Gericke: What is a God? Philosophical perspectives on divine essence in the Hebrew Bible.
What is a God? Philosophical perspectives on divine essence in the Hebrew Bible.
London; New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017.
In a highly technical monograph, Jaco Gericke explores the whatness of the Hebrew concept of ‘god’ as reflected in the word 'elohim’ and cognate words. He is less concerned with what a god is in Hebrew terms but with how we might philosophically approach the question of whatness in the first place. The intention is described in the book’s blurb as to provide ‘a new type of worry when looking at what the biblical texts assumed made a god divine.’
The volume is divided into twenty-five chapters, each of which, after the introduction and summary, looks at a different philosophical approach to whatness. Gericke approaches this chronologically through the history of philosophy, working from a Socratic definition of the Hebrew whatness of ‘god’ through to Derrida. He takes the seminal theory from each philosophical movement – e.g. Aristotelian essentialism or Kantian thing-in-itself – and re-applies it to the question ‘what is a god?’ So, from a Kantian perspective, all inquiries into the question can only deliver descriptions of the thing, not the essence of the thing itself.
This book will be of interest to specialists only, and only to those specialists in the small Venn-overlap of Hebraists and philosophers. Nevertheless, it is a welcome effort to situate what is often the rather narrow world of biblical studies into the wider philosophical debate. Thinking about the what of God is certainly of value to scholars of the Bible.
Ronan McLaverty-Head, The King’s School, Worcester