Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought

By Joshua A. Berman | Go to book overview

2
Egalitarian Politics
Constitution, Class, and the Book of Deuteronomy

Standing before his Congregational Church parish in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, in early June 1788, Pastor Samuel Langdon prepared to speak to the weighty issue of the day. Only two weeks remained before he would serve as a representative to that state’s constitutional convention. Eight states had already ratified the Constitution. If New Hampshire followed suit, it would be formally adopted as the law of the land. Searching for a text that would buttress his ardent support of ratification, the former Harvard College president opened his Bible to Deuteronomy chapter 4 and read aloud (Deut 4:5–8):

Behold I have taught you statutes and judgments…. Keep
therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your
understanding in the sight of all the nations which shall hear
all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise
and understanding people.” … What nation is there so great
that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law?

The parishioners heard Langdon go on to explicate the virtue of Deuteronomy as the basis of a law-based society with curbs on the corruptive influence of power as an integral part of its system. Bringing the lessons of Deuteronomy to bear on the momentous decision facing the nation, he remarked, “If I am not mistaken, instead of the twelve tribes of Israel we may substitute the thirteen States of the American union.”1

-51-

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Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Egalitarian Theology 15
  • 2 - Egalitarian Politics 51
  • 3 - Egalitarianism and Assets 81
  • 4 - Egalitarian Technology 109
  • 5 - Egalitarianism and the Evolution of Narrative 135
  • Conclusion 167
  • Notes 177
  • Select Bibliography 223
  • Index of Scriptural - References 243
  • Subject Index 247
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