Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Thought Experiment

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?

Comments are open!


Joe McClane said...

Ok... I'll go with the obvious choice; was it Moses? My next guess would be David.

DimBulb said...


Peter Samwel said...

Yup, Plato.

Matthew Kennel said...

The Yahwist!

John Bergsma said...

I'm thinking of Plato and Moses. At least, the "canonical" Moses. Any sense of a real connection between the Pentateuch and an historical Moses has been lost in academic scholarship, but if you place yourself in the position of the ancients who--whether Jewish or not--accepted the Pentateuch as generally the work of Moses, you begin to see all sorts of parallels with the figure of Plato. Of course, this was recognized by the Fathers and others in antiquity.