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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The modern scholarly engagement with the Bible and the Quran in the western world has been dominated by what is customarily called ‘historical criticism’ or ‘the historical-critical method’. Hence, any student of historical interactions and structural homologies within the Abrahamic family of religions does well to give some thought to the hermeneutical underpinnings of this particular approach to scriptural interpretation. This chapter is meant to assist in such a self-reflective endeavour. After a concise sketch of the basic assumptions governing pre-modern scriptural exegesis, the chapter employs Benedict Spinoza’s (d. 1677) Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670) as a point of departure for characterizing the key features and presuppositions of historical-critical hermeneutics. It then considers the latter’s putative debt to miscellaneous ancient, medieval, and early modern developments and provides a summary account of the subsequent history of historical-critical readings of the Bible and the Quran.

Keywords: Spinoza, Bible, Quran, scripture, exegesis, hermeneutics, historical criticism

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