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Bullinger and the Zoroastrian Paedagogues

May 21, 2010
 VanDrunen’s claim about the use of the natural law in Reformed political theology certainly seems to ring true for a lot of what we find in Vermigli and Bullinger.  His claim was that, since for the Reformers, the political realm was outside of the sphere of the redemptive gospel, and belonged only to the sphere of creation, the ethics of that sphere were determined by the natural law and not by Scripture, and so pagan sources could be appealed to just as readily as Christian ones.  Of course, there are many problems with the way VanDrunen tries to make this claim, as I have been discussing in my reviews, but it is certainly true that these early Reformed thinkers are quite comfortable mingling sacred and secular sources in developing their political theology.  Consider Bullinger’s dedication to On the Authority of Holy Scripture, which I just posted about earlier.  
In convincing Henry VIII (as if he needed any convincing) that magistrates ought to be involved in managing religious affairs, he discusses first the example of Jehoshaphat, then a passage from Isaiah 49, and then turns to a rather random and eccentic account of Zoroastrian practice, and then an even more eccentric discussion of Egyptian statues:
“To this also seems to pertain that which was so among the ancients, that kings were also priests.  The king of the Persians, when he arrived at the fourteenth year of his life, was handed over to the paedagogues.  They were those selected from among the Persians, and in particular, four most wise, just, temperate, and courageous men, the first of whom would teach the magic of Zoroaster, and that indeed not a thing impious and superstitious, but the royal institution which related to the worship of God.  The second admonished him that he be truthful in his whole life.  The third taught him not to be overcome by any desire, that he might be accustomed to live freely and as a king in truth, governing those things which are in himself before all others, a slave of no one.  The fourth, finally, would make him fearless and intrepid, lest, fearing anyone, he should thereby become a slave.  (The author of this is Plato in the Alcibiade.)  In the same work I think that one may find that the Egyptians represented their princes in statues thus: that they embellished the eye with a scepter; without doubt signifying that a wisdom of divine and human things is looked for in a prince, and that wisdom and a pious prince are in a kingdom what the eye is in the body.  
Hence, not only by divine but also by human law it is confirmed that the primary duty of kings is to be religious and to to meticulously care for religion before all else.”


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