Paul's Summons to Messianic Life

Paul's Summons to Messianic Life: Political Theology and the Coming Awakening

L. L. WELBORN
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/welb17130
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  • Book Info
    Paul's Summons to Messianic Life
    Book Description:

    Taubes, Badiou, Agamben, Žižek, Reinhard, and Santner have found in the Apostle Paul's emphasis on neighbor-love a positive paradigm for politics. By thoroughly reexamining Pauline eschatology, L. L. Welborn suggests that neighbor-love depends upon an orientation toward the messianic event, which Paul describes as the "now time" and which he imagines as "awakening." Welborn compares the Pauline dialectic of awakening to attempts by Hellenistic philosophers to rouse their contemporaries from moral lethargy and to the Marxist idea of class consciousness, emphasizing the apostle's radical spirit and moral relevance.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53915-9
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. 1 NEIGHBOR (A)
    (pp. 1-10)

    In Romans 13, Paul enlarges upon a conviction that he first expressed some years earlier in his epistle to the Galatians (5:14): “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”¹ Leviticus 19:18 (Septuagint), from the heart of the Holiness Code,² is cited as warrant for the one obligation that remains for members of the messianic community: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves the other has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). Epitomizing the Torah in a demi-Decalogue (Rom. 13:9),³ Paul asserts that “the word”...

  6. 2 KAIROS (B)
    (pp. 11-22)

    According to Paul, the possibility of executing the command to love the neighbor arises from an awareness, or recognition, of thekairos(Rom. 13:11). The opening of the paragraph that supplies the eschatological rationale for the love command has presented difficulties to interpreters, because the expression of Paul’s thought is so compressed and pregnant:kai touto eidotes ton kairon, “And this knowing thekairos” (Rom. 13:11a).¹ Commentators endeavor to ameliorate the difficulty by supplying a finite verb, such aspoieite: “Andyou should dothis, knowing thekairos.”² Others hypothesize that the expressiontouto eidotesis a citation formula introducing...

  7. 3 AWAKENING (C)
    (pp. 23-36)

    What is this “awakening” (egerthēnai) that describes the process by which the past and present are concentrated in “the now time”? I propose to investigate the process that Paul images as “awakening” by excavating, first of all, the antecedent stage of consciousness that Paul’s description invokes: namely, sleep (hupnos). While moral lethargy and even corruption and depravity are frequently represented as sleep in ancient literature,¹ there is a palpable density and gloominess about such images in the literature of the first century C.E.² In Seneca’sHercules Furens,³ the characters move through “the desolation of everlasting night, and something worse than...

  8. 4 AWAKENING (C’)
    (pp. 37-44)

    The moment has now come to address the crucial question: what is the nature of the experience that Paul images as “awakening”? At first glance, it might seem that Paul’s summons to awakening has much in common with the exhortations of Hellenistic philosophers to transcend base desires and overcome moral lethargy. Such admonitions occur frequently in the literature of this period, including the Jewish wisdom tradition.¹ In the pseudo- PlatonicCleitophon, Socrates’s discourses to those who spend their energy on acquiring wealth, and who are mastered by their pleasures, are judged to be “truly capable of waking us up, as...

  9. 5 KAIROS (B’)
    (pp. 45-54)

    We may now seek to comprehend the particularity of that stage in the process of salvation that Paul images as “awakening” in Romans 13:11-14. In what way does this experience differ from the antecedent stages in the process―calling, revelation, death-and-resurrection of the self, bearing about of the Messiah’s dying-and-rising through the world? We may begin with clues in the text of Romans 13:11-14.¹

    First, awakening is characterized by proximity―a proximity that is both spatial and temporal: “our salvation isnearer(egguteron) than when we first believed” (Rom.13:11); “the day is drawn near (ēggiken).”² Perhaps we can circumscribe this spatial and...

  10. 6 NEIGHBOR (A’)
    (pp. 55-70)

    How does an awakening among those who have discerned thekairosmake it possible to fulfill the command to love the neighbor? Or how does the eschatological faith professed in Romans 13:11-14 empower the political ethics enjoined in Romans 13:8-10? Or, once again, how does the messianic temporality of awakened being liberate persons so that they may obligate themselves to mutual love?

    Again, we start from features of the text. First, the capacity to obligate oneself to mutual love arises only when all other obligations have been renounced: “Owe no one anything (mēdeni mēden opheilete), except to love one another”...

  11. 7 CODA
    (pp. 71-72)

    Where does it stand today with Paul’s summons to awakening? In my view, past eras instance several movements that are more than sporadic tremors of awakening: the monastic movement led by Francis of Assisi,¹ the struggle for social justice led by Martin Luther King.² Yet, for several decades now, a profound sleep has descended over most of the world because of the triumph of global capitalism. In a discourse that Giorgio Agamben delivered in March2009 in Notre Dame Cathedral in the presence of the Bishop of Paris and other high-ranking clerics, he charged the church catholic with having forgotten its...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 73-126)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 127-128)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 129-130)