chapter  18
18 Pages

Adam Kotsko (2013), 'The Curse of the Law and the Coming Politics: On Agamben, Paul and the Jewish Alternative', in Tom Frost (ed.), Giorgio Agamben: Legal, Political and Philosophical Perspectives, London: Routledge, pp. 13-30

In this chapter, I would like to address Agamben's use of Paul in another work in the Homo Sacer series, namely The Sacrament o[ Language.5 This work includes what seems to me to be a substantial new engagement with Paul, and with the New Testament more broadly. This engagement is primarily situated in the aleph-note to § 16, where he attempts to demonstrate that the Greco-Roman concept of law is intimately tied up with the concept of the curse that Agamben characterizes as a kind of 'fall-out' of the oath. The passage is as folIows:

Accordingly, in this chapter I investigate Agamben's passage on Paul from The Sacrament 0/ Language fi rst in terms of what it says about Agambennamely, where it fits within his project in this book as weIl as in the Homo Sacer series as a whole-and second in terms of what it says about Paul. In this latter connection, I argue that Agamben's insight here is at least potentially revolutionary in the answer it provides to one of the most important and sharply contested questions of Pauline interpretation: what Paul means by 'the law'. If Agamben's interpretation is taken seriously, it means that Paul must be understood as a simultaneously and equally religious and political thinker-failing to hold together those two aspects of his thought means missing the true radicality of Paul's messianic preaching, as weIl as its continuing relevance for our ostensibly 'secular' world. At the same time, I will conclude by suggesting that Agamben's reading allows us to see ways in which Paul's historical circumstances may have blinded hirn to the messianic potential of the very structure he is most often presented as critiquing and even rejecting: the J ewish law.