Thinking About the Prophets

Jewish Publication Society. Sept. 2020. 162p. ISBN 9780827615052. pap. $21.95. REL
Seeskin’s (philosophy, Northwestern Univ.; Thinking About the Torah) focus in this latest work is on prophetic literature, specifically on the philosophical antecedents that lie hidden within the words and actions of the biblical prophets. As the author presents each prophet’s message, he skillfully interweaves similar ethical and moral concerns raised by historically and culturally disparate thinkers such as Aristotle, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Martin Buber, and Joseph B. Soloveitchik. For example, the divine pathos imagined by Hosea’s more fulsome love is limited in Maimonides to humanity’s love for God alone; his philosophy cannot conceive of a deity that is moved by any emotion, which Hosea certainly can. Jeremiah’s unpopular message of divine judgement carries within it later echoes of Immanuel Kant, who condemned the perversity of the human heart whose evil cannot be removed, even though Jeremiah’s message also shared an existential hope for return which Kant seemingly could not fathom.
VERDICT This fascinating and erudite account by Seeskin subtly argues for an Old Testament God concept that is far richer and more evocative than the limited vision of many philosophers. Readers interested in learning about biblical prophets will find much to uncover.
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