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The Political Theology of Paul (Cultural Memory in the Present) Paperback – December 9, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"As always with Taubes, it is all very apocalyptic and reasonably brilliant or, at least, brilliantly distorted and filled with strokes of genius—the genius of a charlatan at his very, very best."—Hebraic Political Studies

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This highly original interpretation of Paul by the Jewish philosopher of religion Jacob Taubes was presented in a number of lectures held in Heidelberg toward the end of his life, and was regarded by him as his “spiritual testament.” Taubes engages with classic Paul commentators, including Karl Barth, but also situates the Pauline text in the context of Freud, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Adorno, Scholem, and Rosenzweig. In his distinctive argument for the apocalyptic-revolutionary potential of Romans, Taubes also takes issue with the “political theology” advanced by the conservative Catholic jurist Carl Schmitt. Taubes’s reading has been crucial for a number of interpretations of political theology and of Paul—including those of Jan Assmann and Giorgio Agamben—and it belongs to a wave of fresh considerations of Paul’s legacy (Boyarin, Lyotard, Badiou, Zîzêk). Finally, Taubes’s far-ranging lectures provide important insights into the singular experiences and views of this unconventional Jewish intellectual living in post-Holocaust Germany.


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Product Details

  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (December 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804733457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804733458
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #352,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Lavenz on March 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Taubes was in an advanced stage of cancer when he gave these lectures in February 1987, just weeks before he died. He could not even stand up to deliver them, and was in the ICU for one of the days of that week. But in spite of these circumstances, or indeed because of them, these talks are incredibly lucid and intellectually rigorous beyond compare. They truly do come across as they are described: as a spiritual testament, charged with an existential urgency, centered around questions that surely animated Taubes throughout his entire life. This book is a testament to that life and these questions. It is scholarly but free-flowing, challenging but often humorous, grounded in facts and yet deeply meditative and personal.

No one will doubt the importance of Paul's contribution to the world and to human thought. Love him or hate him, he is there, and the talk about him and his letters does not appear to be dying down anytime soon-- if anything, it's only picking up. But Taubes is not interested in partisan arguments, choosing sides here or there, or in recruiting Paul for his own aims. Taubes has no "agenda" here; he simply wants to get the story straight. To do so, he demands that every theme be thread "through the eye of a philological needle." In other words, he sticks with the text(s), resisting interpretations of Paul that project their own ideas on him or simply follow the standard lines of the Christian church(es). "It's easy to read the story of Paul one-sidedly and to overlook latent elements within him", he reminds us. "No one understood him, one might say, but then no one completely misunderstood him either." Taubes sticks to these latent elements and tries to understand the misunderstandings.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lost Lacanian on May 17, 2013
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Jacob Taubes's Political Theology of Paul is one of the thrilling books on Paul I've read in some time.

The book is actually transcriptions of lectures Taubes gave toward the end of his life. So if you only have tolerance for linear argument, then this book will probably infuriate you. But, like in the case of the Seminars of Jacques Lacan, those who work through the text will be rewarded with gems of insight.

The book has two parts. Part 1 offers "readings" of Romans. In Part 2, Taubes encounters figures of modern thought in light of his Paul.

Taubes's project, as far as I see it, is to separate Paul from the Christian institution, to give us a Paul without Christianity. When Paul wrote Romans, Taubes emphasizes, Christianity had not yet been invented. At best, "Christians" were a radical, perhaps heretical, sect of Jews, much like the Essenes or the Zealots. So however we read Paul, we must read him outside the influence of the Church, Taubes argues. I found that following Taubes in this endeavor has led to a refreshing and radical Paul.

For those who are following the growing interest in Paul in contemporary critical theory, Taubes's Political Theology of Paul is a must read. It's influence on Agamben's Time That Remains (which is dedicated to Taubes) is apparent. It's interesting to compare Taubes's Paul book with Badiou, Zizek, and others who have written on Paul.
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0 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James Hallenbeck on February 3, 2013
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I got exactly what I ordered. It came within the timeframe given. The book itself was in great shape. The soft cover wasn't glossy like some publications are.
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