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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Badiou conference

This was a great and very successful conference and very much Ward Blanton's baby. It didn't have the feel of a biblical studies conference as such though there were, obviously, biblical scholars (or at least people conventionally lablelled 'biblical scholars') present and presenting. This was a very good thing from the perspective of biblical studies (and non-biblical studies presumably) because it got some of 'our' stuff out there. There should be much more of this sort of thing: nothing like a load of different voices to provoke thinking.

Badiou's play, The Incident at Antioch, has yet to be published (out later this year I believe and, I think, will be published in English before French). Extracts from the play (a real catch for the conference) were read off scripts by actors who seemed to be linked with Glasgow/Glasgow University in someway and with some pretty impressive performances. The content of the play has some classic debates over Marxism (and such debates continued well into the night - another reason in favour of these multi-disciplinary things) and it'll be fun to read/see in full. But the stand out moment for me was the interview with Badiou because it really clarified his not-always-easy-to-read-and-understand book, Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism (1997). In fact he was very clear and coherent as were the questions.

In one sense Badiou's reading comes across as a secular Lutheran reading (if that makes sense) and strong echoes of the so-called 'old perspective' (this point came out in John Barclay's paper). It actually further convinced me that a lot of that tradition might actually be reading Paul right, even if the reading of Judaism is very suspect. Even though I think the reading is right, I do have problems - and maybe I'm paranoid here - with the hard or radical universalist reading because when abstracted so vigorously it is not difficult to make the move to the non-libertarian Marxist tradition by which I mean totalitarianism (cf. E.P. Thompson's critique of Althusser in The Poverty of Theory). All equal in Marx or Stalin? Now, I'm certainly NOT claiming that of Badiou so I ask: am I being too paranoid here in worrying about this development...? Also, the theological reading might be right but again there are similar dangers. Christianity did become Rome, after all. Moreover, it's all well and good talking about all being equal in Christ, no slaves, no male or female and so on but the oppositions remained and remained for Paul. Isn't there a case of false consciousness here...? I dunno. I'm speculating a little. But I'll ask again: am I being fair?

Incidentally, Badiou talked about four groups who need to come together even though the state will to the very best to prevent this. One was students as a potentially radical group. Those academics based in England immediately thought, I suspect, this as a particularly French thing but it was noted the next day that in Glasgow some some students had taken control of some computer centre at the university (one way to stop a modern university in its tracks) and actually won some demands on Gaza, including studentships for Gazan students. On the other hand, we were also told that some students were sprawling 'Free Gazza' (a football/soccer reference for those outside)...


Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

No doubt well post 70, Antioch became the place where Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus were rubbing shoulders with each other. It would then have seemed quite plausible that a certain Paul (Saul) of Tarsus had earlier come to Antioch to kick-off the mission to Gentiles. (Acts 11:26). Thus the NT editors created an 'authoritative' explanation as to how the mission to Gentiles started from Antioch. (Acts 13:1). But this was not before the editors had sent Paul (Saul) and Barnabas to Jerusalem bearing gifts for an apparent stamp of approval. The reality was that Paul and Barnabas were fictitious, there had been no trip to Jerusalem with gifts, and there was no pre 70 mission to Gentiles. But I have no doubt that quite a few of the events in extant Acts were based on real recorded events that occurred among Jews in the synagogues of Rome.

February 16, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

See if you can understand this:

May be gifts really were sent (Acts 11:30), from Rome by the brothers to Jerusalem, not by the fictitious Barnabas and Saul, but by King Agrippa I who was visiting Rome.

The later editor then 'sells the dummy' by having King Agrippa I persecute the church. (Acts 12:1-19). We have Peter being put in prison and then miraculously escaping. The whole of Acts 12:1-19is a completely fictitious interlude intended to make King Agrippa appear to be in opposition to the 'church'.

In fact King Agrippa I was bringing the collected gifts from Rome to the brothers or prophets in Jerusalem who were being persecuted by the priests. Jumping over the interpolated text about Peter, to Acts 12:19b, we then read that the King went "from Judea to Caesarea". This is editor's dissimulation for 'from Rome to Jerusalem'. The king travelled from Rome taking the gifts that the brothers had given him, but those gifts were not for the priests, they were for the persecuted prophets of Jerusalem with whom the king's allegiances lay.

February 16, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

But what prompted the editor (mostly writer) of Acts to write the episode of Peter being put in prison and then being let out by an angel? The story must surely have been triggered in the writer's mind by some real historical events he was aware of.

In the same story we also have King Herod (why not explicitly Agrippa I?) having someone (James the brother of John - where does that John come from?) killed with a sword. Yet strangely, the King himself dies "eaten by worms" would you believe a few verses later - the worms there are vigorous, good for fishing. Could it be one of those propagandist reversals. Was the King killed by the sword? - it certainly appears he was "struck down" (Acts 12:22), presumably by his enemies.

The story of Peter being put in prison has its parallels in the accounts related to John the Baptist in both the NT and the writings attributed to Josephus.

The clue in Acts that gives the game away, is in these words from 12:20:"He had been quarrelling". Now a King usually 'quarrels' with other Kings over land or property or wealth. And it seems that the ones he had been quarrelling with "now joined together". So we have a conspiracy against Herod Agrippa I. And it seems, they "secured the support" of someone - the conspiracy then had three ring-leaders against the King.

In the writings attributed to Josephus, I suggest it was Agrippa I's two uncles Antipas and Philip who ganged-up on Agrippa I. They secured the support of Jonathan the high priest (with presumably all the 30000 or so other priests) to go to war with Agrippa. Herodias (she always was married to Antipas) got wind of the plot and went to Jerusalem (not Machaerus) to tell her brother Agrippa he was in some danger from the conspirators. So Agrippa put the third member of the plot, the high priest Jonathan, in prison.

thus the stories of Peter and John the Baptist being imprisoned had their origins in the imprisonment of Jonathan. This would have made more enemies for Agrippa who paid for it with his life. He was probably assassinated by armed supporters (warrior priests) of Jonathan. The prophets had lost their supporter and King.

So quietly back to Antioch we go. After all these shindigs: "Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John (would you believe), also called Mark." Now where did they get John from I wonder?

I wonder if Mark Goodacre laughs about the story of Peter being imprisoned! Doesn't he look young in his new photo! He's getting as vain as JG.

February 17, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

In Acts 15:1, I suggest 'some men' came down from Jerusalem to Rome, not Antioch. What they were really concerned about was the prevalent rejection of animal sacrifices by prophetic type Jews.

The issue was at some stage highlighted in the original 1 Cor:8written from Rome to prophets living in Jerusalem. If you look at 8:1, you might see a clue about the writer's view of animals. I would render 8:1 as:

"Now about animals sacrificed to God: We understand that they all possess a spirit,"

Take 8:1b-8.5 as pauline interpolation. I then render 8:6 as:

"yet for us there is but one Spirit from whom all spirits came and by whom we live."

In Jewish theology, every creature and moving thing, including a planet or the sun, was animated by the Spirit of God. Take 8:6b as pauline interpolation. I render 8:7as:

"But priests do not understand this. Some priests are so accustomed to sacrifice that when they sacrifice animals they think of them as having no spirit since their conscience is weak."

I suggest we originally had a prophetic type of writer observing a Noahic vegetarian covenant, and rejecting animal sacrifice because he saw animals as having God's Spirit in them. He seems to be saying that some, like priests, regarded animals as not having a spirit because animals didn't appear to be sentient. But there was another reason for rejection of animal sacrifices which appears in the crunch line of 8:8. I render 8:8 as:

"But sacrifice does not bring us near to God."

Clearly the issue was related to what brought one 'near to God'. I suggest it had nothing to do with what one ate, but with whether you sought cleansing by God's spirit, or by sacrifice. 'Food' was substituted for sacrifice as the issue.

February 20, 2009

Anonymous Concerned said...

Geoff, what in the blue hell have your comments got to do with the conference on Alain Badiou, his reading of Paul and his play, The Incident at Antioch?

February 21, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

As James wrote, "Christianity did become Rome". Well yes we had a very Roman Jesus as a saviour, just like Vespasian, both being portrayed as risking their lives for the rest of the world, coming out of Galilee to boot, in Vespasian's case, apparently fighting his way down through Galilee to Judea, never mind that this was a Flavian fabricated period of war to fill-in what was a long period of peace, before Vespasian's son Titus had the opportunity to painstakingly, and systematically ransack the sanctuary for its wealth, and take the few remaining prophets back to Rome for their triumph.

The Antioch incident (Acts 15:1) was a Rome incident. It had nothing to do with equality of Jews and Gentiles over issues of circumcision and eating. The Rome incident was entirely in a Jewish context, and the issue was about animal sacrifice which was being promoted by the high priests, the 'men from Judea', but was being rejected by many of the brothers (the prophetic types or earliest 'christians') exiled in Rome.

And some priests were going over to the Spirit, as one of those who opposed the visiting high priests ("to their face") argued, "God who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving them the Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts", and that I suggest, not by 'faith', but by obedience of the voice or Spirit they heard. (Acts 15:8). The equality was about God accepting both prophets, 'us' (the earliest 'christians') and priests, 'them', by obedeience in the Spirit, without the need for animal sacrifice for sins.

If the Jewish prophetic movement in Rome had survived, then Christianiy as we know it, a movement with Jesus as saviour would not have arisen, and probably the 'Christian' world (and the Muslim world for that matter) would be worshippers of the Jewish God in a prophetic type of movement of worship in the Spirit from the heart - in effect, a movement that relied on the intrinsic goodness in most human beings Jim West. So the infant was exposed at birth, a very Roman thing to do.

February 22, 2009

Anonymous Concerned said...

Dear Geoff,

James' post is not about Geoff Hudson's history of the church but it is about a contemporary political and philosophical reading of Paul. I ask again, what has your history of the church got to do with a report and discussion of Alain Badiou's reading of Paul?

February 22, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

In a similar vein, we get plays and films about Jesus, for example, that have expert advisors to make sure the 'history' is 'accurate', and the world is expected to swallow the source story as if it is literally true. And no doubt some of those plays and films are also designed to promote political thinking.

Badiou shouldn't believe everything he reads in the NT (as so many literalists do) and then write a play as though his source had some real basis, which I assume he does. If he wanted to write a play about universalism based on fact, why not use a modern, better reported source? If Badiou thinks 'Paul' was some kind of founder of a universalist belief system, he is deluded. The pauline belief system is bound by dogma and has been developed 'on the hoof' as revealed by its inconsistencies, apparently by an author whose very existence is highly questionable, being without beginning of days, nor end of time as he disappears from the story into oblivion in Rome, and that just at the time James is executed by Ananus in Judea.

Anyway me old mate, as you know so much about Badiou, let's see what you have to say about Badiou's reading of this fictitious Paul.

February 22, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Here's an idea for Alain Badiou. It a play about two kings, Rome's blue-eyed boys Agrippa I and II being plotted against and murdered by messianic priests seeking power for themselves, and that in oppositon to the Roman state. A modern parallel is the Taliban wanting to take power away from the Kazai government of Afghanistan, in opposition to the US.

Perhaps Badiou could weave-in a modern scene of the overthrow of the UK monarchy, with a coup by the Green Party. I'd buy that.

February 22, 2009


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