Thanks to faddish objections to “Eurocentrism,” university philosophy departments have increasingly sought to look beyond ancient Greece and Rome—and Western Europe—to study the philosophical traditions of India, East Asia, and elsewhere. “Good for them,” writes Dru Johnson. But, he adds, this broadening of horizons should also include the great thinkers of the ancient Near East:
Why hasn’t the Bible been included in the mix? First, many would cite the well-rehearsed reason/revelation divide. The Bible reveals. Philosophy reasons. [But] the Jewish philosopher Yoram Hazony has argued that this divide doesn’t do justice to Greek philosophy, where Parmenides, Empedocles, Heraclitus, and even Socrates are guided by the gods in the development of their thinking. Reason met revelation in Greece too.
Second, some might say that narrative, poetry, and law are not the genres of philosophical discourse. Since the Hebrew literary tradition consists almost entirely of these, it’s not philosophy. Yet, we find a robust and broadly inclusive list of literary forms taught as rigorous philosophy today: dialogues [Plato], allegories (Frank Jackson’s “What Mary Didn’t Know”), meditations (Descartes), journal entries (Marcus Aurelius), personal reflections (Camus), aphorisms (Cicero), and novellas (Nietzsche), to name but a few. This literary pluralism could hardly exclude narrative, poetry, or legal treatise.
Third, some will worry that it’s the religionists who want their Scriptures, which are presumed to be antithetical to reason, taught as philosophy. This objection has its eye on the back door, sure to keep religion from sneaking into the tent of philosophy. But it’s not just the current religionists who want to see the Hebrew Bible’s inclusion as philosophy. Atheist biblical scholars, such as Jaco Gericke, would argue for its inclusion just as the atheist Oxford historian, Tom Holland, had to revisit his own faulty assumptions about the influence of the biblical intellectual tradition on us today.