A Radical Philosophy of Saint Paul

A Radical Philosophy of Saint Paul

STANISLAS BRETON
WITH A CRITICAL INTRODUCTION BY WARD BLANTON
TRANSLATED BY JOSEPH N. BALLAN
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/bret15104
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  • Book Info
    A Radical Philosophy of Saint Paul
    Book Description:

    Stanislas Breton's A Radical Philosophy of Saint Paul, which focuses on the political implications of the apostle's writings, was an instrumental text in Continental philosophy's contemporary "turn to religion." Reading Paul's work against modern thought and history, Breton helped launch a reassessment of Marxism, introduce secular interpretations of biblical and theological traditions, develop "radical negativity" as a critical category, and rework modern political ideas through a theoretical lens.

    Newly translated and critically situated, this edition takes a fresh approach to Breton's classic work, reacquainting readers with the remarkable ways in which an ancient apostle can reset our understanding of the political. Breton begins with Paul's biography and the texts of his conversion, which challenge common conceptions of identity. He broaches the question of allegory and divine predestination, introduces the idea of subjectivity as an effect of power, and confronts Paul's critique of Law, which leads to an exploration of the logics and limits of agency and power. Breton develops these and other insights in relation to Paul's subversive reflections on the crucified messiah, which challenge meaning and reason and upend our current world order. Neither a coherent theologian nor a stable humanist, Breton's Paul becomes a fascinating figure of excess and madness, experiencing a kind of being that transcends philosophy, secularity, and religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52176-5
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. DISPOSSESSED LIFE: INTRODUCTION TO BRETON’S PAUL
    (pp. 1-32)
    WARD BLANTON
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. 33-36)
  5. 1 BIOGRAPHICAL OUTLINE
    (pp. 37-54)

    When it comes to the life of Paul, we deal with rhapsodic data, scattered throughout the book of the Acts of the Apostles and the letters written to a variety of Christian communities. We find in our two sources, first, what could be called autobiographical confessions.

    “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of a city which is of no small reputation” (Acts 21.39). In Jerusalem, at the time of a riot which threatened to be the death of him, he responds with head held high to the centurion charged by a tribune with “examining [Paul] by...

  6. 2 HERMENEUTICS AND ALLEGORY
    (pp. 55-73)

    We should not expect an explanation from Paul of his allegorical method. First, it is not uniquely his: his apostolic brothers frequently use it in their own preaching. Moreover, it is not even particularly Christian. Philo of Alexandria had introduced it in his interpretation of the Scriptures and he in turn had inherited it from the Greeks. In order to avoid downplaying the distinctions between different approaches or, inversely, exacerbating their differences, we must proceed slowly in trying to achieve some clarity on this rather complicated subject.

    Allegorization is no stranger to Hellenism. In the neo-Platonic writings, we find multiple...

  7. 3 JESUS THE CHRIST: FAITH AND THE LAW
    (pp. 74-95)

    Paul, “a slave of Christ Jesus,” as he likes to call himself in the salutations of his letters (cf. Rom. 1.1.; Phil. 1.1), is also the apostle (“apostle by vocation, set apart” [Rom. 1.1.]; the “apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” [1 Cor. 1.1]) who opposes the authenticity of his Gospel to the seductive discourses of his adversaries. He had “received” this Gospel not “from any man,” but from Christ’s revelation. Who—and what—was Christ, for Paul?

    We doubt that the answer to that question is to be found in the ecumenical councils’ definitions of the...

  8. 4 THE PAULINE COSMOS
    (pp. 96-125)

    The “lord of history” is also, we have said, the “Lord of the world.” This new form of “Lordship,” as linked as it is to the lordship over history, adds to the latter an original dimension, marking a turn in Pauline theology. The object of faith does not change (faith always has the same referent). But in hearing a new aspect in its object, faith is deepened and increased by a discovery that intensifies its fervor.

    The substantive “world” (cosmos), in the vocabulary of the New Testament, takes on a very particular meaning. In Saint John, for example, the signification...

  9. 5 THE CHURCH ACCORDING TO SAINT PAUL
    (pp. 126-141)

    In his role as the founder of Christian communities around the Mediterranean, concerned above all with preserving them in their original fervor, we might think that Paul was too absorbed by his missionary and administrative tasks to have the time or the desire to reflect on his practice. A Roman citizen (remember the pride with which he claimed that title), he would have remained decidedly Roman, captivated as he was by the myth of the Pax Romana, whose harsh realities he ignored or wanted to ignore. In his “appeal to Caesar” during the trial brought against him by the authorities...

  10. 6 THE CROSS OF CHRIST
    (pp. 142-154)

    “Hebrew of hebrews,” Greek by culture, Roman by citizenship, in the end Paul recognized only one decisive form of belonging: that which forever united him in the depths of his being to “Jesus the Christ.” The christic reference that dictates his interpretation of the Scriptures, and his conception of Church and world, seems to be but the shadow cast by a personal relation, converted into the a priori of generalized perception. The case of Paul is so particular that, to respect its originality, we must reject the facile similarities it calls to mind. The faithful of a religion, of a...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 155-166)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 167-168)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 169-176)