New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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The books of Genesis through Second Kings trace a history of Israel from earliest times through the fall of the Southern Kingdom in 586 BCE. In earlier work, I demonstrate that this narrative contains a sophisticated political theory – a systematic analysis which justifies political authority; demonstrates the necessity of law and government; explores the nature of power relations in families; argues that nationhood is the best form of political organization; identifies self-governance, centralized institutions and sovereignty as the essential elements of nationhood; and claims that constitutional monarchy represents the best form of national government. But if the bible contains such a theory, why has it not been identified before now? The reason is that the bible’s political theory is embodied in narratives rather than in discursive analysis. The political meaning of the narratives was lost as the bible came to be interpreted from an exclusively spiritual point of view. This paper identifies advantages and disadvantages of narratives and offers conjectures for why Greek thinkers presented their political ideas discursively while the culture of ancient Israel opted to convey abstract ideas in the form of narrative.

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