God, Moses and Levinas: On being the other and relating to the other. A perspective on transcendence from religious experience

  • D.P. Veldsman University of Pretoria
Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas, religious experience, Wessel Stoker, transcendence from religious experience


Within the context of religious experience, understood as testimony to transcendence (Stoker), this article focus on a specific constitutive element thereof, namely intentionality. It is discussed as concept in relation to three other concepts, namely religious experience, experience and transcendence. To elaborate on the importance of the qualification of the concept of intentionality, three conversation partners are engaged. The French Jewish philosopher and Talmudic commentator Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) since his view point on “The (O)other” makes the concept of “transcendence” problematic in a very insightful manner. The Dutch philosopher of religion Wessel Stoker and his proposal for “trans-intentionality” as a constitutive element of religious experience, and the experience of Moses with God as narrated in Ex 3. The contributions on transcendence by Levinas and Stoker are finally critically evaluated in relation to the Moses experience.And God said to Moses: “I will be who I will be” (Ex 3:14)For if God is God, then it is impossible for God to be given in any intuition orphenomenal experience, to be contained by any concept governed by any principal. But it is this very impossibility – this infinity and incomprehensibility – that makes God “possible” as God. God alone lets God self be defined by indefinable impossibility, for God begins where human possibility ends. What is impossible for us is precisely God’s characteristic possibility, for with God nothing is impossible (Jean-Luc Marion)Divinity is not transcendent (“wholly other”), but incarnate; and the incarnation, the event “inaugurating the dissolution of divine transcendence” (Gianni Vattimo).