‘The Leviathan,’ in Hebrew
Hobbes classic gets its first full Hebrew translation
As of last month, Israelis have access for the first time to a full translation of The Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes. Earlier Hebrew editions “had quietly dropped anything Hobbes had to say about the Bible,” says Yoram Hazony, the provost of the Shalem Center, which sponsored the translation. “For decades, Israelis read Hobbes without any inkling that he is, in a way, part of their own story.”
The New York Times asked a few experts to weigh in on the implications of the new translation, which Hazony hopes will allow Israelis “to reconsider their place in the intellectual life of the West.” One participant was Rebecca Goldstein, author of the Nextbook Press volume Betraying Spinoza; Goldstein couldn’t help seeing a connection between that titular thinker and Hobbes: “Both were impressed by the enormous destructive capacity of religion. Both saw religion as coming from man’s terror at his own mortality. The question was how to transform the state so as to stabilize the volatile religious impulse that—realists that they were—they knew could not be made to disappear.” One wonders what Israelis might think of Goldstein’s assessment that “Hobbes, like Spinoza, not only wants to wrest the interpretation of religious texts away from religious authorities, but to reveal those texts as undermining the very legitimacy of those authorities.”
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