Quick Book Review: Paul in the Grip of the Philosophers

paulgripofphilosophersTitle: Paul in the Grip of the Philosophers: The Apostle and Contemporary Continental Philosophy

Editor: Peter Frick

Bibliographic info: 192 pp.

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2013.

Buy the book at Amazon.

With thanks to Fortress Press for the review copy.

This collection of studies shows how Continental philosophers (e.g. Kant, Mendelssohn, Spinoza, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Fichte, Heidegger, Žižek, Derrida, Vattimo) have made of the apostle Paul, with the intent of helping the reader of the apostle Paul find their orientation in the discussion on him vis-à-vis Continental philosophy.

For those not entirely sure what is denoted by “Continental philosophy” I wrote out a brief explanation of it here.

The introduction lays out the gist of how Continental philosophers have employed Paul:

[Continental philosophers] use Paul as if his thought is a quarry from which they can pick up a few useful stones for their own ideological buildings. … Continental philosophy uses the voice of Paul, but does not always give him his own voice. Continental philosophy changes the voice of Paul to say things that Paul may not have been willing to say.

The chapters and their respective authors are as follows:

  1. Neitzche: The Archetype of Pauline Deconstruction (Peter Frick)
  2. Heidegger and the Apostle Paul (Benjamin Crowe)
  3. Paul of the Gaps: Agamben, Benjamin and the Puppet Player (Roland Boer)
  4. Jacob Taubes–Paulinist, Messianist (Larry Welborn)
  5. Circumcising the Word: Derrida as a Reader of Paul (Hans Ruin)
  6. Gianni Vattimo and Saint Paul: Ontological Weakening, Kenosis, and Secularity (Anthony Sciglitano Jr.)
  7. Baidou’s Paul: Founder of Universalism and Theoretician of the Militant (Frederiek Depoortere)
  8. Agamben’s Paul: Thinker of the Messianic (Alan Gignac)
  9. Mad with the Love of Undead Life: Understanding Paul and Žižek (Ward Blanton)
  10. The Philosophers’ Paul and the Churches (Neil Elliott)

I will not go into a detailed looked at each chapter, though I will say that I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Neitzche, Heidegger, and Baidou. In fact, all of Continental philosophers could be said to follow a trajectory or tradition that has Nietzsche as a key forebear. Frick shows how a key dilemma for Nietzsche in regards to Paul was his understanding of sin. Frick takes up the taske of looking at the “Nietzschean antagonism” against Paul’s dialectic of sin vis-à-vis its exegetical, theological and philosophical nuances.

This is definitely an interesting approach to the apostle Paul. If your into Pauline studies, then I would recommend you read this and expand your understanding of how Paul has been appropriated by various thinkers.

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