The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, June 05, 2016

It's good to have a king

The ancient Greeks and Romans, like the First Temple Jews, and like the Persians I think, all believed that the State was lawful and ordained by the gods. Lewis in p. 25 notes that the Christians (I'd add diaspora Jews, and their shared Marxist offspring) tend to see the state as an evil, a necessary one at best (G*d keep the tsar...). Such Christians like Filmer and Dante as have supported a patriarchia or a monarchia on Earth have tended to mine the Old Testament much more than the New.

(I'll have to put some Paul Casanova in here: the Arab Believers may have started with this problem. We all know Muhammad left no walî 'ahd upon his death. For all that Islam is a religion-state, the Prophet's omission of any real state framework is glaring. But Lewis doesn't get into this so I won't either.)

Either way, since AH 10 (AD 630) parts of the Qur'an have been "collected", so are now canon, that accept the need for a temporal sovereign. The suras propose an interim Divine caliphate, which sura 27 likens to a Jewish masîh like David. Among the Muslims only the Khawarij maintained or heretically innovated Casanova's apocalyptic anarchia. The mainstream recognised the lack of a ruler, even were he tyrant, as horrific (Lewis, 100-1). For them the only question was who got to, er, recline upon the central sarîr.

So in Christendom the classical "pagan" works of political theory were copied in Constantinople, perhaps also in Alexandria, and maybe (if in Latin) even in the Gothic palaces; but they didn't spread very far. I don't know if the Vatican even bothered. The Muslims found much more use for these secular texts. They translated every text they could still find (including Persian texts like the Tansar) into Arabic, and they disseminated them widely.

Until they didn't. But that's a different Lewis book.

posted by Zimri on 12:14 | link | 0 comments

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