December 7, 2018

Literally, woodenly translated, the 9th Word is: “Thou shalt not answer (‘anah) with/against your neighbor a false witness.” The verb ‘anah is of interest, mainly because it is such an uninteresting word. Of the 300+ times it’s used in the Old Testament, the KJV translates it as “answer” 240-some times; the NASB typically renders it as “answer” or “reply.” The KJV translates it as “bear” only four times, in Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:18, Proverbs 25:18, and Job 16:8. It translates… Read more

December 6, 2018

Children provide a test case for psychological and epistemological theories. Many theories fail: They do not suffer the little children to come to them. That’s part of the point of Vasudevi Reddy’s fascinating How Infants Know Minds. The title contains the thesis: Infants know other minds. They don’t act by mere instinct, or mere reflex. And they aren’t just responding to stimuli or bodies. Infants know other minds. Reddy began to formulate her thesis when she had children of her… Read more

December 5, 2018

Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude opens with a powerful assault on what he calls “correlationism” through a defense of the distinction of primary and secondary qualities. He explains the rationale behind the distinction of primary and secondary. On the one hand, “nothing sensible – whether it be an affective or perceptual quality – can exist in the way it is given to me in the thing by itself, when it is not related to me or to any other living creature. When… Read more

November 29, 2018

The first five commandments appear to be chiastically arranged. To wit: A. I am Yahweh; thou shalt have no other gods. B. Thou shalt not make image, bow to it, or serve it. C. Thou shalt not bear the name of Yahweh lightly. B’. Remember the Sabbath. A’. Honor your father and mother. The suggestion that the first five words are chiastically arranged rests on verbal repetitions and conceptual parallels: A/A’: Each of the first five commandments uses the phrase yahweh ‘eloheyka;… Read more

November 28, 2018

In a 2000 article in Isis, Ann Blair examines what she describes as “Mosaic physics,” an effort to derive principles of physics from a literal reading of the creation  account in Genesis 1. Most philosophers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tried to offer a pious natural philosophy, one that coordinated with Christian teaching more smoothly than Aristotle: “Even Rene Descartes, in devising his new philosophy, felt that he was fulfilling a mission assigned him by Cardinal Berulle, one of… Read more

November 27, 2018

In a wide-ranging essay on how theology alone saves metaphysics, John Milbank explores the parallels between notions of “given” and the primacy of possibility on the one hand, and notions of the “gift” and the primacy of actuality on the other. He starts with Aristotle, for whom “the actual was primary in terms of definition, time and substance. We can define things because we encounter them; some things are possible only because other things are already actual; things that are… Read more

November 26, 2018

The Bible hints in various ways that property is proper to human persons. The deepest hint between person and property becomes evident when we think of Yahweh’s property. God created everything, and so is Lord of everything. We don’t own anything outright. We talk about property “rights,” but that’s the wrong term. What we have are gifts from God. They are ours, but they are ours the way a gift is ours, the way something given into our safe-keeping is… Read more

November 21, 2018

The eighth word prohibits stealing, but in Scripture the word “steal” (Heb. ganaph) and the concept of “theft” covers more territory than we might assume. 1) There is a cluster of uses of ganaph in Genesis 31 (8x). Laban accuses Jacob of “stealing” away (vv. 20, 26-27), perhaps a reference to his furtive departure, like a thief in the night. Rachel steals her father’s teraphim (vv. 19, 30). In his defense, Jacob reminds Laban that he bore the cost of animals… Read more

November 20, 2018

Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Horeb is worth reading on any topic – stimulating, eccentric, illuminating, infuriating. His treatment of the eighth commandment brings out several key themes. First, he defines property as “an artificial extension of the body” (227), and since the body is a “tool” for the spirit, so property is a further embodiment of the human spirit. Crimes against property aren’t, therefore, simply crimes against property but sins “against the invisible human spirit” and “against God, Who demands of… Read more

November 19, 2018

John Gray (Seven Types of Atheism) says that “Contemporary atheism is a flight from a godless world. Life without any power that can secure order or some kind of ultimate justice is a frightening and for many an intolerable prospect. In the absence of such a power, human events could be finally chaotic, and no story could be told that satisfied the need for meaning. Struggling to escape this vision, atheists have looked for surrogates of the God they have cast… Read more

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