The God of Abraham and Exceptional States, or The Early Modern Rise of the Whig/Liberal Bible

Sherwood, Yvonne (2008) The God of Abraham and Exceptional States, or The Early Modern Rise of the Whig/Liberal Bible. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 76 (2). pp. 312-343. ISSN 0002-7189. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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At a time when considerable attention is being paid to the exceptional, the state of emergency, and the relationship between sovereignty and law, this article uses a late seventeenth-century appeal to the law-suspending God of Abraham in the lawcourts to probe the Christian and theological roots of the sovereign veto/the dispensing power. It attempts to retrieve deep histories that have been missed because seventeenth-century historians do not generally read Giorgio Agamben, while biblical scholars rarely enter the domains of “secular” history and law. The article also explores some of the crucial watersheds that have been passed on the way to modernity. These mean, among other things, that President Bush cannot say, as James II/VII said in 1686, “as the God of Abraham can dispense with his own law, so I, the King/President am able to dispense with the laws that I have made, for all the laws of the constitution are in the gift of the single person of the President/the King”—which is not to say that modern democracies cannot achieve similar effects by different means. A key transition explored in the article is the gradual replacement of the Absolute Monarchical or Patriarchal Bible with the Whig or Liberal Bible: a Bible of fairly recent invention that is non-exceptional and non-arbitrary and defined by its willingness to devolve absolute power to consensus and law. In looking at changing understandings of the political intentions of the Christian God and Bible, this article attempts to go beyond numerous histories of Bible versions and translations into a new analysis of the changing weight of the Bible in public (political, legal) discourse.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > Religious Studies
Depositing User: Fiona Godfrey
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2012 11:57
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2013 11:52
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