Philosophy and the Abrahamic Religions: Scriptural Hermeneutics and Epistemology
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From Greco-Roman Antiquity through to the European Enlightenment, philosophy and religious thought were inseparably interwoven. This was equally the case for the popular natural or 'pagan' religions of the ancient world as it was for the three pre-eminent 'religions of the book', namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The lengthy and involved encounter of the Greek philosophical tradition - and especially of the Platonic, Aristotelian, and Neoplatonic strands of that tradition - initially with the Hellenistic cults and subsequently with the three Abrahamic religions, played a critical role in shaping the basic contours of Western intellectual history from Plato to Philo of Alexandria, Plotinus, Porphyry, Augustine, and Proclus; from Aristotle to al-Farabi, Avicenna, al-Gazali, Aquinas and the medieval scholastics, and eventually to Meister Eckhart and Nicholas Cusanus and such modern philosophers and theologians as Richard Hooker, the Cambridge Platonists, Jacob Boehme, and G.W.F. Hegel to name but a few. The aim of the twenty-four essays comprising this volume is to explore the intellectual worlds of the three Abrahamic religious traditions, their respective approaches to scriptural hermeneutics, and their interaction over many centuries on the common ground of the inheritance of classical Greek philosophy. The shared goal of contributors is to demonstrate the extent to which the three Abrahamic religions have created similar shared patterns of thought in dealing with crucial religious concepts such as the divine, creation, providence, laws both natural and revealed, such problems as the origin of evil and the possibility of salvation, as well as defining hermeneutics, that is to say the manner of interpreting their sacred writings.
intellect with the king.27 The focal point of the parable is the king; he is the centre point of the image and all others are positioned relative to him. Each of the various positions corresponds to modes, or grades, of knowing decreasing in superiority as the distance from the king increases. Furthermore, each of these epistemological gradations has a corresponding religious, or doctrinal, gradation. I shall now conclude the discussion of Maimonides by examining of the epistemological and
Philo, we find many of the principles fundamental to this hermeneutical tradition, such as the allegorical reading of scripture, the formulation of dogmatic statements, the concordance between Plato, Aristotle and revelation, to name just a few. Moses, as Philo understands him, is the pre-eminent source of all philosophical doctrine, which is both recorded in the narrative of the Pentateuch and is exemplified in his virtuous life. Thus for Philo, and for Philosophy and the Abrahamic Religions
Philosopher as Spiritual Guide 59 figures was proof of their “retrogression to the spineless syncretism” from which Plotinus alone had tried to escape.4 And in response to the sense that Christianity was “sucking the lifeblood out of Hellenism,” these socalled philosophers turned to “vulgar magic.”5 More recent scholarship has endeavored to rescue some philosophers such as Porphyry and Iamblichus, from the damning and dismissive characterizations of the likes of Dodd. However, these efforts
were: …at once remote from the intensely Umayyad atmosphere of Damascus and its satellite qu܈ǌr, and well-placed, right by the road that linked the port of Ayla…by way of MaȾan to Damascus, for the gathering of news and gossip. 39 King, ‘Settlement patterns in Islamic Jordan’, 369. 90 Chapter Seven authorities in Constantinople, Damascus, or Seleucia, facilitating the cultivation of regional power through various means, including, for the ۛafnids, the manipulation of religious currents in
his dialectician as a user of names knows not just its form, but the good which it as an instrument aims at (26.4-18). The ‘religous’ aspect of Proclus’ philosophy is seen most strongly exactly in the identification of the gods of the Greek pantheon with various parts of the Platonic immaterial hierarchy, and this applies as well to the gods who have most to do with the origin of their own names. So Proclus identifies the primal dialectician with Kronos and the primal lawgiver with the first