It Is Not Quite the Same God to Which One Returns

Samuel Johnson? Robert Gordis? Francis Bacon? Morris Raphael Cohen? Mordecai M. Kaplan? Benjamin Jowett?

Dear Quote Investigator: While I was a student a few decades ago I came across a remarkable metaphysical expression that was similar to the following:

The search for knowledge will lead a person away from God, and then back toward God, but it will be a somewhat different God than the original one.

Would you please help me to determine the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: This is a very difficult problem because this thought can be communicated in many different ways. The earliest solid match located by QI occurred in the journal “Jewish Social Studies” in 1956 within a piece by Robert Gordis, a biblical scholar at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Morris Raphael Cohen was wont to comment on Francis Bacon’s well-worn saying that “a little knowledge leads a man away from God, but a great deal brings him back,” by observing that it is not quite the same God to which he returns.

Cohen was a prominent Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. QI has not yet found a matching statement directly in Cohen’s writings or speeches.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It Is Not Quite the Same God to Which One Returns

Notes:

  1. 1956 January, Jewish Social Studies, Volume 18, Number 1, Book Review by Robert Gordis (Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary), (Book Review of “Theological Essays in Commemoration of the Jubilee of the Faculty of Theology” by L. W. Grensted, L. E. Browne, C. H. Dodd), Indiana University Press. (JSTOR) link