Ethical Ambiguity, Biblical Vigilantes, and Dr. Shira Weiss (CHT Fellow)

Scripture is full of stories of people who commit morally suspect acts. While sometimes they are explicitly rebuked, often the narrator leaves no direct positive or negative comments on their actions. Sometimes these morally dubious actors prosper—seemingly condoned or even praised by the Biblical authors. How should we read the ethical ambiguity of these narratives?

In this episode, Dr. Dru Johnson talks with Dr. Shira Weiss about her research on biblical ethics, the sticky ethical stories of Scripture, and why the biblical authors do not give us easy answers about morality. Perhaps, instead of seeing the stories as black-and-white, obviously prescriptive, or moralistic, we can read them as intentionally complex and requiring skilled discernment to navigate in order to make sense of the ethical nuances of Scripture.


  • 0:00 What motivated Dr. Weiss to study Biblical ethics
  • 4:18 Ethical ambiguity in the Exodus narrative
  • 10:30 Justice, vigilantism, and violence in the Bible, and the range of reasonable interpretations
  • 15:00 How to examine heroes in the Bible

Shira Weiss holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Philosophy and has taught at Yeshiva University.  She has earned fellowships from the NEH, The Templeton Foundation, and Ben Gurion University.  Dr. Weiss is the author of Joseph Albo on Free Choice: Exegetical Innovation in Medieval Jewish Philosophy(Oxford University Press) and Ethical Ambiguity in the Hebrew Bible (Cambridge University Press), as well as articles in a variety of academic journals. She is currently working on a manuscript, Biblical Heroes on Trial: Justice and Vigilantism in the Hebrew Bible, and is co-authoring a book on protests against God in the Book of Job according to the three Abrahamic faiths.

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