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Vico’s Ring


found within the Scriptures themselves. And since the word

«fire» happens to be used in the

Book of Job

also in the sense of

anger or jealousy, the term can be safely taken in a metaphorical

sense. This technical, if not trivial, semantic exercise, however,

actually is not the main point of the illustration. The emphasis,

rather, is on the hermetic approach to Bible language, both in

form (Hebrew) and content: all “input”, so to speak, from any

and all “outside” sources and resources is proscribed. Although

Spinoza does not say so explicitly, on a purely linguistic level

presumably this would include also, for example, ancient Near

East cognate languages


and texts that could be useful in clari-

fying «linguistic usage (

usu linguae

)». Whether it is the (presumed)

silence about “oriental languages” that belong to the same lan-

guage family as Hebrew, or the restriction to the Hebrew corpus,

the justification of these constraints given by Spinoza does not

have anything to do with philology, in the usual sense. In this

specific illustration of literal vs. metaphorical meaning, what Spi-

noza emphasizes more insistently and repeapedly than any other

point of argument is that «the meaning of the words» must be

found without the aid of «reason»; the statement “God is fire”

and “God is jealous”, respectively, are unproblematic semantical-

ly, however, Spinoza highlights «their obscurity from the per-

spective of truth and reason» (


, p. 89). We are thus, subtly

but quickly, redirected from the realm of philology (seman-

tics/pragmatics) that was the purported topic, to an entirely dif-

ferent epistemic domain, the domain of




and into

the heart of Spinoza’s epistemology and worldview. This be-

comes even more transparent at the end of this excursus, where

he comes back full circle to Moses, stating that Moses «nowhere

tells us that God is without passions or emotions», although «this

opinion is contrary to reason» (


, pp. 89, 90). First, the refer-

ence to «opinion» vs. «reason» points us to


, Part II, Propo-

sition XLI, entitled «Opinion is the only source of falsity, reason

and intuition are necessarily true» in the table of contents


, but