Matthew Tindal's Rights of the Christian church (1706), which elicited more than thirty contemporary replies, was a major interjection in the ongoing debates about the relationship between church and state in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England. Historians have usually seen Tindal's work as an exemplar of the ‘republican civil religion’ that had its roots in Hobbes and Harrington, and putatively formed the essence of radical whig thought in the wake of the Glorious Revolution. But this is to misunderstand the Rights. To comprehend what Tindal perceived himself as doing we need to move away from the history of putatively ‘political’ issues to the histories of ecclesiastical jurisprudence, patristic scholarship, and biblical exegesis. The contemporary significance of Tindal's work was twofold: methodologically, it challenged Anglican patristic scholarship as a means of reaching consensus on modern ecclesiological issues; positively, it offered a powerful argument for ecclesiastical supremacy lying in crown-in-parliament, drawing on a legal tradition stretching back to Christopher St Germain (1460–1540) and on Tindal's own legal background. Tindal's text provides a case study for the tentative proposition that ‘republicanism’, whether as a programme or a ‘language’, had far less impact on English anticlericalism and contemporary debates over the church–state relationship than the current historiography suggests.