Profaning Paul

Cavan W. Concannon. Univ. of Chicago, $27.50 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-226-81565-7
Concannon (When You Were Gentiles), a religion professor at the University of Southern California, argues that the apostle Paul’s legacy has been distorted for progressive purposes in this provocative theology. In pushing back against efforts by both theologians and philosophers to contextualize and explain Paul’s words, Concannon points out harmful passages in Paul’s seminal writings, including his message for slaves to obey masters and his calls for women to submit. He also accuses previous thinkers (such as Simon Critchley’s praise of a “Paul who takes on the establishment”) of being “sanitation workers” who attempt to displace the bad parts of Paul in order to redeem him. With this lens, Concannon critiques theological and philosophical approaches to interpreting Paul’s writing (including philosopher Alain Badiou’s) and offers some praise of those that show Paul as double-edged but still valuable, including filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and scholar Brian Blount. Using Giorgio Agamben’s theory of profanation (returning something sacred to everyday use) and the creative reworkings and rejections of Paul’s writings by enslaved African Americans, Concannon argues that Paul does not contain universal truths but there is still utility in studying his words against his intentions. This heady blend of Continental philosophy, biblical studies, and critical theory will be sure to spark debate among scholars grappling with Paul and his legacy. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 09/03/2021
Release date: 12/01/2021
Genre: Religion
Hardcover - 184 pages - 978-0-226-81563-3
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