Between Athens and Jerusalem

Philosophy, Prophecy, and Politics in Leo Strauss's Early Thought

By David Janssens

Subjects: Jewish Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in the Thought and Legacy of Leo Strauss
Paperback : 9780791473924, 272 pages, January 2009
Hardcover : 9780791473917, 272 pages, March 2008

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Table of contents

List of Abbreviations
Leo Strauss’s Early Years: Chronology of Major Events and Writings (1899–1937)

1. “In the Grip of the Theological-Political Predicament”

The Theological-Political Problem and the Jewish Question
Back to Reality: Emancipation, Assimilation, and Zionism
“God and Politics”
Biblical Politics, Biblical Science, and the New Theology
Quaestio Iuris: The Legacy of Spinoza

2. The Shadow of Spinoza

“A Humanly Incomprehensible Betrayal”
Before the Tribunal: Biblical Science and the Critique of Religion
Spinoza’s Twofold Strategy
Maimonides: The Limits of Reason and the Interest in Revelation
Calvin: “Like Clay in the Potter’s Hand”
Happiness and Ridicule: The Epicurean Connection
Farewell to Spinoza

3. The Second Cave

The Crisis of the Enlightenment: Jacobi, Mendelssohn, and the Pantheism Controversy
Atheism, Intellectual Probity, and the Love of Truth
The Socratic Question and the Fate of Philosophy

4.  The Order of Human Things

Medieval Enlightenment: Nomos and Platonic Politics
Between the Lines: The Art of Writing
“A Horizon Beyond Liberalism”: The Debate with Carl Schmitt

5.  Socrates and the Leviathan

Hobbes’s Motive
“The Right Order of Society”
Fighting the Kingdom of Darkness

6.  Epilogue

The Surface and the Core
The Problem of Socrates
Machiavelli’s Oblivion
Natural Right and the Socratic Question
From Jerusalem to Athens (and Back)


Examines the early works of German-Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss (1899-1973).


Praised as a major political thinker of the twentieth century and vilified as the putative godfather of contemporary neoconservatism, Leo Strauss (1899–1973) has been the object of heated controversy both in the United States and abroad. This book offers a more balanced appraisal by focusing on Strauss's early writings. By means of a close and comprehensive study of these texts, David Janssens reconstructs the genesis of Strauss's thought from its earliest beginnings until his emigration to the United States in 1937. He discusses the first stages in Strauss's grappling with the "theological-political problem," from his doctoral dissertation on Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi to his contributions to Zionist periodicals, from his groundbreaking study of Spinoza's critique of religion to his research on Moses Mendelssohn, and from his rediscovery of medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophy to his research on Hobbes. Throughout, Janssens traces Strauss's rediscovery of the Socratic way of life as a viable alternative to both modern philosophy and revealed religion.

David Janssens is Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Law at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.