Taubes, Paul, and apocalyptic

Reading up on Jacob Taubes in preparation for reading Taubes, in preparation for proposing a paper on Taubes and Paul and apocalyptic. So these are preliminary musings.

Strote's article in Tablet is interesting -- and raises exactly the point at which I wind up disagreeing with Agamben on Romans. Eschatology. Of course, I wind up disagreeing with a large swath of Christianity on eschatology as it is, but doing "Jewish studies" studies and reading Romans from that lens has forced me to discard a lot, in favor of the sense that our eschatology is a tale told, and that the earnest expectation is not what is stated in the tale, but the release that God will give from the bondage of our situation.

I'm not sure I believe in eschatological salvation. You can find my quibbles about heaven and hell back in October or November 2010 somewhere, but destinations are secondary to the plain notion. The saving acts of God happen constantly throughout the life of the endless and expanding relationship between God and creation. And I think we've taken a lot of medieval apocalypticism and turned it into earnest doctrinal expectation, which is a mistake. The judicatory notions that we have granted primacy belong in the tradition, but they do not belong where they are today. Eschatological salvation is a hope for God's good order as the righteous termination of this false and oppressive order. That I can get on board with, because the present order in apocalyptic vision is never something to be celebrated. God's good order breaks in, violates this order and ultimately defeats it -- it belongs to the eschata of evils rather than their teloi. And so it is naturally an end. But it does not therefore belong where we have placed it, at the ultimate end! As a destination after life in all instances, life therefore ruled by all that comes before salvation. This is a mistake. This is how words like eschatological and apocalyptic come to be applied to nuclear holocaust and the like, events devoid of theological content but filled with ultimate human disaster. This is how hope comes to be ultimately escapist, counter to all proper holistic ecology of creation as God's good work and rightful kingdom.

Apocalyptic is an excellent language for hidden transcripts.

I'm obliged to read Paul in ways not necessarily available to Taubes, but certainly influenced by him. Taubes had to take on the Christian Paul, because he was what there was to work with, and to Judaize him even as a radical and rebellious Judean to find any text worth reading. He had to take on a Paul for whom law and faith were antithetical, for whom Christ and the Jews were antithetical, and one is unsurprised that as a German, he chose to do it in the venerable language of Hegel, to use Aufhebung, sublation, the simultaneous annulment and elevated preservation of a thing. The trail he blazed I have seen, though I still have to read the tools he himself constructed for the purpose.

My question, therefore, for Taubes, is about the character of the Pauline eschaton.


  1. Thanks! I did look at both Ben's article on Faith and Theology, and his KBBC contribution. It's helpful relating Taubes to Barth, especially since it seems a natural pairing for Taubes, and everything for me inevitably comes back to Barth. So I default to liking it, but I have a lot of ad fontes work to do before I can really agree or disagree properly with what seems like an outlier among the other readings of Taubes I find. (It was a Barth conference, after all!)


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