Benedict Spinoza (named Baruch Spinoza at birth) was 17th century Dutch philosopher who marked an important turning point in the rise of “modern” biblical studies. Spinoza radically challenged traditional assumptions and theological readings of the Bible. He was not the first to question the things like Mosaic authorship (this was at least partially questioned by Hobbes), but was known for the direct and forceful way in which he did. A contemporary of Spinoza, J. H. Heidegger, wrote that "no one struck at the foundations of the entire Pentateuch more shamelessly than Spinoza." Spinoza was influenced in his approach by both Descartes (I think, therefore I am) and Hobbes. He approached the text without assuming to know its meaning by tradition, and appealed to what could be known of the history of scripture through its own language. He came to shocking conclusions to those of his day. He said that the HB portrayal of God was inadequate since he is given a range of human emotions, he rejects the miracles, and claims that Gen-Kings was probably written by a single person (Ezra). Although most of Spinoza's conclusions are no longer relevant, his approach is considered a watershed in biblical studies because it insisted that the Bible should be read as any other book, and that its literary meaning was its historical meaning.


Curley, E. M. “Spinoza, Benedict (or Baruch) de.” Edited by John H. Hayes. Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1999.

Gignilliat, Mark S. A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism: From Benedict Spinoza to Brevard Childs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

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