Shalem Center gets $1.1 million to work on project

John Templeton Foundation gives Jerusalem center grant for Jewish philosophical theology project.

The Shalem Center in Jerusalem was awarded a $1.1 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation on Monday to develop a Jewish contribution to the emerging field of philosophical theology.
The three-year Analytic Theology Project, with the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the University of Innsbruck in Austria representing the Christian components of the endeavor, is aimed at advancing the use of philosophical methods in the study of religious topics and texts.
The Jewish component of the project will focus on developing techniques for the philosophical investigation of the Hebrew sources.
“Jewish tradition is text-based, and the guiding question for the Jewish component will be whether it is possible to profitably investigate the Hebrew Bible, Talmud and Midrash as works of genuine philosophical interest,” Shalem Center Provost and Senior Fellow Yoram Hazony, whose forthcoming book The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture: An Introduction deals with these issues, said in a statement on Monday.
“If so, then this can lead to new directions in Jewish philosophy, theology and Bible study. But the results of such work can also have an impact on Christian philosophy, and possibly even on other religions as well. This is a topic that is already being explored by a very small number of philosophers – but there is obviously much more work to be done in this direction, both in terms of methodology for the philosophical study of the Jewish sources, and in terms of substance.”
Hazony will oversee Shalem’s part of the project.
The three institutions will host a series of conferences, workshops and individual research projects over the next three years, to enable direct engagement between scholars, provide cross-disciplinary research training, and offer ways to disseminate the fruits of the philosophical study of religion to a broader, non-academic audience.
“Although analytic theology has been until now a largely Christian enterprise, it need not be,” Michael J. Murray, John Templeton Foundation vice president for philosophy and theology, said in a statement.
“The emergence of a base for Jewish philosophical theology at the Shalem Center provides an opportunity for consolidating a real Jewish anchor for the project.”
Murray said he hoped to bring Muslim counterparts into the discourse, thus “finding ways to use the tools of philosophy and science to make new discoveries that transcend sectarian boundaries.”
The Templeton Foundation aims to be a philanthropic catalyst for research relating to the “big questions” of our existence through the fields of sciences, ethics, philosophy and religion.