In lines 22-28 of his Speech to the Virginia Convention, why does Patrick Henry choose the biblical allusion and what does the allusion reveal about Henry's awareness of his audience?

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huntress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't have your copy of the speech, so I don't know which lines you're referring to, but the speech is peppered with biblical allusions, not to mention outright appeals to God as being higher than any government (for example, "Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings"). 

The first biblical allusion is this line: "Are we disposed to be of the number of those who having eyes see not, and having ears hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation?" This is from Ezekiel 12 and Matthew 13. God, speaking to Ezekiel regarding the Children of Israel, said, "Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people." (Don't take the allusion too far, though; God was sending the Children of Israel into exile.) 

In the next paragraph, building up to his argument that the British are clearly arming for war and demonstrating that the time for diplomacy is past, Henry says of opposing delegates, "Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss." This is a clear allusion to Judas's kiss which betrayed Jesus to the Romans. Judas, being a disciple of Christ, should have been on his side, but he gave him up for 30 pieces of silver. 

This is probably beyond the point you were asking about, but he uses this allusion, as well: " The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone." This comes from Ecclesiastes ("The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong"). 

Henry's audience was comprised primarily of men whose Christian ties and convictions were just as deeply held as his own. 

Read the study guide:
Speech to the Virginia Convention

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