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Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and PoliticsThe Theologico-Political Treatise$
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Susan James

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199698127

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199698127.001.0001

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The Meaning of Scripture

The Meaning of Scripture

(p.138) (p.139) Chapter 6 The Meaning of Scripture
Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics

Susan James

Oxford University Press

The first six chapters of the Treatise explicate the revealed teaching of the Bible, focusing on what it does not require. The middle section of the work now challenges the views of the Reformed Church (and others) about how the Bible should be interpreted, and elaborates the hermeneutic method that Spinoza has so far been relying on. This chapter explicates and contextualizes Spinoza's view that biblical interpretation is a form of enquiry grounded on imagination, a version of what Descartes calls analysis and Bacon calls history, and explores its relation to the rational method of philosophical reasoning. On the one hand, Spinoza argues, interpreting Scripture is a rational process that anyone can in principle engage in. On the other hand, and contrary to the scandalous view of his friend Loedwijk Meyer, Scripture cannot be entirely understood by means of a strictly philosophical method. Theology and philosophy therefore remain distinct.

Keywords:   biblical interpretation, hermeneutic method, historical method, philosophical method, analysis, synthesis, Descartes, Bacon, Meyer, philosophy and theology

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