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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.
In Nicholas of Cusa on the Trinitarian Structure of the Innate Criterion of Truth, Paula Pico Estrada offers an analysis of Nicholas of Cusa’s (1401–1464) unitrine conception of the human power of judgment, arguing that the innate criterion that guides human beings to their end is formed by a cognitive, an affective and a social dimension, and that it not only makes possible the systematization and evaluation of cognitive experience but also enables morality.
Based on a close reading of Cusanus’ philosophical treatises, the study deepens our understanding of Nicholas of Cusa’s epistemology, showing that his anthropological conception integrates philosophy and theology.

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This chapter aims to highlight Descartes’s different views on the relationship between philosophy and theology and the influence of his statements on Dutch Cartesianism. Despite a consolidated historiographical tradition, I will argue that there is no absolute separation between philosophy and theology in Descartes and the Dutch Cartesians. Undoubtedly, they take part in the philosophical and scientific movement, claiming philosophy and science to be independent of theology. Nonetheless, independence does not imply extraneity or opposition, but coexistence or even cooperation between these two subjects. However, a mere concordist interpretation of the Cartesian relationship between these disciplines is fundamentally wrong, being Descartes clearly claiming that he is accommodating theology to his own philosophy. Such a design grants a leading role to philosophy, thus genuinely defying the traditional subordination of philosophy to theology. His Dutch disciples accepted this challenge in their own way and transferred it into a different cultural and religious context, paving the way for a debate in which Spinoza was to take part not long afterwards.

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
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This chapter focuses on the question whether the main elements of early Christianity can be seen to be consistent with the basic assumptions of Hobbes’s political theory. The exemplary early Christian values are: communal life; faith in the “kingdom to come” and its power to reconcile interest and morality and thus to guarantee peace independently of State power; the strength with which charity and self-sacrifice assert themselves as signs of power and obtain recognition that in turn increases power, thus directing the struggle for recognition to moral ends and establishing democratic forms of self-organization in the life of the community. The question arises whether these elements can be seen to be consistent with the – at least apparent – basic assumptions of Hobbes’s theory, according to which humans, naturally competing for access to goods that cannot be enjoyed in common, are inevitably gripped by anxiety about the future, and, lusting after power and glory, engage in a struggle that can only be overcome by the repressive intervention of the State.

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
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What were the pivotal doctrinal points for John Biddle and the English Unitarians? This research deserves to be taken further to understand the meshing of beliefs and ideals that forged links between the Polish Brethren and the English Unitarians during the 17th century. The defense of the Trinity was assimilated into the panorama of the English political-theological debate from the first half of the 17th century, along with the contribution of the translators and editors of the works of the Church Fathers to the construction of the theological and doctrinal identity of the English Church. Conversely, in the conviction of remaining within Protestant biblical hermeneutics, the Antitrinitarian creed stressed the unity and oneness of God expounded in Holy Scripture while intending to demonstrate that the trinitarian interpretations of the Catholics were paradoxical. Biddle’s works of theology and doctrinal polemic in particular, and his work as a translator, can help to clarify these affinities and differences and open new paths of research into his influence in the time of Locke and on Locke’s own thought.

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
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My chapter discusses how Henry More and Anne Conway use of the Bible in their respective philosophies. More was persuaded that rational sense can be extracted from obscure or figurative biblical texts and developed an elaborate threefold interpretative scheme for doing so, which is best exemplified in his Conjectura cabbalistica. Nevertheless, More did not draw on the Bible in his philosophical writings because as an apologist for religion he aimed to defend religious belief against rational unbelievers by using the kind of arguments which they would accept. Anne Conway’s philosophy too is a rational defense of religious truth. And she too uses the Bible sparingly. However, she eschewed More’s high flown allegorical interpretation of Scripture, and took a more literalist approach to interpreting scripture. Although she fully accepted the authority of the Bible and used it in support of key tenets of her philosophy, she was prepared to modify Christian doctrine in the interests of better rational understanding.

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
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Résumé

En mettant la Terre dans le ciel, ou du moins dans les cieux planétaires, le renversement copernicien a pour conséquence nécessaire de faire reculer la sphère des étoiles fixes au-delà de toute distance assignable. Ceci oblige l’astronomie copernicienne à un réexamen critique de la notion biblique de “firmament” (Gn 1:6), et rend son accord avec l’exégèse traditionnelle problématique. L’article étudie la position du problème chez Copernic, et montre son évolution décisive dans la cosmologie trinitaire de Kepler, où le firmamentum, d’abord compris dans les termes des perspectivistes médiévaux, puis renvoyé à son étymologie savante d’expansum, ne désigne plus la consistance solide de la voûte céleste, mais l’étendue spatiale dans laquelle “nous avons la vie, l’être et le mouvement”– au risque de rendre assez obscure la distinction fondamentale entre matière et esprit (soit, dans le langage de l’Écriture, rakhia et ruagh).

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
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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.

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
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This chapter focuses on various humanistic Renaissance texts as well as others of the very early modern age aims to assess representations of Moses, a paradigmatic figure who proves to be a useful ‘sensor’: if at the beginning of the Renaissance Moses was predominantly a lawgiver and leader, the image of Moses as an able magician and a religious and political impostor affirmed later, during and especially at the end of the 16th century, when the idea that nature could challenge the role of divinity acquired increasingly greater meaning and depth.

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
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Pierre Bayle steers clear of the debate on the authority of Scripture and literal inspiration, apparently entrenching himself within the orthodox doctrine. And yet his incursions into the biblical sphere are notable for their recklessness, because they increasingly highlight the incompatibility between the basic principles of natural morality and the conduct of some men of God, if not even of God himself. Judged against our moral standards, the divine course of action seems utterly as indefensible as that of King David.

In: The Philosophers and the Bible