Characterize the differences and similarities between a commitment to life of faith in the Hebrew Bible and commitment to life of reason in classical Greece ?

Expert Answers
readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an excellent request. Let me give you a few points. 

First, if you look at the Hebrew Bible, it is clear that one of the most important points is faith and obedience. God in the Bible requires people to live a life of faith in the covenant. We can see this very clearly in the Ten Commandments. We can also see the outflow of this in the rest of the Bible. For example, David is a man of God, because he lives a life of faith. Certain kings are deemed good, like Josiah and Hezekiah, because they are characterized by faith and obedience to the word of God. This emphasis of faith and obedience is not found in ancient Greece. 

Second, among the Greeks, there is certainly belief in the gods, but there is also a very strong emphasis on reason. Plato and Aristotle are probably the two most famous philosophers. They believe that through philosophy a person can live the good life. Moreover, through philosophy they can know how to live their lives well. This is very different than the Jews, because the Jews did not so much have to deduce what the good life was through philosophy. For the Jews, God had given them revelation, which needed to be obeyed. 

With this said, there are also similarities. For example, both believed in the gods. There was no such thing as atheism.

A good way to get to know the Jews is to read Cahill's book, The Gift of the Jews. I will attach a summary of the book. 

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Greeks by and large valued a very man-centered approach to life. In other words, man is the measure of all things, as one of their philosophers has said. For this reason, philosophy or as Plato calls it, dialectics, is the most important pursuit in the acquisition of knowledge. From this perspective, we can say that man had to search out the mysteries of the world through the hard work of reason. 

When we approach the Jews, there is a very different approach. The most important point is that the Jews believe that the Bible was given to them by God. In other words, God reveals himself. So, while the Jews still need to use their reason and mental powers to come to knowledge, their starting point is faith in a God who speaks in the Bible. So, we can says that there is an emphasis on faith, which the Greek lack.