Moses, Leviathan, and the Kingdom of God: Covenant Theologies and Political Legitimation in Early Modern England
Martin, Andrew Joseph
It is well known that the early Stuart and Interregnum periods witnessed an explosion of interest in the organizing potential of covenantal ideas. This study attempts to explain and interpret this interest by integrating the narrative of the development of covenant theology with that of a series of key mid-seventeenth century ecclesiastical and political debates in England. Covenant theology not only was related integrally to the development of ecclesiastical and political covenants and various early modern resistance theories, but its soteriological concerns were intertwined inexorably with political disputes regarding the proper mode of ecclesiastical governance, the relationship between civil and ecclesiastical authority, and the meaning, extent, and function of natural law. Transactions between these ideas moved in both directions, and therefore theological developments led to new resources for political legitimation, while at the same time the rapidly changing political landscape reciprocally influenced the maturation of covenant theology. This study focuses on the development and deployment of the biblical covenant between God and Moses in early Stuart and Interregnum theological, ecclesiological, and political thought, primarily focusing on the period between the early 1620s and the 1650s. This particular locus of covenantal thought is one of the primary strands connecting these three modes of discourse. Thus, attention to developing understandings of this particular administration of the “old covenant” helps to illustrate the nature of the interplay between religion and politics in this period without collapsing the two on the one hand or making religion the explanatory matrix for political conflict on the other. The central thesis is that a proper understanding of the politics of the period requires understanding the development of covenant theology and how that development was interrelated with the development of political and ecclesiastical covenants.