A markedly contemporary study that navigates the New Testament scholar past the perils of Pauline theology. Boyarin...


A RADICAL JEW: Paul and the Politics of Identity

A markedly contemporary study that navigates the New Testament scholar past the perils of Pauline theology. Boyarin (Talmudic Culture/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley; Carnal Israel, not reviewed) attempts to ""reclaim Paul as an important Jewish thinker."" He goes on to establish this primary apostle as a Hellenized Jew whose Platonic sensibility calls for a universal sameness that negates the divisions separating Jew from Gentile and man from woman. The disembodied spirituality of Platonic dualism allows females (especially virgins) to be equal to men under Christ, and allows an uncircumcised Christian of any gender to ""circumcise the foreskin of her [sic] heart"" with Hebrew Bible commandments universalized and allegorized. Boyarin does not glibly valorize Paul as a champion of feminism and an opponent of Jewish exclusivist chauvinism. After crediting Paul for being a radical social critic, the author makes clear how the apostle's pre-Marxist universalism too easily slid into violent coercion in the later, blood-soaked chapters of Christian history. Boyarin analyzes the work of many Christian scholars in concluding that Lutheran misinterpretations of Paul allow us to consider the apostle to be far more antagonistic to Jews and Judaism than he really was. The benefit of Boyarin's Jewish defense against hermeneutical Christian anti-Semitism is tempered by his disdain for a Judaic ""tendency towards contemptuous neglect for human solidarity"" and his anti-Zionism (""modern Jewish statist nationalism has been...very violent and exclusionary""). Sometimes he confuses Christian ""salvation"" theology with Jewish belief, and he fails to find any similarity between Pauline Platonism and the allegorical and universal levels of Torah laws. The final chapter digresses to a personal view of the ""essentialist/social constructionist dichotomy,"" but the book does end with ample notes and bibliography. A rewarding read for students of Christian theology willing to be challenged by today's multicultural, poststructuralist, postfeminist scholarship.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0520212142

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994