Long before the days of Jesus, there once was an ancient Near Eastern nation that had a celebrated law-giver. Or should I call him a philosopher, theologian, story-teller, biographer, or even historian? His literary contributions crossed all these genres.
His literary style changed as he aged. The biographical stories he told in his youth were lively and vivid. The laws and outlines for civil government he gave in his old age were dry, written almost in a monologue, and a bit harsh in the view of many.
His thought has always been controversial. He was a monotheist in a world of polytheists. His laws were never fully enacted, but nonetheless influenced subsequent philosophers, jurists, and legislators.
Some of his statements appear to be contradictory, which has puzzled his interpreters ever after. Did he make mistakes? Was he inconsistent? Or is he playful and rhetorical, demanding a more sophisticate hermeneutic of his readers?
His successors didn’t always know what to make of him. To some he was a dour, self-righteous moralist, to others a model of virtue and rationality, almost a saint.
And of course I’m talking about … whom?
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