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Horst Steinke


prophecy», since they not only differed among themselves, but

also were inevitably subject to «the prejudices of their particular

age»; ultimately, one should «avoid confusing the minds of the

prophets and [intra-biblical] historians with the mind of the Holy

Spirit and with factual truth (

mente Spiritus Sancti, et rei veritate



Secondly, the «meaning of some passage» is liable to have been

deliberately tampered with by the [Jewish] «learned», developing

his case, rhetorically, by initially allowing merely the possibility

that «it may occasionally have been in someone’s interest to alter

the meaning of some passage», then claiming definitely that «we

can readily conceive that the learned may have altered or cor-

rupted the meaning of some passage», and finally alleging that

«there may frequently have been an intention to corrupt the

meaning of a writer by altering what he wrote or by giving it a

wrong interpretation»


. In the space of a few sentences, one is

swept along – that is, if one does not stop and challenge or at

least qualify the initial supposition – as a hypothetical case of low

likelihood escalates into a situation of high frequency; given such

frequency, doubts or suspicions


are apt to arise about the in-

tegrity of any and all passages. Spinoza concludes this section by

affirming that it followed «the principle that knowledge of Scrip-

ture must be sought only from Scripture»


, which in his herme-

neutical framework, unlike the contemporaneous Protestant slo-

gan of

sola Scriptura

, was meant to ensure that the significance of

Scripture was confined to an inferior epistemic level, adding, for

emphasis, that his «method […] is the only true method (




unica et vera sit

)», apart from which no understanding

of Scripture is attainable. In summary, in Spinoza’s framework,

not only is the «meaning» of Scripture a function of merely the

second kind of knowledge, and thus categorically incapable of

containing intuitive knowledge of the essence of God-Nature, its

causes, modes, and properties, but the enterprise itself of discov-

ering such «meaning» is presented, for all intents and purposes,

as nigh impossible to succeed.