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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Primary goals of Hobbes’ Leviathan is to produce a dutiful and obedient citizen

Part 1: Hobbes’ Philosophically and Politically Motivated Biblical Exegesis
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

In contrast to his methodological approach in parts one and two, wherein Hobbes attempts to proceed by way of geometrical demonstration, part three takes a radical turn into the world of biblical exegesis and exhibits something similar to modern biblical criticism. Broadly speaking, one might characterize at least one aspect of the purpose of parts one and two as an attempt to establish Hobbes’ materialistic view of the world. Hobbes, like many of his contemporaries, had accepted the new mechanistic view of the world in which efficient causality (matter and motion) serves as the explanatory apparatus for all phenomena.[1] In this series, I shall attempt to flesh out these claims by examining selected passages from part three of Hobbes’ Leviathan. In particular, I shall focus on the various instances in which Hobbes’ naturalizes traditional Christianity’s claims regarding prophets, incorporeal beings, and miracles. In other words, what I propose is that contrary to Hobbes’ own claim to exegete Scripture in a purely objective way-that is, not informed with the prejudices of tradition and simply based on Scripture and natural reason alone-Hobbes’ biblical exegesis is made to conform to his own philosophical conceptions based on the science of his day (as well as his own political agenda).

In his dedicatory epistle, Hobbes sets forth his goal to pursue a middle path between excessive liberty and excessive authority. He goes on to say that he is aware that many will find his exegesis of certain passages of Scripture offensive. However, Hobbes claims to have offered these with “due submission,” as an obedient civil servant.[2] With these introductory remarks, Hobbes indicates some of his greatest concerns with regard to the Christianity of his day, namely, that Christians must not interpret Scripture in such a way that it allows them to be disobedient to the sovereign. In other words, one of the primary goals of Hobbes’ Leviathan is to produce a dutiful and obedient citizen. As we shall see, this goal, coupled with his materialistic philosophy, drives Hobbes’ hermeneutic and thoroughly informs his exegesis of Scripture. Notes
[1] This will become more evident in the discussion that follows. [2] Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan. Ed., Edwin Curley. (Cambridge: Hackett, 1994), p. 2. Subsequent references will be in the text, noting the chapter and paragraph number.

1 comment:

  1. Everybody, both individually and collectively, has always inevitably interpreted the Bible to fit into their own largely unexamined pre-suppositions, and to support/justify the individual and collective status quo.

    The Bible itself was put together by the then winning power faction to justify their own power and agendas, and to denigrate the factions that they had defeated in the then power struggles. Consisting mostly of those who were of a more gnostic tendency/understanding.

    The Bible thus became a thorough-going anti-gnostic text. The product of a power seeking, and power consolidating, and entirely worldly institutional church.

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