Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Bid You Badiou - Part II

Badiou understands Paul as someone who has become. His subjectivity flows entirely from encounter with the resurrected Jesus. There was no lead up, it simply ruptured his present existence and created someone new and without precedent in him. It is Christ resurrected that legitimates his existence, subjectivity and message (Paul does not seek immediate confirmation for the emerging church leaders in Jerusalem). This message leads to Paul found small critical masses of 'comrades' who express faithfulness to the resurrected Christ (they repent and believe). It is from these small and early communal formations that we see Paul as social organizers as his epistles come from the need for maintenance within these groups.
In (short) time Paul's message creates conflict with both Jews and Greeks. Among the Jews there is pressure to legitimate this message within the contingencies of their religion, primarily in circumcision and food laws. It must be stated clearly that in response to the law Paul is not in opposition what matters is adherence to the truth of the event. Following the law is nothing and not following that law is nothing (circumcision in nothing, uncircumcision is nothing, 1 Cor 7:19). This conflict leads to the Jerusalem council where a compromise is brokered that maintains the value of recognizing the historical site Jesus' resurrection (Jewish-Christianity) as well as acknowledging an openness to alternative expressions of faithfulness to the message (Paul's gospel). The conflict should not be underestimated as it erupts again when Paul confronts Peter's duplicity in matters of custom (Peter is breaking Jewish law until he sees James at which time he attempts to reconform to the customs, Gal 2). Badiou sees this experience as decisive in the formation of Paul's message which in large part "is that the law has become a figure of death." There is no more negotiating between law and Christ. Here lies Paul's decisive break with the conditioned expression of Jewish religion, even as it recognizes Jesus as the Messiah.
Badiou then turns his attention to Paul's encounter with the Greeks. Though will to enter conversation Paul offers no sustained critique after the philosophers in Athens burst out laughing at the mention of the resurrection. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul is even more clear that he has no intention in meeting human wisdom with wisdom. This would assume that the event of Christ could come the legitimation of a controlling body of knowledge or natural order.
And so we encounter Paul's two primary referents Jews (law) and Greeks (wisdom). What follows is Badiou's account of how Paul attempts to maintain a social expression that will not fall under controlling paradigm of either.

Okay, time for bed . . . stay tuned.

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