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
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.