The Jewish Philosophical Theology project
Location: The Herzl Institute, Jerusalem
Dates: June 12-22, 2017
Project Directors: Yoram Hazony and Joshua Weinstein
The Jewish Philosophical Theology project invites applications from graduate students and recent PhDs for a Young Scholars Bible and Philosophy Workshop in Jerusalem on June 12-22, 2017. Up to 20 students will be accepted to the program, which will be conducted in English by Institute scholars and invited speakers. Participants will attend seminars on philosophical issues in Hebrew Bible as well as Talmud and Midrash (classical rabbinic stories), present response papers, and visit historic sites in Jerusalem.
Philosophical theology uses the tools of philosophical investigation to seek new spiritual knowledge in theological subjects, including God’s nature and relationship to the world, the fundamental nature of reality, and the nature of human beings and human flourishing. Jewish philosophical theology is a distinctive philosophical enterprise that strives for new knowledge in these areas through the philosophical investigation of Jewish texts such as the Hebrew Bible and classical rabbinic literature; the elucidation of specifically Jewish theological concepts and their comparison with theological concepts inherited from other traditions; and the positive construction of theological explanatory frameworks of significance for contemporary Jews, Christians and others.
Lectures and discussions at the Workshop will be on topics such as: “The Bible as Philosophy?” “The Metaphysics of Hebrew Scripture”; “Is the Biblical God Perfect Being?”; “What Does It Mean for God to Speak?”; “Bible as a Tradition of Inquiry”; “Approaching God Through Metaphor”; “God’s Plans, Failures and Alliances”; “Should God Be Our King?”; “Discovering a Name of God”; “Who Makes Things Happen in the Bible?”
Workshop participants will also take part in the sixth international conference in the “Philosophical Investigation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Talmud and Midrash.” The conference topic for this year is “The Revelation at Sinai: What Does Torah From Heaven Mean?” Invited conference speakers include: R. Joshua Amaru, William Abraham, Shawn Zelig Aster, Jonathan Burnside, R. Shalom Carmy, James Diamond, Lenn E. Goodman, Yoram Hazony, Steven Kepnes, and R. Gil Student. More information on the conference can be found here.
All accepted workshop participants will receive meals, free registration for the conference, and a modest stipend. Limited assistance with travel expenses and accommodation is available.
The application deadline is December 31, 2016.
Applications must include:
- 1-2 page letter of introduction describing your interest in the program
- Recent cv
- Letter of recommendation
Applications will be judged by a panel consisting of Yoram Hazony, Josh Weinstein and Dru Johnson. Applications will be judged principally with respect to potential future contributions to the field of Jewish philosophical theology.
Applications are invited from graduate students and recent PhDs of all disciplinary and religious backgrounds.
This workshop has been made possible by the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation.
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The Revelation at Sinai: What Does “Torah From Heaven” Mean?
The concept of torah from heaven (Heb., tora min hashamaim) plays a central role in Jewish theology. But what precisely does it mean to say that the Jewish torah (Hebrew, “teaching”) is from heaven? This expression refers back to the biblical accounts of Israel receiving God’s teaching at Mt. Sinai, accounts in which God is said to have spoken to Moses and Israel “from heaven.” (Ex. 20.19; Deut. 4.36). But torah from heaven is not restricted to God’s speech at Sinai, and includes subsequent Mosaic prophecy in the desert (at least), and perhaps a great deal more. Traditionally, this concept has been flexible enough to address the legitimacy of dispute and innovation (machloket le-shem shamayim, hiddush) within the framework of an ongoing tradition, even as the centrality of Moses and Sinai has remained indispensable.
This conference will seek to elucidate the traditional Jewish theology of torah from heaven in response to recent challenges. We are especially interested in papers that seek a better understanding of the views presented in the Hebrew Bible, Talmud and Midrash, according to which the torah is to be seen as entering the world through, or being given shape by, God’s speech to Moses and Israel at Mt. Sinai. We hope to address questions such as: What can the idea that the torah is from heaven teach us about the relationship between God’s instruction and the world of human experience? About the place of the prophet as a bearer of God’s word, bringing instruction to other human beings? About the normative character of a reality that not only “is” but also commands? About the significance of tradition and its relationship with other means of exploring God’s will such as human reasoning?
Among recent challenges is criticism of the classical view of torah from heaven from Jewish scholars and academics, who have proposed the adoption of a rival theology of torah from heaven: One in which God gave his teaching to Israel through the work of large numbers of anonymous scribes over many generations in what has been called an “unfolding” revelation. According to this theory, God gave the torah to Israel without having need of either Moses or of Sinai to do it. Papers submitted for presentation at the conference can consider such critiques and develop considered responses to them.
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