Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul

Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul

Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul

Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul

Synopsis

This book offers a close reading of Romans that treats Paul as a radical political thinker by showing the relationship between Paul's perspective and that of secular political theorists. Turning to both ancient political philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero) and contemporary post-Marxists (Agamben, Badiou, Derrida, and Žižek), Jennings presents Romans as a sustained argument for a new sort of political thinking concerned with the possibility and constitution of just socialities.

Reading Romans as an essay on messianic politics in conversation with ancient and postmodern political theory challenges the stereotype of Paul as a reactionary theologian who "invented" Christianity and demonstrates his importance for all, regardless of religious affiliation or academic guild, who dream and work for a society based on respect, rather than domination, division, and death. In the current context of unjust global empires constituted by avarice, arrogance, and violence, Jennings finds in Paul a stunning vision for creating just societies outside the law.

Excerpt

Why another book on Paul’s letter to the Romans? Since the early third century, when Origen wrote his extensive commentary, this letter has been the most commented-upon text in the New Testament.

Romans is generally read as an exposition of Christian doctrine or (more recently) as a window into early Christianity. Here I will propose another way of reading the text. I will read it as a text that deals with the most fundamental questions of what might be called political philosophy, that is, a thinking of the political, a thinking of the way in which human life is to be ordered as a corporate or common life. Specifically, I will argue that Paul may be read as developing a messianic politics that stands in contrast to the political order established by Rome and as an alternative to the polity of “Moses” or of the “Judeans.” In Paul’s day there had already been attempts by Jewish intellectuals to argue for the superiority of Judean or Mosaic political order to the political order of Rome (Stowers 35). Both Judean and Roman polity had in common that they conceived of the political in terms of the basic law that structured common life. In this they were in a certain continuity with the thinking of the political that had characterized the approaches of Plato and Aristotle, who approached the political as a question of providing a legal order that would produce a just arrangement of social life. Thus, Aristotle, after famously affirming that the human being was the political life-form (zōon politikon), maintained that “justice is the bond of men in states. For the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of . . .

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