top of page

Understanding the Relationship Between Philosophy and Judaism (By Mr. John Igwe)

Updated: Mar 24

An angry face

(Disclaimer: The guest posts do not necessarily align with Philosocom's manager, Mr. Tomasio Rubinshtein's beliefs, thoughts, or feelings. The point of guest posts is to allow a wide range of narratives from a wide range of people. To apply for a guest post of your own, please send your request to


Judaism is one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions and has a rich and diverse history, beliefs, and practices.

Judaism is a multifaceted religion with a deep historical and theological foundation. It continues to evolve and adapt to contemporary challenges while maintaining its core principles and traditions.

Judaism and Philosophy History:

The historical relationship between Judaism and philosophy is rich and complex. Here are some key points:

* Ancient Roots: Jewish thought and philosophy have ancient roots dating back to biblical times. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) contains philosophical themes and ethical teachings. For example, the Book of Proverbs contains wisdom literature, and the Book of Ecclesiastes explores existential questions.

While these early biblical texts are not philosophical treatises in the formal sense, they laid the groundwork for the development of philosophical ideas within Jewish thought. Over time, Jewish philosophers would engage more explicitly with philosophical concepts and integrate them into Jewish theology and philosophy, as seen in the works of figures like Philo of Alexandria and Maimonides. Hellenistic Influence: During the Hellenistic period (4th to 1st centuries BCE), when Jewish communities were under Greek influence, there was an interaction between Jewish thought and Greek philosophy, particularly with Stoicism and Platonism. Philo of Alexandria is a notable figure who attempted to reconcile Judaism with Greek philosophy, blending Platonic ideas with Jewish theology.

In Summary, The Hellenistic influence on Judaism represents a period of intellectual and cultural exchange, where Jewish thinkers engaged with Greek philosophical ideas and attempted to synthesize them with their own religious traditions. This interaction contributed to the development of philosophical thought within Judaism and influenced subsequent Jewish philosophers, including those in the medieval and modern periods. Medieval Jewish Philosophy: The Middle Ages saw the emergence of prominent Jewish philosophers, such as Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon), who integrated Aristotelian philosophy with Jewish theology in works like the "Guide for the Perplexed." Maimonides' writings had a profound impact on both Jewish and Islamic thought.

However, Medieval Jewish philosophy reflects a dynamic interplay between Jewish religious tradition, Greek and Islamic philosophy, and the broader intellectual currents of the time. It produced enduring works of philosophy and theology that continue to shape Jewish thought and scholarship to this today. Kabbalah and Mysticism: In addition to rationalist philosophers like Maimonides, Jewish mysticism, known as Kabbalah, became influential in the late medieval and early modern periods. Kabbalistic thought sought to explore the mystical aspects of Judaism and had a complex relationship with philosophy.

Kabbalah and mysticism play a significant role in Jewish spirituality, offering a path to deeper understanding of God and the self. While it has been a source of inspiration and contemplation for many, Kabbalah remains a complex and enigmatic tradition that requires careful study and interpretation. Enlightenment and Modernity: In the Enlightenment era, Jewish philosophers like Moses Mendelssohn engaged with European Enlightenment ideas while advocating for Jewish emancipation. This period marked a shift toward more secular and assimilationist philosophies among some Jewish thinkers.

In summary, the Enlightenment and modernity posed both opportunities and challenges for Jewish thought and identity. While some Jews embraced secularism and integration, others sought to maintain religious tradition in the face of changing times. These developments led to a diversity of Jewish perspectives and contributed to the evolution of modern Jewish philosophy and theology. Contemporary Thought: In contemporary times, Jewish philosophy continues to evolve with diverse perspectives, including existentialism (e.g., Martin Buber), religious existentialism (e.g., Franz Rosenzweig), and modern Jewish ethics (e.g., Emmanuel Levinas).

Contemporary Jewish thought is dynamic and continues to evolve as Jewish communities adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the modern world. It reflects a commitment to preserving Jewish tradition while engaging with contemporary intellectual and social developments.

In all, an example of these contemporary thought can be seen in Spinoza's Philosophy:

The historical relationship between Judaism and the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza is complex and contentious. Here are some key points regarding this relationship:

Spinoza's Background:

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese-Jewish descent. He was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Amsterdam, which was a hub of Jewish intellectual activity during his time. However, Spinoza's philosophical ideas would eventually lead to his excommunication from the Amsterdam synagogue in 1656. Spinoza's Philosophy:

Spinoza's philosophy is often seen as a departure from traditional Jewish beliefs and a challenge to conventional religious thought. His major work, "Ethics" and other writings, laid the foundation for several key philosophical ideas: *Pantheism: Spinoza famously proposed a pantheistic view of God, suggesting that God and the universe are one and the same. This concept contradicted traditional Jewish monotheism, which posits a distinct, personal God. *Determinism: Spinoza argued for a deterministic worldview, where everything in the universe is governed by natural laws. This perspective challenged the traditional Jewish notion of free will and moral responsibility. *Critique of Religious Authority: Spinoza's writings criticized religious authority, the Bible, and organized religion. He advocated for a rational, secular approach to ethics and understanding the natural world. *Excommunication and Impact:

In 1656, Spinoza was excommunicated from the Amsterdam synagogue by a herem (excommunication/boycott) that referred to him as "a notorious atheist." This marked a dramatic break with the Jewish community, and Spinoza's works were banned by Jewish authorities.

*Influence and Legacy: Despite his excommunication and controversial ideas, Spinoza's philosophy had a significant impact on later Jewish thought and philosophy:

*Modern Jewish Thought: Spinoza's ideas challenged and stimulated Jewish thinkers in subsequent generations. Some Jewish philosophers engaged with his works to explore the boundaries between reason and faith. *Secular Jewish Identity: Spinoza's emphasis on reason and secular ethics resonated with some secular Jewish intellectuals who sought to develop a Jewish identity outside of traditional religious frameworks.

*Interpretations and Re-evaluations: In the modern era, there have been efforts to reevaluate Spinoza's philosophy and its relationship to Judaism. Some scholars have argued that his ideas were misunderstood or mischaracterized by his contemporaries.

However, the historical relationship between Judaism and Spinoza's philosophy is marked by a sharp divide. Spinoza's radical ideas challenged traditional Jewish beliefs and led to his excommunication, but his philosophy also had a lasting impact on the development of modern Jewish thought and secular Jewish identity. He remains a figure of philosophical significance in the broader history of Western philosophy.


Overall, the relationship between Judaism and philosophy has seen various phases, with periods of synthesis, tension, and divergence. It reflects the adaptability of Jewish thought to engage with philosophical ideas while maintaining its unique religious and cultural identity.

(Mr. Rubinshtein's note: We can learn from this article the importance of not setting anything in stone, and be prepared to test every belief and theory we have, in the name of developing our perception to align with reality. If the original belief systems of Judaism and other ideologies/religions were absolutely correct, they would have no reason to evolve throughout the course of human history).

50 views0 comments


Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

צילום מסך 2023-11-02 202752.png
bottom of page