A Study of Spinoza Part II -Chapter 6 – Biblical Theology



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A Study of Spinoza – By James Martineau

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yo and welcome back to study of Spinoza part 2 chapter 6 biblical theology the system of thought presented in the foregoing chapters Spinoza regarded as the pure product a reason interpreting the permanent order of nature it is true that the form which it took in his own mind was in part determined by his Israelitish preconceptions without which she would hardly a designated the supreme unity of the world by the word God so as to retain for his monism some color of monotheism but this feature whether due to inward preference or to art has no religious significance when he has to offer is a philosophy do philosophers and beyond this inner circle of persons competent to think out for themselves their place and relations in the universe he does not expect his persuasion to extend around a small enclosure however and interlocked with it at every part lives and moves the common throng of human beings who also have to act and suffer but cannot wait for a theory to do it wertha lee for their guidance there must be and there are in every society ready-made rules of right and encouragement to duty and assurances of justice adequate to every moral emergency this function is taken in hand by the public religion of every community among Europeans embodied in historical documents and represented by a minister and clergy the philosopher cannot be allowed to go apart and ignore this inheritance from the past this faith of the present he has naturally asked to declare his exact attitude towards it his estimate of its sacred writings and the relation of its characteristic beliefs to the truth which he professes to have found to this demand Spinoza has responded enos Tractatus theological politicus its doctrine of the Commonwealth has already been sufficiently presented it remains only to notice the remarkable position of this treatise in the history of the biblical criticism they advanced from the old biblia lottery to the modern mode of treating the books of Scripture was made by two marked stages the interpreter was usually the apologist in desire to make the best of the text that she undertook dallisa date you cannot be unaware that in an eight sufficiently curious to need exegetical literature at all the chief scruples would be encountered in the recital of prodigies such as the swallowing of Jonah and the feeding of the 5,000 the narrative being sacred and unimpeachable he could relieve its difficulties only by putting a new construction on it which had divested of its marvelous form and lay bare the natural event contained within this method marks the first stage in the attempt to harmonize nature in Scripture assuming the constancy of the one and the truth of the other it constitutes what is technically called rationalism it was long applied to scattered cases that invented it before it was reduced to a system in the commentaries of Paulus the study of the Hebrew and Greek texts however dissolved at last the cement by which the doctrine of inspiration had held together the whole Bible as a homogeneous divine product and by calling into existence a literary history of its component books removed the obligation and the possibility of indiscriminantly accepting all their contents is true the more closely their structure was examined the less compatible was it found with the tradition of their date their authorship and a historical availability so that they're no longer remained any excuse for rationalizing texts which could claim no exemption from human error once rid of the temptation to tamper with their meaning in order to save their truth it was wonderful how they gained in life indistinctness in interest revealing unexpected relations and opening up a human drama of deeper significance than any Oracle's stereotyped is divine till the scriptures could be traced like any other literature to the natural working of the mind they presented like a landscape before a half couch die lonely confused blotch of color all upon one plane it might be in the body or out of the body with no perspective in the still distances with no parallax in the moving objects no deer identification no familiar recognition of anything but a dim and mystic sense of light that gives no vision the more they have disclosed their Genesis and often time the better they've emphasized their meaning for all time Spinoza lived before either of these stages has set in and his distinction is that he anticipated both the fundamental principle of rationalism can hardly be more distinctly stated than in these sentences our only object used to make clear what can be securely established by natural reason we then know that the sacred page must teach the same for truth cannot be at variance with truth or scripture teach the nonsense that is palmed upon it where we really to find in it what is contradicted by natural light we should refuse it as freely as we do the Koran and the Talmud but far be it from us to imagine that in the sacred writings anything can be found apartment to the light of nature by this role we must assume Scripture as Veritas and nature as Veritas and taking the latter as the better-known employed as regulative of the meaning of the former this would pledge us if rigorously carried out to read the Copernican astronomy and the modern geology between or in the opening lines of Genesis to coerce and consistent narratives as of the Nativity in Matthew and Luke into agreement after the manner of the Harmonists to invent a fulfillment for every failed prophecy as the final Advent and judgment within the first generation and to refer any miracle to adequate natural causes Spinoza by no means commits himself to such thorough glowing application of the rationalistic principle he had no need to do so Court was not his only or his best weapon and in spite of his depreciating words he is far from leaving in abeyance his right of refuting Scripture as freely as the Quran and at her lewd he detects false prophecies as in the words thou shalt er not to die by the sword thou shalt die in peace addressed his attic ayah who after seeing his sons are killed had his eye skipped out and was left to die in Chains he ridicules the Harmonists who strain their invention to reconcile evident contradictions with no other results then in their worship of the letter of scripture to bring its writings into contempt as blunderers in thought and speech still in spite of this free handling of his text he prefers at times to let it pass his history and if it be marvelous explain it away thus in treating other reported miracles he distinguishes between those which are mere subjective imaginations eg the larges ascent to heaven in a chariot of fire and such as may be credited with objective reality the latter affect us with wander simply because the phenomenon issues from the dark and hides its source but did we see it all it would be found a res monotonous word otherwise it would carry no divine tidings for what is foreign to nature is foreign to God so little repugnant is this to the historians mode of thought that they themselves supply a part of the natural agents required a 24 hours east wind brought and a west wind swept away the plague of locusts upon Egypt the passage of the Red Sea was rendered possible by a strong east wind through the night and the shemites son who had been laid out for dead do not open his eyes on life again without the prolonged warmth of touch of Elijah's body when it is said that God put the young saw in Samuels way first election his king the historian brings them together in the most natural way possible the youth after a fruitless search through the country for his father straight asses he is on the point of turning homework but is persuaded by his servant first to try what tidings can get from the neighbouring seer who thus falls in with a suitable candidate he wants the habit for referring everything to God and tracing his Providence in all events gave rise to figures of speech in which when taken literally miracle seemed to lurk but to the thirsting captives on their return water burst from the rock seems to mean more than that they find Springs in the desert that the windows of heaven are opened more than that there is plenty of rain that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh more than that the king was obstinate but whatever be the language or the silence with which the cause of a Marvel is treated where to take it as certain that it emerges in the immutable order of nature the whole phenomenon of prophecy is also referred by Spinoza to the ordinary laws of the human mind and far from being regarded as one of its more exalted manifestations is handed over to its lowest function so as to have its home in the seat of all illusion and inadequate ideas the Prophet as a man of exceptionally vivid imagination whose apprehensions of God are not immediate essence with essence mind with mind but through voices and images chiefly and dreams these sensible media and their pictorial faculty which the exercise afford no warrant of truth and implying elemental superiority the voice of God that seems to speak is evidently not articulate language but some natural noise which they hear converts into words declaring his sense of what it means and hence it is that the Decalogue of deuteronomy varies that an exodus though in both instances God is named as the speaker of the words the certainty given by such colloquy or visions is not intellectual but moral involving intense impression but relative always to the opinions the capacity the temperament of the Prophet so little did this burden carry in any inherent Authority but tests were required for distinguishing the true seer from the false and the decisive sign was to be found in the correctness of his forecasts and the purity of his faith if you failed in these if he introduced new gods and promised he'd lies he was to be put to death though he should confirm his doctrine by signs and wonders but he who are faithful and devout of heart no exemption from prevailing ignorance or prejudice was needed for his work Java might misconstrue an extraordinary refraction into a stoppage of Sun and Moon Isaiah might know nothing of the PAR helium which shifted back the shadow on a dial Solomon might try to build his circular molten sea with a diameter of one and a circumference of three and all of them might be involved and yet graver errors respecting the divine attributes without being disqualified for the part assigned to them in the sacred history Abraham believing that each tribe had its tutelary divinity did not know that God was ubiquitous and emissions Moses had no idea that all human actions came from his sole decree and Dean him only the greatest among God's though unable to image to himself so transcendence to being and forbidding all material representation of him he did not regard him as intrinsically invisible but only supposed that the weak nature of man would be blasted by the sight nor did this great prophet shrink from representing God as jealous and avenging though faithful and compassionate on the efficacy of repentance and the freedom of the will prophet differs from prophet Samuel declaring that strength of Israel will not repent for he is not a man that he should repent and Jeremiah in one of his moods that he recompense earth the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them and paw but the will of man is the helpless slave of sin well ezekiel proclaims that the son of man shall not bear the iniquity of the father near shall the father bear the iniquity of the son and that if the wicked will turn from the sins that he hath committed they shall not be mentioned on to him in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live the inference drawn from such facts is that the spiritual enthusiasm that possessed the prophets was no absolute light but ad-hominem sees at captain Ana suja's and was directed not to the enlargement of knowledge but to the enforcement of a righteous law using for this and the conceptions already in existence and appealing to admitted obligations it spoke to hope to fear and all affections of the imagination enlisting them in aid of obedience and love but had no credentials to lay before the intellect the soul organ for the apprehension of truth its whole operation plainly lies within the compass of natural laws spinoza's rationalism stood in closest connection with his philosophy which fletching him to find room for everything and event in the realm of nature non suited the pretensions of the supernatural ab initio it is otherwise with his judgment solitary history of canonical books there's nothing in his metaphysics to determine the authorship of Deuteronomy the date of job or the meaning of Daniels Son of Man except indeed in this negative way that as the theory of an inspired set of books bespeaks for each in assigned personal origin a critic who is free of that theory can approach the question of authenticity without pre-engagement of mind this advantage of the layman of the theologian had already been exemplified in the remark of hearts that the Pentateuch seems to be written rather about Moses and by him and it is possible that in this hint as an other pregnant thoughts the philosopher of mom's burry may have given impulse and direction to the free thinker of Amsterdam one of Spinoza's earliest opponents jacob thomas bishop professor of ethics teacher and correspondent of Leibniz supposes him indebted rather to the eccentric Isaac Lapierre in his system theological 1655 several other repetitions and contradictions in the so called mosaic looks had been pointed out and urged as proofs of the composite origin from different hands at different times it is true that lay OPRS evidences for a post mosaic date for the Pentateuch reproduce twice minosa eg the mention of the iron bedstead of Arc king of Bashan still preserved as an antiquity in the city of rabat again Deuteronomy three thirteen and fourteen explains why a part of the Khalid which at the end of the Exodus used to be called our gob and Bashan received and retained on to this day the name of Jerez villages it was because possession was taken of the country by Jer son of Manasseh there are however two claimants to the name one in the time of Moses when the district in question was assigned to the hak tribe of manasseh another three hundred years later so of the Manasseh clan one of the judges who ruling Israel for 22 years had 30 sons who rode on 30 asses and had 30 villages which are called Jays villages to this day even if we take the first of these accounts the change of local name is thrown upon the very end of Moses career it could not have been cited by him as an ancient thing which continued to this day and if the second account is preferred it involves an anachronism of many centuries again the use of earlier writings by the author of the Pentateuch is evident from numbers 21 14 where quotation is made from a book of the Wars of jihad as the basis of a poetical piece the materials for such a book were not furnished to Joshua led the way into Canaan and the manner citation is that of retrospect from a later age these facts however which are turned to account by adapt PRA forum but a small part of Spinoza's case against the claim of the Hebrew narratives to be mosaic or contemporary records he shows that the book of the covenant which Moses has said to have read before the people refers honor to the previous section from 2022 that the book of the law attributed to Moses in Deuteronomy 31 24 to 26 could in no case be longer then could be taken in at a hearing and was meant therefore for something far short for the Pentateuch but many things are found in the Pentateuch and even in these various sections assign it to his hand which Moses could not have written but which must have been wrought into the narrative as late as the captivity he points out that while it is impossible to mistake the many-colored and many dated materials that variegated often confused the whole an historical and deductive purpose manifestly pervades the Pentateuch and so links onto it in succession the books of Joshua judges Ruth Samuel and kings as to imply the labor of an editorial hand as the store is carried to the death of Jehovah can make a not look for the compiler before the 6th century BC during which the National Life was for the most part suspended at Babylon but the first half of the next century both the occasion and the man to call forth a republication of the half-forgotten law and history of israel it is – Ezra Espinosa attributes this work his object as a reformation of the relaxed religion of the nation and for that end definite instruction in a law as it uncodified and little more than a consummate Uddin Airy he began therefore with the book of Deuteronomy which is his expanded retention of the older mosaic fragments and then to confirm the interest of the people in this legislation and there at disposition to obey it he prefixed the history of their forefathers before it was given and appended the narrative of their national vicissitudes so far as they attested the faithfulness and justice of God the series of books let's put together twelve by present reckoning kind of Samuel and kings be each taken as one instead of two though made continuous at the junctures the Troy its character as an unfinished compilation from earlier materials by various unharmonious elements the story of Hezekiah related in second Kings 2817 is evidently taken verbatim from the chronicle of the kings of Judah mentioned in second Kings 2024 as identical with the episode in the visions of Isaiah which we know at work been preserved in that Chronicle in the same way the siege of Jerusalem in capture Zedekiah are narrated in terms of Jeremiah 50 to a similar identity of text appears in 2nd Samuel 7 with first chronicles 17 a book far later than Ezra pointing doubtless to a common source in some account of Nathan's life different copies of which in the two compilers hands explained the slight verbal variations the marks of time scattered through the history yield when combined a tangle of chronology which could arise only from the disordered intertwining of numerous threats the epics of Jacob's family history African from the date of Joseph's life yield absurd results when taken as conterminous with the corresponding divisions of his own eg that Simeon Levi went boys of 11 and 12 years put to the sword all the male inhabitants of Shalem enslaved all the rest carried off their flocks and herds and pillaged their City so to come the general statement that Solomon's Temple was built fortune 80 years after the Exodus with the given sections that make up the interval we find that the parts amount to a much larger total even if we neglect those which are left with out numerical measure and when fair allowance is made for these also the discrepancy is little less than two centuries all this phenomena are readily explained by the patchwork composition of the books out of pre-existing materials and perfectly sifted and the vestiges of such a process are too plain to be mistaken what for instance can be more obvious than the lame joint or rather absence of joints in the history at judges to 6 the previous book closes with the last word the death and burial of Joshua the book of Judges opens with an account of what was done in consequence of his death and pursues the story up to 2:5 when suddenly the next verse is turned back to Joshua some of his doings and repeat the narrative of his death and burial besides rendering the inference irresistible of a composite structure and successive redactions of the 12 books of older history Spinoza finds that the inference when critically scrutinized the means of explaining the miniature various readings and marginal notes in which trance afore commenters have been fond of discovering theological mysteries with equal acuteness Spinoza attacks the internal indications of time in the latter books in Nehemiah we meet with a class of Levites never mentioned till after rebuilding of the city and perhaps instituted at the restoration of the temple worship by Judas Maccabeus for example the porters who kept the gates two of whom are mentioned by name the same names occur as representative of the same class in first chronicles 917 and suggest Espinoza a date as low as the 2nd century BC though this estimate is extreme it probably exceeds the true limits by not more than a century and a half for both the enumeration of six generations since the rabbi bell and the reckoning of money in a currency of darhk's carry us within the margin of the Macedonian sway of the political and prophetic ik's spinosus criticism is lighter and less carefully grounded though always appealing to substantial evidences which still require to be taken into account the publication of the Book of Psalms and it's five sections he refers to the time of the Second Temple assigning no other reason then that file of Alexandria thanks the appearance of the 88th song under the imprisonment and the 89th after the release of Jehovah Cain at Babylon the collection of proverbs he allows to be perhaps somewhat earlier in the time of Josiah the book of Job he regards as the translation of a Gentile poem the age unknown which the bearings of human suffering on both the Providence of God and the character of man are discussed this judgment rests on a fanciful identification of Satan's function in the court and among the sons of God with that of MoMA's among the Olympic guards other prophetic books which have since become the object of such fruitful study he says little more than that they have been collected and put together from other writings eg The Chronicles of the kings of Judah and Israel without preserving the original order or attending to their chronology or giving more a portion of the whole a fragmentary character of the excerpts he makes clear by examples of which the most striking are naturally drawn from jeremiah and ezekiel of all his critical judgments that upon the book of daniel was least fitted to stand the test of time he accepted its second division the five concluding chapters as containing real prophecies of daniel while regarding the rest of the book as a production taken from Chaldean sources three and a half centuries later after the Maccabee in rededication at the temple and at the same hand and almost as sections of the same work it repeats the books ezra esther and nehemiah into this particular question he has had a less clear insight than Hobbes and both of them left the problem to be worked out half a century later by Anthony Collins whose first handling of it rifled incompleteness his great opponents exposure of the Epistle of phalaris the marathon Spinoza's biblical criticism may be easily attenuated by making the most of his obligations to even Ezra armed ammonites in the past over bringing his opinions to the test of a learning that was still in future but if Fairley tried by the standard of his age it is entitled to admiration for its acuteness breath Energon ality his insight into the gradual formation and success of redactions of the Hebrew literature led him to a habit of historical interpretation for want of which the Scriptures had for ages remained a confused mass of Oracle's by reading the prophets and the contemporary narratives together he began to find the true key to both the light which he had gained was in great measure limited to the history of the books the history of his people retained in his conception very much of its traditional form modified only by the elimination of its supernatural elements and did not disclose to him the stages of growth in the religion of Israel he had an appreciation of the characteristic which gave that religion a unique place in the drama of the world its faith in a divine idea carried out through the story of nations and experiences of mankind and it's consequent advance from age to age in world depth and spirit relevation this was due not wholly to defect in historical feeling but in no slight degree to the mechanical character of his philosophy a geometrical construction of the world in which the human reason conscience and affections in an individual and social play are but determinate and constant quantities with relations as invariable as those of the abscissas and ordinance of a curve affords no scope for the conception of indefinite qualitative progress and in the absence of final causation forbids the help of any ideal plan he who dis owns any possible beyond the actual and looks on the cosmical equilibrium as exhausting the necessity of nature can only resign himself to things as they are and interpret them by both the recorded past and the imagined future he can trust no prospective aspirations he can expect from men no more than their life as hitherto yielded the cycles of admissible social change long ago spent he suppose a certain to repeat themselves with Una's so that he is on the watch for no law of development through bygone ages no lines of luminous promise and those that are to come and so to Spinoza the Israelitish kingdom of God was simply a particular form of government a theocratic variety of monarchy all the same all through and not the haunting prophetic vision of a final dominance of truth and righteousness the intense energy of his people springing from faith in the moral administration of the world meets with a little response or sympathy from him it was replaced by the mood of self renunciation and willing accord with the inevitable decrees to the same habit of unideal judgments we must have tribute to the sharp distinction which he drew between faith or as he often calls revelation and philosophy the latter alone being a matter of knowledge intellectually apprehended the former an affair of obedience to some authority owned by the imagination only the elite of any society can become philosophers for all the rests life must be wrought upon the other ground and the rules of its moral order be secured not by the rationale but by whatever influence at the time being best commends them to acceptance it must be pressed home upon the will ad modem recep entus the Scriptures are throughout the embodiment not a philosophy but a faith their use therefore is not as an evidence of truth but as an incentive and witness to righteousness and what is permanent in them instead of being stereotyped in their doctrines or their motives is found in the true essence of all religion for example the pure elements of their moral law the Spinoza with all his gentleness of nature is betrayed into the old philosophic snare a separating the initiated from the uninitiated and while allowing the congregation its popular preacher reserving the sacrament of truth for the inner circle of the elect again and again does this preserving pride of the schools reappear but has been too often rebuked and shamed away by the spiritual quality of the true Christian life for us ever to acquiesce in its return the rule for which so many centuries has constituted the deepest ground of human fellowship can never be reversed at the supreme truths instead of being a monopoly of the few are appealed to every conscience and often better known to the child than to describe Spinoza pleads his imperfect knowledge of Greek an excuse for his cursory treatment of the Christian scriptures he was only on such features in them as confirm his general principle that there are nothing in a test nothing which does not fall within the scope of a million a chiral loss the Apostles were mainly witnesses who needed only ordinary gifts for telling what they had seen and heard in writing epistles they dealt in the simplest way with the occasional interests of the persons addressed and Paul especially reasons pleads and treats rebukes apologizes in all the modes and tenses of human persuasion and not always inconsistency with the teaching of other apostles or even with his own at other times when he claims to have the word of the Lord as his authority his appeal is only to some recorded saying of Christ's which bears him out to his Gentiles he philosophizes while his colleagues in their national mission rest all their pleas on the receives faith and the prophetic text this is what every sensible missionary would do and it calls for no supernatural explanation this style of remark is commonplace enough it is only what Spinoza approaches the person of Jesus himself but his language assumes a character original and obscure God he assures us communicates of his essence direct ie without prophetic medium to our mind in greatest perfection of all did this happen to the mind of Christ who apprehended the saving will of God without word or vision but immediately mind with mind a unique spiritual communion and repeating this statement further on he adds a comment which lets in a little light upon its meaning to Christ alone he says did God give her relations not accommodated to his Finian's but immediately to his mind that is to say Christ really understood the things revealed which being universal involved only notions communes at Ferris this then Espinosa's way of saying that the real essence of such things as engaged him got into the mind of Christ he read them straight off as they are and what he said of human life and his perfection is true how far in such enigmatical positions he speaks in accommodation to Christian feeling and prepossession it is difficult to decide but after every allowance it is hardly possible to doubt the teaching and personality of the founder of Christianity impressed him with a profound veneration nor is it wonderful that on the gracious figure standing so clear of all that had alienated him from the synagogue yet intent on a divine perfecting of life his eyes should rest with restraint repose and that is it for chapter six of part two at the end of the book study Espinoza by James March now I hope you enjoyed it I sure did if he did make sure you check out my other readings in the link in the description below on my channels and subscribe so you don't miss any I don't know what I'll be reading next I have another book about Spinoza that I might read we'll see I was also looking at another work of Charles and Watts so if you liked the other one let me know and well leave some likes comments share it to some friends anything's great so long

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