" 'A Christian Prince Hath Charge of Both Tables': John Jewel's Biblical Doctrine of the Royal Supremacy"

Bibliographic Information: 

Gazal, Andre A. " 'A Christian Prince Hath Charge of Both Tables': John Jewel's Biblical Doctrine of the Royal Supremacy." Pages 57-70 in Reformation Faith: Exegesis and Theology in the Protestant Reformations . Edited by Michael Parsons. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2014.


As the first major apologist of the Elizabethan ecclesiastical settlement, John Jewel (1522-71), bishop of Salisbury, defended substantially one of its most distinctive features, royal supremacy, which was the idea that the monarch was to exercise supreme authority over the national church. Throughout his vast literary corpus, Jewel contends that royal ecclesiastical authority is enjoined by the Word of God.

This essay argues (in response to the contrary thesis presented by Gary Jenkins) that Jewel conceived of royal supremacy as a material doctrine deriving directly from the formal principle of sola Scriptura. The hermeneutic whereby Jewel united these two doctrines was his assignment of a normative and prescriptive function to the historical books of the Old Testament. This interpretive priority which the bishop gave to the Old Testament historical books, through which relevant New Testament passages on civil authority were interpreted, enabled him to defend royal supremacy as a biblical doctrine against Roman Catholic opponents of the settlement. The author demonstrates this thesis by closely examining specific passages in Jewel’s principal polemic works and some of his sermons.

It is also the intention of this essay to show how particular hermeneutical systems determined the use of Scripture in the formation of political theology in early modern Europe.