The Philosophers and the Bible

The Debate on Sacred Scripture in Early Modern Thought


The Bible is the crucible within which were forged many of the issues most vital to philosophy during the early modern age. Different conceptions of God, the world, and the human being have been constructed (or deconstructed) in relation to the various approaches and readings of the Holy Scriptures. This book explores several of the ways in which philosophers interpreted and made use of the Bible. It aims to provide a new perspective on the subject beyond the traditional opposition “faith versus science” and to reflect the philosophical ways in which the Sacred Scriptures were approached. Early modern philosophers can thus be seen to have transformed the traditional interpretation of the Bible and emphasized its universal moral message. In doing so, they forged new conceptions about nature, politics, and religion, claiming the freedom of thought and scientific inquiry that were to become the main features of modernity.

Contributors include Simonetta Bassi, Stefano Brogi, Claudio Buccolini, Simone D’Agostino, Antonella Del Prete, Diego Donna, Matteo Favaretti Camposampiero, Guido Giglioni, Franco Giudice, Sarah Hutton, Giovanni Licata, Édouard Mehl, Anna Lisa Schino, Luisa Simonutti, Pina Totaro, and Francesco Toto.

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Antonella Del Prete is Associate Professor in History of Philosophy at the University of Tuscia. She is the author of Jean Terrasson, Traité de l’infini créé (Paris: 2007) and Chemins du cartésianisme (Paris: 2017), and the co-author of Révolutions scientifiques et libertinage (Turnhout: 2000).

Anna Lisa Schino is Associate Professor in History of Philosophy at the ‘Sapienza’ University of Rome. Her research interests focus on «libertinage érudit», political paradigms and natural law theories in the 17th century. She is the author of Batailles libertines (Paris: 2020).

Pina Totaro is Senior Researcher at the Institute for the European Intellectual Lexicon and History of Ideas (ILIESI-CNR). She is the author of Quatre enquêtes sur Spinoza (Paris: 2021) and “Instrumenta mentis”. Contributi al lessico filosofico di Spinoza (Florence: 2009), and the co-author of Spinoza, philosophe grammairien. Le Compendium grammatices linguae hebraeae (Paris: 2019) and Il sogno tra tarda antichità e età moderna (Rome: 2020).

List of Figures
Notes on Contributors

Antonella Del Prete, Anna Lisa Schino and Pina Totaro

part 1: Enquiring on Moses

1 Images of Moses in the Renaissance
Simonetta Bassi

2 More on Spinoza and the Authorship of the Pentateuch
Pina Totaro

part 2: Prophet’s Witnessing

3 Tommaso Campanella on the Bible
 Ontology, Epistemology and Political Philosophy
Guido Giglioni

4 Prophecy and the Prophetic Kingdom of God in the Hobbesian Analysis of the Holy Scriptures
Anna Lisa Schino

5 Hermeneutics and Conflict
 Spinoza and the Downfall of Exegetical Interpretation
Diego Donna

part 3: Rational Theology and Natural Religion

6 The Bible in the Philosophy of Anne Conway and Henry More
Sarah Hutton

7 “Between Doubt and Knowledge”
 John Biddle and the English Unitarians in the Time of Locke
Luisa Simonutti

8 Immorality and Intolerance in the Bible?
 Natural Ethicality and the Interpretation of Scripture in the Writings of Pierre Bayle
Stefano Brogi

part 4: The Moral Message of the Bible

9 Peace and Truth in Polemic: Pascal’s Pensées L974/S771
Simone D’Agostino

10 An Association without Power?
 Gift, Recognition, and Democracy in the Hobbesian Conception of Early Christian Communities
Francesco Toto

11 “The Law Inscribed in the Mind”
 On the Meaning of a Biblical Image in Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise
Giovanni Licata

part 5: The Accommodation Doctrine

12 Firmamentum
 La querelle théologico-philologique du ciel étoilé, de Copernic à Kepler
Édouard Mehl

13 L’exégèse du dernier Mersenne et le cartésianisme
Claudio Buccolini

14 “Accommoder la Théologie à ma façon de philosopher”
 Descartes and Dutch Cartesians Interpreting the Bible
Antonella Del Prete

15 Wolff, Spinoza, and the Interpretation of Scripture
Matteo Favaretti Camposampiero

16 Natural Philosophy and Scripture in Isaac Newton’s Principia mathematica
Franco Giudice

All those interested in the Early Modern intellectual history, philosophy, theology, exegesis and the history of science. Keywords: history of philosophy, holy scripture, prophecy, rational theology, natural religion, exegetical interpretations, political philosophy, tolerance and intolerance, natural philosophy, history of science, reason and faith, political theology, libertas philosophandi, ethics, ethica, Renaissance, Renascimento, early modern philosophy.
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