the apostle Paul

Rubens Gerchman, Bus, 1965. Photographic reproduction by unknown author.


The invention of a revolutionary critique in which power is on the side of the oppressed

In a commentary on the book Pauline Ugliness: Jacob Taubes and the Turn to Paul, Ole Jakob Løland argues in favor of the role of Jacob Taubes in relation to the resumption of the teachings of the apostle Paul beyond traditional theological circles, since the placement of the apostle as a central figure in the discourses of the left, from the point of view of Western politics and of philosophical thought, is not restricted to the recent efforts of Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou or Slavoj Žižek.

Through his work, Løland highlights the role of the apostle Paul for Taubes in relation to the philosophical debates in XNUMXth century Europe. It is by confronting the traditional conception of the aforementioned apostle – as the first Christian to definitively break with Judaism and who emptied the political potential of Christianity – that Taubes emphasizes, on the other hand, the role of Jewish roots in Paul, in addition to the importance, in the political perspective, of the revolutionary role of the doctrine of the cross defended by him.

We find in Hans Kelsen (1966, p. 7) an error in saying that Paul's mysticism is a juridical theology for subservience to Caesar: “There is no governing authority except from God".

The referred counterpoint, from a more attentive reading, as stated in footnote nº 9, of the text The Idea of ​​Justice in the Holy Scriptures, in which Kelsen (1971) cites Robert Eisler. In this sense, Eisler (1931, p. 334-335) interpreted that Jesus meant with the expression “Render to Caesar what is Caesar's” the following: “Rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's ' really means: ' Throw Caesar's, ie Satan's, money down his throat,8 so that you may then be free to devote yourselves wholly to the service of God.' 'For no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Y e cannot serve God and tnammon,' mammon being the whole system of money and credit, which, like some rival god and the author of all evil, is the real ' temporal ' lord of this world".

The second piece of evidence we have gathered in order to shed light on Kelsen's error can be found in Nietzsche, whose interpretation of the apostle Paul involves a common lower social hatred of Rome: "Nietzsche's Paul is full of hatred against Rome and unites all at the bottom of society in their common resentment in a great anarchistic power. His Paul Dele unites these people in a secret rebellion against what is noble and beautiful, while adhering to the ugly cross of their God who chose the weak and fool.” (Løland, 2020, p. 172).

Another evidence collected can be found in Erich Auerbach, referenced by Jacob Taubes (1996), in the article “Sermo Humilis", from which the following can be extracted: Auerbach posits a break in literary language, which occurs with the Christian genre of sermo humilis. This is a literary form Auerbach locates in Augustine and that shapes European intellectual history since. According to Auerbach, the style of the sermo humilis was 'a radical departure from the rhetorical, and indeed from the entire, literary tradition.' This departure constituted a new Christian sublime. If the Christian will pride himself only in weakness, he will have to refer to this strength with a kind of literary or rhetorical modesty.” (Løland, 2020, p. 173).

The reference to Auerbach (1953, p. 318) is important in the observation that the incarnation is nothing more than the voluntary humiliation illustrated by a life on earth among the lowest social class, the point at which the aesthetic and social are connected: “Das Thema konnte nach mehreren Richtungen ausgebaut werden. Die Inkarnation im ganzen ist freiwillige Erniedrigung, die Art derselben in niedrigstem Stande, das Leben auf Erden zwischen den materiell und geistig Armen, die Art der Lehre und der Dienstleistungen entfalten die Erniedrigung im einzelnen";

The third proof can be extracted from Walter Benjamin, invoked by Taubes (2010, p. 73): “I see Benjamin as the exegete of the “nature” of Romans 8, of decay, and of Romans 13, nihilism as world politics. And this is something that Nietzsche already saw, and Nietzsche resisted.” The secret to making such an interpretation is to find the point of contact between Paulo and Benjamin, a reading that can be observed by Løland (2020, p. 189): “Taubes could have made a contrast between Benjamin and Adorno without recourse to Paul. Nonetheless, to draw out this contrast between the messianic thinker and the merely aesthetic thinker does not appear as the only purpose for bringing Walter Benjamin into the readings of Paul."

Consequently, Løland's work provides a possible reading of Taubes' interpretation of Paulo's movement, since it is a movement responsible for the birth of a policy that turns to "ugliness", that is, the invention of a revolutionary critique in which power is on the side of the oppressed.

*Ari Marcelo Solon is a professor at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among others, of books, Paths of philosophy and science of law: German connection in the development of justice (Prisms).


AUERBACH, Erich. SERMO HUMILI. Romanische Forschungen, v. 64, no. 3-4, p. 304-364, 1952.

EISLER, Robert. The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist. New York: The Dial Press, 1931.

KELSEN, Hans. ON THE PURE THEORY OF LAW. Israel Law Review, v. 1, no. 1, Jan. 1966.

KELSEN, Hans. What is Justice?. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1971.

LØLAND, Ole Jakob. Pauline Ugliness: Jacob Taubes and the Turn to Paul. New York: Fordham University Press, 2020.


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