Monday, 14 June 2010

Parashat Korach and Early Modern Polemics

The story of Korach, which we read this week, was a popular epithet used by seventeenth century theologians for their adversaries. Amusingly, it would seem that everyone called everyone else 'Korach'.

Richard Hooker uses the term to describe the Presbyterians' desire to democratise ecclesiastical power amongst the laymen

Launcelot Andrewes made use of it from his earliest sermons at Cambridge in the late 1580s and throughout his career at court (the sermon that comes to mind is his 'Sacrilege a Snare', which is difficult to find online, so uploaded it here. Below is a different example of Andrewes alluding to Korach), as well as in his Catechism as an anti-Puritan polemical device.

As a royalist, Jeremy Taylor made frequent use of the story of Korach

Taylor also brings Korach in order to discuss the importance of purity of intention:

But, since everyone was vying to portray their masoret as the spiritual heir of Israel (Catholics, Protestants, and amongst the Protestant factions, Presbyterians, Conformers, Calvinists, Arminians, etc., etc.), republicans like John Milton compared royalists with Korach and his followers:

And of course, in his unfortunately-timed 'Brief Notes Upon a Late Sermon' we have an example of a Puritan responding to the charge of being like Korach with a seventeenth-century scholarly version of 'I know you are but what am I?'

Milton also identified Satan's rebellion against God with Korah in Paradise Lost.
The examples are endless--i haven't even thrown in Hobbes!--and would make for an interesting survey, some day....

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