We the People

We the People: Israel and the Catholicity of Jesus

Tommy Givens
Copyright Date: 2014
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    We the People
    Book Description:

    We the People explores John Howard Yoder's account of peoplehood and develops an appreciative revision that considers the politics of Jesus in relation to the people of Israel. This revision articulates the theopolitical stakes in relation to the modern nation-state's claims to peoplehood and the observable effects of its exegetical and historical moorings in self-assertion as the new and purified Israel. Tommy Givens then undertakes a critical engagement with Karl Barth's account of God's election and a theologically sensitive exegesis of key biblical texts in dialogue with Carl Schmitt, Jacob Taubes, and N T. Wright.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8445-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Giorgio Agamben writes,

    In the Bible, the concept of a “people” is … divided betweenamandgoy(pluralgoyim).Amis Israel, the elected people, with whom Yahweh formed aberit, a pact; the goyim are the other peoples. The Septuagint translatesamwithlaosandgoyimwithethnē. (A fundamental chapter in the semantic history of the term “people” thus begins here and should be traced up to the contemporary usage of the adjectiveethnicin the syntagmaethnic conflict.)¹

    Peoples have not always been what peoples now are. Peoplehood has a history. With the rise of the...

  5. 1 The Gospel of a People
    (pp. 15-74)

    When the Jerusalem temple police arrested some of Jesus’ spokesmen for the second time, the spokesmen offered a defense of their dissidence. They said that God had made Jesus “ruler and savior to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel” (Acts 5:31). In response, Jerusalem’s governing council

    was infuriated and moved to impose the death penalty. But someone in the council stood up. It was a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was held in honor by all the people. He ordered that the men [Jesus’ spokesmen] be placed outside for a moment, and he addressed...

  6. 2 The Jewishness of Christian Peoplehood Yoder’s Misstep
    (pp. 75-106)

    Few would dispute that historiography is always conducted (or avoided) within a political matrix that determines not only its content but also its function. There is, in a word, a politics to historiography. As we have seen in chapter 1, in Yoder’s own revisionist account of the Jewish-Christian schism, he aims to expose the unfaithful (anti-Jewish) politics of the traditional Christian account and to outline a more faithful way forward, whether in historiography, Jewish-Christian relations, or, more broadly, the way that Christian communities live. He thus makes no secret of the theopolitical aims of his own account. In this chapter,...

  7. 3 “Israel” and the Modern Discourse of Peoplehood
    (pp. 107-176)

    No attempt to describe the people of Israel of yesterday and today can escape the constraints of the politically charged, modern discourse of peoplehood. The discursive patterns in which diverse persons and communities have come to be associated across time and space as this or that “people,” as distinct from others, constitute a contingent field in and through which we live and think in the wake of modernity.¹ This discourse influences the sense we make of the Israelite past, the way we read biblical texts about the people of God (or even what we take biblical texts to be about),...

  8. 4 The Politics of the Election of Israel Help from Karl Barth
    (pp. 177-230)

    The only God who exists is the God of Israel. The only people of God is God’s elect people Israel. That God elects this people means that “the people” is not self-made but made by God. Its constituents do not decide who they are. “Israel” is not an identity that can be expropriated or appropriated by human beings. It is not predicated on human adequacy to any standard. Those who claim to be the people of God cannot justify their claim by adducing anything that they do or have done (e.g., believing, being good or faithful). They bear no intrinsic...

  9. 5 The History of the Election of Israel in the Flesh God’s Story of Hope
    (pp. 231-294)

    Having articulated some key resources of Karl Barth’s account of God’s election for resisting the violent tendencies of the modern discourse of peoplehood, I now turn to address its principal liability. This liability stems from the formal register of his Christology as it bears on his account of election, rendering it inadequately responsive to the messy history of God’s electing activity and thus losing sight of that history. Barth’s account can hold in view only a mythological struggle between two christological forms (i.e., natures) of the people—Israel and the church. Instead of pointing to how the people has been...

  10. 6 The Election of Israel according to the First Gospel
    (pp. 295-344)

    Abstracted from the flesh of Israel, the identity of the people of God becomes a weightless concept, easy to lift from people, carry for a while, wield as a weapon, and leave behind for others to fight over. With the recent atomization of all identity claims, concepts of the identity of the people of God have grown particularly light. Identity is now something people can simply choose for themselves. Or it is their sexual orientation or socioeconomic status or profession or political party. All the while it remains their religion or nationality or ethnicity or culture. It is no surprise,...

  11. 7 The Election of Israel according to the First Letter Romans 9–11
    (pp. 345-412)

    We come finally to thelocus classicusof the election of Israel in the New Testament. Having exposed in the previous chapters some of the snares awaiting the modern reader in Romans 9–11,¹ I aim here to offer a reading of this key text that points to a better understanding of what the election of Israel means for the Christian life, that is, the messianic life.²

    Paul opens with Christian words of solidarity with those in Israel who are his relatives according to the flesh, particularly those who, we will learn later in the argument, are hostile to the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 413-420)

    In 1979, Jacob Taubes wrote the following to Carl Schmitt:

    Perhaps there will still come a moment at which we can speak about what is to me the most significant Jewish as well as Christian political theology, Rom. 9–11. The word “enemy” also appears there, in the absolute sense, but—and this seems to me to be the most decisive of decisive points—connected with “love.”¹

    Taubes sees, with the help of the Apostle Paul, that the basis of peoplehood cannot be what Carl Schmitt theorized it to be under the violent spell of the modern discourse of peoplehood,...

  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 421-430)
  14. Index
    (pp. 431-442)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 443-443)