Biblical Archaeology Review 38:6, November/December 2012

Biblical Views: God Save the Queen: The Political Origins of Salvation

By Henry W. Morisada Rietz

The summer of 2012 marked the 60th anniversary celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the British throne. The pomp and pageantry of her diamond julibee captivated not only her royal subjects but also people around world. Even journalists and broadcasters from the United States covering the festivities seemed enchanted by the rousing chords of “God Save the Queen.”a

It’s a basic interpretive principle that words and texts only have meaning in context, literally that which is “with the text.” Often, we unconsciously import our own social, political and religious contexts, values and assumptions. When we encounter language of “salvation” and “redemption” in religious context, we often understand these words as referring to an individual’s spiritual status, but that is not how the words were used in the Biblical period. In the context of the British Commonwealth, we immediately recognize the strains of “God Save the Queen” as a celebration of British patriotism, a plea to protect the monarchy and preserve the political order, not a call for her conversion or spiritual salvation. Similarly in ancient Israel, talk of salvation and redemption had a physical/political meaning rather than a spiritual one.

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