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Horst Steinke


and verbs are unclear; idioms, figures of speech, linguistic usage

in general are highly obscure, to the point of incomprehensibility;

the inherent characteristics of the Hebrew language (its linguis-

tics) make it impossible to determine the «true meaning», due to

its irregular pronunciation, ambiguities of conjunctions, adverbs,

verbs, lack of alphabetic vowels, lack of punctuation, and ques-

tionable vowel pointing. As these individual aspects of Hebrew

are discussed, each is seen as further reason to recognize that

there are «so many ambiguities as to render it impossible to de-

vise a method that can teach us with certainty how to discover

the true meaning of all Scriptural passages»


. How is one then

to reconcile this (critical) view of the Hebrew language with Spi-

noza’s own project of a Hebrew grammar, published as


dium Grammatices hebraeae Lingue


? As pointed out by Moreau,

Spinoza’s abiding interest in the Hebrew language can be under-

stood as integrated into his metaphysics


. Spinoza’s discussion

of Hebrew grammatical characteristics, such as the passive, the

masculine/feminine genders, variable prepositions, adverbs, lack

of noun inflections, or verb forms, takes place from the higher

perspective of the otherwise vast space of logical necessities,

within which, then, Hebrew (as well as Latin, to which it is com-

pared) only realizes a small subset of possibilities. Hebrew, like

all languages, belongs to the domain of experience, not of es-



, which is one of the key conclusions of the


in it we therefore have more a work of philosophical reflection

than a standard reference grammar


or a work on linguistics

strictu sensu



Spinoza next turns to the issue of «the history of all the bibli-

cal books», including knowledge of the authors, the historical

background, the transmission of the writings, and the multiple

text versions, referring explicitly to the earlier discussion



However, with a rhetorical technique resembling





, rather than engaging with the contemporary state

of the art or scholarship


, he seems to place one methodologi-