Saturday 17 September 2011

The Bible and Critical Theory 7, 2 (2011)

The latest edition of The Bible and Critical Theory, now published in open-access format, contains the following essays around the theme of ‘Biblical Politics’:

Roland Boer

Editorial: Biblical Politics

Yvonne Sherwood

The Place of Religion in the Iconography of Democracy and the Politics/Aesthetics of ‘Representation’ (Race/Religion/Sex)

Looking (briefly) at a few test cases, this article raises some preliminary questions about crude and aporetical uses of the category ‘religion’ in European law, public policy, and what might be called the cultural aesthetics of the democratic. In particular I explore awkward updates of blasphemy legislation. Symptomatically, these a) pluralise religion to the point where lack of religion, or as the revised German criminal code of 1969 puts it Weltanschauungsvereinigungen (‘World-View Organisations’?) are welcomed under the canopy of protection, provided that they can prove quasi-religious status; and b) rework religion as a category akin to race in legislation against racial and religious ‘hate’. I also briefly probe anti-discrimination legislation in England and Wales, where a so-called ‘philosophical’ belief can qualify as religious belief, worthy of the same protection, if it can be proved that ‘it is a belief and not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available’; it is ‘genuinely held’; it is ‘compatible’ with ‘human dignity’ and ‘human rights’; it is ‘weighty and substantial’ and attains a ‘certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance’.

James Crossley

The Multicultural Christ: Jesus the Jew and the New Perspective on Paul in an Age of Neoliberalism

In a recent book I argued that the contemporary scholarly rhetoric of a ‘Jewish Jesus’ who consistently transcends the Judaism(s) constructed by scholarship is, in part, the product of dominant Anglo-American attitudes towards the Middle East over the past forty years and a dramatic change in perceptions of Israel and the Holocaust since 1967 (Crossley 2008). Underlying this ‘Jewish ... but not that Jewish’ Jesus is, clearly, an updated form of Orientalism and related understandings of Otherness and cultural difference. What I want to do in this article is to show how other dominant and complementary discourses and historical trends have contributed to this kind of understanding of both Jesus and Paul in contemporary scholarship, particularly multiculturalism in relation to neoliberalism and postmodernity. In addition to shedding further light on the strange ‘Jesus the Jew’ rhetoric, it becomes clear that the scholarly success of the much vaunted New Perspective on Paul owes much to its cultural and ideological contexts.

Mika Ojakangas

Becoming Whosoever: Re-examining Pauline Universalism

In my article I examine, on the one hand, the emergence of the idea of universal natural law in Greek antiquity and especially in Roman Stoic thought. On the other hand, I compare this philosophical universalism (universalism of logos/ratio) with Christian and especially Pauline universalism. I argue that the Pauline conception of universalism is very different from the philosophical understanding of it. It is not a category that transcends particular cultures and identities in the name of universal principles (as in Greek and Stoic thought) but rather a category that denotes a process of rupture of all principles (nomos, arche, and so on).

Roland Boer

Paul’s Uncertain Transitions

Focusing on the constitutive contradictions that run through the letters of Paul, this article offers a historical-materialist answer. In other words, it widens the analysis of Paul beyond mere literary or limited contextual questions, to ask what modes of production constitute the problem to which Paul attempts an unwitting but profoundly influential answer. That is, what socio-economic situation provides the question that Paul seeks to answer at an ideological level, thereby attempting an imaginary resolution of a real social contradiction?

Milena Kirova

Knowledge, Information and Power in the ‘Biblical’ Sense: The story of King Saul

By setting the story of Saul in 1 Samuel within its ancient literary context – Egypt and Mesopotamia – and by deploying and reshaping Foucault’s panopticism, now as ‘panaudiscism’, this article offers a reading of King Saul in a way that pays attention to ears and hearing, to the oral and the aural. In this light, Saul fate is tied in all too closely with his ability to hear, or not.

Rudolf J. Siebert

Toward a Radical Naturalistic and Humanistic Interpretation of the Abrahamic Religions: In Search for the Wholly Other than the Horror and Terror of Nature and History

In this sweeping work, Rudolf Siebert goes beyond and develops further and creatively applies the argument found in his recent three volume Manifesto in a relatively succinct form. Drawing upon the rich resources of the Critical Theory of Society of the Frankfurt School but also the vast tradition of critical philosophy and theology, Siebert offers a ‘critical’ analysis. A critical approach (from the Greek kritikos, able to discern) implies that religious phenomena are examined according to both their positive and negative impacts, with help from the critical theory of society. A critical approach is not neutral. Critical theorists of religion are engaged in informed assessments which enable action in the public sphere. Siebert’s focus is nothing less than some aspects of the three Abrahamic Religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and their sacred writings – the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and The Holy Qur’an.

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