Firstly the word 'philosophy' traces back to the Ancient Greeks, but surely 'Wisdom' must have preceded the sophistication to record and preserve it. I believe that religion may have served as a vehicle for preserving and disseminating wisdom.

The Bible contain scriptures dating back centuries before the ancient Greeks. And there has been a long tradition of religious philosophers. (I'm using Christian, but similar can be said of Islam and Judaism) But religious philosophers tend work in support of their religion, so...

Question: Has the Bible (specifically) been the subject of philosophical review in a non-religious context.

Bonus: If such exist, how well does it support ideas within the Perennial philosophy?


The following is not my answer but distilled from comments by @Gordon, which I feel to be worthy of consideration.

You start with religion, no, go back one step to man himself, his characteristics, his limits. An important and in some sense a sly book, and a profoundly philosophical book : Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II.

To change to another part of your question, the Historical Criticism or Higher Bible Criticism en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_criticism , also this man en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Schleiermacher And from France en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Renan Many more this is a huge subject. Finally with the ancient Greeks of most importance is existential guilt. Anaximander fragment "we must give back..." Norse Odin, hanging upside down on the world tree: I sacrifice myself to myself. Christ: the Cross and resurrection note: Christ did not fight the Cross. Self-sacrifice and then new life: resurrection. The guilt of existence itself. This puts us back to a characteristic of Man: Anthropology.

This guilt arises from the fact we must kill to live: plants, animals, ourselves (the suppressed issue of human sacrifice which had to be surrounded with religious significance to reduce guilt) "Take, eat, this is my body....". "This cup is the new covenant in my blood....". So such basic things as hunger and food that become surrounded by religion since they involve killing. Life is food and with food, guilt.

So when Anaximander (fragment) says we must "pay penalty" or pay back, I take this as a reflection of existential guilt. This is probably the oldest Western philosophical fragment. We live, we eat (kill) we die or "pay penalty". From man's very need to eat (from who he is) springs guilt which must be covered immediately by religion. Also the life cycle is what is fixed and what changes, change. Though the heart's desire may be "fixity" (Plato) Greeks had to deal with change too, we die etc. Our existential guilt has to be covered with religion. It can be the religion of vegan-ism or vegetarianism. I learned a lot from the Andes plane crash and the cannabalism there back in the 1970s. The men who ate their friends immediately had to turn it into a religious experience. It's too bad people can't listen to the post-rescue press conference.

The above goes back to who man is: he must eat, he dies etc. anthropology. Of course this involves change. Change in the world change in man himself. This culminates in Aristotle. This is the decisive moment since Aristotle unleashes the potential of history. This was carried forward through Aquinas, the Scholastics then awakened by the Germans primarily to its full potential. Though there is also a line from Spaventa, Labriola to Croce (I'm sure Gentile too, I'm not too familiar with him).

As Geoffrey Thomas mentions, Spaventa deserves study. Perhaps there is already many Italian studies. Something allowed Spaventa to see that Hegel was a great Scholastic, meaning he brings Aristotle forward. Certainly Labriola knew this (letters to Sorel). Of course Croce was influenced. Germany primarily unleashed the potential of history in the 19th Century. Italy too and of course with any new toy, trouble must follow.

At the same time Aristotle is accelerated (we remember the acceleration of the Futurists too) regarding history, science and technology is also accelerated. Hence Heidegger's main foil is Aristotle. Keeping in mind Heidegger was also a good Catholic and he knew his Aristotle, though later he was an atheist.

In the words of Erich Kahler discussing Fichte: "This process goes on indefinitely, since it belongs to the nature of "being as action and striving" that is it has no end! and cannot be satisfied. Fichte's concept is the perfect prototype of the endless, goalless progress that was to ensue. Kahler In, The Meaning of History. Note: No proper Ends means Aristotle unleashed. History and technology unleashed. This helps us understand better the anti-modernists such as Heidegger.

  • @Gordon Of course if this is not to your liking, I will delete. Any edits would also be most welcome.
    – christo183
    Nov 15 '18 at 17:35
  • Also the Church is a link to the unsettling force of Aristotle through its link to the Scholastics.
    – Gordon
    Nov 15 '18 at 17:42
  • 1
    Indeed, as I've alluded to in the question, the "Church" is a repository for prehistoric wisdom. And it is especially in this aspect that the Church would have its most enduring role. Its contribution as a power centre would be of utility, for better or for worse, to secular powers, but as disseminator of cultural 'good', the Church can transcend its contemporary criticisms.
    – christo183
    Nov 15 '18 at 17:56
  • Sorry for all these comments, but I also find it strange and maybe somewhat telling that we don't get many questions on philosophy of history here (or philosophy as history). Perhaps Popper put an end to that and it is not a subject much discussed anymore? I don't know. Nevertheless we see someone like Joseph Margolis come along.
    – Gordon
    Nov 15 '18 at 18:02
  • I should also mention the French Revolution the the philosophical work that preceded it. This was an important "spark" that set some of the German philosophers to work on the historical question, and perhaps to build a more secure foundation for it.
    – Gordon
    Nov 15 '18 at 18:51

Philosophy as an activity goes back at least as far as human literacy to a prior oral tradition. Hence among the first written texts are the Tao Teh Ching and the early Vedas.

In the opinion of many people the Bible endorses the perennial philosophy. In the opinion of many other people it does not. It is regularly subject to philosophical review. The results of such reviews depend entirely on the reviewers interpretation of the text.

By one interpretation the Bible is philosophically flawed or under-developed (Whitehead calls commonplace Christianity 'a religion is search of a metaphysic'). By another it shares the sophisticated non-dualism of the Perennial tradition.

In short, the answers here depend on who you ask.

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