Saturday, February 21, 2009

Geneva Bible Contra Tyranny

Lewis Lupton, A History of the Geneva Bible, "Vision of God," Vol. 5, pp. 138-139, describes the Genevan marginal notes on the subject of civil tyranny thus:


A mixture is in these [Geneva] notes, wherein most are pious and proper to expound their respective places, but some (and those too many though never so few) are false, factious, dangerous, yea destructive to religion. I could therefore wish some godly discreet persons were empowered and employed to purge forth the latter, that the rest may remain without danger for the profit of plain people. But till this be done, I am, I thank God, old enough to eat fish, feeding on the flesh thereof, and laying by the bones on my trencher, or casting them down to the dog. Thomas Fuller, The Appeal of Injured Innocence, 1659.

LOSELY ALLIED to hatred of cruelty was hatred of tyranny. Induced by persecution it evoked republican attitudes in firm aristocrats! 'Gyantes,' Gensis 6 v. 4 were 'tyrants which usurped autoritie over otheres and did degenerate from yt simiplicitie wherein their fathers lived'. Nimrod, 'ye mighty hunter before the Lord', Genesis 10 v. 9 was counted 'a cruel oppressor & tyrant. His tyrannie came into a proverbe as hated bothe of God and man: for he passed not to commit crueltie even in Gods presence.' Rulers were exhorted to be kind. Deuteronomy 17 v. 20. 'Kings oght so to love their subjects, as nature bindeth one brother to love another.' They cited Mordecai as an example. Esther 10 v. 3. 'These thre pointes are here set forth as commendable and necessarie for him that is in autoritie: to have the favour of the people: to procure their welth, & to be gentle and loving toward them.' They had experienced other kinds of rule. I Samuel 11 v. 2 'The more nere that tyrants are to their destruction the more cruel thei are.' But God would deal with them. Judges 9 v. 54 'his page thrust him through.' 'Thus God by suche miserable death taketh vengeance on tyrants even in this life.' There might even be occasions when it was right to kill them. I Samuel 26 v. 9 'Iehu slew two kings at Gods appointment.' To say nothing of driving his chariot over Jezebel! 2 Kings 9 v. 33 'This he did by the mocion of the Spirit of God, yt her blood shulde be shed, that had shed the blood of innocents, to be a spectacle and example of Gods judgements to all tyrants.' Small wonder Stuart monarchs failed to appreciate this version!

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