Most of the great political thinkers of the English-speaking world were familiar with—and inspired by—the Bible, and their works are often saturated with biblical references. John Locke is no different in this respect, and the last several decades have seen scholars take Locke’s use of the Bible quite seriously. Yet, most scholarship has attributed Locke’s use of Scripture to his Christianity. In fact, argues Fania Oz-Salzberger, Locke looks in particular to the Hebrew Bible, and he does so because he sees the it as a historical record of a real people in history, with a constitution and system of governance worth engaging.
For Locke, Genesis and Deuteronomy and Judges and Kings consisted of a political history worth working with. They came from an ancient civilization to be reckoned with. To be sure, the Israelites were “God’s own people” and hence a special case compared with the Athenians and Spartans and Romans. But the crucial point is that they made a polity in history, a constitution in legal history. Thus, the Israelites offer a case study among others and subject matter for theoretical comparison and analysis.