chapter  8
16 Pages

Paul’s Revolution for Our Times? Paul and Continental Philosophy

In mainstream New Testament studies, scholars are starting to notice that in the past twenty years there has been a reappraisal of Paul (and Christianity) as part of the continental philosophical tradition. Paul has become a figure not only worthy of his place in intellectual history, but as someone worth listening to by those ordinarily outside the Christian tradition and outside academic biblical studies and theology, most notably in continental philosophical and political circles, and more specifically in the works of thinkers such as Jacob Taubes, Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek. Curiously, this interest in what is sometimes referred to as the ‘political Paul’ is mirrored in an intensified interest in Paul, politics and empire in New Testament studies. We will be returning to the reasons why this might be in the next section and readers might want to follow the merging of the key philosophical thinkers and biblical scholars in the recent book edited by John Caputo and Linda Martín Alcoff and in the work of the New Testament scholar Ward Blanton.1 For now, the rest of this chapter will be dedicated to an attempt at summarising some (and only some) of the key points of the often highly complex and not-always-comprehensible views on Paul among the continental philosophers, with particular reference to issues relating to the more traditional question in New Testament studies of the ‘parting of the ways’. The story of Paul among the continental philosophers has not often been told in New Testament studies and so hopefully this very basic chapter will provoke people to go and read the various thinkers, while becoming possibly intrigued, perhaps fascinated, and no doubt frustrated at this seemingly peculiar intellectual movement.