October 27, 1992 | 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 be cause the themes of the latter two parts are present in the first two parts persistently.
October 27, 1992
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.