- Series: Contraversions: Critical Studies in Jewish Literature, Culture, and Society (Book 1)
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (November 11, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520212142
- ISBN-13: 978-0520212145
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Contraversions: Critical Studies in Jewish Literature, Culture, and Society) New Ed Edition
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From Kirkus Reviews
A markedly contemporary study that navigates the New Testament scholar past the perils of Pauline theology. Boyarin (Talmudic Culture/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley; Carnal Israel, not reviewed) attempts to ``reclaim Paul as an important Jewish thinker.'' He goes on to establish this primary apostle as a Hellenized Jew whose Platonic sensibility calls for a universal sameness that negates the divisions separating Jew from Gentile and man from woman. The disembodied spirituality of Platonic dualism allows females (especially virgins) to be equal to men under Christ, and allows an uncircumcised Christian of any gender to ``circumcise the foreskin of her [sic] heart'' with Hebrew Bible commandments universalized and allegorized. Boyarin does not glibly valorize Paul as a champion of feminism and an opponent of Jewish exclusivist chauvinism. After crediting Paul for being a radical social critic, the author makes clear how the apostle's pre-Marxist universalism too easily slid into violent coercion in the later, blood-soaked chapters of Christian history. Boyarin analyzes the work of many Christian scholars in concluding that Lutheran misinterpretations of Paul allow us to consider the apostle to be far more antagonistic to Jews and Judaism than he really was. The benefit of Boyarin's Jewish defense against hermeneutical Christian anti-Semitism is tempered by his disdain for a Judaic ``tendency towards contemptuous neglect for human solidarity'' and his anti- Zionism (``modern Jewish statist nationalism has been...very violent and exclusionary''). Sometimes he confuses Christian ``salvation'' theology with Jewish belief, and he fails to find any similarity between Pauline Platonism and the allegorical and universal levels of Torah laws. The final chapter digresses to a personal view of the ``essentialist/social constructionist dichotomy,'' but the book does end with ample notes and bibliography. A rewarding read for students of Christian theology willing to be challenged by today's multicultural, poststructuralist, postfeminist scholarship. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
"Boyarin's bracing argument turns us into strangers to ourselves, as the first century comes uncannily close to the twenty-first century. The importance of this stimulating and controversial book lies in promoting an awareness of the possibilities of solidarity, justice, and liberation in the time of the culture wars."Homi K. Bhabha, author of The Location of Culture
"Brilliant, thought-provoking and outrageous (a compliment in my lexicon). Demonstrates very clearly the merits of a Jewish look at Paul (that is, a Jew looking at Paul in his Jewishness)."Adele Reinhartz, McMaster University
"Boyarin has mastered the literature of Paul in amazing detail and devastating understanding. His analytic skills are honed to perfection on the stone of critical theory. As a Jewish reader of a foundational Christian text, he has explained to Christians the power of Paul's thinking for Christians."Burton L. Mack, author of Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins
"This book is a polemic for difference based on genealogical memory as a creative force in the broadest human solidarity. In that sense it is a moral or philosophical tractate, what Boyarin calls cultural criticism, as well as an analysis of Paul's position. I have been greatly informed by a reading of this study."Antoinette Wire, author of The Corinthian Woman Prophets
"Boyarin weighs in with his usual éclat . . . reading the Epistles as if they were contributions to contemporary debates over the issues of feminism, multiculturalism, Zionism, identity politics, and deconstruction, and reading these as if they were germane to an understanding of the Epistles. The book is a tour de force of PoMo criticism, and required reading for anyone interested in the history of religion, Judaism, Christianity, Western culture, 'Orientalism,' identity politics, feminismand the list could go on."Hayden White, author of Metahistory
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In a world of intolerant, rigid, and destrucitve so-called "fundamentalists" and "fundamentalisms" insisting that there is ONLY ONE way to read a text or a tradition, including scripture and the history of Judaism and/or Christianity, insisting that the ONE WAY to read the Judeo-Christian tradition is to read it as male supremacist and oppressive, I greatly appreciate that Boyarin says, as he says so clearly in his introduction to this work and in another book, "Unheroic Conduct," that there are many ways to read texts and traditions.
For example, as Boyarin says here, if one uses as one's starting point in Paul the verse, "In Christ there is no male; there is no female; there is no slave nor free man" one will read Paul very differently than others who see, in Paul, an oppressor who upheld slavery and the oppression of women.
I also admire Boyarin's wide-ranging store of knowledge, his humanity, his enthusiasm, and his humor.
And he takes on issues that this reader enjoys reading about.
On the other hand, and it is a big other hand, Boyarin is a self-indulgent writer who has lived a sheltered, purely academic life. He writes as, one imagines, he would talk when talking to someone who shares his interests, his references, his enthusiasms, as closely as would a doppleganger or an imaginary best friend.
Boyarin just about never shows any consideration for any audience who might not be an exact duplicate of him.
So, the reader has to slog through paragraphs or pages not knowing what Boyarin is talking about, not because the ideas at play are all that complex -- they never really are -- but because neither Boyarin nor his editors have taken the time to frame what Boyarin is saying in a way that will be readily understood by someone who is not sharing the exact same brainpan as Boyarin himself.
Oh, how I wish there were an edited version of Boyarin's books, in which references that need not be obscure are presented in a way so that someone who has not lunched with the exact same clique of grad students that Boyarin has lunched with would be able to grasp what Boyarin is saying, without reaching for outside references -- which, sadly, I always have to do when reading Boyarin -- or slogging through his endless, and, yes, self-indulgent footnotes.
This is a positive review. Boyarin is, again, well educated, enthusiastic, and he takes a humanist approach from a tradition, the Judeo-Christian tradition, that too often has been used as an excuse to oppress others. His work is a marvelous antidote to intolerant "fundamentalisms" and "fundamentalists."
But, Daniel, if you would -- please be a bit more mindful of your audience. Making your work more readily accessible would be a very good thing, because the wider world -- the one outside of Berkeley -- greatly needs voices like yours.
On the book's back cover, a reviewer states "Boyarin's argument turns us into strangers to ourselves", I say that this would be typical since throughout the entire work it seems that Boyarin is a stranger to himself. Look, I know that it is important to reference the work of others, especially in a scholarly work, but come on! My advice would be to get one of the myriad works that Dunn has produced over the years and pass this one over entirely, especially if you prefer to get your information directly from the scholar that 'originally' published it, not someone that is only regurgitating information like a parrot.