Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.11.16

John David Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity.   Berkeley:  University of California Press, 2002.  Pp. 302.  ISBN 0-520-22630-5.  $42.50.  



Reviewed by Mark Vessey, University of British Columbia (mvessey@interchange.ubc.ca)
Word count: 4943 words

In a recent discussion of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, "a work that stages with an unequalled power all the great motives of Christian anti-Judaism," Jacques Derrida presents Portia's first efforts to dissuade Shylock from extracting his pound of Christian flesh as an attempted conversion: "She tries to convert him to Christianity by persuading him of the supposedly Christian interpretation that consists of interiorizing, spiritualizing, idealizing what among Jews (it is often said, at least, that this is a powerful stereotype) will remain physical, external, literal, devoted to a respect for the letter." Only when this attempt fails, and Shylock insists on the terms of the contract, does she resort to the hyperliteral reading that finally defeats him of his purpose, out-Jewing him as it were. The scene, suggests Derrida, may "recapitulate the entire history between the Jew and the Christian," a story that turns on a "question of literalness" and on the translation--or ultimate unconvertibility--of idioms: "literal circumcision of the flesh versus ideal and interior cirumcision of the heart, Jewish circumcision versus Christian circumcision, the whole debate surrounding Paul."1

Must this story, as Christians have told and retold it since Paul, always end the same way in the present? Or as Derrida puts it, must "a certain Church, if not Christianity" go on forever asking forgiveness from peoples whom it has forcibly converted or otherwise deprived of their distinct identities, "and first of all from the Jew"?2 Not according to John David Dawson (hereafter D). Although D has his differences with Derrida, he shares his desire for a less precipitously realized eschatology. His exegetical craft, while quite unlike Derrida's in expression, makes the same kinds of demand on the reader.

Clear as its structure is in outline--three large sections, each centered on a major modern theorist of biblical interpretation in dialogue with Origen--Christian Figural Reading is not an easy work either to categorize or to summarize. Part of the reviewer's difficulty is in knowing who will be reading it and where their initial sympathies will lie. No-one of its likely readers, I take it, can be indifferent to D's main claim: that the "implicit negative judgment about the significance of some forms of Jewish belief and practice" rendered in a traditional Christian view of the Bible as a depiction of "the ongoing historical outworking of a divine intention to transform humanity over the course of time" (216-17) does not necessarily entail a negation of Jewish cultural identity in the so-called Common Era. The detailed arguments advanced in support of this claim are likely to appeal diversely to diverse readers, and most directly to those with a confessional or professional interest in Christian theology. (The book's appearance under a special "Imprint in Classical Literature" endowed "In honor of beloved Virgil" and with a quotation from Dante is only obliquely answered by its contents, as we shall see.)

It would be possible to consider D's study as an eirenic transposition of the classical Christian genres of apologetic (Adversus nationes) and polemic (Adversus Iudaeos). Christian collective self-fashioning, originally a product of the multicultural politics of the late Hellenistic world, is refashioned for the present. As in earlier forms of the intercultural debate, readers of the Christian contribution without Christian convictions of their own find themselves edged out at times, even from discussions designed to accommodate alternative (Jewish, secular humanist, postmodernist) points of view. D makes no bones about this. His preface locates the genesis and composition of Christian Figural Reading in mainly Protestant American intellectual milieux and gives credit to an inside outsider, American Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin, for stirring him from his "modest anti-dogmatic slumber." Two hundred densely argued pages later, he addresses his final remarks to "[t]hose familiar with a religion that affirms" unmistakably Christian dogmas, familiar enough with them to lament their worst effects. While such familiarity is of course not confined to Christians, the sense of responsibility conveyed by D's text--one piece of which began life as an inaugural lecture for a chair in Social Responsibility at Haverford College--is primarily that of a hugely successful proselytizing cult.

It would be unfair to suggest that this is a narrow or partisan work, for it is anything but that. At once conservative and critical, it speaks from near the heart of the expansionist, colonialist, assimilative religio-political culture that has grown up in the West since Constantine and nowadays at times appears coterminous with global capitalism. Although composed for the most part in the rhetorically unassertive style of intellectual history, Christian Figural Reading is first and last a work of cultural analysis, a reading of and for "our" singularly pluralist, perimillennial condition.

The first date given is December 1933. To situate his subject-matter in late twentieth-century historical consciousness, D begins his critique of the supersessionist account of Christianity's relation to Judaism by quoting a sermon preached by a German archbishop during the Nazi period. The books of the Old Testament, the preacher insisted against those who would dispense with them altogether, "were not composed by Jews" but "inspired by the Holy Ghost." D draws the lesson: "to save the text, some are prepared to sacrifice the people" (2). By the time his book came off the press, history had brutally moved us on. Read after September 11, 2001, the plot of Christian Figural Reading is even more compellingly up-to-date. To the post-War, post-Holocaust drama of a Jewish return to the letter of the Covenant in Israel have been added new dilemmas of an American nation whose sense of its unity and destiny under God was once derived--like that of the older Protestant nation out of which it sprang--from a selectively de- and rehistoricizing exegesis of the Old Testament.3 As 1930s German Nazionalismus enforced one short-reading of Jewish scripture, so other modern nationhoods have been forged with peremptory revisions of the same texts.4 To the extent that post-Roman, western conceptions of collective identity have drawn in the past or continue to draw on narratives of Israel's election, their histories are also the subject-matter of this book.

Is there any other (Christian) history worth reading or writing?

D's response to the often dire consequences of a reputedly Pauline-Christian theory of supersession is to insist at some length upon the corrective value of the kind of historico-spiritual exegesis that he calls "figural."

Figura (or typos in Greek) is the term used by Christian writers from Tertullian onwards for the literary-interpretative device whereby an event related in one part of the overall biblical narrative (usually the Old Testament) is recognized as pointing forward to a subsequent event, either as already related in a later part of the same total narrative (e.g. in the New Testament) or as foreseeable on the basis of the same, unified, divine dispensation in text-and-history. Unlike allegorical or figuraTIVE exegesis in general--of which it may nonetheless be regarded as a species--figurAL interpretation does not promote a spiritual meaning at the expense of a literal-historical one. Indeed, D argues, our very use of the concept of textual "meaning," especially when it is expressed in terms of the structuralist binary of signifier and signified, is all too likely to obscure the special character of figural exegesis. For the aim of the latter is not to advance from a (merely) literal and historical reference in the text to an ontologically superior referent outside it but rather to discern, in and through the medium of the text, the significance of a relationship between two equally "real" historical events or persons, respectively those of the figure and its fulfillment. The difference of these two hermeneutics, the figurative-allegorical and the figural-historical, is crucial for Christian thinking about the past, present and future situation of the Jews.

Such thinking on the part of Christians, even if not necessarily determined by the writings of Paul, has in fact usually been so determined in large part. That is why the modern hermeneutical choice is so stark. As long as Paul's statements on the changing identity of Israel and the significance of (Jewish) ritual practices in Romans 9-11 and related texts are construed according to the ordinary rules of allegory, then, whatever Paul himself may have meant, there will always be a danger not only of Christians' regarding the Jews as a non-people for the period between the first and second comings of Christ but also of their retrospectively discounting the reality of the biblical ("Old Testament") history of Israel, henceforth seen merely as a series of fictions for the edification of Christian readers. To guard against these dangers, while preserving what he takes to be a more or less Pauline and in any case essentially Christian conception of Christian identity "as the God-ordained transformative continuation of Israel," D urges a new recourse to the alternative tradition of figural exegesis. Because that way of reading the Christian Bible resists allegory's pull towards a dualism of the literal and non-literal, it may serve to protect the identity of Jews--considered here as a primary marker, if not the defining figure, of ethnocultural difference in general--from violent and premature assimilation to the unity imagined in some Christian texts for the end of time.

While it cannot do justice to the subtlety of the author's exposition, this summary should reveal both the ambition and the modesty of his undertaking. D is writing against and for "the entire history between the Jew and the Christian," as Derrida found it epitomized in a scene of Shakespeare. Yet even if he succeeds, as he must know, he will only have written the prospectus for a New Christian History of Jews and Christians--and possibly (by implication) of other "peoples" too, always in relation to a Christian grand narrative. Or less than that: an updated version of a Christian grand narrative that, on his own and other accounts, has been around since the second century CE, if not since Paul. As a project of western, Christian cultural self-critique at what may be a turning-point in "our" historical consciousness, Christian Figural Reading deserves close study and high praise. As an attempt at dialogue with unassimilated or non-assimilating Jews and other (inside or outside) others of "ours," it may--regrettably, if not inevitably--prove only a little more ingratiating than Portia's speech before the Venetian tribunal.

In appealing to figural exegesis as a way out of current dilemmas, D narrates much of the history of modern scholarship on that technique, so much of it indeed that the structure of his book--three sections, each turning on the work of a different twentieth-century thinker of Christian and Jewish identities in and beyond the "letter"--is only fully intelligible in the light of that history. There is therefore something to be said for taking the sections in the order 2, 3, 1, the chronological sequence of D's modern interlocutors. Such a course enables us to finish at the flash-point of the book's argument, which is its first chapter.

The beginning of contemporary interest in Christian figuralism as a distinct hermeneutic device can be traced to the essay "Figura" by the German Jewish literary historian Erich Auerbach, first published in 1944, the conclusions of which are largely incorporated in his Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (German edn. 1946, ET 1953), extending a line of inquiry announced in Dante, Poet of the Secular World (1929, ET 1961). Auerbach sought to track the emergence of a modern, secular and serious form of literary realism out of earlier, Christian modes of understanding and representing the world, one of which he found to be compassed by the history of the Latin word figura as it was used by ancient and medieval Christian authors. In his 1944 essay he contrasts the "more historical and realistic interpretation" of scriptural episodes by a writer like Tertullian, for whom figura already names a key hermeneutical concept, with the "more ethical, allegorical approach" of Origen, for example. "[O]ne party," he writes, "strove to transform the events of the New and still more of the Old Testament into purely spiritual happenings, to 'spirit away' [zu verflüchtigen] their historical character," while the other, the figuralists, "wished to preserve the full historicity of the Scriptures along with the deeper meaning. In the West the latter tendency was victorious, although the spritualists [sic] always maintained a certain influence, as may be seen from the progress of the doctrine of the different meanings of Scripture." Without the notion of figura, Christianity might have forfeited any use of the Old Testament apart from the allegorical, thus "los[ing] its conception of a providential history, its intrinsic concreteness, and with these no doubt some of its immense persuasive power."5

Auerbach occupies the second or middle section in D's book ("Figural Reading and History"). It is his theory of figural reading, modified where D finds it wanting, that provides the basis for the proposed solution to the problems created for Jewish-Christian relations by a "Pauline" supersessionist hermeneutic of letter and spirit. Like other sections, this one on Auerbach begins with an extended account of the subject's opinions, then proceeds in two shorter chapters to a partly corroborative, partly revisionist critique of them, in terms suggested by a writer of the patristic age: Origen, in all three cases.

In the main chapter on Auerbach, D insists on the "eventfulness" of his definition of figural exegesis. Figural "meaning" resides not in the correlation of textual signifier to extratextual signified but "in the relation between two events comprising a single divine performance in history" (86). Wherever Auerbach finds that relation threatened by appeals to a "spiritual" sense independent of the narrative flow of events in time and text, as he does in the writings of Paul, he treats the results as aberrant from an authentic Jewish-Christian understanding of "phenomenal prophecy." And yet at the same time, argues D, Auerbach's own account of the rise of Christianity, because it turns on the experience and interpretation by others (beginning with Peter) of Jesus' life and death, rather than on the event of his resurrection, proves highly vulnerable to just such spiritualizing or allegorical subversion: "Resurrection-as-meaning-for-Peter is something other than the resurrection as an event by which Jesus' identity is enacted. And as something other, it is now possible for it to become something antagonistic or subversive... [of] the very concrete, historical life of a Jesus who can die on the cross" (103).

Because, as a non-Christian, Auerbach held a defective christology, he could never satisfy himself that ancient Christian exegesis had adequate safeguards against the flight from lived history to transcendent "spirit" that as a European Jew at mid-century he had particular reason to mistrust. Unable to discover in the Jesus of Christian tradition a saving kenosis or emptying-out of "meaning" into concrete reality, he looked for it instead in the secular realism that arose--according to his literary history--in European literature after Dante.

D's presentation of the "unconverted" Auerbach is brilliantly tendentious; it would take a longer review to say exactly how. The author of "Figura" and Mimesis has lately been the subject of much discussion among literary theorists and cultural critics; Edward Said, in particular, has promoted him as an exemplary case of the critic as exile or displaced person, an identity that resonates quite differently with Auerbach's Jewishness than does the one supplied here.6 By bringing Auerbach's work back to a focus in early Christian literature, D may have opened the way to a long-overdue reassessment of his theses by scholars working on the Romano-Christian culture of late antiquity. Though scarcely referred to in Christian Figural Reading, Auerbach's most sustained intervention in that area was his last book, Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages (1958, ET 1965), with its famous opening chapter on Augustine and the Christian rhetorical ideal of sermo humilis or of a "low style" modeled on the idiom of the Bible and the example of Christ.7 Without that chapter and that book, and without the attention to Augustine that is likewise a feature of "Figura" and Mimesis, any account of Auerbach's vision of European literature, literary history, and the successive (ancient Christian and modern secular) kinds of history-in-the-letter that he took for "serious" realism, must remain lopsided. On D's reading, however, Auerbach loses the plot of Christian realism and of real Christianity long before he reaches Augustine. Hence the need to correct him among others by a rereading of Origen, beginning with a revision of his portrayal of Origen's theory and practice of "spiritual" interpretation.

After Auerbach, and partly in his wake, theologians and patristic scholars such as Rudolph Bultmann and Jean Daniélou took up the study of what was henceforth generally called biblical "typology" and contrasted, more or less sharply, with biblical allegory. The problematics of that distinction were summarized by D in the introduction to his 1992 book, Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria. Granting that the allegory/typology division was rooted in the demands of "christological exegesis of Hebrew scripture," he chose then to treat typology "simply [as] a certain kind of allegorical reading promoted as nonallegorical for specific theological and rhetorical reasons." The reasons he specified are essentially those for which he now re-asserts the distinctiveness of typology, albeit as a species of allegory, in Christian Figural Reading:

[T]he claim for the uniqueness of typological meaning and its essential distinction from... allegory arose... in large part as a result of Reformation polemic against the use of allegory. Theological preferences for typological, rather than allegorical, ways of reading scripture reflect a desire to preserve the historicity of the persons and events depicted in Hebrew scripture, the "types" of which are thus not entirely negated and replaced by corresponding Christian "antitypes." This desire in turn reflects concern [on the part of the Christian theologian] to preserve the underlying continuity of Judaism and Christianity, the distinction of both from Greek (and modern, secular) culture, and the concrete reality of divine action and self-identification (i.e., revelation) in history.8

Sixteenth-century Protestant resistance to allegory and enthusiasm for literal exegesis of Old and New Testament prophecy contribute directly to the resources of D's interlocutor in the third and final section ("Figural Reading and Identity"). He is Hans Frei, "a Protestant theologian of Jewish descent" who taught at Yale where D did his doctoral research. If Auerbach can be credited with rediscovering the lost key of figural reading, Frei is the one who in works such as The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (1974) and The Identity of Christ (1975) applied it again to the problems of Christian historical self-consciousness with which D is mainly concerned. Not surprisingly, then, this is the section of the book in which one feels least tension between the author and his fellow modern interpreter. When in due course Frei is brought into conversation with Origen, there is no suggestion of his being taught a lesson, and the two theologians emerge from their encounter with honors roughly even.

To a large degree, it would appear, Frei's method is already D's. He adopts Auerbach's conception of figural reading but modifies it to suit his own sense of the tradition. Where Auerbach risked the immediate separation of Christian identity from narrative-historical reality by harping on the disciples' reactions to Jesus' life and death, Frei takes the gospel renderings of Jesus' own person as reference-point for the interpretation of all biblical figures, so preserving their historicity: "The embodied character of Jesus-as-fulfillment ensures that material figures are not fulfilled by virtue of being emptied by abstractions" (142). This Christ-centered vision of the total biblical narrative is the result of Frei's correction of Auerbach in the light of a Protestant master, namely Calvin. According to Calvin as understood by Frei, although Christian readers were naturally disposed to "read backward"--for example, retrospectively construing the Israelites' possession of the land of Canaan as a figure of their own heavenly inheritance--their ability to do so was dependent on the prior possibility of their reading forward from figure to fulfillment, which in turn depended on the historical reality of the events and persons composing the figure in the biblical text. Hence there were no "meanings 'logically distinct' from the historical/narrative sequence." Reformation polemic thus anticipated modern debate: "Calvin's Christian opponents... claim[ed] that Jews were granted a distinct identity not 'for their own sakes,' but only 'for ours.' With the help of Calvin and Auerbach, Frei thoroughly rejects this view" (157).

In stressing with Frei that "Christian tradition has given priority in biblical interpretation to the literal sense of Scripture, especially to the New Testament stories of Jesus" (161) D argues hard against the views of certain interpreters "who deny from the outset the leading conception of incarnation by positing an irreduceable dualism in Christianity" (note 41 in the same chapter). That a christological test should serve to distinguish faithful from unfaithful interpretations of Christianity is not remarkable. The point immediately at issue, however, is more interesting. Having outlined Frei's position, D is about to embark on a fuller exploration of the Christian understanding of the sensus literalis ("The Letter in the Spirit"), too intricate to unfold here. The argument against dualistic interpretation falls at this point and leads (in the same note) to references to D's efforts to deal elsewhere with one of the sources of error, located by him in "a dubious reading of Augustine's theory of signs in De doctrina christiana"...

Augustine's re-appearance at this juncture, if only in an endnote, is hardly fortuitous. Why is it, one could ask (though D does not), that Frei so easily harmonizes Auerbach's view of figural reading with Calvin's? Is not Calvin taking a basically Augustinian position, one also partly reproduced by Auerbach (e.g. in "Figura")? Calvin's "notion of the Spirit's inner testimony" (154) and use of it to reinforce the internal narrative logic of the Bible certainly have an Augustinian ring. It is impossible, one would think, to take a historical view of Christian understandings of biblical letter-and-spirit as they evolved between Paul and Calvin without bringing Augustine fully into the conversation. The same would go for Christian attitudes to the history of the Jews.9 For the moment, however, and for understandable reasons of economy, D fends off the alleged abusers of Augustine, freeing himself to tackle the dualistic misinterpretation of Christianity where it appears most challengingly, to his eye, among modern readings of Paul. And so we come finally to the first section of Christian Figural Reading, in which D takes on the "Paul" of Daniel Boyarin's 1994 study, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity.

In that book Boyarin (hereafter B) presents a Paul whose Hellenistic, neo-Platonic, dualist anthropology of flesh and spirit is exactly coordinated with a "hermeneutical dualism" of letter and spirit, according to which the Jewish Law and its physical observances--above all, of course, circumcision--were abrogated in favor of a new spiritual understanding of communal identity. This, B claims in good faith, is a "very old-fashioned (patristic!) interpretation of Paul" (7). A passage from Augustine's treatise Adversus Iudaeos, already used as the epigraph for B's Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture (1993), is cited, and Origen brought in to attest a dominant patristic-Pauline sense that the "failure of the Jews" could be ascribed to their "literalist hermeneutic, one which [was] unwilling to go beyond or behind the material language and discover its immaterial spirit" (13). In this context, allegorical exegesis names a process by which Christians evacuated Jewish scripture and ritual of the sacred meanings they formerly had--and, outside the circles for which Paul was writing, continued to have--for Jews. Another name for it, B suggests, is "logocentrism" (17), the word coined by Derrida for the systematic privileging in western culture of immaterial signifieds over material signifiers.

As we are now well aware, such formulations have a powerful resonance in theological writings of the early Christian period. In his Allegorical Readers, D showed in exemplary fashion how poststructuralist semiotics could be used to separate varieties of religious discourse within the Hellenistic culture of earlier late antiquity. One of his definitions of allegory in that book served B as a means of defining Jewish midrash, against the emergent Christian hermeneutic, as "resistance to allegory" (Radical Jew 264 n.8; cited by D 263 n.6). In Christian Figural Reading, B's poststructuralist assumptions about language and meaning become a stumbling-block. By reading Paul "at his most theoretically accessible," D contends, "Boyarin fails to read him at this theologically strongest" (20). The real bulwark of Pauline theology, according to D, is not the promotion by allegoresis of a Christian spiritual reality over a Jewish literal one, but the Apostle's confidence in God's performance of his promises, inspired by the coming of Christ. The event of the Incarnation is the untranscendent ground of Paul's preaching, the central act of a divinely authored human drama in which the identity of "Israel" is progressively transformed, and whose successive stages are partly represented in sacred texts. Historical transformation, not allegorical substitution, is the core of the Pauline message. Only by "consistently replac[ing] performative with semiotic categories" (31), D asserts, is B able to render the account he does of Paul's teaching.

I leave it to scholars of Paul to score this bout, which may yet have a few rounds to go. What is striking to an onlooker is how, once again, Jewish and Christian interpreters have exchanged idioms--that is, if either party (as we know it) can be supposed ever to have had a language of its own. Having presented Paul's dualistic anthropology and hermeneutics as part and parcel of a common western, Christian neo-Platonism, in order to contrast it with an alternative, rabbinic understanding of body and letter, B now finds himself convicted of a dualism that D considers not necessarily, or at least not demonstrably, Pauline (44). One Jew is too much a Greek, and it may not be Paul. D for his part presses the claims of a historical, performative, event-centered understanding of Christian identity against the dehistoricized, semiotic model held up for critique by B, insisting on a distinction between figurative (allegorical) and figural-historical (typological) exegesis that he had himself played down in an earlier, less "dogmatic" book. Whereas allegory is usually taken to be a Greek device, figural exegesis has been associated by most researchers since Auerbach with the Jewish sense of prophecy. Resistance to allegory can take various forms. When a Christian theologian has to rebut the charge of supersessionism, his best arguments may be the ones that remain most visibly Jewish.

"The Pauline corpus," writes B, "is... one of the main textual sources for Christianity, the most powerful of hegemonic cultural systems in the history of the world. Paul and the reactions to Paul are thus a major source for a historicization of our cultural predicament" (Radical Jew 9). One reason D and B make such well-matched interlocutors is in that word "historicization." Historicization, not history. While deeply interested in history, neither is content or willing to write it. They agree that a better understanding of the historical reception of Paul is a prerequisite for any solution of current problems. B takes it for granted, and D is ready to allow, that Paul's teaching--as interpreted at different times--has had disastrous effects. Without claiming to be experts on Paul, both are anxious to be as clear as possible about what Paul may have meant to say in his own time, and so devote many pages to close reading of his texts. Both attend carefully to the twentieth-century "debate surrounding Paul," as Derrida calls it. But neither spends long on paper considering what took place in the long gap between Paul and, say, Luther and Calvin, to cast that debate in the form in which we moderns have inherited it. When D and B summon representatives of Christian or Jewish exegetical tradition after Paul, they do so primarily for the sake of making their own arguments in the present.

B the talmudist puts Paul among the early rabbis, compares the long-term costs and benefits of Pauline Christianity with those of Rabbinic Judaism, and argues for an "alternative history" of the Jews (for Jews, in the first instance) that will preserve their sense of genealogical distinction without compromising the universal, egalitarian vision of humanity that he considers the most valuable legacy of Paul's Hellenism. D the patristic scholar adopts a nearly reciprocal strategy, using Origen to interpret and extend what he sees as the authentically Pauline theory of the divine action in history as a process of transformation without replacement and concluding with a call to Christians "to embrace as Christianly significant [sic] the concrete bodily and historical practices of Judaism... in ways that do not undermine but respect their bodily and historical integrity: the letter must remain in the spirit" (217). The symmetry is not perfect. B takes the greater risk of offending his correligionists; in this he is true to Paul. No-one will accuse D of judaizing, except by misreading him. Yet Christian Figural Reading is also a bold book. As D points out, his Origenian-Pauline vision of God's purposes for humanity leaves no room for the "easy, liberal-laissez-faire stance that modern Christians often hope to assume" towards the Jewish religion -- "and to this extent the charge of supersessionism may still have force" (217). In other words: we (still) believe that there is only one history, and that it is ours.

The intervening history of this peculiarly Christian (Jewish) belief in History would bear closer scrutiny by historians, poststructuralists and cultural critics alike. Meanwhile, D's impressive study confirms that there are few more exciting arenas for research in patristics and late antiquity at the moment than the one in which ancient and modern discourses of history, ethnicity and sacred exegesis collide.10


Notes:


1.   Jacques Derrida, "What Is a 'Relevant' Translation?" Critical Inquiry 27 (2001): 174-200, here 191, 194.
2.   Ibid. 187.
3.   See, e.g., Avihu Zakai, Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992). The author is among members of the Center for Theological Inquiry at Princeton whom D acknowledges in his preface.
4.   As shown for two notable cases by Donald Harman Akenson, God's Peoples: Covenant and Land in South Africa, Israel, and Ulster (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1992). For a critical note on Akenson's analysis as it refers to Israel, see Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: U of California P, 1994) 247.
5.   Erich Auerbach, "Figura," in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature (New York: Meridian Books, 1959) 11-71, here 36, 52.
6.   See now Aamir R. Mufti, "Auerbach in Istanbul: Edward Said, Secular Criticism, and the Question of Minority Culture," Critical Inquiry 25 (1998): 95-125.
7.   Auerbach's theses on Augustinian figuralism and biblical style are already the subject of important engagements by Brian Stock, extensively in his Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1996), as noted by the present reviewer in BMCR 96.9.1, and more concisely in "Later Ancient Literary Realism," now ch. 3 in his After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2001).
8.   David Dawson, Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria (Berkeley: U of California P, 1992) 15.
9.   For a new line on Augustine, Paul, the spirit and the letter, see Kathy Eden, Hermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition: Chapters in the Ancient Legacy and Its Humanist Reception (New Haven: Yale UP, 1997) 56-57. On Augustine and the history of the Jews we look forward to a major study by Paula Fredriksen; for a sketch, see her "Secundum Carnem: History and Israel in the Theology of St. Augustine," in The Limits of Ancient Christianity: Essays on Late Antique Thought and Culture in Honor of R.A. Markus, ed. William E. Klingshirn and Mark Vessey (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1999) 26-41.
10.   Note also Georges Tugène, L'idée de nation chez Bède le Vénérable (Paris: Institut d'Études Augustiniennes, 2001); Patrick J. Geary, The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2002) 52-56.

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