Constructing the Self: Thinking With Paul and Michel Foucault Open Access

Nicolet-Anderson, Valérie (2010)

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Constructing the Self.
Thinking with Paul and Michel Foucault
By Valérie Nicolet Anderson

This dissertation deploys a conversation between an ancient Christian writing (Paul's epistle to the Romans) and the work of a 20th century French philosopher (Michel Foucault). The focus of the conversation is the construction of the self. Both sets of writings are treated thoroughly in the thesis.

I approach Romans from a narrative perspective, concentrating on the underlying story embedded in the letter. A contrast in the depiction of human beings in particular renders the reader attentive to one of the rhetorical dimension of the letter. At the beginning of the letter (Rom 1:18-3:20), the depiction of human beings is very negative. Yet, in his direct addresses to the Christ believers in Rome, Paul is remarkably positive about their abilities (see Rom 1:7.8 and Rom 15:14) as he also is when delivering direct exhortations in 12:1-15:13. In particular, he trusts his addressees to be able to implement a community marked by Christ's ethos. Through the story he tells in 1:18-11:35-the story of the manner in which God reconciled the world to Godself through Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, and of how the members of the Roman house churches have become children of God-Paul aims to shape and construct the identity of his addressees. In order for the story to become real among the Christ believers in Rome, it needs to modify the personhood of the Christ believers in Rome.

The reading of Foucault engages both the question of the construction of the self and Paul's strategies in trying to shape the ethos and person of his addressees. It calls into question a perspective on the subject in which an identity is given to the person and she then needs to remain faithful to this given identity. In contrast, it invites the person to constantly re-create herself anew, breaking established patterns and calling into question traditional relationships in which power works to limit possibilities and creativity.

In the dialogue between the two thinkers, Paul's actuality is highlighted, reflecting the current use of Paul by continental philosophers and inviting more interdisciplinary reflection between exegesis and philosophy.

Constructing the Self.
Thinking with Paul and Michel Foucault
Valérie Nicolet Anderson
B.A., University of Neuchâtel, 2000
M.A., University of Lausanne, 2004
Advisor : Luke T. Johnson, Ph.D.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the
James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies of Emory University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate Division of Religion, New Testament

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Constructing the Self 1

1.1. Philosophical Engagement of the Question of the Subject 1

1.2. Engaging the Self in Paul's Letters 10

1.2.1. The Individual in Antiquity and in Paul 11

1.2.2. Burnett's Correction to the Collectivistic Approach 16

1.2.3. How I Differ from Burnett 17

Excursus: A Way Not Taken: Rudolf Bultmann 20

1.3. Paul and Michel Foucault in Conversation 27 1.3.1. Setting up the Conversation 28 Three Examples 29

Stephen D. Moore 29

Elizabeth A. Castelli 30

Halvor Moxnes 31

1.4. Situating the Conversation in New Testament Studies 33

1.4.1. Paul and the Philosophers 33 Historical Approaches: Paul and the Philosophers of his

Time 34

Hans-Dieter Betz 34

Abraham J. Malherbe 35

Walter T. Wilson 36

Troels Engberg-Pedersen 38 Theological Approaches: Reading Paul with Philosophers 43

John L. Meech 43

Paul W. Gooch 47 Philosophers Reading Paul 48 Alain Badiou 48

Giorgio Agamben 50

1.4.2. Narrative Approaches to Paul 53 Richard B. Hays 53 N. T. Wright 55 A. Katherine Grieb 58 Luke T. Johnson 61

Chapter 2. A Narrative Reading of Romans 65

2.1. How There Is a Story: The Narrative Dimension of Romans 65

2.1.1. Methodology for a Narrative Reading of Paul 66

2.1.2. Hints for the Presence of a Story in Romans 69

Excursus: Outline of Romans 75

2.2. Fleshing out the Outline 76

2.2.1. The Roman Church: A Self Given (1:1-17) 77

2.2.2. The Beginning of the Story: Humanity in Sin (1:18-3:20) 80

2.2.3. The Middle of the Story: God Saves the World (3:21-5:21) 87 The Manner in which God Saves (3:21-31) 88 The Benefit of Abraham (4:1-25) 91 Manner and Meaning of God's Saving Action (5:1-21) 92

Excursus: Outline of the Last Section of Romans (6-16) 99

2.2.4. The End of the Story: New Self-Understanding (6:1-23; 8:1-39) 99 Slaves of God (6) 100 Children of God: The Power of the Spirit (8) 103

2.2.5. Logical Difficulties Born from the Plot 108 What Norm? The Role of the Law (7:1-8:4) 110 The Problem of the Particular: the People of God and

God's Faithfulness (9-11) 114 First Defense of God's ethos: God's Sovereignty (9:6b-29) 115 Second Defense of God's ethos: The Problem of Israel

(9:30-10:21) 118 Third Defense of God's ethos: Israel's Future Salvation

(11:1-36) 122

2.2.6. The Roman Church: A Self Constructed (12:1-16:27) 127

Chapter 3. A Self Constructed 129

3.1. Constructing the ethos of the Community (12:1-15:13) 130

3.1.1. How to Embody Christ's ethos in the World (12:1-13:14) 130 Rom 12:1-2: Call to a Renewed Mind 130 Rom 12:3-8: In the Assembly ( ekklhsia ), Be Humble 134 Rom 12:9-13:10: In the World, Practice Love 136 Rom 13:11-14: Know the Proper Time 142

3.1.2. Concrete Examples of Practicing Sincere Love (14:1-15:13) 144 Rom 14:1-23: Welcome Each Other Because of Who You

Are through God's Acceptance 145 Rom 15:1-6: Welcome Each Other for the Good of the Community 148 Rom 15:7-13: Welcome Each Other Because of Christ's Example 150

3.2. Ethos of the Community in Relationship with Paul (15:14-16:27) 152

3.2.1. Rom 15:14-16:2: Involvement of the Roman Community in Paul's

Mission 152

3.2.2. Rom 16:3-27: Salutations and Ultimate Recommendations 154

3.3. How Story Constructs Self 156

3.3.1. Ricœur's Narrative Theory 157

3.3.2. Romans in View of Ricœur's Narrative Theory 164

3.4. Categories of the Self in Romans 166

3.4.1. Who the Christ Believers Are (Selfhood of the Believers)/The

"Here I am!" of Christ Believers 166

3.4.2. What the Christ Believers Are (Character of the Believers) 168 Body 169 Abilities of Human Beings 172 The New Οîkos of God 176

3.4.3. The Constitution of the Ethical Subject in Romans 179

Chapter 4. Categories of the Self in Michel Foucault 186

4.1. Spaces of Resistance in Foucault's Thought 189

4.1.1. Resistance and Knowledge: Archaeology 189

4.1.2. Resistance and Power: Genealogy 197

4.1.3. Resistance and the Self: Ethics 213 Ethics of the Self in Classical Greece 218 Ethics of the Self in Hellenistic Writers 228 Ethics of the Self in Christianity 238 Spaces of Resistance in Ethics 245 4.2. Categories of the Self in Foucault 251

4.2.1. Remarks About the Ricœurian idem/ipse Distinction and Foucault 252

4.2.2. Categories of the Self 254 Curiosity 256 Invention 259 Pleasure 261

4.2.3. The Constitution of the Ethical Subject in Foucault 267

Chapter 5. Thinking with Romans and Foucault 273

5.1. Hermeneutical Position 273

5.2. Thinking About the Self with Paul and Foucault 276

5.2.1. Power in the Construction of the Self 277

5.2.2. Askesis: the Work on the Self 286 5.2.3. Telos 293 5.2.4. Summary 301

5.3. Understanding of Identity 302

5.4. Thinking Beyond Foucault and Paul 311

5.5. Crossing Boundaries: The Work of Hermeneutical Imagination 318

Bibliography 324

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