7. The "Body of Christ without Organs" and "Becoming-Christ": The Apostle Paul and Christian Deterritorialization

Critical Theory and Early Christianity - Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Judith Butler - Matthew G. Whitlock

Bradley H. McLean [+-]
University of Toronto
Bradley H. McLean (Ph.D. St. Michael’s) is the Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Knox College (University of Toronto) and the Graduate Coordinator at the Toronto School of Theology. He is the author of many books including Biblical Interpretation and Philosophical Hermeneutics (Cambridge University Press, 2012), whose final chapter, "The Embodied Interpreter," is devoted to the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. McLean is particularly interested in the intersection of the Greco-Roman world and contemporary critical theory. His new monograph on Deleuze and Guattari is entitled "The New Testament and Historical-libidinal Materialism: Reading Scripture with Deleuze and Guattari" (forthcoming).

Description

The traditional Enlightenment distinction between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith” is as relevant to Pauline theology as it is anywhere in the New Testament. But even though Paul’s resurrected “Christ of faith” seems to exist outside the historical framework of human life, the Pauline “body of Christ” still possessed material, semiotic, and libidinal coordinates. This chapter will conceptualize Paul’s “body of Christ” in terms of Deleuze’s “body without organs” (BwO), which is a deterritorialized body existing outside of any determined state. The Pauline “body of Christ without organs” is a deterritorialized body that is simultaneously coterminous with the body of believers (1 Cor 12:27), with Eucharistic bread that is broken (1 Cor 12:27), and with the individual bodies of Christian believers, whom Paul exhorts to become Christ (e.g., 2 Cor 3:18, 4:16, 5:17-18, 6:2, Gal 6:20, Phil 3:10). Indeed, for Pauline Christians, the existential counterpoint to “body of Christ without organs” was “becoming Christ.” All becomings, according to Deleuze, “begin with and pass through becoming-woman and are directed towards becoming-imperceptible.” This chapter will argue that “becoming-Christ” similarly entailed “becoming-woman” and “becoming-imperceptible” as its necessary starting point and terminus. But regardless of the specific pathway by which “becoming-Christ” was attained, the bodies of Pauline Christians, so transformed, continued to possess bodies formed through material-discursive practices. For that which the Pauline “body of Christ without organs” and “becoming-Christ” shared in common with other kinds of bodies in the Graeco-Roman world was that they could all be traced back to the material-discursive practices that inscribed boundaries in and between bodies on the plane of immanence.

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Citation

McLean, Bradley . 7. The "Body of Christ without Organs" and "Becoming-Christ": The Apostle Paul and Christian Deterritorialization. Critical Theory and Early Christianity - Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Judith Butler. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2021. ISBN 9781781794135. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=30150. Date accessed: 24 Oct 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30150. Oct 2021

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