Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Betrayal of Paul

All scripture citations come from the King James Version

Around the year 57 A.D., the Apostle Paul was arrested by the Romans, after the Jews had sought to do him violence, and he was eventually beheaded in Rome (A.D. 68), betrayed by his people (the Jews) and his Empire (Rome). However, this was not the only betrayal of which to speak. Assuming Paul was the man whom Alain Badiou describes, which is another question entirely, he ultimately betrayed himself through the creation of a particular tradition. 

Badiou described a man who presents the world with a pure event – Christ’s resurrection – which was “neither a bequest, nor a tradition, nor a teaching,”[1] but during his mission work this was what occurred. Throughout his missionary work, Paul preached in the synagogues (Acts 14:1), to women (Acts 16:13), to prisoners (Acts 27), to barbarians (Acts 28), and all those disaffected around the Roman Empire. Paul’s message of weakness as strength and folly as wisdom certainly appeals to the ressentiment[2] of the disaffected. As Paul traversed the Roman world, he established churches composed of people who identify themselves as Christians, a communitarian group identified by signs and wisdom.

These disaffected churches established an indentitarianism within the Roman world, distinguishing themselves through their weakness and folly, regardless of Paul’s desires (as Badiou describes them). Being Greeks and Jews, they could not escape their origins and relied upon signs and wisdom for proofs of their correctness.[3] Luke, a companion of Paul, who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, used miracles, such as Paul casting out demons (Acts 16:18), to great effect in proving the rightness of their cause, once again entering into the “logic of the master.”[4] While Paul, as Badiou claims, might not approve of such logic and mastery, his disciples did not seem to possess similar convictions. 

And unlike Nietzsche’s Zarathustra,[5] Paul created disciples, whom he sent as representatives to the corners of the known world, which he was not able to visit personally (Acts 19:22). These disciples repaid Paul poorly, because they remained pupils.[6] Paul writes epistles to his disciples Timothy at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3) and Titus at Crete (Titus 1:4,5). Rather than losing Paul and finding themselves,[7] they turn to Paul as to a master, and as seems evident from the epistles, they are constantly in dangers of returning to the signs of the Jews and the wisdom of the Greeks (Titus 3:9).

Though Paul might have fought to stem the tide of such tendencies while alive, he could not stem the tide of communitarianism and indentitarianism in the Christian Church which took place after his death. This phenomenon was taking place in the early Church, and it has continued into the modern era with the proliferation of Christian denominations, many of whom follow Pauline traditions, such as the Paulists of the Catholic Church. Paul’s creation of disciples and establishment of churches, both of whom must adhere to the even – Christ resurrection, was the foundation of his own betrayal. 



[1] Alain Badiou, St. Paul: The Foundations of Universalism, tr. Ray Brassier, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 63
[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, tr. Walter Kaufmann, (New York: Modern Library Edition, 1992), 444, 472
[3] Badiou, St. Paul, 57
[4] Ibid., 59
[5] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, tr. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Penguin Books, 1966), 78
[6] Ibid., 78
[7] Ibid., 78

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