Bible in Its World: Piety and Politics
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Ancient kings who did not honor the gods overlooked an indispensable means for ruling effectively in their communities. In many traditional societies royal authority was regarded as a divine gift bestowed according to the quality of the relationship of the king both to God or the gods and to the people. The tension and the harmony within these human and divine relationships demanded that the king repeatedly strive to integrate the community's piety with his political strategies.^This fascinating study explores the relationship between religion and royal authority in three of history's most influential civilizations: Homeric Greece, biblical Israel, and Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. Dale Launderville identifies similar, contrasting, and analogous ways that piety functioned in these distinct cultures to legitimate the rule of particular kings and promote community well-being. Key to this religiopolitical dynamic was the use of royal rhetoric, which necessarily took the form of political theology. By examining,a host of ancient texts and drawing on the insights of philosophers, poets, historians, anthropologists, social theorists, and theologians, Launderville shows how kings increased their status the more they demonstrated through their speech and actions that they ruled on behalf of God or the gods.^Launderville's work also sheds light on a number of perennial questions about ancient political life. How could the people call the king to account? Did the people forfeit too much of their freedom and initiative by giving obedience to a king who symbolized their unity as a community? How did the religious traditions serve as a check on the king's power and keep alive the voice of thepeople? This study in comparative political theology elucidates these engaging concerns from multiple perspectives, making "Piety and Politics" of interest to readers in fields ranging from biblical studies and theology to ancie
This fascinating study explores the crucial relationship between piety and kingship in Homeric Greece, Biblical Israel, and Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. Dale Lauderville identifies the ways -- sometimes similar, sometimes contrasting -- that the connection of royalty to religion in each of these ancient cultures legitimated the rule of particular kings and promoted community well-being.
Key to this sociopolitical dynamic was the use of royal rhetoric. Because each of these cultures believed that God or the gods ruled over heaven and earth, royal rhetoric necessarily took the form of political theology. By examining a host of ancient texts and drawing on the insights of contemporary and ancient philosophers, poets, historians, anthropologists, social theorists, and theologians, Launderville elucidates the special nature of royal rhetoric in each of these cultures, showing how kings increased their authority the more they demonstrated through their speech and actions that they ruled on behalf of God or the gods.
Providing important background on life in three major civilizations, this volume will be valued by a wide range of scholars and students, especially in the fields of biblical studies, ancient history, and political science.
Launderville is associate professor of theology at Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary, Collegeville, Minnesota.