Jewish Origins

Cosmos, Humanity, and Judaism

Authored by: Cherry Shai

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415492447
eBook ISBN: 9780203803516
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634178


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Although the ancient Greek philosophers agreed that nothing comes from nothing, they were every bit as interested in origins as were the ancient Israelites – and for the same reason. The Greeks denied creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing), and generally understood the world, or at least its material elements, to be eternal. But the prime cause (Aristotle) or demiurge (Plato) is ultimately responsible for the eternal laws of nature which keep the heavenly spheres in motion. The world has a design, and that design is sensible. Since nature has been ordered through reason, then the behavior of humanity, embedded within that natural order, should be in harmony with reason. Natural law is predicated on that very harmony. According to Plato’s cosmogony (the creation of the cosmos) found in the Timaeus, the demiurge “planted reason in soul and soul in body.” And just as our bodies have a soul, so, too, does the body of the universe (Plato 1965: 30). “The ultimate justification for the [ancient Greek] study of the world of nature is an ethical one” (Lloyd 1970: 71).

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