FAQ: Do We Think Like the Ancient Hebrews Did?

When reading the Bible, studying the art and culture of the Ancient Near East, or even looking at Hellenistic philosophy, we can be startled by the differences between our ideas and theirs. This can lead us to assume that there are fundamental differences between not only the cultures or interests that inform our thoughts, but in the very ways that we engage in thinking itself. One such assumption has emerged in scholarship around the ability of ancient Hebrews to engage in abstract thought.

In this episode, Dr. Dru Johnson and Abby Smith discuss reasons to trust that we do think similarly to the biblical authors. Although we may not understand every detail of their context, we can work on listening charitably and removing our modern presuppositions, alongside engaging in practices that help us enter into the intellectual world of the Bible. If we do this, we are well on our way to understanding the abstract, even philosophical, ideas of the ancient Hebrews.


  • 1:23 The problem with viewing ancient thinkers as different than modern
  • 3:16 Do the Biblical authors have a different way of discussing abstract ideas than the Greeks?
  • 7:42 How to listen to the ancient Hebrews (and how it’s a lot like listening to a spouse in a healthy marriage)
  • 10:15 Which pieces of ancient thought we can access and which ones we cannot

Referenced works:

Johannes Pedersen, Israel, its life and culture, I-II

Thorlief Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek

Credits for the music & pictures used in CHT podcasts can be found at:  hebraicthought.org/credits