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Vico’s Ring


This section plays a pivotal role in Chapter 7, in more than

one way. Primarily, it delineates Spinoza’s position on Scripture

in relation to his epistemic system, and in doing so, encapsulates

the thrust of the


as a whole. Secondarily, it also acts as a

hinge between what Spinoza expounded before, and what fol-

lows. As shown above, while this section focused on the second

kind of knowledge, the preceding section dealt with matters of

the first kind of knowledge. While purporting to be merely a list-

ing of basic requirements for biblical studies, it already incorpo-

rated Spinoza’s philosophical reflections. The new section



analeptically, reverts to the topic of the data, belonging to the

first kind of knowledge, involved in biblical studies that were

outlined to a lesser-or-greater degree in the earlier section, and

the same two major areas are taken up again: (1) the Hebrew lan-

guage, and (2) what Spinoza calls «the history of all the biblical

books», including the authors, their biography, historical circum-

stances, and also the transmission of their writings.

Although this new section is the longest of all the sections in

the body of Chapter 7, it has a relatively univocal thrust or

theme, applicable to both major topics. In the earlier section that

came before the key exposition on the «meaning» of Scripture,

he had introduced these topics. At the same time, however, as

we have noted above, he framed these areas of inquiry, or disci-

plines, in ways that transcended their “technical” parameters,

thus laying the groundwork for, and setting the direction of, the

more extensive discussion deferred to in the second half of the


Spinoza’s sets the tone and theme, saying that «[a]t this time I

have to discuss any difficulties and shortcomings in our method

which may stand in the way of our acquiring a complete and as-

sured knowledge of the Holy Bible»


. With respect to the first

topic, the Hebrew language, Spinoza provides an exhaustive list

of such «difficulties»: the ancient Hebrew speakers left no dic-

tionary, grammar, or textbooks; the semantics of many nouns