Living with the Bible: Jean-Jacques Rousseau Reads Judges 19-21

Michael S. Kochin

Abstract: Rousseau was a lifelong reader of the Bible. His prose poem ‘The Levite of Ephraim’ sentimentalizes Judges 19-21, one of the most violent passages in the Hebrew Bible. This paper examines the text of Judges itself and Rousseau’s ‘Levite' to determine what those works say about how to read a text. For Rousseau, the Bible does not give reasons for action but helps educate sentiments in order to bring readers to defy self-interested, calculating reason.

Biography: Michael S. Kochin is a senior lecturer in political science at Tel Aviv University, and has held visiting appointments at Toronto, Princeton, and Yale.  He is the author of Gender and Rhetoric in Plato's Political Thought (Cambridge, 2002) and Five Chapters on Rhetoric:  Character, Action, Things, Nothing, and Art (Penn State University Press, forthcoming).  He is beginning two projects: the first, on how democracies make foreign policy decisions, with cases from ancient Athens to contemporary Israel; the second, on the political thought and action of David Ben-Gurion.

Volume 2, Number 3 (Summer 2007) pp. 301-325