How Did Dante Alighieri Contribute to the Problem of the One and the Many?

ABSTRACT:  The One and the Many is the ultimate philosophical problem addressed by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy and his less well known, De Monarchia.  The essential problem is how to balance the need for a unitary government (the one) to maintain order in society, with the need for its citizens (the many) to interact freely in their common culture. Dante resolves the philosophical problem of “the one and the many” in favor of the one. He makes Augustus Caesar the exemplar in Divine Comedy and Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VII of Luxemburg his modern counterpart in De Monarchia. 

Political Salvation 

Dante Alighieri completed his epic poem, the Divine Comedy, in about 1321 as an allegory of political salvation. By contrast, the Bible teaches salvation as the free gift of God – it cannot be earned in any sense. It is given by the atoning death of Christ for the sins of mankind. It’s imputed — as a forensic judicial act – apart from works when the sinner trusts Christ, unlike Dante’s political salvation of works righteousness.  As if to announce his great poem, Dante clarifies the essence of political salvation in his other major work, De Monarchia. It was written between 1310 and 1313 with the descent of Henry VII into Italy. 

Political Unity

According to Dante’s Divine Comedy, the worst offenders at the lowest levels of Hell are those, like Brutus and Cassius, who have disturbed the political peace by murdering Julius Caesar.  Caesar’s profligate life and claims to Deity are irrelevant, as is the failure of Henry VII.  The fact that the Bible authorizes a duly ordained, lower magistrate to take violent action against a tyrannical king is irrelevant.  But in Dante’s world the Emperors slay the Velcro, the she-wolf of Cupidity and reign in unity with Dante forever. This has nothing to do with an ascent to love as some Christian writers would have it. Dante Alighieri is not some kind of a romantic. It has everything to do with an ascent to a unitary, central monarchy. This monarchy would have unlimited power to preserve the peace amidst the anarchy of 14th Century Europe.

I. Spiritual Salvation

While Dante’s vision leans towards a journey through the intricate realms of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise on the basis of one’s personal merits, a parallel theme in Scripture emphasizes the notion that salvation is a divine gift, granted through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. To illustrate, consider the biblical narrative of the prodigal son. The son’s salvation is not achieved through his own merits or deeds. Rather, it is freely given by the father upon his return, mirroring the biblical perspective on salvation as distinct from Dante’s political narrative.

God thwarted the builders of Babel and their one-world state in Genesis 11:7, 8.  By confusing tongues, He forced the creation of nations. Men “scattered abroad from there over the face of the whole earth.” In the New Testament, we are told that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men” and determined “the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). In this He intended that “they should seek the Lord.” Dante Alighieri voids this Divine judgment with his international monarchy. Dante takes up where the builders of Babel left off.

II. Political Salvation In the Divine Comedy

A. The Temptation of Political Salvation to Solve the Problem of the One and the Many

Dante’s ambition for a unified global empire, as seen in Divine Comedy, stands in contrast to the biblical account of God’s confusing the languages to thwart ungodly unity.  God’s intervention in scattering the people and creating diverse nations, as described in Genesis, contrasts sharply with Dante’s vision of a centralized international monarchy. This biblical narrative is a cautionary tale about the consequences of human attempts to subvert divine plans for diverse nations. It emphasizes the importance of respecting the boundaries set by God.

In ancient Israel the boundaries were covenantal, not geographical.  Thus, Ruth and Naomi traveled freely from Moab to Israel.  However, they were careful to observe covenantal requirements, such as gleaning, once they arrived.  This of course, is in stark contrast to the policy of United States. Here welfare is showered on immigrants and no concern whatsoever is given to entry of violent criminals.

B. The Failure of Political Salvation to Solve the Problem of the One and the Many

The United States has traveled a long way down Dante’s tortuous path in quest of political salvation. Nothing short of a Great Bible Reset back to The Book of the Covenant in Ex 20-24 can deliver us. Without this Great Bible Reset, the United States will continue to spiral down into the abyss of God’s judgment. That is the plan of the Great Economic Reset of the World Economic Forum.

This means we must forsake our idolatrous Social Contract and recommit ourselves to the Bible law code of the Trinitarian God. Each member of the Godhead is equally ultimate. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit appeared as One at the baptism of Jesus. Only by this means will we resolve the greatest problem of philosophy: The problem of The One and the Many.

In the modern political landscape, echoes of Dante’s quest for political salvation can be found in the trajectory of the United States. The call for a “Great Bible Reset” suggests a need to return to the path of foundational principles. We must reject Dante’s pursuit of political order as our source of deliverance.

Consider the historical example of the American Great Awakening in the 18th century. Although it was a spiritual revival, it’s total emphasis on personal salvation left the door open for abuse of government power. The rejection of Biblical law left a vacuum for introduction of Enlightenment, social contract influences in government.  The call for a contemporary “Bible Reset” invokes the spirit of historical movements that sought a moral and political reawakening.

III. National Sovereignty

Yet on the other extreme, the conservative passion for “national sovereignty” makes the nation-state the final arbitrator of justice. Accountable to no one, it’s an invitation to bickering among nations & war. Enter Dante Alighieri’s global empire. In our day, the United States so-called “rule based order” is enforced by 800+ military bases around the world. Instead, Psalm 2 calls rulers to submit to Christ. Acts Chapter Two applies this Psalm to the New Testament era.

The contemporary conservative emphasis on “national sovereignty” can also align in a negative way with Dante’s political vision. The nation-state, as the final arbitrator of justice, may invite conflicts and disputes among nations. This highlight the difficulty in balancing national sovereignty and global cooperation, as envisioned in Dante Alighieri’s global empire.  Ultimately, only Christ the King of kings can achieve this spiritual-political unity.

IV. Divine Sovereignty

A. Salvation of Individuals Defines the Problem

Accordingly, Psalm 72 describes a day when “all kings shall fall down before Him.” This means “many people shall go and say…let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…and he will teach us His ways…and he shall judge among the nations ….” (Isa. 2:3,4). That’s in the Last Days before the Second Coming, according to Isaiah 2:1.  The implication is that nations in covenant to rule by God’s law will unite in covenant.

This will provide judgment among nations and common defense from attack by rebellious nations. As nations are discipled (Matt. 28:19, 20), the world will be united more and more under Christ the King of kings, ruling through his people. Daniel also prophesies, “But the saints of the highest one will receive the kingdom….” (Dan. 7:18).  This advance of the Kingdom of God occurs gradually with the preaching of the gospel. It is like the growth of leaven in bread or a mustard seed into a great tree. The One and the Many will then be restored in perfect harmony.

B. Salvation of Nations Resolves the Problem

The biblical prophecy outlined in Psalms and Isaiah envisions a future where all kings submit to God’s authority. This parallels Dante’s desire for a unified global order. But the biblical narrative emphasizes a covenant under God’s law, unlike our modern United Nations.  Although it’s charter articulates lofty goals of world peace and unity, such is impossible apart from the righteous rule of the King of kings.  

Although it may rule correctly in individual cases, such as the indictment of Israeli genocide, it’s globalist agenda calls for reduction on earth’s population by many draconian measures.   While it may seem impossible by human standards, the Old Testament prophecies of peace on earth shall be accomplished before the Second Coming of Christ. 

V. Political Salvation in De Monarchia

A. Political Salvation

Dante Alighieri elaborates on the theme of political salvation in his other major work, De Monarchia. A monarchy is legitimate if it derives its limited authority from God. But, Dante’s monarchy is said to derive its authority from God directly, with no earthly checks on potential abuses.   Dante Alighieri asserts that the authority of monarchy does not derive from ecclesiastical sources. Those who rely on tradition in this matter he dismisses with Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees for elevating their tradition above the Word of God.

Dante’s exploration of political salvation extends beyond the Divine Comedy to his work “De Monarchia,” where the legitimacy of monarchy comes under scrutiny. A key question arises. Does Dante’s envisioned monarchy derive its authority directly from God as in the Divine Right of Kings? Or can it be checked by an alternative source?

To illustrate this tension between divine and earthly authority, consider the historical example of the Magna Carta in 1215. The Magna Carta challenged the absolute authority of the English monarchy, asserting certain rights and limits on royal power. This underscores the ongoing debate about the source and limits of political authority.  However, with Dante Alighieri it’s a one-sided debate.  Rather than striking a harmonius balance between the one (king) and the many (people) he comes down decisively on the side of the one.

B. Revelation vs. Reason

Ironically, in a futile attempt to demonstrate that the authority of monarchy comes from God directly, Dante Alighieri turns not to revelation but to philosophy. He concludes that since revelation concerns spiritual matters only, secular power is granted directly from God. It does come from God, but with Dante it is derived by illegitimate means. Dante’s monarchy is based on the Divine Right of Kings, with unlimited power.

Dante’s reliance on philosophy to establish the divine authority of monarchy becomes a point of irony in his pursuit of political legitimacy. The shift from revelation to philosophy in this context raises parallels with the Enlightenment era, where reason and philosophy were often elevated above religious authority. Consider the political philosophy of John Locke, who argued for a social contract to limit government power, failing to recognize that an unbridled majority can be just as tyrannical.

VI. Foundations of Biblical Government

A. Biblical Separation of Church & State

It is the Scriptures themselves that demarcate between the institutions of church and state. This issue is critical because it determines whether or not the monarch is answerable to God alone or may he be checked by some other earthly authority? Authority was divided in the Hebrew Republic to guard against a dangerous accumulation of unjust power in the hands of one or a few It also ensured that only those ordained by God may lead the nation in worship.

The situation in I Samuel 14:45 is an example of the people in their collective legislative capacity restraining the king. Like a house of commons or House of representatives the people reversed an unjust decision of the rebellious king Saul. They prevented him from foolishly putting his own son, Jonathan, to death after a glorious military victory. Power was divided horizontally and vertically in ancient Israel.

B. Unbiblical Seperation of Church & State

The biblical seperation of church and state was abused in the Medieval period to the detriment of both in the Investiture Controversy. This conflict highlighted the struggle for control over ecclesiastical appointments between secular rulers and the Church. The outcome determined who would collect rent on church property. The failure to resolve this dispute biblically marked a pivotal moment in the history of Western Civilization. Today we witness the tragic historical conseuqence of a church and state who both insisted on superiority and refused to co-operate within their individual spheres of authority.

VII. Forms of Biblical Government

A. Representatiave Government

The biblical account in I Samuel 14:45 provides a compelling illustration of the collective legislative capacity of the people acting as a check on unjust decisions by the king. This biblical narrative mirrors the principles of representative governance, akin to a “house of commons,” where the people intervened to prevent a misguided execution. Expanding on this, consider the Roman Republic, which featured a division of power between different branches of government. This was likely derived from the Hebrew example, when Italian leaders sat at the feet of Solomon during the height of his power.

The Roman example offers a historical perspective on the effectiveness of horizontal and vertical divisions of power, emphasizing the importance of checks and balances to prevent the concentration of authority.  But again, apart from Christ, the Prince of Peace, all such structural innovations in government are doomed to failure.

Under God’s direction Moses established a council of 70 elders to assist in bearing the burden of government – a horizontal division of power. This was operative in the NT where “the high priest and his associates had come, they called the Council together, even all the senate of the sons of Israel…” (Acts 5:21). In the Exodus 18 incident, Moses established a network of graded courts below himself to deal with routine matters – a vertical division of power.

B. The Pretense of Power

Dante pointed back to the Roman Empire as the prime example of the need for centralized power to establish and maintain peace. Dante believes that the Roman Empire was justified in waging war to establish peace – Pax Romano. According to Dante Alighieri, the world never experienced such an era of peace as under Augustus: “and that then the human race was happy in the tranquility of universal peace….”

This is the same Empire that Daniel described as “exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet….” (Dan. 7:19).  It is also the same Empire that degenerated swiftly after Augustus to the tyrannical Tiberius and ultimately to Nero. 

To illustrate, consider the modern-day European Union’s (EU) failed attempt to foster unity among member states for the sake of peace. While the EU claims to aim for regional stability its recent proxy war belies the claim. In 2022 the EU fell in line behind the United States in a futile attempt to use Ukraine to destroy Russia. Instead of being defeated, Russia emerged from the war stronger than ever thus frustrating the globalist ambitions of the collective West.

VIII. Functions of Biblical Government

A. Justifiable Defense

Under biblical law, ancient Rome was justified in waging war only to the extent necessary to defend her borders from pirates in the Adriatic Sea. This, of course, was not the intent of Roman conquerors such as Julius Caesar, whose reputation was erected on the subjugation of Gaul and indeed the entire world. Plutarch told how Julius stood before a statue of Alexander the Great. He marveled at how he had conquered the world by age 30, while Caesar had done nothing. Yet his successor Augustus was wise enough to mask his tyranny under the illusion of Pax Romano until the populace got used to a permanent dictator. This is the Pax Romana that Dante Alighieri yearned for.  Instead, “in the fullness of time” God sent forth His Son.

Dante’s romanticized view of the Roman Empire prompts a reflection on the contrast between justifiable defensive wars and aggressive conquests. The historical example of Julius Caesar’s conquests, driven by ambitions to rival Alexander the Great, is a clear example of the misuse of military power.

B. Unjustifiable Unity

Thus Dante Alighieri exalts “unity,” as the necessary prerequisite for “good.” The greatest sinners in Dante’s Hell are those who have disrupted political unity. For example, Judas and Brutus, who led the assassination of Julius Caesar in the Senate. “Unity” is the passion of every tyrant. Dante Alighieri confuses political unity with the voluntary unity of spirit when Christian brethren dwell together in peace (Psalm 133) and concludes that political unity is the necessary prerequisite for “good.”

Dante’s exaltation of “unity” as a prerequisite for “good” reflects his political philosophy, wherein disruption of political unity is deemed a grave sin. To illustrate this concept, consider the aftermath of the French Revolution in the late 18th century. The revolution, driven by ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, aimed at establishing a unified and just society. However, the radical pursuit of unity led to violence and political turmoil.  The ultimate result was a bloodbath and a military empire constructed on the humanist aspirations of Napoleon Bonaparte.  This historical example provides a cautionary perspective, on the complexities and potential pitfalls associated with the passionate pursuit of political unity.

IX. The One and the Many

A. Diverse Authorities

It’s a non sequitur. Dante resolves the philosophical problem of “the one and the many” in favor of the one. He offers as a premise that two rulers equal in power will forever be at war. That’s because there is not a third or greater power to judge them. But his assumption that the third ruler will always possess a spirit of justice and equanimity is equally fallacious. It is only in the doctrine of the Trinity – the equal ultimacy of the one and the many – that the problem may be resolved. Mutual submission of a multiplicity of authorities to the law of God and to each other is the key to peace, rather than Empire.

Consider the historical context of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. This treaty marked the end of the Thirty Years’ War and introduced the idea of a balance of power among European nations. It reflects an acknowledgment that a single ruling authority may not guarantee peace. It emphasizes the importance of mutual submission and balance among diverse authorities for lasting peace under Christ, the King of kings.

B. Trinitarian Solution

In the fullness of time, the biblical narrative introduces the concept of the Trinity. It embodyies the equal ultimacy of the one and the many. This theological perspective offers a profound resolution to Dante’s philosophical quandary. To illustrate, consider the early Christian communities described in the Book of Acts. These communities were characterized by mutual submission and shared governance. They exemplify a model where diverse authorities align under the overarching law of God. The Trinity and biblical examples provide a transformative lens. By this means the quest for peace is reframed from imperial dominance to a collective submission to divine principles. This echoes Dante’s yearning for unity, but with a deeper spiritual foundation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.