Specters of Paul: Sexual Difference in Early Christian Thought
French philosopher Alain Badiou opens a manifesto on his theory of the subject with the question, “Why Saint Paul? Why solicit this ‘apostle’ who is all the more suspect for having, it seems, himself such and whose name is frequently tied to Christianity’s least open, most institutional aspects: the Church, moral discipline, social conservatism, suspiciousness towards Jews?” 1 Nevertheless, Badiou does solicit Paul, even going so far as to christen him “our contemporary.” On this Badiou is not alone; he participates in a broader resurgence of interest in apostle among continental philosophers and critical theorists. 2 lhe figure of Paul, it appears, has emerged (or reemerged) at the forefronr of critical thought regarding questions of human subjectivity and political action. Srill, why Paul? Or, as Badiou “What does Paul want?”‘ And what does it have to do with us? Paul’s proclamation of the Christ event has always lent itself ro multiple interpretations-and the current philosophical conversation is no exception. For Badiou (and for another prominent continental philosopher, Slavoj Ziiek), the apostle announces a universalizing operation whereby truth emerges by radically subtracting irselffrom the differences of ethnicity, culture, and sex/sexuality.4 In contrast, numerous historians of New Testament have firmly maintained that Paul envisions not a universalizing subtraction, but rather a historically and culturally specific “grafting” of the non-Jewish nations of the world onto God’s chosen ” the people ofisrael. 5 In this way, he does nor Israel’s ethnic particularity or cause it to become inoperative, bur instead declares a way for Gentiles to be included in God’s promise of faithfulness to Israel.
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