13. Recapitulating the Event: Reading Irenaeus with Alain Badiou

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

Hollis Phelps [+-]
University of Mount Olive
Hollis Phelps (Ph.D. Claremont Graduate University) is assistant professor of religion at the University of Mount Olive, in Mount Olive, NC. He is the author of Alain Badiou: Between Theology and Anti-theology. He is finishing up a manuscript tentatively titled A Radical Christ: Jesus Against Money, Work, and Family, which uses continental thought to read Jesus outside the theological tradition to develop lines for developing a contemporary politics. His current research focuses on the various ways that theological, moral, and economic understandings of debt intersect with each other to shape subjectivity, as a means of thinking beyond debt. He originally became interested in Critical Theory as a supplement to theological reflection, but now view it broadly as a vital tool for opening up religious texts and practices to new and unexpected uses, uses that often cut against the grain of received and current opinion.


Irenaeus’s recapitulation theory of atonement and his reading of history more generally appears to many contemporary readers as hopelessly naïve, since it relies generally on an allegorical method. Irenaeus situates otherwise discreet events typologically, putting them in an ontological relationship with each other that seemingly flattens any sense of historical contingency and, indeed, history itself. I provide in this chapter a re-reading of this notion of recapitulation, drawing on the work of Alain Badiou. Assuming Badiou’s general ontology, which conceives of being as multiple in excess of any organization of the one, I draw specifically on his notions of evental recurrence and the resurrection of truth procedures to outline a materialist theory of typology on the basis of Irenaeus’s theology. When read through the lens of Badiou’s philosophy, recapitulation can be understood differently than a reduction of history to types. Recapitulation is, rather, a way to grasp being’s excess and map evental trajectories from it, forcing connections between otherwise contingent and distinct events.

Notify A Colleague


Phelps, Hollis. 13. Recapitulating the Event: Reading Irenaeus with Alain Badiou. 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=30156. Date accessed: 14 Aug 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30156. Oct 2021

Dublin Core Metadata