Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In which Thomas Paine flunks Bible history

Reading Common Sense recently I came across this line which made me laugh:
In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronology, there were no kings; the consequence of which was, there were no wars; it is the pride of kings which throw mankind into confusion. Holland without a king hath enjoyed more peace for this last century than any of the monarchial governments in Europe. Antiquity favours the same remark; for the quiet and rural lives of the first patriarchs hath a happy something in them, which vanishes away when we come to the history of Jewish royalty.
At my church we have been doing a series on the book of Judges. "Quiet and rural lives" is hardly a fitting description. And if I recall, there were a fair share of conflicts in Genesis as well.

Oh, and the conquest of Canaan also takes place in Paine's "no wars" chronology.

Ok, so maybe I'm being a little snide. Although conflicts, those weren't wars in the modern sense (with the Canaan conquest as an exception) with nation rising against nation. Instead, they were more like tribal conflicts or skirmishes between the patriarchs. However, even that interpretation of Paine fails to help him. If one defines wars as conflicts involving nations that are ruled by kings, then it would make sense that if one has no kings one can have no "wars." But that, at best, is equivocation, and at worst, is circular reasoning.
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