The Church accused Niccolo Machiavelli of being Satan for writing his book The Prince. Machiavelli completed The Prince in 1513. He wrote it as a gift to Lorenzo Medici, called the Magnificent, ruler of Florence. The political views Machiavelli expressed in his book went against the theology of the Church, specifically the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.
Machiavelli wrote to gain control of a principality one must be brutal. “(I)f you are a prince in possession of a newly acquired state and deem it necessary. . . to annihilate those who can or must attack you. . . .” , you must do so to protect your principality. He gave the example of Duke Valentino’s slaying of his nobles to maintain order, saying if Valentino had not killed his men, Valentino would have lost power. The Bible strongly forbids the killing of anyone. The Sixth Commandment states “You shall not murder.” In what is known as the Beatitudes, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Bible also says those who are meek shall inherit the earth. A meek person certainly does not kill others for standing in his or her way like Machiavelli is suggesting to be done. Another verse from the Beatitudes says those who are peacemakers will be called sons of God. Peacemakers do not kill either. For Machiavelli to say if killing a person is for the betterment of your principality, then to do so went against “God’s rule” and the Church’s. True followers of the Church abide by the Church beliefs, because if you are not for God, you are for Satan.
As a ruler a prince must make certain pledges and steadfast promises; however, Machiavelli reasons that a prince does not have to keep his word all the time. The prince can pledge one thing under certain circumstances; but if those circumstances change, he is free to change his pledge if the change should benefit his situation. For instance, Pope Alexander VI, who reigned before Machiavelli wrote The Prince, “made promises more persuasively or swore to them more solemnly and kept so few of them . . . .” Pope Alexander VI also got what he wanted by deceiving others. The Beatitudes say those who desire righteousness will be filled; those who are pure of heart will see God. Righteousness and purity do not occur through deception. The ninth of the Ten Commandments says “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor,” meaning do not lie. Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, says “Do no break your oath . . . .” The Church had good reason to disagree with Machiavelli about craftiness.
Nobility for princes can be seen as one of two ways: generous or parsimonious. If a prince is generous, his generosity usually comes at the expense of his subjects. The prince would have to tax his people heavily in order to give. “This will begin to make him odious to his subjects and . . . will lose him the respect of everyone.” For a prince to give money, he need not tax his people, rather give what he pillaged and stole while on various campaigns. If a prince is stingy with the peoples money, he will not tax as much; thus, his subjects will honor him more. The teachings of the Church and the Bible promote generosity, and remark that keeping one’s wealth to oneself will lead to self destruction, Hell. The teachings likewise include “You shall not steal.”
Although his ideas were contrary to those of the Church and of the Bible, Machiavelli can not be compared with Satan. He was promoting the survival of a principality at any cost. He said a prince “will find things which, though seeming good, will lead to his ruin if pursued, and others which, though seeming evil, will result in his safety and well-being.” Machiavelli also said that if a ruler gains control by cruelty and wickedness the ruler is without virtue, and he cannot be compared to men of good character. He does not condone this type of behavior, he merely contends it is necessary to exist as a prince.
Various people in the Bible killed others. One of the greatest men in the Old Testament, King David took many lives in order to maintain his kingdom. Abraham, the man to whom God promised offspring as many as the stars in the sky, too attacked and murdered people. How can Machiavelli be so evil for only suggesting the destruction of enemies, if great men of the Bible actually did the same?
Pope Alexander VI was a man of the Church and a ruler, yet he openly deceived men. Satan too beguiled men: in the Garden of Eden Satan lied to Eve, in the desert Satan tried to mislead Jesus. Was Alexander ever compared to Satan as Machiavelli was? King David, known for his righteousness and integrity, deceived a colleague of his by committing adultery with his colleague’s wife, then covering his sin.
ideas written in his book The Prince contradicted those of the Church and the Bible. But Machiavelli did not condone the use of force, violence, and deception. He said using those things would be bad if all men were good; however, men are evil. According to him, all men have a little of Satan in them.