How to Read the Bible according to Strauss
Strauss’s philosophical oeuvre may be perceived as an effort to restorethe prestige of both of them. From a Jewish perspective we may addthat Strauss believes that only on the basis of classical philosophy, ormore precisely Socratic-Platonic philosophy, is it possible to defend Judaism effectively.In the following presentation, I shall first discuss Strauss’s generalhermeneutical presuppositions, with special attention to their rele-vance for his understanding of Judaism. Then I shall show what hismain intentions are in his interpretation of the Bible. In this way Ihope to be faithful to Strauss’s demand to understand a philosopheras he understood himself.
In his lecture on Freud and his book
Moses and Monotheism
Straussraises the question, What is “a good non-religious Jewish thinker”(pp.287–288)?
From his discussion of Freud it seems that such athinker would have three necessary virtues: loyalty (fidelity), intel-lectual probity, and love for the truth. As we shall see, there is aninternal connection among these three virtues.Interestingly, Strauss explicitly calls loyalty to one’s own commu-nity the primary qualification of a good Jewish thinker. He believesthat it is an existential necessity for a good thinker as a matter of dig-nity and integrity. Since he knows that one cannot get rid of one’spast, he makes a virtue out of this necessity. Not only does he feel anobligation not to desert the community, but he also supports anddefends its survival and its heritage. It seems that Strauss believes thata person who denies his or her origin, who is unable to accept thecommunity into which he or she is born, can never elevate him- orherself to the virtues of intellectual probity and the love of truth thatare necessary characteristics for a genuine philosopher. To a certainextent, fidelity to the community, being grateful to it for what it hascontributed to the development of one’s personality, is necessary forachieving human perfection. In this sense, it is close to piety, since both of them are connected to reverence toward one’s ancestors. Theyare not “primitive” properties, as the Enlightenment would have it.
Loyalty holds back the Jew from fully deserting the Jewish com-munity and its heritage; furthermore, it can become a strong motivefor a full return to Judaism. Indeed, Strauss dedicated a major part of his oeuvre to proving that such a return is possible from a philosophi-cal point of view, although there are enormous psychological difficul-ties in adopting this position. The difficulties arise mainly from themind-set of the age. Most of the Jews today, who want to remain Jewish,