Critical Appraisal of the Origin and Nature of the Institution of the Monarchy in Israel in the Light of Eric Voegelin’s Theory of Symbolic Forms

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This interdisciplinary study uses Voegelin’s ‘Theory of Symbolic Forms’ as a framework from which to study the development of the monarchy in Israel in its move from compactness to differentiation. The study offers an explanation of the contradictions that the ambivalence of the monarchy presents. Old Testament scholars to date have ignored or not given due attention to Voegelin’s Theory of Symbolic Forms. That is unfortunate, because by going beyond the philological preoccupations of Scripture scholars, Voegelin goes right to the heart of the ‘meaning’ of the texts. Voegelin connects the Old Testament symbolism to human experience and shows that it is still relevant to the contemporary world. This study is in keeping with the recent contemporary shift from historical criticism to narrative criticism in Biblical studies and its application to the biblical domain provides a new method and approach that should be of benefit not only to philosophers and biblical exegetes, but also to theologians, historians, political scientists and scholars of ancient civilizations.


“The reading of the chosen texts is careful and nuanced, and often illuminating, especially the comparatively detailed reading of the Saul texts and the probing of the issue of underlying source and redaction…. Nolan’s philosophical dialogue partner in the development of the thesis is Eric Voegelin, especially his Order and History: Israel and Revelation, the main lines of which are elegantly set out in the two opening chapters….Nolan’s work is careful and accurate. This is a new voice in biblical scholarship and we hope that this will be the first of many contributions.” – Brendan McConvery CSsR, Dean of the Faculty of Theology, St. Patrick’s College, Ireland.

“Representative texts are studied in depth and reveal the reason for the ambivalence of the monarchical institution and the contribution of its symbolic form for understanding the progression of salvation theory….This study of the Monarchy ranging from the Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East to the threshold of the New Testament marks a book that will be extremely useful to Students of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures from philosophical, historical, exegetical, and theological perspectives.” – Dr. Ciarán O’Callaghan CSsR, Kimmage Mission Institute

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (main headings):
Preface; Introduction
1. Erica Voegelin’s Theory of Symbolic Forms
2. The Origin and Nature of the Institution of the Monarchy in the Ancient Near East (Cosmological Order; Mesopotamia; Egypt)
3. The Background to the Origin and Nature of the Institution of the Monarchy in Israel
4. The Origin of the Institution of the Monarchy in Israel (Deuteronomistic history; situating the origin of the monarchy in Israel within the Samuel text; the original monarchical structure)
5. The Nature of the Monarchy in Israel (Saul, David, Solomon, the Northern Kingdom, the Southern Kingdom)
6. Theological Interpretations of the Origin and Nature of the Institution of the Monarchy in Israel (the Royal Covenant; the Royal Psalms; Messianism)
Bibliography; Index

Other Israel: Ancient & Modern Books