Samuel and Saul in Medieval Political Thought

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Abstract: The Old Testament narrative of Samuel and Saul has been interpreted by Jewish and Christian thinkers in many ways. Some find there a justification of kingship and even a divine right of kings, while others consider the Israelites’ request for a king sinful, emphasizing God’s reluctance to grant their request and the inherent primacy of spiritual over temporal rule. This article traces the history of a medieval struggle for supremacy between spiritual and temporal authority, between pope or church and monarch, following the employment of the aforementioned Old Testament narrative—alone or in dialogue with Roman sources—in political thought and action. Ultimately, we find argued here, the struggle between king and priest would be replaced by a struggle between king and people, which may have departed from Samuel and Saul but did not depart altogether from biblical parallels and divine foundations.

Volume 2, Number 2 (Spring 2007) pp. 149-163