The Respublica Hebraeorum as a Scientific Political Model in Jean Bodin's 'Methodus'

Anna Maria Lazzarino Del Grosso

Abstract: In his 'Methodus' (1572), Jean Bodin sets out to apply scientific method to politics and law, and to construct a complete and innovative treatise on these subjects. Bodin's method, designed to assure the scientific value of his study, includes comparative observation and historical context, and begins with a philologically impeccable examination of different bodies of legislation based on the widest possible range of juridical experiences and institutions throughout the world and in history. It is in this context that Bodin becomes the first to consider the Jews as a people deserving of historical attention due to their juridical, political and institutional history. Moreover, he considers the Jewish institutions an exemplary model that brought about the longevity of the Jewish state. To get to the root of the legislation and politics of the Hebrews, Bodin justifies the study of Hebrew and emphasizes the importance of studying Jewish wisdom. Bodin's 'Methodus' anticipates the development of the literary genre of 'Respublica Hebraeorum,' and the deeper inquiry into the politics of ancient Israel that would follow in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In Bodin's political theory, the study of the Israelite polity that begins in the 'Methodus' goes on to constitute some of the groundwork for the famous 'Six Books of the Commonwealth' (1576).

Biography: Anna Maria Lazzarino Del Grosso (Luino, 1943) is a full professor of the history of political thought at the University of Genoa. Her principle areas of study include the political and social thought of medieval Germany, modern France, the Italian Risorgimento, and contemporary Latin America. In her analyses, special consideration is given to the problems associated with international and intercultural relationships. Her recent publications include Bodin e la critica della democrazia (Naples: Istituto Universitario Suor Orsola Benincasa, 2004); “Bodin” in R. Gherardi, ed., La politica e gli Stati. Problemi e figure del pensiero occidentale (Roma: Carocci, 2004); “Jean Bodin e il problema del potere” in S. Testoni Binetti, ed., Il potere come problema nella letteratura politica della prima eta moderna (Florence: Centro Editoriale Toscano, 2005), “Concordia (Harmonia)” in F. Ingravalle, C. Malandrino, eds., Il lessico della ‘Politica’ di Althusius (Florence: Olschki, 2005).

Volume 1, Number 5 (Fall 2006) pp. 549–567