Between Truth and Trust: The False Prophet as Self-Deceiver?

Suzanne Last Stone

Abstract: In I Kings 22, a lying spirit deceives King Ahab’s prophets into prophesying in unison success in battle. This strange and tragic story enlarges the category of false prophets to include those who are sincere yet mistaken. This biblical report of one of many clashes between true and false prophets offers a conceptually powerful tool for thinking through the human capacity and obligation to discern and convey the truth, one pursued by modern readers of the Hebrew Bible such as Kant and Hobbes as well as by rabbinic readers. In constructing a theory of culpability for the case of the deceived prophet, the rabbis reflected on the intricate relationship of truth to trust in a startlingly contemporary manner.

Biography: Suzanne Last Stone is University Professor at Yeshiva University, Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School, and Director of Yeshiva University’s Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization. She has held the Joseph P. and Caroline Zelaznik Gruss Visiting Chair in Talmudic Civil Law at Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and also has visited at Princeton and Columbia Law School. She is a regular visitor at the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv Law Schools, where she teaches Jewish Law and Political Thought. Professor Stone’s publications include: "In Pursuit of the Counter-text: The Turn to the Jewish Legal Model in Contemporary American Legal Theory," (Harvard Law Review); "The Jewish Conception of Civil Society," in Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society (Princeton University Press); "Feminism and the Rabbinic Conception of Justice" in Women and Gender in Jewish Philosophy (Indiana University); and “Rabbinic Legal Magic,” (Yale Journal of Law & Humanities). In Fall 2010, she will be delivering the Franz Rosenzweig Lectures at Yale University.

Volume 4, Number 4 (Fall 2009) pp. 337–366