Political theory of the Bible

Political theory of the Bible.

I taught both ancient and modern political theory for forty years, and it is widely held among experts in my field that the Bible contains no political theory.  Political theory is a Greek invention.  Only when God withdraws from this world is there room for human politics (Walzer, p 202).  I disagree.  There’s a lot of politics in the Bible, and while politics in the Old Testament differs from the New, the difference is one of degree. 

Covenant and righteousness

The idea of covenant is the central political concept in the Old Testament.  “God was thought to be a covenant-making, covenant-restoring, and covenant-fulfilling being.” (Ramsey, p 258)  Conversely, human righteousness means sticking to the covenant.  Period. 

Though covenant plays a more central role in the Old Testament, both Old and New Testaments teach the same lesson about righteousness. 

Biased in favor of the helpless, “justice” means care for the poor, the orphans, the widows, and aliens resident in the land. Why? Because the Bible measures what is required of man against the perfect righteousness of an utterly faithful, savior-God. (Ramsey, p 278)

Unlike ancient Greek thought, which so influences our own, justice or righteousness (both translations of the same Greek term, dikaiosynē) is neither corrective nor distributive.  Justice neither punishes the thief nor restores what has been taken.  Justice is redemptive, with a special bias in favor of the poor.  This is as true of the Old Testament as the New. 

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