Page 154 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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Muslim. Perhaps the most dramatic application of this thesis
appears in Wolfson’s volume on the Church Fathers in which he
argues that even in their discussion of such indigenous Christian
notions as the Trinity and the Incarnation, the Fathers drew
upon Philonic notions.
Having presented his conception of Philonic philosophy and
its Jewish, Christian and Muslim manifestations, Wolfson, in
the concluding pages of his
presents a synthetic picture of
the Philonic philosopher. This philosopher, Wolfson tells us,
begins by recognizing two sources of truth: revelation and rea­
son. Of these, revelation is superior. Whether a Philonic philoso­
pher accepts Hebrew or Christian Scripture or the Koran, he is
at one with other Philonic philosophers in maintaining that the
tradition he accepts is true. Wolfson describes this acceptance of
Scripture as a “preamble of faith” on which Philonic philosophy
In addition to providing man with truths of revelation, God
has furnished him with reason, which provides another source
of truth. Through his mind man can discover truths about the
world in which he lives and norms for human conduct. But,
according to the Philonic philosopher, the truths of reason are
inferior to those of revelation.
Since God is the author of the truths of revelation as well as
those of reason, no conflict can exist between them. If there are
apparent contradictions, they can be resolved by proper inter­
pretation. The correct understanding of Scripture together with
the correct understanding of philosophy, will reveal their
underlying unity. This implies that the Philonic philosopher is
engaged in a two-fold task: to clarify the implied sense of Scrip­
ture through philosophic interpretation and to correct the
vagaries of philosophy by an appeal to Scriptural teachings.
While Wolfson’s researches knew no boundary of creed, Jew­
ish philosophy occupied a special place in his work. “I believe,”
he once wrote, “that medieval Jewish philosophy is the only
branch of Jewish literature, next to the Bible, which binds us
to the rest of the literary world.” He had planned to write a
volume on Jewish philosophy, but alas, this volume never came
to be. Yet his writings on Jewish philosophy held a place of
honor in his work. His magisterial
is an exemplary edi­
tion of a Hebrew philosophic text and the many footnotes ap­