On the Debate Between the Paulines and the Rabbis in Late Antiquity Around the Body and Sexuality and Its Significance to the Present Day, Through D. Boyarin’s Postmodern View
The goal of the present paper is to formulate a concise framework for part of Daniel Boyarin’s work which he is most known for, namely his analysis of sexuality in late antiquity Judaism and the critique of contemporary culture he eventually derived from it, above all his objections to the idea of the Jewish nation-state. Within the brief scope here I intend to provide the reader with a simple roadmap for orienting oneself in Boyarin’s relevant literature. Boyarin, a Jewish-American scholar, traces rabbinic, Jewish-Hellenic, and Pauline texts that he believes were part of one arc of Jewish culture in Palestine of late antiquity, and reveals the discourse that was at the center of this one Jewish culture, namely that the famous debate between Judaism and Christianity was essentially over the interpretation of the physical body and sexuality in the Bible, a debate during which critical cultural decisions were made that still have an impact on Western society today in the realms of gender and identity. Through his original “cultural reading” that employs critical current postmodern methods, Boyarin demonstrates that both have complex ethical and political issues, such as rigid hierarchies, colonialism, and racism, but they also have a lot of promise, namely that by examining them side by side, the possibility of finding a more just alternative for our present and future is increased, through mutual correction of each other.
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