The Divine Legation of Moses

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Divine Legation of Moses is the best-known work of William Warburton, an English theologian of the 18th century who became bishop of Gloucester. As its full title makes clear, it is a conservative defence of orthodox Christian belief against deism, by means of an apparent paradox: the afterlife is not mentioned in terms in the Pentateuch (i.e. Torah – see Jewish eschatology#"The world to come"), making Mosaic Judaism distinctive among ancient religions; from which, Warburton argues, it is seen that Moses received a divine revelation.[1]

The Divine Legation was published in two parts and nine books from 1737 by Warburton, who left it unfinished, however. It is a learned and discursive work, and excited extensive controversy in Warburton's lifetime, which the author pursued with acrimony. One side-issue, the history of writing, was treated by Warburton in a manner that proved influential.[2]

Illustration from the 1765 edition of The Divine Legation, showing the theory of the Comte de Caylus on Egyptian hieroglyphics.

A modern opinion, from J. G. A. Pocock, is that the book is a "strange and flawed work of undisciplined genius".[3]

Reception timeline[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f  "Warburton, William". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ Nicholas Hudson (8 December 1994). Writing and European Thought, 1600-1830. Cambridge University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-521-45540-4. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  3. ^ J. G. A. Pocock, Barbarism and Religion II (1999), p. 388.
  4. ^ Thomas Bott (1743). An answer to the Reverend Mr. Warburton's Divine legation of Moses, in three parts: In which are considered, I. Some of his quotations from the ancients. II. His manner of reasoning: and, III. His notion of moral obligation. Printed for R. Manby, over against the Old-Bailey, on Ludgate-Hill. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Thomas Chubb (1743). An enquiry concerning redemption. Wherein the Christian redemption is particularly considered. To which is prefixed, a preface; wherein is shewn, that if Christianity be not founded on argument, ... then it is most uncertain and precarious, ... By Tho. Chubb. printed for T. Cox. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Probyn, Clive. "Chubb, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5378.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ John Milbank (1997). The word made strange: theology, language, culture. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-631-20336-0. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  8. ^ William Warburton (1744). Remarks on several occasional reflections:: in answer to the Rev. Dr. Middleton, Dr. Pococke, the Master of the Charter House, Dr. Richard Grey, and others. Serving to explain and justify divers passages in the divine legation, objected to by those learned writers. To which is added, a general review of the argument of the divine legation, as far as it is yet advanced: wherein is considered the relation the several parts bear to each other, and to the whole. Together with an appendix in answer to a late pamphlet entitled: An examination of Mr. W----s second proposition. printed for John and Paul Knapton in Ludgate Street. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  9. ^ William Warburton (1745). Remarks on several occasional reflections: in answer to the Reverend Doctors Stebbing and Sykes. Serving to explain and justify the two dissertations in the Divine legation, concerning the command to Abraham to offer up his son; and the nature of the Jewish theocracy; ... Part II. and last. By Mr. Warburton. printed for John and Paul Knapton. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  10. ^ William Warburton; Johann Christian Schmidt (1752). Göttliche Sendung Mosis: aus den Grundsätzen der Deisten bewiesen. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  11. ^ Gotthold Ephraim Lessing; Henry Chadwick (1 June 1957). Lessing's Theological Writings: Selections in Translation. Stanford University Press. p. 38 note 3. ISBN 978-0-8047-0335-2. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  12. ^ A letter to the author of the divine legation of Moses demonstrated: in answer to the appendix to the 5. volume of that work : with an appendix containing a former literary correspondance: by a late professor in the University of Oxford. 1766. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Young, B. W. "Warburton, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28680.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)