Several things in the last several days have prompted me to remember and affirm that all economic and political philosophies are of human invention, not mandated by God. Justice and compassion for people who are poor, weak, needy, widowed, orphaned, foreign are consistently biblical from Genesis to Revelation. Both the “capitalism and socialism,” “conservatism and liberalism” that vie for attention in our time have features that support and undermine this fundamental biblical value. It seems to me that when Bible people (Christians of all varieties and yes, Jews too) advocate for any particular political or economic philosophy, demonstrating how it actually brings justice and compassion for people who are poor, weak, needy, widowed, orphaned, foreign is essential and central.
Of course, these are just the philosophies of our time. In previous generations the politics of empire, Christendom, feudalism, enlightenment, and more prompted other debates. In our time of multiple Bible translations, some quarters have argued for the “Authorized Version,” known as the King James Bible for literary, theological, and certainly political reasons. I find an interesting parallel to our time. The Reformation, Guttenberg’s printing press, political instability in England and elsewhere in Europe was fertile soil for the multiplication of new English translations of the Bible. King James (not church and certainly not God) authorized a translation to head off the Puritans who were a rising political force threatening the throne. So King James wanted to be sure the translation he authorized supported the principle of the divine right of kings, and insured that certain passages were slanted that way.
A related curiosity is how the translators dedicated their work to King James and called him “the defender of the faith.” His inheritance of that title came through King Henry VIII. On October 11, 1521 Pope Leo X gave that title to King Henry VIII for his book Defense of the Seven Sacraments which defended the primacy of the Pope and opposed the Reformation, especially the ideas of Martin Luther. When Henry VIII broke with Rome and made himself head of the Church of England in 1530 over his divorce and marriage and other political issues, the title was revoked by Pope Paul III, but in 1544 the English Parliament conferred the title on Henry VIII and his successors. While making exact correlations is dangerous at best, I do find it simultaneously amusing and sobering to consider the parallels with some current religious leaders’ affirmations of Donald Trump as God’s choice for US President, though his marital and sexual history is at some variance with what has been conventional Christian teaching.
Here is the King James Bible translators’ dedication of their work. I believe the all caps are original, which is also amusing in our social network norms of considering all caps to be unnecessary shouting.
TO THE MOST HIGH AND MIGHTY PRINCE, JAMES, by the Grace of God, KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, etc. The Translators of the Bible wish Grace, Mercy, and Peace through JESUS CHRIST our Lord.
I know this may seem to be disconnected stream of consciousness and different thoughts have rumbled around in my mind the last several days. You are welcome to write it off as just so much random rambling, but I do hope I evoked at least a smile or two (even if grimly) and prompted some reflection on the cacophony of ideas and words swirling around us these days.