(11.) Thinking With Both Hands

(11.) Thinking With Both Hands

(11.) Thinking With Both Hands


“When we open the Bible, we are invited to undergo a kind of intellectual conversion to the Hebrew world of the East.” (R. Martin-Achard, An Approach to the Old Testament).

“The Christian faith is divinely revealed and is securely anchored in the Hebrew Bible. God breathed his word into the minds of the biblical authors within a Jewish cultural environment. Consequently, for us, in the most succinct terms, ‘to ignore Hebraic ways of thinking is to subvert Christian understanding.’ (John Dillenberger). We must therefore focus on the language and thought-patterns found in the scriptures so that we are able to penetrate the mind of the Hebrew people.When we enter their civilization and view it through their eyes, we find that the contour of their thought is vibrant, rich and colorful. It has its own nuances and features. Indeed, the Hebraic background to Christian thought is at the heart of the rich spiritual legacy that the Jews have shared with Christians.” (Dr. Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith)

Tendencies in Ways of Thinking:

“The message of the New Testament is in the Hebrew tradition as against the Greek tradition. Our tutors to Christ are Moses and the Prophets, and not Plato and the Academies.” (Norman Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament)

HEBREW THINKING                                          WESTERN THINKING

  1. Embrace 2 Truths in Tension                  Seek 1 Truth Exclusively
  2. Story, Meal and Song                       Catechism, Doctrine, Lecture
  3. Embrace Paradox/Mystery                      Design a Logical System
  4. Trust the Immeasurables                             Trust the Measurables
  5. Poetic/Imaginative                                              Linear/Sequential
  6. Community/Interdependent                   Individual/Independent
  7. Experiential/Multi-Sensory                       Cerebral/Rationalistic
  8. Theonomy/Responding to God               Theology/Defining God
  9. Functional Faith/Deeds                      Propositional Faith/Creeds
  10. Practical/Tangible/Earthy                            Theoretical/Abstract
  11. Describe and Demonstrate                            Explain and Analyze

I may be doing a little bit of stereotyping here, but for the most part these tendencies mentioned above are true to my experience as a lifelong Christian, Western in my upbringing but more Hebrew in my preference in my later years. I find that the more comfortable I am with Hebrew thinking, the better I can understand and be formed by that Jewish book the Bible.

“I can no more understand Jesus apart from his Jewishness than I can understand Gandhi apart from his Indianness. I need to go way back, and picture Jesus as a first-century Jew…” (Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew).

4 Replies to “(11.) Thinking With Both Hands”

  1. I’ve never forgotten this Hebrew and Western outline. Me and Nick don’t tell people that we have a monthly bible study in the Old Testament. We always say we have a monthly Hebrew potluck. Ha!

  2. This is one of the things I will always remember you and Sheri teaching. After reading your post, it strikes me that it’s particularly Hebraic to hold both the Eastern and Western perspectives in tension, as well.

  3. Can you share with me the earliest source that mentions the principle of “thinking with both hands?” Is it Tannaitic? Or does it go back even further? This can help me with some research I am doing. I simply need a citation and I can search it out from there. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for the reply! The whole idea of “on the one hand this, on the other hand that” is Hebraic and rabbinic. I don’t think there is one source for this idea, since it so historically true about the Jewish mindsight. I’m sorry there isn’t one source, as far as I know. Tevya in “Fiddler on the Roof” is a great example of Jewish thinking, which I love, as you can gather from my post. Thanks again for reading my post. I appreciate it.