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Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham

Thomas L. Pangle

Publication Year: 2003

In this book noted scholar Thomas L. Pangle brings back a lost and crucial dimension of political theory: the mutually illuminating encounter between skeptically rationalist political philosophy and faith-based political theology guided ultimately by the authority of the Bible. Focusing on the chapters of Genesis in which the foundation of the Bible is laid, Pangle provides an interpretive reading illuminated by the questions and concerns of the Socratic tradition and its medieval heirs in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic worlds. He brings into contrast the rival interpretive framework set by the biblical criticism of the modern rationalists Hobbes and Spinoza, along with their heirs from Locke to Hegel. The full meaning of these diverse philosophic responses to the Bible is clarified through a dialogue with hermeneutic discussions by leading political theologians in the Judaic, Muslim, and Christian traditions, from Josephus and Augustine to our day. Profound and subtle in its argument, this book will be of interest not only to students and scholars of politics, philosophy, and religion but also to thoughtful readers in every walk of life who seek to deepen their understanding of the perplexing relationship between religious faith and philosophic reason.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix

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pp. xi

For financial support during the years when I worked on this book, I wish to express my gratitude to the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Connaught Fund of the University of Toronto, the Social Sciences and...

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pp. 1-16

This book seeks to reinvigorate the encounter between political philosophy and the Bible. I remain at the beginning in almost every sense. My focus is on that portion of Genesis that treats (with amazing compression) by far the longest period of human history, stretching from the Creation through...

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CHAPTER ONE: The Twofold Account of Creation: and the Hermeneutical Problem

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pp. 17-28

To approach the Bible from the perspective of the history of political philosophy is to be struck by the apparent lack of congruence between the concerns of political philosophy and the primary concerns of Scripture...

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CHAPTER TWO: Creation and the Meaning of Divine Omnipotence

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pp. 29-47

In teaching us, at the outset, about the creaturely character of the heavens and the earth and everything that they contain, the Bible ignores, or does without, what the Greek philosophers have taught us for centuries to speak of as ‘‘nature’’ (fúsiw; physis). This silence signifies the denial of the very possibility of what philosophic science means by knowledge. Creation...

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CHAPTER THREE: The Ontological Implications of the Unfolding of Creation, for Creatures and Creator

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pp. 48-57

The heavens are the first, and in some sense the preeminent,∞ part of Creation: ‘‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’’ But by putting ‘‘the heavens’’ ( ymqh) first, the Bible would seem to be meaning to say most emphatically that the heavens too, even the heavens, are created...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Creation and Divine Solicitude for Mankind

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pp. 58-70

Humanity, male and female, was created in God’s image, and this means—as the principle underlying the ordering of the works of Creation suggests—that humanity is characterized above all by radical (spiritual) spontaneity. But the goodness of such latitude in the creature, we now learn, is inextricably...

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CHAPTER FIVE: Creation and the Meaning of Good and Evil

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pp. 71-102

It is not possible to sustain, on the basis of the actual text of the Scripture, the ‘‘didactic’’ interpretation in any of the versions set forth in the preceding chapter. The Fall indeed begins to a√ord an education, but the lesson is more problematic or less coherent than we have thus far admitted. For nothing that has been said up till now explains the single most important...

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CHAPTER SIX: Pollution and Purgation

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pp. 103-126

The story of mankind that unfolds after the expulsion from Paradise helps diminish our wonder at the Fall by showing us how deep and intransigent is the human creature’s propensity to evil. This of course prompts in us again the question why the Creator had to create so labile a being in His image. What...

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Abram from the Calling to the Covenant

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pp. 127-153

The calling of Abram recapitulates in a sense the calling of Noah.1 As with every such biblical recapitulation, the divergences are at least as instructive as the redundancies. Noah and his family were called to be the surviving remnant of the whole human race; Abram and his family are called to separate themselves...

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Abraham at the Peak

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pp. 154-171

The behavior of the Sodomites would seem fully to justify God’s decision to extirpate the city and everyone in it, with the exception of Lot and his family; the Scripture stresses that the rapacious mob included ‘‘all of the people, in its entirety, from...

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CHAPTER NINE: Kierkegaard’s Challenge

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pp. 172-181

Søren Kierkegaard lays a deeply troubling challenge to any and every attempt such as ours, inspired by Socrates, to shed some light on what is at stake in the crux text recounting Abraham’s binding of Isaac for sacrifice—and thus on the core teaching of Scripture altogether. If Kierkegaard is right, then...

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pp. 182-184

Patriarchy, the Scripture teaches, is the cornerstone of the right way of life for mankind. The chosen people are a people of patriarchal families. Genesis presents, for all the future generations, models that are meant to guide the Hebrew fathers (and, through them, all fathers everywhere) in their...


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pp. 185-264

Works Cited

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pp. 265-278


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pp. 279-285

E-ISBN-13: 9780801881312
E-ISBN-10: 0801881315
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801887611
Print-ISBN-10: 0801887615

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2003