The vibrant culture of the West—its distinctive religious and political traditions, philosophical and scientific inquiries, and literary and artistic modes of imagination—springs from the creative tension between Hebraic and Greek thought. We cannot understand the challenges of the present or chart a path into the future without returning to these two intertwined roots of our civilization. What do Greek and Jewish approaches to the fundamental human problems—of life and death, war and peace, family and friendship, love and loss, justice and cruelty, hope and history—have in common? Where do they diverge? How do these ancient traditions help us to identify, and begin to correct, the errors of modern life and thought?
We begin at the beginning. What are the origins of the world, according to Greek myth, tragedy, and philosophy on the one hand and the stories of the Hebrew Bible and reflections of the rabbinic tradition on the other? Does order emerge from chaos through conflict? Is it introduced by a divine intelligence? Is it inherent in nature itself? What do the Greek and Jewish stories about the first things imply about the origins and vocation of mankind, and of men and women? Are love and aggression impediments to, or conditions of, the achievement of a dignified and peaceful existence? Is the work of creation ever complete? What role do human beings play in the completion of creation? These are some of the questions explored in this course.
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb is chief education officer of Tikvah and founding dean of the Tikvah Scholars Program. Prior to joining Tikvah, Rabbi Gottlieb served as head of school at Yeshiva University High School for Boys and principal of the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA, and has taught at The Frisch School, Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Hebrew Theological College, Loyola University in Chicago, and the University of Chicago. He received his BA from Yeshiva College, rabbinical ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, where his doctoral studies focused on the moral and political thought of Alasdair MacIntyre. Rabbi Gottlieb’s work has been featured twice in the Wall Street Journal and his writing has appeared in First Things, Public Discourse, SEVEN: An Anglo-American Literary Review, The University Bookman, Tradition Online, the Algemeiner, From Within the Tent: Essays on the Weekly Parsha from Rabbis and Professors of Yeshiva University, and, most recently, Strauss, Spinoza & Sinai: Orthodox Judaism and Modern Questions of Faith. He is a trustee of the Hildebrand Project and serves on the Editorial Committee of Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought. He lives in Teaneck, NJ, with his wife and family.
Dr. Jacob Howland
Jacob Howland is McFarlin Professor of Philosophy (emeritus) at the University of Tulsa. He earned a BA from Swarthmore College and a PhD from Penn State. His research focuses on ancient Greek philosophy, history, epic, and tragedy; the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud; Kierkegaard; and literary and philosophical responses to the Holocaust and Soviet totalitarianism. His most recent book is Glaucon’s Fate: History, Myth, and Character in Plato’s Republic (Paul Dry, 2018). His other books include Plato and the Talmud (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and Kierkegaard and Socrates: A Study in Philosophy and Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Director, Tikvah Scholars Program