Since the publication of the German edition of
Israel and Revelation a noteworthy turnaround in the method of conducting research on this book has taken place.
The innovation consisted of bringing its interdisciplinary nature into greater relief, an aim which is further pursued by the essays collected in the present volume. Its four thematic sections focus respectively on civilization forms, on the order of human history, on specific aspects of Old Testament exegesis, and finally on the meaning of the term “revelation” in the context of the biblical events narrated.
The lecture on Eric Voegelin’s Order and History I. Israel and the Revelation compares it with Max Weber’s Ancient Judaism in his Economic Ethics of the World Religions, which Eric Voegelin used intensively for his Order and History. Starting point for this comparative interpretation of the two approaches will be Eric Voegelin’s lecture “Die Größe Max Webers,” which he gave on the Max Weber centennial 1964 in Munich. The two methodologies to interpret the early Jewish culture and religion in the Hebrew Bible will be evaluated and Eric Voegelin’s pleading for a political science beyond Max Weber discussed.
The cosmological view of reality developed within a mindset that was conditioned by the origin and early development of logical thought and of language: the earliest form we have is the one that was shaped “historiogenetically,” by the literate civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The paper will highlight its extremely old prehistory, which can be characterized as pre-logical and pre-linguistic, lasting some two million years, and its culmination in the earliest stages of logic and language, some sixty thousand years ago. I will aim to show how in this period the germs developed that made eventually possible the reflection of the early “symbolists” who, as Voegelin writes, “were clearly not satisfied with merely relating [the facts]; they wanted to link them, through an act of mythopoiesis, with the emergence of order in the cosmos.” My thesis is that these early “symbolists” had not only “historical materials” at their disposal, but also an embryonic sense of order that had been developed by their prehistoric confrères.
Each society identifies an order through which it gives a meaning to existence. This is done using appropriate symbolic forms, which eventually decline in time and flow into the overall historical becoming. Thus we witness the birth of a series of devices that often claim for themselves the title of true order. In its ideality though, such order can never be identified with any concrete structure. This ideality, called which may be labelled in different ways, unknown in its origin and in its purpose, manages to present itself as a reality capable of exceeding the concreteness of every human society. The order of history therefore has a twofold characteristic: while it is accomplished in a specific society, at the same time it shows the peculiar trait of transcending each individualization. With Israel, the sense of order is imposed as an expression of the experience of transcendence. In fact, the divine is no longer part of the cosmos: it is symbolized as the transcendent as such. The encounter between God and man is the condition of possibility for the events and of their narration. From this moment on, history becomes the excellent symbol for expressing an existence that replaces the cosmological symbolic order with the revelation, the event that transforms the cyclical rhythm of ancient civilizations into historical time. The political-existential order is therefore only a first meaning that most profoundly hints at the deeper nature of the order of being in which man participates. In this specific sense, the order of history is not revealed in the history of order. In any case, history is configured as a narration of the symbolic representations of the order and, at the same time, of the representations through which human conscience intended to pass itself on.