The Hebrew Bible speaks of “thought,” but by that it rarely means what we think of as “abstract” or “pure” thought. Ancient Hebrews gave thought to things in order to set their purposes and develop their plans. Thought was forward-looking, oriented to practical projects.

One of the main Hebrew words for thought, machashabah , is used in Exodus to describe the designs of furniture, curtains, and adornments to the tabernacle (Exodus 31:4; 35:22; 35:35). In some passages, the word doesn’t refer to an artistic plan in the head of the artist, but to the work itself: It is an artistically embodied “thought.”

To think is engage in artwork. Whether the plan is artistic, cultural, political, the “thought” functions as an artistic representation of the ways the thinker wants to fashion the world around him. To “think” politically is to imagine a more just and free polity, and to form plans to bring that “artistic conception” to reality. Thought aims at incarnation.

Medieval theologians spoke of the Son as the ars of the Father. With this biblical perspective in mind, we might also call the Son the thought of the Father.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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