Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A STUDY OF HEBREW THOUGHT by Claude Tresmontant

A Study of Hebrew Thought is a 1960 book on philosophy by Claude Tresmontant, translated into English by Michael Francis Gibson. Here, Tresmontant explores the ancient Hebrew metaphysics in the Bible and what it means for Christianity, drawing particular contrast with the dualism of Neo-Platonism.

Tresmontant correctly observes that Neo-Platonism has affected the way many unwitting Western Christians have interpreted the Bible throughout history. This is mostly clearly shown in the widely accepted concept of the Neo-Platonic dichotomy of body and soul, which is frequently applied to Bible. However, this stands in sharp contrast to the Hebrew mindset, which makes no distinction whatsoever between body and soul, and which views creation and existence as life-based and individual-oriented.

Tresmontant also contrasts Greek and Hebrew thought as it pertains to creation and the self. As such, Tresmontant bases his arguments heavily on Bergson, and is most critical of Plotinus and Spinoza.

A Study of Hebrew Thought is not the most accessible work. It requires a fundamental understanding of Platonic philosophy, and contains many quotations in their original language, whether German, French, or Latin. The punctuation is all out of whack by today’s standards, which disrupts the flow of reading.

A Study of Hebrew Thought can be challenging to work through, but it is a worthwhile, stimulating, and well-reasoned exploration of the philosophy of the biblical writers and outline of a biblical metaphysics. It is recommended reading for anyone seriously interested in the original intent of the biblical authors.