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Horst Steinke


marily alluded to philosophical truth rather than ordinary


While Spinoza’s distinction between «meaning» and «truth»

was not necessarily non-ideological


, it renders a noteworthy

epistemological service of a general nature: it makes transparent

what could, intentionally or unintentionally, be neglected in any

interpretative undertaking, when it is ostensibly concerned only

with the «meaning» of subject material. Spinoza was prepared to

be open about his own philosophical predilections, and, in fact,

candidly, to bear witness to his choice, as a general principle, of

his own philosophical system over Scripture as a whole. In that

sense, he called attention to the need to give consideration, first

and foremost, to such underlying philosophical determinations,

and only secondarily, to the actual hermeneutical task performed.

As he later stated in Chapter 7, in the final analysis, (his) philos-

ophy made the study of Scripture superfluous


. Spinoza’s dic-

tum can thus shed light on hermeneutics in general, and, in a

way, turn hermeneutics on its head, by re-directing criticism

from the biblical text or material to be studied to the body of

theoretical/philosophical notions through the lens of which the

material is approached.


, then, does not purport to

say something about the text, but the ways, if they exist, in which

they give substance to, or


, the theoretical propositions. It is

Spinoza’s great merit, and to his credit, as well as to his intellec-

tual honesty, to his systematicity, to explicitly acknowledge that

Scripture does not conform in fundamental ways to his own


This brings us to his third main area of biblical studies



which actually consists of two categorically distinct domains of

inquiry. The first concerns the historical background of the au-

thors and their times, now commonly termed

Sitz im Leben


life setting) in biblical studies


; the second involves the textual

integrity of the works as they came down to us through time. In

each case, Spinoza first presents a short catalog of relevant