9. The Many Acts of the Apostles: Simulacra and Simulation

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

Matthew G. Whitlock [+-]
Seattle University
Matthew G. Whitlock (Ph.D. The Catholic University of America) is Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University. He researches the multilingual poetry of the LXX and the New Testament, publishing most recently in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly (“Acts 1:15-26 and the Craft of New Testament Poetry,” January 2014). He is also interested in the intersections between Paul, Acts of the Apostles, and the so-called apocryphal Acts. He wrote a chapter on Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles (“From the Acts of the Apostles to Paul: Shaking off the Muffled Majesty of Impersonal Authorship” in Unity and Diversity in the Gospels and Paul: Essays in Honor of Frank J. Matera, Society of Biblical Literature, 2012) using the theories of Henry James, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Alain Badiou to consider what unifies these diverse works. Since 2010, Whitlock has participated in a faculty seminar on Critical Theory at Seattle University, researching the works of Badiou, Deleuze, DeLanda, Meillassoux, Bennett, and Latour.
Philip L. Tite [+-]
University of Washington
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Philip L. Tite is an Affiliate Lecturer at the University of Washington and an adjunct instructor at Seattle University in Seattle WA USA. He holds a PhD degree from McGill University (2005) and has authored several books and articles. His most recent books include The Apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans: An Epistolary and Rhetorical Analysis (TENT, 7; Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2012) and Valentinian Ethics and Paraenetic Discourse: Determining the Social Function of Moral Exhortation in Valentinian Christianity (NHMS, 67; Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2009). As a specialist in the study of early Christianity, in particular Valentinian Gnosticism, Tite has strong interests in elucidating social processes at work in the study of religious phenomena. He also has strong interests in method and theory, religion and violence, and pedagogical issues in the academic study of religion.


What does Critical Theory’s discussion of simulacra reveal about the quest for Christian origins in Acts of the Apostles and early Christian texts? This chapter explores Deleuze’s theories about simulacra, contrasting them to those of Jean Baudrillard, and then applies them to the Acts tradition. On the one hand, Baudrillard views simulacra negatively, claiming that we have been so overcome by copies of copies that we have lost sight of the real. His theories affirm the dichotomy between the real and the virtual, and the original and the copy. Applying Baudrillard’s theories to the quest for Christian origins, we see that we are left only with copies of copies of early Christian “origins.” And if we seek the “authentic” or “authoritative” essence of Christianity behind these copies, we find, in Baudrillard’s terms, “the desert of the real.” On the other hand, Deleuze views simulacra positively, claiming that life is a simulacrum of becoming, an infinite and evolving series of real images and real differences. Deleuze’s theories challenge the dichotomies between the real and the virtual, authentic and inauthentic, authoritative and apocryphal—dichotomies too often undergirding modern quests for Christian origins. Using Deleuzian theories, we examine early Christian texts not as authentic and authoritative representations of an original source or essence, but as a continuous and evolving series of real images and real differences, a simulacrum of becoming. Applying these theories to the Acts tradition, we examine how prayer formulas repeat and differ from Luke to Acts, and from Acts to the so-called apocryphal Acts, and how this series of forms, in Deleuze’s words, leads to “the abandonment of representation.”

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Whitlock, Matthew; Tite, Philip. 9. The Many Acts of the Apostles: Simulacra and Simulation. Critical Theory and Early Christianity - Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Judith Butler. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Sep 2020. ISBN 9781781794135. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=30152. Date accessed: 25 Jun 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30152. Sep 2020

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