The politics of imitating Christ: Christ the King and Christomimetic Rulership in early medieval biblical commentaries

Miller, Eric Patrick, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Wilken, Robert, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Noble, Thomas, E0:AS-History, University of Virginia
Mathewes, Charles, E0:AS-Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Polaski, Donald, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This dissertation argues that early medieval commentators used biblical narratives from Samuel-Kings, Chronicles, and Ezra to develop an understanding that Christ the King was the essential model for political behavior. Commentaries by Bede, Hrabanus Maurus, and Angelomus of Luxeuil demonstrate that early medieval rulership was conceived as an imitation of Christ's kingship. These writers read biblical narrative about kings not only as stories about biblical kings that provided models for contemporary political rulers, but, more importantly, they read these stories spiritually as a greater story about Christ the King. While it is true that early medieval rulership was modeled after biblical kings, it is even more the case that early medieval rulership was modeled after the kingship of Christ--the real, spiritual subject of these narratives. These writers read the stories about biblical kings as a metanarrative about Christ the King, and their interpretations contributed to contemporary discourse about the legitimacy and problems of traditional political structures. This metanarrative represents an attempt by early medieval writers to formulate a Christian grammar of politics through the use of a religious book, the Bible, and through a patristic literary reading strategy, allegory. My research also indicates that these early medieval writers were as concerned with political character as with formal political structure; for them the political imitation of Christ was primarily a matter of imitating Christ's character as King. The term Christomimetic Rulership describes the political model reflected in these texts.

This study examines how patristic tradition was appropriated by early medieval commentators of the Bible to address contemporary political questions. In addition, it critiques and recovers aspects of premodem Christian traditions of biblical interpretation and political theology. A political Christology of Christ the King--understood in a Trinitarian context--can lead to a political theology that coherently explains and affirms political authority and yet also reframes and rhetorically challenges such authority. A narrative and theological view of the kingship of Christ is crucial for developing a successful theology of politics that emphasizes humility, character, and political action.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: