy”
  22. Kenneth  Seeskin (Northwestern University), “The Destructiveness of God”
  23. Aaron Segal (University of Notre Dame), “Metaphysics Out of the Sources of Halacha or a Halachik Metaphysic?”
  24. Josh Weinstein (Shalem Center), “Gone Fishin’, or The Matter, Form and Power of a Leviathan, Civill and Ecclesiasticall”
  25. Roslyn Weiss (Lehigh University), “’Kol Tuvi’—The Transcendent God of Goodness”
  26. Jacob Wright (Emory University), “Shalem’s ‘Jewish Philosophical Theology’ Project and the Guild of Biblical Studies”

The Hebrew Bible occupies an anomalous position on the contemporary academic landscape. The field of biblical studies produces a steady stream of works on the compositional history, philology, and literary character of the biblical texts. But the ideas that find expression in the Hebrew Scriptures—the metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy of the biblical authors—have seldom been explored by the field of biblical studies in a systematic fashion. At the same time, philosophers, political theorists, and historians of ideas, who see the study of ideas as the principal interest of their work, tend to assume that the biblical texts fall outside the scope of their disciplines. The result is that despite general agreement that the Bible has had an unparalleled significance in the history of the West, its ideas have remained, until recently, largely beyond the reach of sustained academic investigation.

Much the same can be said about the other classical Jewish sources as well: The Talmud and Midrash seem frequently to explore subjects of intrinsic philosophical interest. Yet these texts remain all but unknown to philosophers, political theorists, and historians of ideas.

The ongoing neglect of the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, and Midrash by philosophers is especially striking given the rapidly growing interest in theological questions in philosophy departments throughout the English-speaking world. Over the last generation, Christian philosophers have labored successfully to introduce “philosophical theology” (or, more recently, “analytic theology”) into philosophy departments at leading universities. In keeping with longstanding Christian philosophical tradition, this discipline has focused on a priori argumentation concerning the concept of God as “perfect being,” and has usually been conducted with little reference to the Bible. As a consequence, philosophical theology has until now continued the larger pattern of academic neglect of the ideas of the Hebrew Scriptures and other Jewish sources. This has also meant that philosophical theology has been of only very limited relevance to Jews, whose tradition of philosophical and theological speculation is largely text-based.

This is unfortunate because philosophy as a discipline could contribute much to the elucidation of the Hebrew Scriptures and classical rabbinic texts. The law-oriented emphasis of much traditional rabbinic exegesis has meant that these texts have not usually been investigated using philosophical tools and with an eye for philosophical questions. So we can ask what do philosophical questions and the answers that have been given until now teach us about the Bible and Talmud? What, for example, does the nature of the mind or language, reality or morals, as understood by philosophers, have to offer us in enhancing or extending the insights from these traditional sources?

To view the CFP click here.

Further information: Yoram Hazony,

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