Chapter 5 Hermeneutics and Conflict

Spinoza and the Downfall of Exegetical Interpretation

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
Diego Donna
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In a renowned passage of chapter VII of the Theological-Political Treatise, Spinoza declares that in order to “interpret the Scriptures it is necessary to prepare their disinterested history” and not to admit any principle or data that does not result from it. Commentators of the Treatise have generally taken these statements as guidelines for a new historical-rational interpretation method of the Bible. However, is the real aim of Spinoza’s treatise on political theology to invert philosophy’s subordination to theology? In other words, what is the real purpose of the method inaugurated in chapter VII? As I shall demonstrate, what Spinoza has in mind was not the elaboration of a new hermeneutic model, but rather a critical confrontation with interpretative traditions, Calvinist biblical philology and its techniques and working tools in particular. Given that the inspired character of the text has disappeared, the authority of interpretation also declines.

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The Philosophers and the Bible

The Debate on Sacred Scripture in Early Modern Thought

Series:  Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, Volume: 333