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