It’s, of course, originally from the Orient (ancient Persia and Egypt), was reintroduced at the end of the Roman Republic, and resurfaced with a few in the Middle Ages. Ultimately, it was and is anti-medieval and anti-Catholic.
The University of Dallas’s Gerald Wegemer argues very convincingly that it’s a Protestant construct, not a Catholic one, in the modern world.
“In 1528 Anne Boleyn exacerbated Henry’s lust for imperial power by giving him a book that justified everything he would ever want to do. That book was William Tyndale’s The Obedience of a Christian Man. More called this book “a book of disobedience” and diplomatically cautioned Henry about its content. Henry was already highly cautious about the author; he had, in fact, banned Tyndale from England for advocating Luther’s revolutionary ideas. Nonetheless, he was soon seduced by the claims of Tyndale’s book. This book is famous in the history of political thought because it gives the first jurisdiction in the English language for the divine right of kings.” (Gerard Wegemer, Thomas More: Portrait of Courage (Scepter, 1998), 131.)
“We know also of another person who particularly influenced Henry—William Tyndale. The latter’s Obedience of the Christian Man, the first thorough-going apologia of Caesaropapism, argued on the evidence of the Old Testament and early Christian history—and brought to him by Anne Boleyn—made a mark. ‘This is book for me and for all kings to read,’ he said when he had finished it. Tyndale’s sweeping assertion of the rights and duties of princes and their claim to the undivided allegiance, body and soul, of their subjects, may well have opened up a new world for Henry even if he did not yet intend to realize the new order of kingship in England.” (J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), 247.
Perhaps we could construct a TARDIS and try Tyndale for war crimes. Just a thought.
Books by referenced in this essay are available from The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.