Sunday, August 11, 2013

Eric Nelson, Hebrew Republic Video

Watch it here.

1 comment:

jimmiraybob said...

This is an excellent clip to understanding the argument. There are two reviews that may also be helpful:

Notre Dame Philosophical Review @


Reviews in History @

The second also includes a response by Eric Nelson that I think summarizes part of the video clip that starts about 30-34 minutes in:

"I should also add a brief clarification about the argument summarized in Dr. Prior’s fifth paragraph. My position is that ‘constitutional pluralism’ (the notion that there are several correct constitutional forms) was a virtually unquestioned orthodoxy in humanist political thought, and that the hegemony of this view was challenged in the late 16th and 17th centuries by the Christian encounter with two strands of rabbinic Biblical exegesis. The first of these understood Deut. 17 to embody a divine command to establish monarchy and the second read I Sam. 8 to suggest that monarchy is an instance of the sin of idolatry. Neither of these readings was grounded in what we would regard as the ‘plain meaning’ of the Biblical passages in question. In addition, it is perhaps not quite right to say that chapter one ‘challenges the notion that the early modern period witnessed the victory of constitutional pluralism’; I am not aware that anyone has been making that argument. Rather, my purpose was to call attention to a distinction between ‘pluralism’ and ‘exclusivism’ about political regimes that has not (I think) been taken sufficiently seriously, and to suggest that the rise of a distinctively ‘modern’ kind of political thought depended upon a rejection of the former in favor of the latter.

Two thoughts of mine:

1) Monarchism vs. Antimonarchism is not exclusively supported by scripture - both sides essentially finding supporting scriptural interpretation.

2) To emphasize that modern political thought did require the rejection of exclusivism in favor of pluralism. Even though at the founding there may still have been some minor strains of the arguments being played out in some Calvinist communities. As best as I can tell, the founders and framers were not negating monarchy but rebelling against a specific monarch's perceived abuses and subsequently chose republican government based on a wide range of secular arguments based largely on Graeco-Roman philosophical and political ideas. In essence, they subsumed the best of ancient Greece and Rome in light of their empirical knowledge and understanding of classical, medieval and early modern European history.