9. Paul, the “jewish Problem,” and the “Woman Question”
In these final chapters of my book, I will be considering the historical effects and reflexes of both the Pauline discourse of the “universal” as well as the rabbinic discourse of the “particular.” Once more, I will emphasize, this is a book in which there are no winners and losers. Both poles of this dialectic, the universalist thesis and the particularist antithesis, or, the particularist thesis and the universalist antithesis, present what seem to me to be both enormous ethical and political problems as well as enormous promise, each for reasons quite naturally directly opposite from the other.
Romans 11: Particularist Universalism
If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.…For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.
This is a passage truly astonishing in its richness which I think has been underused in readings of Paul on “the Jews.”  It seems to me to contain—“contain,” in several senses—all of the ambiguity of Paul's understanding of the ratio between the historical, genealogical Israel and the new believers in Christ from the gentiles. Ultimately, what we must remember as we read these verses, clearly intended as a stirring call to gentile Christians not to despise Jews, is that the Jewish root which supports them has been continued solely in the Jewish Christians. The branches which have been lopped off—for all Paul's hope and confidence that they may be rejoined some day—are those Jews who remain faithful to the ancestral faith and practice and who do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. We thus see the peculiar logic of supersession at work here. Because Israel has not been superseded, therefore most Jews have been superseded. Let me unpack the paradox some more. The issue is not whether ethnic Jews have been displaced from significance within the Christian community but whether a community of faith (= grace) has replaced a community of flesh (= genealogy and circumcision) as Israel. Precisely because the signifier Israel is and remains central for Paul, it has been transformed in its signification into another meaning, an allegory for which the referent is the new community of the faithful Christians, including both those faithful Jews (as a privileged part) and the faithful gentiles but excluding the Jews who do not accept Christ. Of course, Paul does not argue that the term Israel refers only to gentile Christians! How could he have done so, since in so doing he would have left himself, Barnabas, Peter, and even Jesus out? As he himself says, “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1). This, however, is not proof that Paul's theology is not supersessionist, for the historical understanding of Israel has been entirely superseded in the new, allegorical interpretation (pace Campbell 1992, 143). Indeed, I am convinced that the main point of Paul's argument is precisely to persuade gentile Christians of the invalidity of a certain notion of supersession, one found for instance in the gospel of John, to the effect that God has rejected the Jews tout court and that the new Israel is entirely gentile Christians (Campbell 1992, 170–75). As I have already argued, supersession can be understood in two ways. Although Paul argues against one version of supersession, I will suggest yet again on the basis of Romans 11 that from a Jewish perspective his theology is nevertheless supersessionist. At the very site of Paul's main argument for tolerance of Jews, I find the focal point of his ultimate and unintended devaluation of Jewish difference.
In the beginning of the passage, Paul writes: “If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump.” The ceremony of the dough offering involves the separation of a small portion of the dough before baking and offering it to a priest as holy food. Paul suggests that if the portion separated is holy, then since it is of the same substance as all of the dough, all the lump must be holy as well. “First fruits” is a commonly used prophetic metaphor for Israel. The metaphor, however, has been transvalued in Paul. The relation of first fruits is no longer of Israel to humanity but of Christian Jews to Jews as a whole. Now the crux of Paul's argument is for the continuing significance of the Jewish People. If the Christian part is holy, so is the rest. Paul, however, subtly shifts the ground upon which he is standing. On the one hand, he argues that the Christian Jews are merely a saving remnant, such as the one that the same prophetic texts would speak of from Elijah to Jeremiah. Here, however, is where the shift comes in, for the saving remnant is no longer, as it was in the prophets, those Jews who are faithful to the commandments, the works of the Torah, but is now defined by grace alone. For the prophets as well, it was clear that a remnant would persist through history that would guarantee the salvation of all Israel at the end-time, so in a sense Paul has changed nothing, but for those very prophets the remnant was defined by faithfulness to works—all works, circumcision and charity—while for Paul the ground has explicitly shifted from works to a new, arbitrary election of some of Israel who have been chosen to have faith in Christ now. A new, if temporary, election has been added to the original one. Although ultimately God has not abandoned the original election by grace of Israel, a new act of grace has taken place which replaces those who are faithful to the original covenant with those who have faith in Christ as the remnant of Israel. Surely, those left behind will in the end be gathered into this community of faith, so God's honesty has not been impugned, but for the moment at least, Jews who have not accepted Christ are simply left by the wayside. Precisely, however, as that moment stretched into millennia, this doctrine became inevitably one of supersession even without—indeed, as it may have stood against—the sectarian formulation and violence of a community such as the one that later would produce John's gospel.
Paul's second metaphor in the chapter makes this even clearer. The metaphor is based on the practice of the grafting of fruit trees. Branches of different sub-species and indeed even of different species can be attached to root-stock such that they form effectively one plant. To perform this operation, however, existing branches often have to be pruned in order to make room for the new ones and also to give them a fair chance at the vitality and nutrients of the root. This is Paul's metaphor, then, for his new formation. The root remains Israel, and just as in the case of a graft, the root-stock defines what the plant, in some sense, is and gives it nutriment, so also the new plant of Christians remain defined as Israel. Branches, however, have been lopped off to make room for the new grafted ones. The branches that have been removed are, of course, those Jews who “refuse” to believe in Christ; that is, those Jews who constituted what used to be called Israel. It follows that the grafted Israel—including both Jewish and gentile believers in Christ—is now the true, living Israel, and the rejected branches are at best vestiges, at worst simply dead. The Old Israel has been superseded and replaced with a New Israel, precisely, as claimed, because Israel itself has not been superseded. The claim of some scholars, therefore, that the notion of the Church as a New Israel that superseded the old first appears in Justin Martyr seems to me falsified by this passage (Gager 1983, 228, citing P. Richardson 1969, 9–14; see also Campbell 1992, 49 and 74–75). Paul holds out to the Jews the possibility of reinclusion in the community of faith by renouncing their “difference” and becoming the same and one with the grafted Israel of gentile and Jewish believers in Christ, but if they do not, they can only be figured as the dead and discarded branches of the original olive tree. There is, on the one hand, what I take to be a genuine, sincere passion for human (re)-unification and certainly a valid critique of “Jewish particularism,” but on the other hand, since the unification of humankind is predicated on sameness through faith in Christ, those humans who choose difference end up effectively non-human (Shell 1991).
Let me put this another way. I think that it is here that the moment of a “cultural reading” of the text comes in, that is, a reading informed by a different culturally defined subject position from the one that normally and normatively has read this text, and I am reading from the point of view of a member of that Jewish group that refuses to believe in Jesus and abandon our ancestral practices and commitments. On the one hand, Paul is clearly arguing against a certain kind of anti-Judaic boasting: “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you” (17–18). But on the other hand, imagine reading this from the perspective of a broken-off branch, and you will see why it is cold comfort indeed. I think that the very utilization of the sign “Israel” for Paul's discourse both enables and constrains it to be forever caught in a paradox of identity and difference. “Israel” is, almost by definition, a sign of difference (cp. Campbell 1992, 27, who makes substantially the same claim but draws almost the exact opposite conclusion). The story of Israel in the Hebrew Bible is essentially a myth of tribal identity, not entirely unlike other tribal myths of origin and identity. The appropriation of the story of a particular tribe, with all that marks it as such, as the story of all humanity would inevitably lead to paradox and even contradiction. If one olive tree among all the others has come to be the all-in-all, then any others become necessarily only so much dead wood. It is in this ambivalent symbol, then, that there begins a certain logic of exclusion by inclusion, or “particular universalism” that would characterize Christian discourse historically. In the final chapter below I will suggest that rabbinic Judaism, particularly its strategy of self-deterritorialization, constitutes an attempt to retain the discourse of the tribal myth as such, i.e., without universalizing it, even in drastically changed historical situations, and constitutes therefore the exact antithesis to Paul. To be sure, it is only the story of one olive tree, and to be sure as well, it is convinced of itself that it is the only “cultivated” one and all the others are mere wild olives, but it does leave room for those wild olives to continue living alongside it in the grove. They do not have to be grafted in.
I wish, however, to reemphasize a point that I already made in the last chapter. There is an enormous difference between the nascent Pauline doctrine of supersession, and those of some other later Christian theologies. Paul's doctrine is not anti-Judaic! It does not ascribe any inherent fault to Israel, Jews, or Judaism that led them to be replaced, superseded by Christianity, except for the very refusal to be transformed. As in 2 Corinthians 3, it is the denial on the part of most Jews that a veil has been removed and the true meaning of Torah revealed that leads them to become pruned-off branches. I treat Paul's discourse as indigenously Jewish, thereby preempting (or at least recasting) the question of the relationship between Paul and anti-Semitism. This is an inner-Jewish discourse and an inner-Jewish controversy. The only flaw in the rejected branches is their rejection. Indeed, they still retain their character as Israel, and if they will only return they are assured of a successful regrafting. The point will only be clear if we forget for a moment the subsequent history and imagine ourselves into the context of the first century. One way to do that will be through an analogous situation in our own time, where, once again, the meaning of Torah is extremely contested. Reform Jews consider Orthodoxy seriously flawed in its “refusal” to see that the Torah “intended” itself to change with the times, and Orthodox Jews see Reformers as heretics, but no one doubts the Jewishness of either group, nor considers the other “anti-Semitic”! I would argue for the analogous analysis of the situation of first-century Judaism with the Qumran covenanters, Pharisees, Sadducees, Paul, and others all on the same footing as competing and mutually exclusive claims for having the truth of Torah. They all attack each other intemperately but none can be considered anti-Judaic.
In that sense, Sanders is absolutely correct in his statement that the only flaw that Paul finds in Jews is that they are not Christians. However—and this is a very big qualification—“not being Christian” is, on my understanding, not an arbitrary, christological, or purely formalist disqualification, because I, in contrast to Sanders, understand Paul as moving from plight to solution, namely, from the theological plight of a tension between the universalistic claims of Jewish theology (particularly as reinterpreted subconsciously through the lens of Hellenistic “universalism,” as they had been for centuries by now) and the particularistic nature of its prescribed practices (Hengel 1974). This interpretation is verified by Paul's insistence that the remnant is chosen by grace (= faith) and not by works (verses 5–6). Paul had simply taken the first to be the signified of the second, and argued that in the revelation of Christ (in the world and to him individually) the true meaning of the particular practices as signifiers of the universal theology had been revealed. The consequence of refusal, however, of the lesson of that revelation was to be pruned from the branch of Israel, lopped off and left for dead by the roadside, and that was, indeed, the fate of the Jews in Christian history.Precisely because we understand “grace” and “works” as sociological markers, then we must understand Romans 11:5–6 as reflecting a replacement of the historical, physical Jewish tribe, with its cultural practices, by another kind of community, defined by grace. Indeed it has always been the case that only part of Israel are the elect, but election until now has been defined through commitment to Israel's historical practice and memory. No longer: The remnant is now defined through its graceful acceptance of Christ. No longer Israel according to the flesh, but Israel according to the spirit—that Israel signified by the physical and historical one.
Israel in the Flesh: The Embodied Subject of the Jew
The dialectic between a Christian universalism and a Jewish particularism is perhaps first explicitly enunciated in a remarkable text of the mid second century, Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew, a text for which Galatians provides a vitally significant intertext, even though Paul is never mentioned in it. Trypho quite eloquently represents the puzzlement of a rabbinic Jew confronted with such a different pattern of religion:
But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision. (Justin 1989, 199)
Circumcision is thus a site of difference in the same way that a female body is a site of difference, and thus a threat to univocity. And so Justin answers Trypho:
For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you,—namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts. For if we patiently endure all things contrived against us by wicked men and demons, so that even amid cruelties unutterable, death and torments, we pray for mercy to those who inflict such things upon us, and do not wish to give the least retort to any one, even as the new Lawgiver commanded us; how is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us,—I speak of fleshly circumcision, and Sabbaths, and feasts. (Justin 1989, 203)
The crucial issue dividing Judaism from Christianity is the relation to the body, in general as a signifier of corporeal existence in all of its manifestations and here, in particular, as a signifier of belonging to a particular kin-group.
The dualism of body and spirit in anthropological terms transferred to the realm of language and interpretation provides the perfect vehicle for this carnal signification to be transcended. Justin repeats accordingly the gesture of Philo in understanding the corporeal rites, the holidays, the Sabbath, circumcision, as being “symbols” of spiritual transformations (Justin, 201), again exceeding Philo, of course, in that for the former the corporeal existence of the signifier was still crucially relevant, while for Justin it has been completely superseded:
For the law promulgated on Horeb is now old, and belongs to yourselves alone; but this is for all universally.…For the true spiritual Israel, and the descendants of Judah, Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham (who in uncircumcision was approved of and blessed by God on account of his faith, and called the father of many nations), are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ. (Justin 1989, 200)
If, however, on the one hand, the allegorization of the commandments on the part of a Christian like Justin creates the attractive possibility of a universalizing discourse, it also contains within itself, perhaps inevitably, the seeds of a discourse of contempt for the Jews. Thus Justin's universalism becomes, to use Jonathan Boyarin's felicitous phrase, “a particularist claim to universality” (J. Boyarin 1992; cf. Connolly 1991, 41): “For the circumcision according to the flesh, which is from Abraham, was given for a sign; that you may be separated from other nations, and from us; and that you alone may suffer that which you now justly suffer; and that your land may be desolate, and your cities burned with fire; and that strangers may eat your fruit in your presence, and not one of you go up to Jerusalem” (Justin 1989, 202). As Castelli has precisely phrased it,
The call to sameness (with Paul) in [1 Corinthians] 11:1 is paradoxically bound up with the call to exclusivity (difference) from the rest of the world. The action of imitation again has no specified content, but refers rather to a gesture which would set Christians apart as Christians. Unity and exclusivity are two sides of the same coin in the economy of Christian social formation. Each quality is a function of the mimetic relationship, insofar as each is played out in the polarity of sameness and difference. (Castelli 1991a, 114)
Ultimately, then, E. P. Sanders is right that Paul's main problem with Jews is that they are not Christians. This is, however, not nearly so weak as it might appear, because the not-being-Christian (or Greek or Roman or any universal human) is, in a sense, the very essence of the signifier Jew, and the insistence on difference was also (and remained) a positive content of Jewish self-definition as well. If the “content” of Pauline Christianity is a drive toward sameness, the Jew is the very site of difference which both constitutes and threatens that sameness, and the circumcision of the male Jew's penis is precisely a diacritic. The Pauline critique of one kind of particularism leads to a particularism of another sort, which threatens ideologically and in practice to allegorize the Jews out of existence entirely. On the one hand, Justin argues that Abel, Noah, Lot, and Melchizedek, all uncircumcised, were pleasing to God, a message of universalism, but on the other, “to you alone this circumcision was necessary, in order that the people may be no people, and the nation no nation” (Justin, 204). It is here, building on Paul, that “Christian” becomes, then, reinscribed as universal, and “Jew” becomes the realm of the particular, in almost the very same hermeneutical move that inscribes male as spirit and female as the realm of the senses. “The Jew” in the text is taken as the concrete signifier of a spiritual signified, so “The Jew” in the world becomes demoted precisely to the extent that signifiers are disavowed vis-à-vis signifieds.
The Continuing Allegorization of the “Jew”
The “Secret Jew” and the “True Jew”
Paul's allegorization of the Jew is, in fact, twofold. On the one hand, Israel is, as I have been arguing throughout, the signifier of the new Israel, ultimately to be the Christian church. For Paul, this seems to be the primary referent of the sign Israel and thus the Jews. On the other hand, there are two textual moments in the Pauline corpus that lend themselves to another, somewhat more sinister, reading of the signifier Jew. I mean Romans 2 and 7, where we can (and a certain tradition does) read the Jew as a symbol for everything that Christ and Paul have come to negate. These two symbolizations of the Jew have their historical continuation in the continued allegorizations of “Jew” in European culture until now. I have called them the trope of the “secret Jew in all of us” and the trope of the “true Jew.” The first-mentioned trope continues a traditional reading of Romans whereby the Jew represents homo religiosus or some other despised human characteristic, while the second continues the Pauline theme whereby the Jews are the material signifier transcended by their allegorical, spiritual signified.
The “Jew” as Symbol of Inferior Religion: Rudolf Bultmann, Ernst Käsemann, and Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly
The “Secret Jew”
The key text for the neo-Lutheran theological appropriations of Paul by Rudolf Bultmann and his student Ernst Käsemann is Romans 2. In this chapter, Paul addresses a singular, anonymous Jewish interlocutor as “O Jew.” This formal usage has lent itself very conveniently to those who wish to see here EveryJew, and indeed to allegorize EveryJew as a contemnable part of Everyman. Bultmann and Käsemann have revived in all its glory the Lutheran tradition whereby Paul stood against everything Jewish as the very essence of that which God hated and which he had sent Christ (and Paul) to strike down.
Having seen one possible reading of the first part of Romans 2 (above in Chapter 4), let us see what happens to it in the hands of Ernst Käsemann, who, it will be remembered, is one of Bultmann's leading neo-Lutheran heirs. As shown there, this chapter is eminently readable as a critique of Jews who believe that merely being Jewish will afford one a place in the economy of salvation; indeed it is an attack on a notion that by grace alone, one may be saved. Paul argues strenuously, indeed, that it is only by good works that anyone is justified. He redefines, however, at the end of the chapter, of what it is that good works consists. These are not, as the Jew would think, those practices that mark them off from the Nations, such as circumcision, but rather those spiritually understood universal allegorical meanings of the practices, such as faith and love. Käsemann, in accordance with his religious ideology inherited from his teacher and ultimately from the whole Lutheran tradition, reads the Jew who is being addressed in this chapter as “religious man.” Accordingly, verse 4 becomes for him not a charge against “real” Jews that they forget that God's special regard for the Jews is a demand that they repent—“Or do you think lightly of the wealth of his goodness and of his forbearance and patience, disregarding the fact that the kindness of God is to lead you to repentance?”—but something else entirely:
The danger of the pious person is that of isolating God's gifts from the claim which is given with them, and of forgetting to relate forbearance and patience to the Judge of the last day. Humans always crave security. They seek to obtain it through moralism, worshipping the gods, or trusting the divine goodness. (Käsemann 1980, 55)
Paul's “Jew” is no longer as in my interpretation—based on Dunn's—a real Jew at all but a symbol or allegory for the “pious person”—a pejorative in Existential Theology. Käsemann goes on to say that, “The person represented typically by the Jew is determined by σκληρότης [hardness] and, in explication, by the καρδία ἀμετανόητος [impenitent heart]” (56). On the one hand, Käsemann, superficially similarly to Dunn, recognizes as well that these terms are drawn from biblical preaching of repentance itself, but on the other hand, for him the repentance that Paul calls for is not repentance from failure to keep the Law but from success in keeping the Law. This move is brought out clearly in such a statement as the following: “ θησαυρίζειν is not used ironically (contra Michel). It derives from the good Jewish view that a person accumulates capital in heaven with his works when he is alive.…Paul, however, changes the Jewish expectation into its opposite” (57). Hidden in this statement is a truly sinister interpretation of Paul—although one which the entire Lutheran tradition prepares—that Paul is not claiming that Jews who do not keep the Law, claiming instead privilege by its mere possession, are storing up wrath for the day of wrath, but that Jews who do keep the Law and believe that thus they are storing up merits are, in fact, only accumulating wrath. As Käsemann puts it explicitly in another place, “works of the law…[by which Käsemann means all good works and ethical striving] are for Paul a higher form of godlessness than transgression of the law and are thus incompatible with faith” (103)—to which I as a Jew would instinctively reply that such “godlessness” is surely preferable to God than a faith that does not issue in ethics. Now Käsemann clearly recognizes that the next verses (6–8) are extraordinarily difficult for traditional Protestant interpretations of Paul, his among them:
“who will render to each according to his works.” To those who seek for glory and honor and immortality by perseverance in doing good—eternal life. But to those who out of selfish ambition also disobey the truth, being persuaded to unrighteousness—wrath and anger.
These verses are extremely difficult ones for Protestant Paulinism, whereby works not only are insufficient for salvation but actually constitute sinfulness. Indeed well might have “Roman Catholics seized on it, not without malicious joy for their dogmatics,” for these verses clearly say that at the last judgment one will be judged by one's works (57). In fact, the problems which this chapter presents are much deeper and more fatal for a Lutheran Paul than Käsemann is willing to admit. The Jew who is addressed by Paul here is not a Jew who has confidence in her achievement in keeping the Law and thereby denies God's grace, but exactly the opposite. The Jew whom Paul is addressing and attacking here is a Jew who does not successfully keep the Law, and relies on God's grace to the Jews to save her at the last judgment. Paul's adversary is covenantal grace, not good works. Romans 2, I submit, renders the Lutheran reading of Paul, and with it Käsemann's, simply nonsensical. In the brilliant and biting formulation of Francis Watson: “The Jews teach a doctrine of sola gratia, and this leads them to live by the maxim pecca fortiter ” (Watson 1986, 112). The biblical theologoumenon, established in the Torah and repeated in the Prophets—which Paul knows and even asserts in Romans 9–11—that in the end salvation is guaranteed to the Jews, could easily lead to the (mis)understanding that Jews do not even need to keep the commandments in order to be saved, and Paul's argument here is thus one that any Pharisee would agree with. The doctrine of God's grace is indeed a dangerous one. What is new in Paul is his deduction from the truism that Jews must keep the Law to be saved that therefore they are in no advantageous position at all vis-à-vis gentiles when it comes to justification. This chapter, then, strongly supports the tradition of interpretation going back to F. C. Baur, within which Dunn and I stand, for on our view Paul is not critiquing homo religiosus but homo non religiosus, the Jew who does not keep the Law but thinks it is enough merely to be Jewish and possess or hear the Law to be saved. Käsemann's attempt to get out of the implication of these verses is simply incomprehensible to me, and I will not even attempt to paraphrase it.
Käsemann's fullest exposition is found, however, not in his commentary on Romans but in his essay “Paul and Israel,” in which he reveals both a hopelessly confused and confusing understanding of Judaism and thus of Paul (Käsemann 1969). He achieves this confusion by mixing two entirely separate categories: On the one hand, an assumption by Jews of some kind of privilege with God borne of possession of the Torah or the past of the patriarchs; on the other, “religious achievement” (185), blithely assuming that all will assent that reliance on ethnic status without works is equivalent to reliance on commitment to the fulfillment of God's will. Only the latter is considered “religious achievement” by Jews; the former is the source of the obligations that Jews have and feel to perform works. These are both considered by Käsemann equally as examples of a “distinction that he may have previously conferred upon us,” that is, both ethnic Jewishness and attempting to do his will in the present. This is simply sleight of hand to cover up the fact that Paul's open expression here is in direct and obvious contradiction to Lutheran theology.
However, let all that be as it may, and let indeed even the improbability and incoherence of Käsemann's interpretation of Paul rest for a moment—it has been adequately disposed of by contemporary critics (Watson 1986, 109–22)—the issue that concerns me here is the moral responsibility which a postwar German must take for allowing himself to utter the following statement, “In and with Israel he strikes at the hidden Jew in all of us, at the man who validates rights and demands over against God on the basis of God's past dealings with him and to this extent is serving not God but an illusion” (1969, 186 [emphasis added]). First of all, there is the sheer arrogance of the claim to understand Israel's religion on the part of a man who only knows that religion from secondary sources—Strack-Billerbeck and the TDNT!—and indeed those produced by the same hostility to Jews that he shares. On what basis dare he, a German writing after World War II, characterize Judaism as the religion of men [sic] who “validate rights and demands over against God”?—particularly as by then it had been amply demonstrated by Jewish and Christian scholars that such a description of Judaism is a libel. And even more condemnable is the mode of expression, making “Jew” the name and allegory for something shameful about human nature. The notion that there is Jewishness (a Jewish spirit) that is hidden in everyone and must be driven out or overcome was, as Peter Heller has written, “paradigmatic of the most virulent variety of anti-Semitism in the twentieth century,” because “the true, fanatical anti-Semite of the Hitlerian type furiously fights what he conceives to be a threatening possibility within himself” (Heller 1981, 102). It is impossible to imagine that Käsemann was innocent of the implications of his use of “the Jew Within” as a trope for human evil, since it was a veritable topos of German anti-Semitism (Aschheim, 1985). If this tradition was abominable before the Nazi genocide, it has only become more so now that its effects have become historically real in such deadly fashion.
Undoubtedly Käsemann himself—known as an opponent of Nazism—imagined that he was striking a blow against anti-Semitism by indicating that “Jewishness” is not the special province of Jews, but in fact he did the reverse. When I say, as I often do, that there is a Nazi hidden in each of us, I am implying the proposition that to be a Nazi is something essentially evil. There is no such thing as good Nazis and bad Nazis. For Käsemann to write such a sentence of a “Jew,” and thereby imply such a proposition of Jews, shows that he has learned nothing at all from the events of the Nazi genocide. Postmodern hermeneutics has often been claimed as an escape from moral responsibility. I would claim the exact opposite. Interpretation can no longer serve as a cover for moral and political irresponsibility, since we know that hermeneutical choices are always being made by interpreters. There may be interpretations that the text excludes; it almost never demands only one reading. Thus if Käsemann reads Paul anti-Semitically, then he, Käsemann, must be held responsible for his anti-Semitism. Dunn's example—among others—amply reveals the alternatives. I thus find the following statement almost shocking in its lack of care for Jewish sensibility:
The approach to Paul taken by the representatives of dialectical theology (one thinks of scholars such as Bornkamm, Fuchs, Conzelmann, Klein and Hübner, as well as Bultmann and Käsemann) should not be lightly dismissed by those who cannot accept it. It represents much the most impressive modern attempt to reach to the heart of Paul's theology, and its theological seriousness compels respect, the more so as it has been engendered in part by the bitter experiences of modern German history. (Watson 1986, 9)
Although I am not familiar with the other theologians that Watson cites, from where I sit and write, the works of Bultmann and Käsemann seem more engendered by the ideology that caused the “bitter experiences of German [!] history” than by those experiences. And I learn from reading Campbell (1992, 193 n. 65) that Markus Barth sought, unsuccessfully, a retraction from Käsemann. To the very great extent that the work of Bultmann and Käsemann is generated by anti-Judaism—which is, by now, in the late twentieth century no longer distinguishable from anti-Semitism—it should not be dismissed lightly but rejected vigorously by all who desire and need to be Christian, for their unconscionable notions could not possibly, I submit, represent the will of God.
Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly: Judaism as the “Paradigm of Sacred Violence”
Neo-Lutherans are not the only source for anti-Semitic appropriations of Paul. Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly's Sacred Violence: Paul's Hermeneutic of the Cross, a “Girardian” reading of Paul, endorses the interpretation of Paul as traducer of Judaism with a vengeance (Hamerton-Kelly 1992). Although this by itself does not constitute an argument against its validity, it should nevertheless be emphasized that if accepted it would set back any possibility for a common language between Jews and Christians by centuries. It does, moreover, endorse this interpretation critically but in full collaboration with such a project. A sequel in pseudo (post)modern terms of the most violent aspects of Christian discourse about Judaism, Hamerton-Kelly's book reads like a medieval Tractatus adversus judaeos, not only in content but in form as well. His explicit intent is to delegitimize Jewish culture—or any culture but Christian—as independent cultural alterities in favor of a Christian exceptionalism by which Paul represents the end to religion and the end to “cultural embeddedness.” The term is his and used by him as a pejorative—see below.
Hamerton-Kelly ostensibly interprets Paul in such a way that his discourse does not constitute a delegitimation of Jews or Judaism:
For Paul the church is not another sect, but the community of the new creation. It is ontologically beyond the world of opposites, and so is not a rival religion to Judaism, but a new and inclusive community. It is possible to construe this claim as just another ploy in the game of sectarian rivalry. Unfortunately, Christians down through the ages have certainly read it as such and used it to justify themselves and delegitimize the Jews. Paul left himself open to such an interpretation, but he did not intend it. He would have been appalled to see the community of the end of time becoming another sect in time, subject to the delusions of sacred violence. (146)
Paul's discourse is on this account a discourse of inclusion, an attempt to break down the hierarchical barriers that exist between people. In the passage discussed above in Chapter 3 in which Paul says “our fathers were all under the cloud,” precisely the import is all of our fathers, that is, the fathers of us both gentile and Jewish. To the extent, however, that the new and inclusive community demands conformity to certain practices that contradict the practices of the historical Jews, even if those practices be only the confession of certain beliefs, then it is inevitably a rival religion and a delegitimization of the Jews, and indeed all non-Christians. Hamerton-Kelly is, however, wholly oblivious to the fundamental contradictions built into the notion of such a community, namely, its presumption that anyone who does not wish to join the new community of faith is under a cloud of quite a different sort. The very claim to be “ontologically beyond” itself constitutes rivalry!
Paul did not only leave himself open to misinterpretation here; the “misinterpretation” is almost a necessary consequence of such an idea. The obvious fact is that this coercive “new and inclusive community” still excludes (and often violently) those who do not have faith in Christ. Hamerton-Kelly, moreover, reads Paul according to the best possible construal of the “intentions” of his discourse and not even its virtually ineluctable effects (How precisely Hamerton-Kelly claims to know the intention of Paul better than, say, Justin Martyr did is itself fascinating!), while Judaism is read by him according to its alleged “actual” practice of killing dissenters. Thus, Judaism is simply “the impulse to fulfill the Mosaic Law [that] made him [Paul] a persecutor and had killed Christ” (141).
Hamerton-Kelly is willing to grant that Paul's putative experience does “not take the whole range of the religion into account” but not willing, apparently, to consider that the doctrines of Jews that other Jews referred to as “Zealots” or “Knifers” were marginal and vigorously opposed subcultures of Greco-Roman Judaism. For Hamerton-Kelly, despite occasional pro-forma disclaimers, these groups represent the true essence of Judaism. For as he says, “I have endorsed Paul's attack on Judaism ” (183 [emphasis added]). To this should be contrasted Hays's sober and balanced judgments:
Only a narrowly ethnocentric form of Judaism, Paul insists, would claim that God is the God of the Jews only or that Abraham is the progenitor of God's people “according to the flesh,” that is by virtue of natural physical descent. For the purposes of his argument, Paul associates these (evidently false) notions with the (disputed) claim that Gentile Christians must come under the Law. Paul, speaking from within the Jewish tradition, contends that the Torah itself provides the warrant for a more inclusive theology that affirms that the one God is God of Gentiles as well as Jews and that Abraham is the forefather of more than those who happen to be his physical descendants. (1989, 55)
Paul is on this view indeed a Jewish cultural critic, calling Jews to ally themselves with the progressive understandings contained within their own tradition and to reject the practices of certain ethnocentric zealots. In fact, the notion that gentiles are saved without conversion to Judaism is a doctrine held by many within ancient Judaism; indeed, what is new in Paul is rather the idea that all—Jews and gentiles—must be justified in the same way, through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul dreamed of a day in which all human distinctions that led to hierarchy would be erased and not merely one in which there was a place in God's saving plan for all. These are the grounds of his critique of—not “attack on”—Judaism.
Hamerton-Kelly's account of Judaism, as well as his account of Paul, like all interpretation, teaches us a great deal about him and his ideology. For the certainty of faith, we find here substituted a certainty borne of “the preunderstanding we [Hamerton-Kelly] bring to the text,” which is “well founded on the evidence not only of the texts it interprets but also on other evidence from the human sciences” (61). For Hamerton-Kelly it is simply a fact that the Jews killed Christ, that their religion was a religion of Sacred Violence, and that God/ Paul rejected the Jews because of the essential evil of their “way of life”: “The Law had created a way of life founded on sacred violence and the crucifixion of Christ is the logical outcome of such a way of life” (66 and 71)! Hamerton-Kelly does not even present this characterization as Paul's and criticize it but rather produces a discourse supported by “the evidence from the human sciences” [i.e., Girard!] which asserts its authority as a description of Judaism. He interprets Philippians 3:8, in which Paul refers to his former achievement as σκύβαλα (dung), as Paul's characterization of “the Jewish way of life.” Hamerton-Kelly somewhat softens the translation to “refuse” and then asserts that this is “what the Law really is” (68). He thus relies ultimately on both the authority of Paul and that of Girard (science) in support of his own political/theological agenda. When we read the Pauline passage in question, however, we find that Hamerton-Kelly's interpretation of it is far from ineluctable. The passage reads:
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου δι' ὅν τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην, καὶ ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα, ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω.
I think that a reading of this verse much more likely than Hamerton-Kelly's is that Paul is precisely not referring to what his former life “really is,” but rather emphasizing that even though it was of value, he counts it now as dung in comparison to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ and in order that he may win such knowledge (Sanders 1983, 44–45; Barclay 1991, 243). In fact, the figure works precisely only if that of which he is speaking is not “really dung.” It is not Paul here who is anti-Judaic, unless any disagreement or cultural critique is to be defined as anti-Judaic.
In fact I give Hamerton-Kelly much more credit than he does himself. He claims to have endorsed Paul's attack on Judaism; I think he has created it. For example, Hamerton-Kelly writes:
The agent of my action in this situation is the sin “that dwells in me”; namely “in my flesh” (τοῦτ' ἔστιν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου) (Rom. 7:18). In the light of my argument this might be paraphrased, “no good thing dwells in me, that is, in my culturally embedded (Jewish) self.” (147)
Even granting the undecidability of texts, the multivariate nature of hermeneutics, and my own personal investments that lead me to read one way and not another, I find it hard to imagine that anyone who is not already inclined toward Hamerton-Kelly's hatred of Judaism will find his paraphrase in Paul's language, and I think it unnecessary even to produce an alternative reading in this case. Hamerton-Kelly's affirmation of this proposition, whether or not it is Paul's, reveals that he still somehow manages to imagine that there is a self that is not culturally embedded. Paul says nothing so nefarious but certainly does hold out the positive hope of a humanity that will not be differentiated by cultural specificities. Paul can be forgiven his na;auiveté. Hamerton-Kelly is, however, intellectually and morally unforgivable for his ignorance of the critique of universalism mounted in recent criticism. (His appropriation of “theory” seems limited to Girard, and Girard alone.) In the wake of the horrors that have been perpetrated in the name of such visions of a humanity “not culturally embedded,” Hamerton-Kelly's remark is simply inexcusable. I want to underscore this point: If for Hamerton-Kelly, “cultural embeddedness” is the sin that dwells in our flesh, then his politics will be a politics of the eradication of cultural embeddedness, which we know, by now, means the assimilation of all, willy-nilly, to the culture that is defined as not specific—that of white Christian European males.
The obvious charge that suggests itself is that Hamerton-Kelly is engaging in sacred violence and scapegoating of his own. He is certainly aware, although contemptuously dismissive, of this accusation. Indeed, he devotes an entire section of his book to “refuting” it:
If the solution to sacred violence is the renunciation of rivalry, and if faith can take different forms, each of them valid as long as they can be classified under the heading of agape, why have I endorsed Paul's attack on Judaism? Have I not been engaged in precisely the rivalrous behavior that I have been criticizing, rivalrously condemning rivalry? (183)
Hamerton-Kelly's answer is that, “Clearly, a religious system that kills innocent people ‘righteously’ has less rational and moral justification than one that cherishes all in love” (183). It follows, therefore, as the night follows the day, that “the sophistic taunt that Paul scapegoats Judaism is, therefore, unworthy of serious consideration” (184). Indeed, such a “taunt” would be inappropriately directed at Paul, because Paul does not mount his critique of Judaism on such false grounds; it can well be directed, however, at Hamerton-Kelly, and it is more than a “sophistic taunt,” a formal contradiction. It is a damning charge which discredits entirely any pretense he has to a hermeneutic which claims to “escape mimetic violence into a new community of agapaic cooperation” (184).
The burden of Hamerton-Kelly's book is that the Jews really are Christ-killers. Now we do not know if “historically” there were any Jews involved in the killing of Christ, nor is there any reason to suppose that even if there were, they represented the whole People or its religion. What we do know, however, is that millions of Jews have been killed in Europe (and in the “Europe” imposed on the rest of the world by Europeans), owing at least partly to this scapegoating slander.
The “True Jew”: Romans 2:28–29 and Post-Structuralist “jews”
Bultmann's, Käsemann's, and Hamerton-Kelly's allegories of the Jews represent the continuation of a kind of Christian discourse that can be held partly responsible for Nazi genocide. However, paradoxically, there is a European practice of allegorization of the signifier “Jew” that is a reaction against the Nazis but nevertheless, I argue, also deprives “real” Jews of existence. I mean, of course, the “true Jew.” There is accordingly an enormous difference between the two tropes. The “secret Jew” owes its very existence as a trope to the Reformation and its reading of Paul; the “true Jew” is explicitly inscribed in the Pauline text. In the early parts of Romans 2, “O Jew” is indeed a trope, but it is not metaphor or allegory. The Jew whom Paul addresses is a synecdoche, a representative member of and corporate part of the “real” historical people Israel, who call themselves “Jews.” The Lutheran interpretative tradition turned the synecdoche into a metaphor. On the other hand, Paul, by addressing the Jew as “You who call yourself a Jew,” is already preparing the way for a different usage of “Jew” as metaphor; for a split between the material literal signifier of a body which belongs to historical Israel and its spiritual, allegorical referent, “the true Jew” in the end of the chapter.
This other allegorical appropriation of “Jew” owes its origins to the final verses of Romans 2, where Paul explicitly coins and uses the term. In Chapter 4 above, I have read these verses closely, and there is no need to do so again. What is important to reemphasize is that in this passage Paul claims that being a “true Jew” is not at all a matter of genealogy, history, and practice but a matter of an inner disposition. “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal.” Anyone at all can be Jewish, and those who “call themselves Jews” are not necessarily Jewish at all. This utterance of Paul's has had fateful consequences for the Jews in the Christian West. Once Paul succeeded, “real Jews” ended up being only a trope and have remained such for European discourse even until today and even in the writings of leftists whose work is positioned as being opposed to anti-Semitism—and even in the writings of Jews. Similarly, it seems, for some poststructuralist writers being a woman is not a matter of having a certain body and the experiences that go with it but of an inner disposition, and therefore anyone at all can be a woman by merely choosing to do so (Culler 1983). It is not surprising, given all that I have been saying about Paul and “the Jews,” that this allegorization of Jew is much less offensive than the Lutheran's “secret Jew,” or Jew as religious man, since the “true Jew” is at least a positively marked trope. Although well intentioned, any such allegorization of “Jew” and indeed of “woman” is problematic in the extreme for the way that it deprives those who have historically grounded identities in those material signifiers of the power to speak for themselves and remain different. In this sense the “progressive” idealization of “Jew” and “woman,” or more usually, “jew” and “Woman,” ultimately deprives difference of the right to be different.
“jews”: Lyotard's diacritique of Jewishness
The critical text which has gone furthest in employing “the jew” as an allegorical trope for otherness is Lyotard's recent Heidegger and “the jews” (Lyotard 1990). I am going to propose in this section that Lyotard's essay on “the jews” continues in highly significant fashion the Pauline dualist allegory of the Jews. The title tells the story: Heidegger gets a capital “H,” but “the jews” are in lower case. This is done, as the back cover copy explains, “to represent the outsiders, the nonconformists: the artists, anarchists, blacks, homeless, Arabs, etc.—and the Jews.” The Jews are doubtless chosen as exemplary both because the voices of some Jews are so prominent in European modernism and because of the enormous challenge of Nazi genocide to Enlightenment thought. But the name as used here is essentially a generic term standing for the other. And indeed Lyotard's book is all about the danger of forgetting that one (“one” in a position of relative power, that is) has always already forgotten the Other.
But why does Lyotard feel free to appropriate the name “the jews”? What does it mean for David Carroll, the author of the introduction to the American edition of Lyotard's book, to write, in reference to Lyotard's citation of “Freud, Benjamin, Adorno, Arendt, Celan,” that “these are ultimately ‘the jews’ we all have to read and even in some sense to become, ‘the jews’ we always already are but have forgotten we are, ‘the jews’ that Heidegger forgets at great cost for his thinking and writing” (xxiv)? What Lyotard refuses to forget, remembering the negative example of Heidegger, is not so much upper or lower-case Jews as Christian European crimes against humanity. In other words, Lyotard takes history seriously as an implication of philosophy, doubtless a vital exercise. This sketch of a critique, therefore, is not intended as an exposé of Lyotard but as a further implication of the universalizing, allegorizing traditions of Hellenistic philosophy as absorbed into Christian culture.
Lyotard basically repeats Sartre's thesis about the production of the Jew by the anti-Semite: “What is most real about real Jews is that Europe, in any case, does not know what to do with them: Christians demand their conversion; monarchs expel them; republics assimilate them; Nazis exterminate them. ‘The jews’ are the object of a dismissal with which Jews, in particular, are afflicted in reality” (3). Let us stop a second on the first words here, and try a paraphrase: how would it work if a man or a woman said, “What is most real about real women is that men continually try to dominate them.” The condescension of Lyotard's statement immediately becomes evident.
It would have been quite different if Lyotard had written rather, “What matters most to me here about those usually called ‘Jews’ is that Europe does not know what to do with them.” For there is no gainsaying the power of his insight: Europe indeed does not know what to do with “real Jews.” But what of European philosophy? Is Lyotard not Europe here? Might we not fairly say, “Europe does not know what to do with them; philosophers allegorize them,” et cetera? To which one might comment that in doing so, they continue another particularly Christian practice with regard to upper-case Jews, one which begins with Paul.
And here we can see more analytically what is wrong with Carroll's rhetoric about us all becoming once again “the jews we always already are but have forgotten we are.” We must resist the seduction of these sentiments, for they deny, they spiritualize history. For some contemporary critics—indeed, those most profoundly concerned with the lessons of the encounter between Jewish identity and European self-adequation—it seems that the real Jew is the non-Jewish jew. What does this say about the “reality” of those Jews—most of those who call themselves Jews, of course, are the untheorized, unphilosophical, unspiritualized Jews—who would think the phrase “non-Jewish Jew” to be nonsense? Is it politically correct to “forget” them and to fashion an imaginary dialogue with the Other who is, in fact, the already-sactioned, official model of the “non-Jewish Jew,” the Kafkas and Benjamins? For as we know, the vast majority of the Nazis' Jewish victims were unredeemed “real” Jews.
Against this incipient critique stands precisely the force implicit in Lyotard's act of allegorizing the name “jew.” Radiating out from the sun of philosophy, remembering the other by writing the “jew,” Lyotard challenges all those who would fetishize their particular difference, insisting that we learn how to imagine ourselves as blacks, as Arabs, as homeless, as Indians. This is a political challenge, but Lyotard does not suggest how those who are themselves “real Jews” could respond to it. Indeed, he explains that one reason for his avoidance of the proper noun, of the upper-case “Jews,” is to make clear that he is not discussing a particularly Jewish political subject, which he identifies as Zionism (3). I want to insist in response to Lyotard that there is a loss and a danger either in allegorizing away real, upper-case Jews or in regarding them primarily as a problem for Europe. My claim entails in turn a responsibility to help articulate a Jewish political subject “other” than Zionism, which in fundamental ways merely reproduces the exclusivist syndromes of European nationalism. Zionism itself is predicated on a myth of autochthony. I will be suggesting in the next chapter that a Jewish subject position founded on memories of genealogy, not genealogy tout court but that which has since antiquity been called “race,” provides for a critical Jewish identity.
Jean-Luc Nancy and the Jews
Sometimes the reference to the allegorized Jew is implicit or made in passing; in other recent works it is an explicit and central trope. An example of the former is contained in Jean-Luc Nancy's recent The Inoperative Community. As Jonathan Boyarin has recently shown, Lyotard's allegorizing move on the signifier “Jew” is repeated at other moments as well in post-Nazi, post-structuralist appropriations of the signifier Jew (Boyarin and Boyarin 1993). Nancy's central problem in that work is to formulate a notion of community which will not violate the standard of non-coercion. That standard holds that community is “the com-pearance [comparution] of singular beings.” For Nancy, such singularity and the simultaneity which is a condition of it appear to imply an evacuation of history and memory. So many brutalities, so many violations of any notion of humanly responsible community have been carried out in the name of solidary collectives supposed to have obtained in the past, that Nancy seems to have renounced any possible recourse to memory in his attempt to think through the possibility of there ever being community without coercion. Of there ever being: the only community which does not betray the hope invested in that word, Nancy argues, is one that resists any kind of stable existence (Nancy 1991, 58).
The problem is that Nancy has in fact attempted a generalized model of community as non-being. Hence any already existing “community” is out of consideration by its very existence, relegated through philosophical necessity to a world we have lost or which never existed. Following Nancy's rhetoric, the only possible residues of that lost world are false community appearing as either a serial, undifferentiated collective in the same analytic category as the Fascist mass or, alternatively, an assemblage of unrelated individuals. The individual in turn “is merely the residue of the experience of the dissolution of community” (3), and furthermore, “the true consciousness of the loss of community is Christian” (10).
Although Nancy is silent on the relations among history, memory, and community, he considers at some length the apparently tortured relation between “myth” and community. For Nancy myth—that necessary fiction which grounds the insistent specialness of the existent communal group—is an irreducible component of community and at the same time necessarily pernicious in its effects. Therefore Nancy asserts a search, not for the eradication of myth but rather for its “interruption”: “interruption of myth is therefore also, necessarily, the interruption of community” (57). In a footnote Nancy elaborates on an earlier comment by Maurice Blanchot:
Blanchot…writes: “The Jews incarnate…the refusal of myths, the abandonment of idols, the recognition of an ethical order that manifests itself in respect for the law. What Hitler wants to annihilate in the Jew, in the ‘myth of the Jew,’ is precisely man freed from myth.” This is another way of showing where and when myth was definitively interrupted. I would add this: “man freed from myth” belongs henceforth to a community that it is incumbent upon us to let come, to let write itself. (Nancy, 162 n. 40, citing Blanchot, “Les Intellectuels en Question,” Le Débat, May 1984)
I want to press, in a sense by literalizing, the opening offered here. The quote from Blanchot seems ambiguous if not contradictory: Do the Jews literally “incarnate…the refusal of myths,” or is that one of Hitler's myths? Let me first pursue the first reading, which is both the more flattering and the more dangerous. This reading would tell us that community without myth was once the special possession of the Jews. Nancy's “addition” would then explore the consequences of the release of that secret to “us,” as a result of the genocide. What else, after all, can “henceforth” mean? Now I deeply respect that this and other work of Nancy's is explicitly motivated by the desire to understand and unwork the complicity between philosophy and twentieth-century violence (Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy 1990). Nancy would doubtless be horrified at the suggestion that his rhetoric is complicit in perpetuating the annihilation of the Jew, yet it seems clear that this is one potential accomplishment of his further allegorization of Blanchot. That which the Jew represented before “he” was annihilated is that which “we” must let come, must let write itself. The word “henceforth” indeed implies that the secret of freedom from myth has passed from the Jews to a community which does not exist, which is only imaginable in and by theory. The secret becomes potentially available to all who await a second coming of this sacrificed Jew. I insist: This plausible yet “uncharitable” reading cannot be stretched to an accusation of anti-Judaism. On the contrary, it is clear that Nancy and thinkers like him are committed to a sympathetic philosophical comprehension of the existence and annihilation of the Jews. My claim is rather that within the thought of philosophers such as Nancy lies a blindness to the particularity of Jewish difference which is itself part of a relentless penchant for allegorizing all “difference” into a monovocal discourse.
The De(con)struction of Women
One at least has to recognize that positing woman as a figure of displacement risks, in its effects, continually displacing real material women. (Fuss 1989, 14)
What I wish to suggest here, very briefly, is that post-structuralist deconstruction of the sign “woman” once more reproduces and continues the “western” (Pauline) tradition of attack on real identities, on difference. In other words, once more here I would suggest that women and Jews are analogous terms vis-à-vis the dominant discourse. The political claim about post-structuralism is not new; what is new is only the suggestion that post-structuralism here continues—as opposed to opposing—the discourse that it seeks to disrupt. For some post-structuralists, it seems, “Woman” has become a sign in almost strict analogy to the way that “jew” has become a sign for Lyotard and Nancy. Thus Diana Fuss remarks of Lacan, “Of real material women…Lacan has nothing to say, readily admits his knowing ignorance. But of ‘woman’ as sign Lacan has everything to say (especially since women, as we shall see, cannot say ‘it’ themselves)” (Fuss 1989, 11). “Woman” is, for Lacan, the being who (whether male or female in body) has ecstatically transcended—gone beyond—the phallus and attained the status of “Woman.” It seems that Lacan ultimately reinscribes here the myth of the primal androgyne, however—and this is not to be ignored—inscribing the androgyne as a female and not a male one. We still end up with no male and female in Christ—quite precisely in Christ; Saint Theresa is, after all, Lacan's ideal type of one who has gone beyond the phallus.
Fuss has thus shown how central is the distinction between penis and phallus for Lacan's system (11). I speculatively suggest that the precise source of the scandal of circumcision in western culture lies in its threat to the idealization of the phallus, to its conversion from biological organ to logos. Because of circumcision, the flesh cannot become Word. The insistence on a physical cutting interrupts the dematerialization of the penis and thus of its semiotic transformation into phallos and logos. And paradoxically we find this brought out even at the very site of the theoretical attack on this structure, Derridean post-structuralism. As Barbara Johnson has written:
The letter, says Lacan, cannot be divided: “But if it is first of all on the materiality of the signifier that we have insisted, that materiality is odd [singulière] in many ways, the first of which is not to admit partition.” This indivisibility, says Derrida, is odd indeed, but becomes comprehensible if it is seen as an idealization of the phallus, whose integrity is necessary for the edification of the entire psychoanalytical system. With the phallus safely idealized and located in the voice, the so-called signifier acquires the “unique, living, non-mutilable integrity [emphasis added, DB]” of the self-present spoken word, unequivocally pinned down to and by the signified. “Had the phallus been per(mal)-chance divisible or reduced to the status of a partial object, the whole edification would have crumbled down, and this is what has to be avoided at all cost.” (Johnson 1987, 225)
But the penis, of course, is divisible. In circumcision it is divided. It is striking to me that the penis has been so spiritualized in European tradition that even when its Lacanian idealization is being opposed by a hypothetical, Derridean mutilable, divisible phallus, the very mutilation of the penis which is at the center of the tradition of the Jewish Other is not mentioned. For Derrida, standing in antithesis to Lacan, even castration remains allegorized. “The phallus, thanks to castration, always remains in its place, in the transcendental topology…In castration, the phallus is indivisible, and therefore indestructible” (Derrida 1987, 185, 194–95). This rather invites speculation on the legend [?] of Origen's castration and on the reason why in some cultural contexts circumcision is identified with castration and in others as its very opposite. Once the signifier no longer possesses a “non-mutilable integrity,” then the “idealization of the phallus” is no longer possible. I would argue that this idealization is necessary not only for the edification of the psychoanalytic system but for any logocentric (allegoretical) system. But since it is precisely this transformation that allows for the putative de-essentialization of “Woman” in Lacan's (and ultimately even in Derrida's) thinking, we see once more the sources of this strange and persistent association of Jews and women in western culture. Women in their bodies and Jewish (males) in their altered ones keep reminding “us” that the phallus is after all (only) a penis, and the logos is after all (only) some body's utterance. According to midrash, even the Torah is given in the speech of human beings.
The Secret of the Jews
Now let me pursue an alternate reading of Blanchot, and of Nancy's gloss. Its implications are both more modest and more conducive to my project of constructing a progressive and strong Jewish subjecthood. According to this second reading of Blanchot, the Jews' freedom from myth was primarily, if not exclusively, significant as a myth that murderously irritated Hitler. Nancy would then be saying not that “we” have inherited the secret of the Jews but rather that it is incumbent upon us—the pronoun this time not excluding in any way Jews living after the Nazi genocide—to assume the challenge of the myth of freedom from myth, to let come a community that is free from myth. I will suggest in the final chapter below that, especially in the experience of Diaspora, which has constrained Jews to create forms of community that do not rely upon one of the most potent and dangerous myths—the myth of autochthony—living Jews may have a particular contribution to make to that general effort. As I have already suggested, the tendency of postmodern thought continues willy-nilly the trajectories that Paul set in motion in Christian/ European thought. Reactions against this disembodying move, however, prove equally as dangerous, if not more so. Let Heidegger be an exemplum. This conclusion raises, however, frightening specters with regard to Jewish existence in the world.
1. For exceptions, see Sanders (1983: 193–94). I agree with Sanders's reading, as far as it goes, against that of the Stendahl tradition. Altogether, let me say, with a certain amount of hutzpah, that I find the second section of Sanders's book on the Jews uniformly successful while, as will be clear from my discussions, I have some problems with the first part on the Law. [BACK]
2. It is thus very hard for me, a Jew, to see how Romans 9–11, even taken by themselves, “could be interpreted in a pro-Jewish sense” (Marxsen, quoted approvingly in Campbell [1992, 28; see also 40n. 37]). [BACK]
3. The point is that, for me, “upholding the special place of Jewish Christianity” (Campbell 1992, 51) is precisely the essence of supersession. This does not, however, make it illegitimate or “anti-Semitic.” My point is rather to maintain the distinctiveness of Paul's version of Judaism over against most other versions contemporary with it and the rabbinic Judaism that developed in the succeeding centuries which insisted on the special task of Jews precisely in maintaining the works of the Law and had no interest in faith in Jesus. This is—translated into our terms—a genuine commitment to the maintenance of cultural difference, not a pseudo-multicultural Christian hegemony in which it does not matter in what language the Mass is sung. Because, however, at any point in my dialectic its antithesis may be forgotten by readers, I emphasize yet again that it is a dialectic, and I will be arguing extensively in these two chapters that both thesis and antithesis have their perils and promises. [BACK]
4. There is an interpretative tradition that reads the “first fruits” as Christ himself; however, this interpretation is weakened considerably by the parallelism of the second clause. [BACK]
5. Note that Luther himself was very “friendly” toward Jews at first. He was not, therefore, an anti-Semite. But once he realized that he was not going to be able to convert the Jews, he turned against them with a vengeance. [BACK]
6. It is precisely at this point that I think that Campbell misses the mark in his reading. He takes v. 19, “You will say ‘branches were broken off so that I might be grated in,’” to be that which Paul is disavowing. In fact, Campbell argues, “It is to repudiate such formulations that Paul writes Romans 9–11 and possibly the entire letter” (71). This is simply not the case, however, as the context clearly shows. Paul himself has proposed that the branches have been lopped off only two verses before, and his response to this utterance is “granted!” He does not oppose the doctrine of the lopped-off branches; indeed, it is he who has proposed it; he just does not want the gentile Christians to draw “anti-Semitic” conclusions from the metaphor, a clear and present danger, realized only slightly after his death. [BACK]
7. A further argument for this point is the fact that Paul already knows of precisely twelve apostles. As Paula Fredriksen argues, the necessity for this precise (and clearly ahistorical) number is the association it bears with the twelve tribes and thus its implicit claim that the Christian community is the New Israel (Fredriksen 1988, 102). [BACK]
8. See below on Justin Martyr. The notion of particularist universalism is drawn and cited from the work of my brother, Jonathan Boyarin. Compare the interpretation of this passage in Gager (1983, 60–61). [BACK]
9. Below I will argue, however, that Paul was not responsible for that history, in that his position of power vis-à-vis Jews was entirely different from that of the Church—in fact, almost directly opposite. Discourses of resistance have entirely different political, ethical valences from discourses of domination, even when they share identical contents (Foucault 1980, 101–02)! [BACK]
10. Cf. Galatians 3:19. [BACK]
11. This should not be understood as an analogical relationship, i.e., of the body of the individual and the social body, but as an actual implication. If I am my body, then I am ontologically filiated with other bodies. The move from family to “nation” or “race” is, however, accomplished via the myth of origin of the cultural group in a single progenitor. For the close connection between “race,” filiation, and even place, see the quotation from Porphyry's Life of Plotinus in the next chapter. [BACK]
12. On the other hand, we must take very seriously the differences between the historical situation of Paul, persecuted by Jews (or Jewish Christians), Justin, a co-victim with Jews of Roman persecution but also in some ways underdog in the pagan world vis-à-vis Jews, and Augustine, at the threshold of Christian hegemony and Jewish marginalization. The very important analyses of John Gager are highly relevant here, especially: “We are now able to affirm that wherever Christianity developed abroad in the cities and towns of the Empire, it encountered a well-established, self-confident, and widely appreciated Judaism. Furthermore, this non-Palestinian encounter between the two religions took place at precisely the time when positive elements in pagan views of Judaism appeared with greatest clarity. Once again Christianity had to deal with Judaism from beneath, that is, from a position of cultural and social inferiority” (1983, 114). [BACK]
13. In a very important communication, Richard Hays writes:
Right. Your analysis is brilliant and telling [I trust I will be forgiven the narcissism that leads me to leave this phrase in.]. The question—the huge question that runs through the whole book—is to what extent that disavowal has actually taken place in Paul. I say it hasn't, you say it has. I think that Paul's thought is dialectical, complex, full of contradictory impulses. A later Christian-Platonist-allegorizing tradition develops one side of Paul's dialectic to the exclusion of the other and thus produces precisely the result you describe. But I would contend that the one-sidedness of the development produces a position fundamentally unfaithful to Paul's vision.
I would agree that any understanding of Paul, as of any truly great and complex cultural production, is likely to be a reduction, but, I would argue, this interpretation of Paul responds to so much that is there that it can hardly be a position “ fundamentally unfaithful to Paul's vision.” To argue such is to (somewhat triumphantly) suggest that the Fathers could not understand Paul and that only we can! Rather, I would suggest that in order to be adequate to Paul's dialectics, our interpretations should be allowed to enter into their own dialectics, as precisely the controversy for the sake of Heaven that perdures. For the notion of interpretation as constant dialectic, see Boyarin 1990b. In other words, I am saying that strong readings that develop one side of Paul intensely are more likely to be of hermeneutic usefulness than others. Either we are revealing unresolvable tensions within Paul, or at another level, the dialectic will resolve itself into a synthesis. [BACK]
14. Compare, however, the readings of these chapters, which I have offered above in Chapters 1 and 2, respectively, of this book. [BACK]
15. I would like to see what evidence Käsemann has for the malice in this joy at finding a verse which clearly discredits the Reformation Paul. [BACK]
16. “I regard most of the quoted material [from Käsemann] to be more or less blatant eisegesis, even if eisegesis which rests on long and venerated (perhaps too venerated) tradition. The finding that Paul criticized his kinsmen for zeal for good works is simply bewildering” (Sanders 1983, 155–56). [BACK]
17. Käsemann would probably detect some “malicious joy” here as well. See also Wilckens (1982, 1:177 and passim). [BACK]
18. That this is a correct reading of Romans 2 is practically proven by Paul's rhetorical question at the beginning of 3. “Then what advantage has the Jew?”! [BACK]
19. I do not, therefore, accept Watson's conclusion from his excellent analysis that “Paul does not attack Judaism because of any theoretical incompatibility between his own emphasis on grace and the alleged Jewish emphasis on achievement. He attacks it because Jewish failure to respond to the gospel has led him to proclaim a law-free gospel to the Gentiles, and to form congregations living in sectarian separation from the Jewish community. His attack on Judaism serves to establish and maintain that sectarian separation” (113). The first sentence of these two seems impeccable to me; the second could not be less convincing. And they are a non sequitur, because rejection of the Lutheran premise that Paul attacks Judaism as works-righteousness does not yet lead to a conclusion that therefore his critique was not theological or ideological but sociological (Watson makes it almost sound petulant—You don't play by my rules, I'll take my football). I can see nothing in the Pauline texts or even in Watson's reading of them that necessitates such an extreme conclusion, rather than the assumption that Paul turned to the gentiles out of ideological conviction, abandoned the Law (or effectively those parts of it which mark off Jewish identity) because it did not fit his theology, and critiqued those very aspects of the Law as non-salvific. In other words, I am arguing that the formation of a sect comes as a result of Paul's theology and not as the effective cause of that theology. I also find implausible his suggestion that Paul is, in effect, throwing back a Jewish charge—Let us do evil that good may come—at the Jewish leaders “who stress the divine gift of the covenant as the guarantee of salvation to such an extent that obedience to the law becomes superfluous” (113). As Watson himself admits, were this the content of Paul's attack it would be more like a parody than a convincing representation of most authentic views of the Covenant. Much more likely, I think, is an interpretation which simply argues (as most Jews would have argued) that membership in the covenant community without works is meaningless. Once more, Paul would secure the assent of that very Jew whom at the end he is going to accuse. The real payoff of the diatribe is at its end, where Paul redefines entirely what “works” means. On this last point, see next section below. [BACK]
20. Cf. Watson (1986, 118) who has exposed Käsemann's incoherence and embarrassment. [BACK]
21. In other words, what I am suggesting is that Käsemann also understands (consciously or unconsciously) that the Pauline text does not support his theology and weasels out of this (again consciously or unconsciously) by treating as identical two things (one that Paul says and one that Luther says) that are entirely different. [BACK]
22. This is even more shocking when one remembers that this text was originally a radio broadcast. Nor is Käsemann alone in this form of expression, even among postwar German critics: “For Paul, the Jew represents man in general.…This man is indeed not somewhere outside, among unbelievers; he is hidden within each Christian,” to which my only response can be: No, I'm not. The quotation is from Bornkamm in Watson (1986, 198n.78). Note that Käsemann's usage of the hidden Jew is precisely opposite to Paul's, for whom the hidden Jew is a positive term. It is the ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ Ἰουδαῖος who is the true Jew for Paul! [BACK]
23. Which is not to say that I ascribe the Nazi genocide of the Jews entirely to the Lutheran theological tradition. [BACK]
24. See, e.g., my comparison with John Chrysostom below. Hamerton-Kelly's book is the very antithesis in every respect, both morally and scholarly, of the work of his teacher, W. D. Davies! [BACK]
25. See citation below. [BACK]
26. It is entirely unclear from where Hamerton-Kelly derives his notion that fulfilling the Mosaic Law would have led to the killing of Christ. Cf. on this point the devastating comments of Paula Fredriksen (1988, 108). [BACK]
27. That is, the sort of violence that Hamerton-Kelly seems to wish to essentialize as “Jewish” per se did exist in certain extreme groups in the first century, but those very groups were marginalized by the terms of opprobrium assigned to them by other groups, including notably the Pharisees! [BACK]
28. Even though I do interpret “When we were in the flesh” to mean when we inhabited the literal, fleshy world of Jewish existence—fleshy because of its commandments to circumcise, to eat this way and not that, and especially to procreate, this does not begin to approach Hamerton-Kelly's gloss of this verse. It would be quite a different thing to say that Paul is saying that sin exploits the situation of being in the flesh, that is, as Paul says explicitly, that sin exploits the commandment of the Torah. See above, Chapter 7. [BACK]
29. His rhetorical move reminds me of that of John Chrysostom who in his violent attacks on Judaism pauses to remark, “I know that some will condemn me for daring to say that the synagogue is no better than a theater” (cited in Gager 1983, 119), but “he will not be deterred.” Such also is Hamerton-Kelly's “courage,” vaunted in the blurbs on the jacket. Compare also the discussion of Tertullian's anti-Judaism in Gager, “For him the Jews are the very anti-type [sic] of true virtue: they resisted the prophets and Jesus; they insult and persecute Christians; they rebel against God. Their crimes are manifold. They embody the principle of vetustas, or obsolescence. In short, what emerges in Tertullian [Hamerton-Kelly] is a rekindling of traditional Christian anti-Judaism in which the full burden of Marcion's assault of the God of the Jews is deflected onto the Jews themselves. And in his case, the intensity of language clearly crosses the boundary between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism” (164). [BACK]
30. Girard and Oughourlian have tried to guard against the sort of misreading that Hamerton-Kelly engages in; on pp. 174–75, they explicitly refer to the transformation “of the universal revelation of the founding murder into a polemical denunciation of the Jewish religion”—precisely that which Hamerton-Kelly engages in and which Girard refers to as “a new form of violence, directed against a new scapegoat—the Jew.” Not only a bad reader of Paul, therefore, Hamerton-Kelly is also, owing to his anti-Semitic passion, a highly selective and superficial reader of Girard as well! Girard himself also falls into supersessionist patterns of thought and expression. The following quotation is exemplary:
I think it is possible to show that only the texts of the Gospels manage to achieve what the Old Testament leaves incomplete [in the transumption of Sacred Violence into harmonious community]. These texts therefore serve as an extension of the Judaic bible, bringing to completion an enterprise that the Judaic bible did not take far enough, as Christian tradition has always maintained.
This is supersessionist because it refuses to recognize that there was/is another “extension of the Judaic bible,” which has also continued historical cultural processes that began within the biblical period. Insofar as Girard will refer to Christianity as “the religion which comes from God,” while Judaism (and everything else) is relegated to being “religion which comes from man,” he can hardly expect non-Christians to be very interested in his work (166), which is ultimately theologically based Christian apologetic triumphalism. However, nothing in Girard's writings, to the extent that I know them, prepares one for the virulence of Hamerton-Kelly's anti-Judaism, which is all his own. Just comparing Girard's account of the crucifixion as having been given “explicit or implicit assent” by “the crowd in Jerusalem, the Jewish religious authorities, the Roman political authorities, and even the disciples” (Girard 1978, 167) with Hamerton-Kelly's “the impulse to fulfill the Mosaic Law [that] made him [Paul] a persecutor and had killed Christ” (141) makes the disparity apparent.
On the other hand, Girard's text is sufficiently problematic on its own, at least in part because of the dialogical (literally as a dialogue) way that it is presented. Girard speaks of a founding murder which lies behind all culture—that is, it is constitutive of hominization, something which is hidden since the foundation of the world, while his interlocutor (Oughourlian) transmutes this into “cultural differentiation develops on the basis of the founding murder” (165, emphasis added), and Girard does not protest. It is thus easy to see how a personality dedicated to the erasure of difference and imposition of Christianity on all could find his (mistaken) point of origin in Girard. Girard's text hovers around the pit of a Christian triumphalism (and implicit anti-Semitism) which it avoids, while Hamerton-Kelly jumps right in. [BACK]
31. He dismisses the challenge of modern Christian New Testament scholars (such as Mack) to the simple veracity of the gospel accounts. He also simply reads Luke into Paul. [BACK]
32. The discussion of Lyotard and Nancy here owes much to two essays and in general to the thought of my brother Jonathan: “Der Yiddisher Tsenter; or, What Is a Minyan?” (forthcoming), and Jonathan Boyarin and Greg Sarris, “Jews and Native Americans as Living Voice and Absent Other,” presented at MLA, December 1991. In general, it has been startling to watch our work converging in recent years. He begins with the present and looks for its genealogies; I begin in late antiquity and observe its effects even now. Much of the language of this and the next section on Nancy has been adapted from a joint paper of ours (Boyarin and Boyarin 1993). Here, typically, the account of Lyotard and Nancy is his; its connection with Paul is mine. [BACK]
33. Lest there be confusion, I of course endorse Isaac Deutscher's actual point that modern Jewish radicals who do not practice the Jewish religion nevertheless represent an appropriate way of performing Jewishness in the contemporary world (Deutscher 1968). [BACK]
34. I am not here pursuing the issue that Fuss argues so well, namely that all constructivist positions are founded on essentialism, and my account of Lacan and Derrida is largely derivative of hers. My concern is rather to demonstrate how “deconstructive” positions are complicitous with idealizations that go back to Paul for Christian Europe and ultimately deeply back into Greek culture. [BACK]
35. She argues, of course, that the distinction ultimately collapses back on itself, an important point, which is, however, not relevant for my argument here. My entire next book (tentative title Antiphallus) will be devoted to this subject. [BACK]
36. Of course, this remark of Derrida's presupposes a certain interpretation of psychoanalysis, one dissented from by Johnson herself, as well as others. The argument may prove thus more compelling with regard to patristic allegoresis than to Lacanian psychoanalysis. [BACK]
37. A disclaimer is necessary here to ward off misunderstanding. I am not suggesting that Jewish culture is eo ipso anti-logocentric simply because it retains the literal sense of circumcision, or for any other reason. In fact, I would argue, and have argued elsewhere, that from the early Middle Ages onward, Jewish culture is virtually indistinguishable from Christianity in its hermeneutic stances; by then, both cultures have significantly evolved, so that Christianity has developed material practices and communal identities and memories similar to those of the Jews, while Judaism has been thoroughly imbued with platonism. The result is often a Judaism in the Middle Ages that is quite similar in structure to that of Philo. For a somewhat more extensive version of this claim, see the first chapter of Boyarin 1993. I say this in part in response to two recent critics of my work, who have read an essentialist characterization of “Jewish” versus “Greco-Christian” cultures here. I would hope that the larger context of the argument in this book will displace such misunderstandings. I am proposing rather that Paul emphasized certain strands in the Greco-Jewish culture that he inherited, thus yielding his “universalist” variety of Christianity, while rabbinic Judaism reacted against those very strands, producing a “particularism” even more pronounced than that of the Bible. Both are thus products of the interaction of ancient Hebrew culture with Hellenism. Finally, I have mightily tried to expel any vestiges of a Jewish triumphalism from this dialectical co-critique. I may not have entirely succeeded, for obviously I make no bones about being a critical but committed Jew. [BACK]