Appealing to Heaven: Jephthah, John Locke, and Just War

Moyn, Samuel

This paper asks why John Locke relied so heavily on the biblical exemplum of Jephthah in the "Second Treatise of Government." The proposed answer is that Locke took Jephthah to stand for the situation of judgment about the validity of norms under uncertainty. It was the contention of norms in a moment of potential warfare, not the absence of applicable norms, that Jephthah symbolized. On this specific point, Locke fits within a tradition of Protestant invocations of the story. If so, there was no need for Locke’s political theory to follow the details of the Jephthah story in other particulars. The paper pursues this argument by attributing to Locke a distinction between subjective conviction and objective validity, the latter of which he thought God alone could judge.



  • thumnail for 76e822f1-ce7c-40c0-97dc-a2eb5549fcec.pdf 76e822f1-ce7c-40c0-97dc-a2eb5549fcec.pdf application/pdf 454 KB Download File

Also Published In

Hebraic Political Studies

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
April 27, 2010