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Hobbes's Biblical Beasts Leviathan and Behemoth

Hobbes's Biblical Beasts Leviathan and Behemoth

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Hobbes's Biblical Beasts: Leviathan and BehemothAuthor(s): Patricia SpringborgSource:
Political Theory,
Vol. 23, No. 2 (May, 1995), pp. 353-375Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 18/10/2011 21:25
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HOBBES'SBIBLICALBEASTS
Leviathan
and
Behemoth
PATRICIAPRINGBORGUniversityof SydneyBeyondthe actualworksof nature apoet maynowgo;butbeyondthe conceivedpossibilityofnature,never.I can allowaGeographero makentheSea,a Fish or aShip,whichbythe scaleof hismapwould be two orthreehundredmilelong,andthink t doneforornament,becauseitisdonewithout heprecinctsof hisundertaking;ut when hepaintsanElephantso, Ipresentlyapprehendt asignoranceand aplainconfession ofTerra ncognita.Hobbes'sAnswerto SirWilliamDavenant'sDedicatoryPrefacetoGondibert,1651,
81.
(1)HOBBES'SEAST,THEBIBLICALEVIATHANIn Hobbes'sittlediscussedublished esponseo Davenant'srefaceoGondibert,edicatedohim,Hobbeseproves avenant,herigorous colytewho claims to have learnedhisepistemologyromHobbes.Ghostsandspooksareonething,Hobbesuggests,butto abandonhe entireWesternfabulous raditionf rhetoric ndpoesywas to abandonhatdistinguishedcivilizationrom herudeultureftheAmericas.ivilizations theworkof themagination,fancy,"nd heonlyrestrictionsn its exercisewere hoseofappropriateness.heres,asweshallhow, ymptomaticronynHobbes'schoiceof themetaphorf theelephant.ntheseventeenthentury, eviathanwas taken or agreatship,a crocodile, r a whale,andBehemoth or an elephant.TheO4ordEnglishDictionaryreditsHobbeswith exicalnno-vation,asthefirst to use thetermLeviathan-thebiblical erpent r seamonster, hugeshiporpersonfimmenseowerandhe"greatatan"fIsaiah27:1as thesynonymor acommonwealth.' obbes'sLeviathans
POLITICALTHEORY,Vol. 23 No. 2,May 1995 353-375(1995Sage Publications,nc.
353
 
354POLITICALTHEORYMay1995
indeeda workof theimagination,creaturef artifice atherhannature,mortalGod,andscriptureouches ort.Commentatorsave ocused onsiderablettentionn theconographyftheengravedrontispieceoLeviathan,elieved o havebeenproduced ytheprinterAndrewCrooke,underHobbes'supervision,ndperhapsheworkofHobbes'scquaintancendCharles'sormer utor ndrawing,heengraverWenceslausoller.2herontispieceepictsnmageofLeviathan,akinglike igurewieldingwordandcrozier,isgigantic odycomposedfthesmallbodies f thepeoplef hisrealm.Overheadliesthebanner eadline from heBookofJob41:334,"Theres nopoweroverearth hanomparestohim,"heconclusionf which s reservedorthetext:"acreatureithoutfear ..kingoverallthesonsofpride."Much essattention asbeen ocusedon thesignificancef the biblicalnamesLeviathan ndBehemoth,nwhatwould,ntheseventeenthentury,avebeena mosttartling sage.Hobbes,inchoosingLeviathanndBehemothshistitles,drops noughints omake itcleartohis audiencehatherefers o noneother han hebeastsof theApocrypha,amiliarrom heHebrewTheogonyndassociatednchiliastic thoughtwith he SecondComing.Howdoeshemean henameshen?3 ndwhats theirignificanceorhisreligiousoctrine?Ina recentarticle,TracyStrongargues, orrectly believe,hat"God-givengeometrys[Hobbes's]modelof and orpowero whichnoneon earthcompare,"ecausemencannotnlyread tbutsee it. Hecites Job38:1-7,thebeginningfthepassagehateads o Hobbes'seadlinepigraph:
ThentheLordansweredJob out of thetempest:who is thiswhose ignorantwordscloudmy designindarkness?Braceyourselfandstanduplike aman;I willask questions,andyoushallanswer.Where wereyouwhenIlaid theearth'soundations?Tell me, if youknow andunderstand.Who settled itsdimensions?Surely you should know. Whostretchedhismeasuring-linever it? On whatdoitssupporting illarsrest?Who set itscomer-stoneinplace,when themorningstarssang together and all the sons of Godshouted aloud?(Job
38:1-7)4
The nvention fgeometryscreditedo theancientEgyptians s a rapid methodto recalculateropertyoundarieswashedaway by the annualinnundationf theNile. ItwasappropriatehatGod shouldhaveused thelanguagefgeometryn theHebrewheogonyoestablish isproprietorship in anantediluvian orld-and trumpheEgyptians.t wasequallyppropri-atethatHobbes houldhave akeneometrysproofofhisepistemology.fgeometry,whichaidthefoundationsftheworld,belonged o the designsofGod hat ouldbeseen,heBiblebelongedoadispensationf sacred extsthatcouldberead,renderinguperfluoushenterventionsf philosophers

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