The leading interpretations of The Prince focus on Machiavelli's historical context, but they give little attention to the source on which the moral and political thought of Machiavelli's sixteenth century was based, the Christian Bible. In this study of The Prince, William Parsons plumbs Machiavelli's allusions to the Bible, along with his statements on the Church, and shows that Machiavelli was a careful reader of the Bible and an astute observer of the Church. On this basis Parsons contends that Machiavelli's teaching in The Prince is instructively compared with that of the Church's teacher, Jesus Christ.Parsons thus undertakes what recent interpreters of The Prince have not done: contrast Machiavelli's advice with the teaching of Christ. The result is a new reading of The Prince, revealing in Machiavelli's political thought a systematic critique of the New Testament and its model for human life, Christ. In this commentary on one of the greatest works on politics ever written, Parsons not only challenges the most recent interpretations of The Prince but also sheds new light on the classic interpretation that Machiavelli was a teacher of immorality.William Parsons is associate professor of political science at Carroll College.
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