Baruch Spinoza

Harrisville and Sundberg, in “Baruch Spinoza: The Emergence of Rationalist Biblical Criticism,” outline the momentous changes brought about in the development of Rationalist Biblical Criticism, namely the historical criticism employed by Spinoza in the mid 17th century.

From the outworking of the Reformation came the expectation, saddled on common readers of scripture, to interpret and discern the truth of scripture so as to snap out of the unquestioned superstitions of Medieval Catholicism. This proved difficult to most people without the tethers of the Clergy to guide them. As a result, the humanist concern with the temporal significance of political governance became a manner in which earthly existence gained greater import.

Spinoza typified this approach; his colored company of cosmopolitan and capitalist cohorts revealed his own aims to articulate a theory on liberal democracy and modern biblical criticism. Spinoza believed that much of Jewish and Christian religion comprised superstition and dogma and only by submitting scriptural text to the employs of reason and historical analysis could one free truth as contained in the true virtues of obedience to God in justice and charity.