New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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This paper extends on prior work analyzing political theory in the Hebrew Bible. The Garden of Eden story offers a prolegomenon, presenting a developed utopian argument and sketching out other bases for political authority. The narratives of the Dark Age, the Flood, Noah’s covenant and the Tower of Babel argue that government and law are essential for human flourishing. The Bible next takes up the topic of authority in families. The book of Genesis endorses a strong form of patriarchal authority but also recognizes limits to that authority based on kinship, release, abandonment, higher authority, and power. It privileges the norm of primogeniture but also recognizes that a patriarch may prefer a younger son or give equal status to all his children. The political theory contained in the book of Genesis compares favorably with family-based theories of authority found in the later Western tradition.

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