11. Christianity Appears First, As Itself

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

Bruce Worthington [+-]
University of Toronto
Bruce Worthington is completing his Ph.D. at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, specializing in Biblical Studies and Philosophical Hermeneutics. His published work includes the edited volume Reading the Bible in an Age of Crisis (Fortress 2015), and a number of articles on the topic of biblical interpretation in an age of global capitalism. His work aims to introduce the philosophy of Alain Badiou to the field of biblical studies and apply the critical insights of Badiou to the service of formal biblical interpretation.


In a postmodern world, one where seemingly nothing ever happens, it is easy to affirm the popularly held notion among history of religions scholars that, in regards to the ancient world, “nothing is sui generis, nothing is unique.” In many ways this has been the popular mantra, not only of those engaged in the study of comparative religions, but across the discourse of New Testament studies—in order to understand the meaning of early Christian text and practice, it should be strictly located within the dialectical conditions of its cultural situation, which is, late second Temple Judaism and the Roman Empire (for all that means). The comparative inventory of terms put forth by the history of religions folks has led, in the study of Christian origins, to the event being undone to the point of it being no more than the forever infinite numbering of the gestures, things, words, that co-existed with it, in and around the first century. Instead, the work of Alain Badiou—as it represents the “anti-philosophical” tradition—articulates, in perhaps the clearest fashion, how a truth may proceed in a manner that is sui generis to its cultural situation, without immediate recourse to theological speculation. So, the simple task of this chapter is to show how a truth, established by an event, is supernumerary to its cultural situation, and not the direct result of its own dialectical tensions. Doing so is a direct challenge to the philosophical assumptions of Jonathan Z. Smith, Burton Mack, and others who—on the basis of their own comparative methodology—cannot account for the emergence of novel truth conditions, at least in the realm of biblical studies.

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Worthington, Bruce. 11. Christianity Appears First, As Itself. 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=30154. Date accessed: 24 Jun 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30154. Sep 2020

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