By Seth L. Sanders, Jonathan Ben-Dov
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Extra resources for Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature
I alluded earlier to the idea that the Rabbinic worldview was not necessarily hostile to the study of nature. This comes out in a striking manner in the pericope which opens Midrash Genesis Rabbah. 20 This pericope is attributed to Rabbi Hoshayah of Caesarea Maritima, who was a contemporary of Origen and may have met and debated with the Christian sage. According to Hoshayah Torah is the blueprint of creation: ‘God looked into the Torah and created the world’. Torah is the underlying principle, the Hokhmah, of nature.
There Yahweh confronts Job with a catalogue of the wonders of nature. No explanation is offered as to how nature works, only a lyrical description of its mysteries. Indeed the speeches are predicated on the assumption that the ways of God in the physical world are unfathomable to the human mind; the appropriate response to them is one of humility and praise, not study and explanation: ‘The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge? Gird up now your loins like a man; for I will demand of you, and declare you unto me.
I See Otto Neugebauer, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity (New York: Dover, 1969, 2nd ed). 34 44 Ancient Jewish Sciences purposes; and it probably functioned as the language of international culture as well. It was in Aramaic that the Enochic circles received the Babylonian scientific traditions; it was in Aramaic that they preserved them. The ideas were new in Israel and Hebrew as yet lacked a technical, scientific vocabulary in which to express them. An analogous situation arose in the early Middle Ages, when Jews began to write in Arabic, not so much because it was the vernacular, but because it was the language of high culture and science, and Hebrew had yet to develop a scientific vocabulary.
Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature by Seth L. Sanders, Jonathan Ben-Dov