Thinking about the Prophets A Philosopher Reads the Bible

About the Book

Publication Date: September 2020

Rethinking the great literary prophets whose ministry ran from the eighth to the sixth centuries BCE— Amos, Hosea, First Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Second Isaiah, and Job—Thinking about the Prophets examines their often-shocking teachings in light of their times, their influence upon later Western and Jewish thinkers, and their enduring lessons for us.  As a noted scholar of Jewish philosophy, Kenneth Seeskin teases out philosophical, ethical, and theological questions in the writings. Amos, for example, raises questions about the nature of moral reasoning, Hosea about the divine persona, First Isaiah about divine providence, Jeremiah about innocent suffering, Ezekiel about the power of repentance, Second Isaiah about what it means to believe in a monotheistic conception of God., and Job about why God allows an innocent to suffer.

Seeskin argues, too, that great ideas are not limited by time or place—once put forward, they take on a life of their own— and thus interweaves the medieval and modern philosophers Maimonides, Kant, Cohen, Buber, Levinas, Heschel, and Soloveitchik, all of whom read the prophets and had important things to say as a result. We come to see the prophets as (perhaps in equal measure) divinely authorized whistle-blowers and profound thinkers of the human condition. Readers of all levels will find the volume an accessible and provoking introduction to the enduring significance of biblical prophecy.

Erudite and accessible, this insightful analysis will appeal to any reader interested in the Bible, the philosophy of religion, or simply the history and literature of the ancient world.Publishers Weekly

“Thinking about the Prophets is a significant contribution to understanding the institution of Israelite prophecy as fundamentally an ethical project, and to understanding the prophets as moral thinkers taking their rightful place in the long history of moral social thinkers in the Jewish and Western philosophical tradition.”Steven P. Kepnes, Chair, World Religions and Jewish Studies, Colgate University
“Seeskin innovatively shows us that the prophets were thinkers, too, and that their thinking has had an indelible impact on Western understandings of God, the world, and human responsibility. Erudite and accessible, as well, this work would be an excellent text in college-level courses on biblical literature or Jewish thought, as well as in adult education settings.”Judith R. Baskin, Philip H. Knight Professor of Humanities Emerita, University of Oregon



Kenneth Seeskin

Kenneth Seeskin is Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Professor of Jewish Civilization at Northwestern University. He is the author of several books, including Searching for a Distant God: The Legacy of Maimonides, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award, and is the coeditor of The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Culture, and Religion, winner of the Jewish National Book Award.

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