Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts - Volume 4, Number 2 (Nos. 3-4) (Fall 5753/1992)
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts

Volume 4, Number 2 (Nos. 3-4) (Fall 5753/1992)

"Thomas Hobbes Confronts the Bible"

Hobbes Confronts Scripture - Daniel J. Elazar

Thomas Hobbes was foremost among the seventeenth century political philosophers who led the Western world across the fault line separating classical from modern political philosophy. In doing so, he, like his other colleagues, had to confront not only classical political philosophy but the Bible. From the first of his writings to the last he consistently confronted Scripture. Reading Hobbes reveals both the ambiguity and the ambivalence of his confrontation with the Bible. Hobbes wished to assault orthodox or conventional Christian belief but at the same time is drawn to the Hebrew Scriptures, not only because it is necessary for him to confront it for the sake of his argument or because of the Bible's own elemental and compelling power. His struggle foreshadows and is even paradigmatic of that of modern man. This article traces his confrontation with Scripture in Leviathan.

A Critique of Hobbes's Critique of Biblical and Natural Religion in Leviathan - Thomas L. Pangle

This essay is a critical exposition of Thomas Hobbes's atheism, focusing on the natural-scientific and theological foundations of his philosophy.

King David and Uriah the Hittite in the Political Thought of Thomas Hobbes - Thomas S. Schrock

The most neglected aspect of Hobbes's attempt to solve the theological-political problem is his reliance on divine punishment of the iniquitous sovereign. By turning that matter exclusively over to God or -- what comes to the same thing -- by immunizing such a sovereign against accountability to his subjects, Hobbes radicalizes a Christian motif and fragments what for Aristotle had been an integral political whole. This essay is about that fragmentation, with special attention to the text in which Hobbes makes his intention partially clear -- his discussion of King David's murder of Uriah the Hittite.

The Idea of the Messiah in the Theology of Thomas Hobbes - Robert P. Kraynak

Hobbes elaborates a conception of the Messiah in his political treatises that is unusual because it seems to combine Jewish and Christian elements. He asserts that Jesus is the Messiah in the sense of being the earthly king of the Jews as well as the Son of God and king of heaven. To clarify Hobbes's position and to highlight its strangeness, it is compared with the views of Moses Maimonides and Blaise Pascal. Hobbes emerges from this comparison as a spokesman for a kind of "Jewish Christianity," whose purpose is not to return to the early Jewish sects that embraced Jesus as a new Moses but to humanize the Messiah and to redefine Christianity for a new age of secular happiness. Hobbes thereby inaugurates a new kind of biblical criticism which the Deists of the enlightenment era developed and which continues today.

The Idea of Christianity in Hobbes's Leviathan - Timothy Fuller

This essay expounds Hobbes's idea of Christianity based on a reading of Leviathan as a whole. Among the conclusions are these:

First, that Hobbes was profoundly concerned with the religious questions spawned by the Reformation from start to finish in Leviathan, and there provides his most extended, elaborate commentary on Christian belief. The common neglect of the third and fourth parts of Leviathan is a mistake, not only because Hobbes himself believed them of fundamental importance to his theorizing of the conditions for civil peace and spiritual repose, but because the themes of the latter two parts are present in the first two parts persistently. Leviathan may be seen as a religious treatise and not only a work of political philosophy.

Second, in Leviathan Hobbes has worked out a detailed version of Reformed Christianity that is his own, based on his own reading and interpretation of the Scriptures but also informed by his familiarity with the major theological issues of his era. He offers, for example, particularly in chapter 42, a detailed refutation of the arguments of the leading Roman Catholic spokesman, Cardinal Bellarmine, against the reformed churches.

Third, the arguments of Leviathan are Hobbes's contribution to dispelling the "terrors" and mystifications of religious belief, as well as the "mysteries" of political authority. This is neither to dispel belief itself, nor a denial that concern for our destiny after death is significant.

Fourth, Hobbes shows how it is possible to harmonize "reason" and "revelation," without depending on Aristotle, insisting that it is the religious duty to do this. In his religious humanism, Hobbes thus keeps at the center of his thought this central question of reason and revelation posed by the medieval tradition of the philosophy of the Schoolmen whom he otherwise reviles for their "corruption" under the influence of ancient philosophy. He seeks a Christianity purified of extrinsic influences.

Fifth, Hobbes's proposals for seeking religious and civil peace conjointly are such, he thinks, as to enhance the capacity of individuals to take personal responsibility for civic and spiritual virtue, consistent both with their inevitable dependence on their own understanding and judgment, and with their admitted need for reliable and unambiguous political authority, leading to a new level of liberty and dignity, and to a sophisticated appreciation for the importance of civil law.