COV&R-Bulletin No. 8 (March 1995)
In the October 1994 issue of the Bulletin we published two replies by Raymund Schwager and Józef Niewiadomski to Sandor Goodhart's interpretation of Isaiah 52-53. In this issue you will find Sandor Goodhart's response to these replies. Our Jewish-Christian dialogue was also continued at our November 1994 meeting in Chicago. Abstracts by Sandor Goodhart, Charles Mabee, and Hans Jensen give you a short overview of the debate in Chicago. Due to our ongoing discussion some of those abstracts are a little longer than usual. The Jewish-Christian dialogue will continue at our annual meeting in Chicago in June 1995.
Let me raise also some administrative matters:
(1) We ask you to send us your contributions to the Bulletin on a floppy disk or by e-mail. It greatly simplifies the publication of the Bulletin.
(2) If you would like to write a book review for the Bulletin please contact the editorial office or James G. Williams, the executive secretary. The length of a review should be between 600 and 1000 words. Longer reviews (at most 2000 words) will only be published in special circumstances.
(3) The length of an abstract should be between 100 and 300 words.
(4) Please find out if you have paid your annual dues. You will find the date of your last payment at the top of your mailing label. The regular membership fee is $30.00. Matriculated students may enroll for $15. It is also possible to subscribe to the Bulletin without membership for $15. The Bulletin appears biannually. The terms of payment you will find on the front-page.
The meeting of COV&R November 18 at Chicago in conjunction with AAR/SBL was one of the best we have had for intensity of discussion and a cordial atmosphere. The attendance at one time in the morning session was 45, the highest we have yet had at AAR/SBL. There were three editors or publishers present, including Cynthia Maude-Gembler of the Syracuse University Press.
The morning discussion focused on the prophetic tradition as a basis for Jewish-Christian dialogue, led by Sandy Goodhart and Charles Mabee, with a critique by Hans Jensen from the standpoint of biblical priestly theology. The afternoon session featured the question of Christianity and sacrifice, based on a paper by Robert Daly, with responses by Bruce Chilton and Paul Duff. Both of the subjects are not only important in their own right, but the papers may eventually be published in some form.
The cordial atmosphere was enhanced in the evening by a buffet reception at the home of Andrew McKenna. The highlight of the evening, besides the warm hospitality of Andrew and his wife, was the singing session led by Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, with Sandy Goodhart at the piano.
I would request that the members and friends of COV&R keep in mind two things: (1) The new book series announced by the Syracuse University Press, "Violence and the Sacred." Please keep in touch with me concerning your research and writing projects. (2) The need to ask libraries to subscribe to Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. Publishing a journal is very expensive. We need everyone's support in whatever way you can help. (See the special announcement about the nomination of Contagion for an award.)
Finally, please note that a non-COV&R meeting is listed in the announcement of future meetings: a conference next Fall on the causes of violence sponsored by the Ernest Becker Foundation. Some of us have read in the works of Ernest Becker, particularly his The Denial of Death, and we find that we have overlapping concerns with the Becker people. Several members of COV&R are expected to participate in the conference.
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Compiler: Dietmar Regensburger
Sandor Goodhart (Cornell University), The Prophetic Tradition as a Basis for Jewish-Christian Dialogue
Charles and I outlined what has increasingly become for us a common project: the articulation of what we call "the prophetic" respectively within Hebraic and Christian cultures.
I said that the prophetic for me began with ancient 6th century Judaism with the fall of the first Temple and what I would designate as the "happening of the impossible." That which was impossible or unthinkable, the destruction of the Temple, happened. Moreover, not only did it happen, but fifty years later, something else happened which was equal in its unlikelihood only to the destruction and exile itself. The Babylonian captors of the Jews were themselves overrun by the Persians and the Jews were allowed to return home to Jerusalem. In the wake of that return, everything was different. We know very little about Israelite society before the fall of the Temple, but we know enough to say that afterward everything changed. Where before there were a number of classes of people -- prophets, kings, priests, scribes, soldiers, etc. -- after the destruction there were in effect only two classes: those who wished to reestablish the old ways, and those who wished to go on and try something new. The first group became the so-called sacrificial cult, and the second group became the early rabbis, the Talmudists and sages who later would set down the tradition and during the dispersion or diaspora would keep alive the tradition. Both groups were made up of people from all groups in the earlier distribution. And the designations Sadducees and Pharisees has sometimes been invoked to account for this split, as if the sacrificial cult were the Sadducees, and the promoters of the new were the Pharisees. But whether we accept that characterization or not, we have to believe that during the so-called "Persian period" there were basically two groups or parties, a conservative party which looked to the past to solve its problems, and a liberal party which looked to the future and unanticipated possibilities opened by this unlikely event.
What characterized this new group above all was the reading of Torah, and the group has been identified with the figure of Ezra. What we learn from the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (which were originally one book) is that Ezra returned from exile with a letter in hand from the King of Persia, he surveyed the devastation before him, and he said "Let's read."
A number of important consequences follow from this action. 1) Reading will replace sacrifice. No longer will the act of sacrifice be a prerequisite to religious practice -- as continued to be the case with other cultures, and as continued in part at least to be the case even in Jewish culture. The rejection of sacrifice, the substitution in its place of prayer and reading (which was recitation in public), were the cornerstones of this new approach.
2) The text will get canonized or constituted that is to be read. Suddenly a gathering of the texts takes place, the constitution of a sacred scripture.
3) The gathering presupposes that some materials will be accepted and others rejected. The principle of this selection will be the principle of prophetic reading. Those elements of the tradition which were seen to promote prophetic reading were retained and deemed to be a proper part of the critical canon. Those which did not promote prophetic reading or could not be interpreted prophetically were not. Elements from all compositional schools of the earlier days were included: a priestly text concerned primarily with blessing, a folktale-like text concerned with telling stories and referring to God in his intimate name, a socially conscious text which took as its concern justice; and a legal text which rewrote the earlier three from its own unique historical perspective.
Finally, I outlined what for me constituted this "prophetic" reading. The prophetic, I said, was the recognition of the dramas in which human beings were engaged and the naming in advance of the end of those dramas so that individuals could freely choose whether or not to pursue them or not. Thus the prophetic as I conceived it was a "diachronic" mode of thought, which is to say, not a mode concerned with here/there distinctions as much as then/now distinctions, not relationality but sequentiality. Conceived in this manner, I suggested, prophetic reading was not a neutral or passive activity but itself a species of ethical practice. The prophetic reading of Judaism is also the practice of Judaism, the doing of mitzvot or commandments.
At this point, I said that rather than offer a prophetic reading of one or another scriptural text, I would take up the recent debate which had occurred in the fall COV&R Bulletin and talk about some of the ways in which the responses offered to my reading of Isaiah 52-53 either did or did not recognize the prophetic orientation that underlay my position.
Charles Mabee (Ecumenical Theological Seminar Detroit), A New Grammar for Jewish-Christian Dialogue: The Prophetic Vortex of the Common Scrip tures
I believe that contrary to popular belief, it is not rival understandings of the figure of Jesus that separates the Jewish and Christian religious traditions. Christian claims about this relatively obscure figure are built upon a grammar of understanding of religious life that is unthinkable in Jewish understanding. It is this grammar of understanding that separates Jews from Christians, not the specific claims that are constructed upon it. To be more exact, the problem which we face in reconciling Judaism and Christianity is not that Judaism rejects Christian claims about Jesus, it is that Judaism has no category of thought of accepting such claims about anyone, anywhere, any place, any time. In other words, the Christian way of viewing (religious) life simply does not compute with the Jewish way. Any attempt to find rapprochement between these two religious traditions must accept this fact as its starting point: They are not simply two different religions, but they are two different kinds of religion.
Our primary task is to accept this reality and then to ask: "What does this mean? Is all dialogue between the two traditions fruitless and a waste?" I believe that the answer to this question is "No." I believe that a rapprochement is possible. That is the good news. The bad news is that such a rapprochement would exact a price for both traditions. The price would be a shaking of the foundations of each whose result would be, in essence, a new religious understanding that is neither exactly "Jewish" nor "Christian"--at least in traditional terms.
I see the way to rapprochement as existing in the writings which the two traditions hold in common (Tanak/Old Testament), rather than in the formative texts that each tradition holds in isolation from the other (Mishnah or Talmud/New Testament). In fact, the very fact that the two traditions do hold a body of writings in common as revelation is the one piece of good news in an otherwise dismal history of hostility, alienation, and oppression. However, history clearly teaches us that the pull that these common texts have in their interpretive communities has far from enabled us to find the narrow passage to rapprochement. These old writings are extraordinary complex and multifarious. The Mishnaic/Tal mudic and New Testament traditions represent how varied may be the way in which the common scriptures may be interpreted. Nonetheless, I believe that the way to rapprochement lies through the narrowing of the interpretive gap by which we read these common texts. Let me now be even more specific in my proposal: By uncovering the prophetic vortex of these Common Scriptures, I believe that we can find the common ground necessary to construct a meaningful rapprochement between Judaism and Christianity.
Both Judaism and Christianity are textually-based religions; and, simply said, canonization means the "publi cization" initially within Judaism, and subsequently within the primitive church, of the tradition of what is commonly termed the great or classical prophets. By publicization I mean the gaining of public ownership, of public identification with the voice of the prophetic outsiders who historically knew mostly rejection and persecution. The key Girardian insight that clears the ground for a prophetic biblical theology is the argument that human rationality begins in the bifurcation of victimizer and victim. In traditional, mythology-based culture, truth lies on the vic timizer side of this equation. The prophetic tradition proposed the revolutionary idea that truth lay on the side of the victim, rather than the victimizer--even if the victimizing elements be found within the Israelite power elite. For Girard, as well as for the Bible itself, this transference of truth from victimizer to victim was not something arrived at by human thought, but could only result by means of a revelation by God. Only God can give voice to the truth of victim and has the capacity to reveal to others what the victim is unable to reveal.
This new way of viewing the world through the eyes of the victim replaced traditional religion and myth. In these traditional forms, truth is understood to reside in gods and heroes, rather than in the victim. I would like to develop this Girardian hypothesis by proposing that in giving voice to the oppressed and excluded outsiders (a group determined primarily by class and economic and political powerlessness), the classical Hebrew prophets voluntarily placed themselves in the same category of oppression and exclusion. Seen in this way, the conflict between the so-called "true" and "false" prophets that we see so powerfully in 1 Kgs. 22 and Jer. 28 is really a conflict over the nature of prophecy itself--will it be identified with the powerful elite or the powerless underclass? The classical Hebrew prophet then is best understood as the first self- chosen scapegoat in world history. Ultimately the Deuteronomization of the tradition that took place in the Exile with the attendant rise of text-based Judaism, represents the publicization or main-streaming of this prophetic outsider tradition, a fact which should be understood as normative for both Judaism and Christianity (as well as Islam, a subject that goes beyond the scope of this paper).
The achievement of bringing the obscure and scapegoated prophetic outsiders and the texts which they either produced, or was produced around them, into the vortex of Judaic religious understanding is the achievement of the Hebrew canon. Following the structure of the Old Testament canon, the reader "knows" that these prophets bring the authentic word of God when we read them, because we have already been conditioned to recognize their authenticity by the canonical material that precedes them in the canon.
Hans Jensen (Åarhus Universitet), Nature, Bible, Priestly Theology: A Reply to Sandor Goodhart and Charles Mabee
Instead of the announced paper on Joseph, Levi-Strauss, and Girard, I improvised a paper on Priestly Theology in the Hebrew Bible as an answer to the morning's first papers by Sandor Goodhart and Charles Mabee on "Jewish-Christian Dialogue on Torah and Prophecy", which centered on the prophetic tradition and the act of reading. There is, I believe, a "hidden tradition", undere stimated in Christianity, which is the cultic dimension of the Hebrew Bible, crystallized in the Priestly writings of the Pentateuch. Although rarely reflected upon explicitly, it is still alive, implicitly, in the liturgy of the church, and probably in the synagogue as well. This cult is about the relationship to the material world first; its main concept is blessing, rather than salvation. To acknowledge the (theological and philosophical) legitimacy of this tradition is, perhaps, another way of approaching the same problematic which Michel Serres treated in his book Le Contrat naturel (1990): nature, material world, is a factor which should not be ignored in thinking on violence and desire. Moreover, the priestly tradition may be a meeting point not only for Jewish and Christian theologies, but for non-biblical theologies as well.
One must first define whether one is using "Christianity" and "sacrificial" normatively (ideally) or descriptively (phenomenologically). Normatively, one could see "Christianity" as the ideal of nonviolent, selfgiving love and service exemplified by Jesus and taught as the central message of the gospel, and "sacrificial" as the actual, practical ways in which heroically holy Christians follow that example. Descriptively, one could see "Christianity" as the sum of crude and violent behavior that has characterized much of the history of Christianity, and "sacrificial" in accord with the negative, destructive ideas popularly associated with that word. If both terms are taken normatively, or both taken descriptively, the answer I give to our question is affirmative; but what one understands by that is in each case totally different. One can, of course, dispute my definitions, but if that is where we begin, we will at least be arguing on the same page.
We must also be "up front" about the voices in which we speak: e.g., in my case, of one committed both to critical scholarship (as in this discussion) and to the Christian Word (which inevitably has some effect on my scholarly voice).
Keying my position is the finding that when the Christian Scriptures speak of "Christian sacrifice" (Rom 12:1-2; 15:15-16;1 Pet 2:4-10; Heb 10:19-25; 13:10-16), the meaning is spiritualized-ethical, not liturgical-ritual. But instead of looking there and to the Christ event, early Christians usually looked to the already (even in Judaism) superseded sacrificial ideas of the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians in the Reformation also did not look there, but to a phenomenological definition of the "essence" of sacrifice as including both oblation and destruction, in order to determine whether or not the Mass (whose es sence was overly narrowly focused on the "moment of consecration") was a "true and proper sacrifice" as the Council of Trent put it.
Most interesting to me, however, remains the question: When Christian sacrifice (read atonement/salvation /redemption) is taking place, what, phenomenologically, is happening?
Paul B. Duff (The George Washington University, Washington D.C.), The Sacrificial Character of Earliest Christianity: A Response to Robert Daly's "Is Christianity Sacrificial or Anti-Sacrificial?"
The focus of my response is on one of the questions posed by Daly in his manuscript (p.6): "What is the sacrificial activity, if any, which the first few generations of Christians participate?" I suggest that Daly, although he himself has posed the question, ultimately dismisses it. Instead, he assumes that Christianity rejected temple sacrifice and chose instead to talk about sacrifice in an exclusively metaphorical or spiritual sense. In contrast, I argue that earliest Christianity did not reject temple sacrifice. In support of my position are traditions found in Matthew, Mark, Luke/Acts, and Paul (as well as other NT texts). These traditions assume (and hence, tacitly approve) temple sacrifice. Although I do not deny that there was a tendency to spiritualise sacrifice in early Christianity, this tendency alone does not necessarily exclude actual temple activity. Finally, I contend that the anti-sacrificial (or anti-temple) trajectory found in early Christianity (e.g. Barnabas 2:4-10) results not from any inherent critique of the sacrificial system in early Christianity but rather from Christians attempting to produce a theological explanation for the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 C.E.
Jon D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. Pp. xiv + 258. N.P.
This book should be of interest to readers of the Bulletin. Levenson does not mention Girard, nor does he have any inkling of the mimetic model, but he raises issues and poses a challenge for Jewish-Christian dialogue which we have to face.
Levenson holds that sacrifice of the first born belongs to the very beginnings of ancient Israelite religion and culture, with deep roots in earlier practices and obvious links to child sacrifice and mythic motifs among the ancient Canaanites and others in the western Semitic and Mediterranean world. Many of the great prophets condemned child sacrifice, but the ancient devotees of the God of Israel undoubtedly understood themselves as his faithful worshipers in offering their first born or other children.
The great value of this book lies in the clear and cogent dismantling of the taboo surrounding the whole question of human sacrifice. He reconstructs the historical path of the mythic-ritual motif of the sacrifice of the beloved son from the classic biblical texts, including above all the near-sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 and the Joseph story, tracing it through the texts of second Temple and rabbinic Judaism and the New Testament. The actual practice of child sacrifice was eradicated by the time of the Babylonian exile, but the symbol of "the beloved son" remained potent in narrative and ritual. His central thesis is "that a basic element of the self- understanding of both Jewry and of the Church lies in stories that are the narrative equivalent of these ritual substitutions-narratives, that is, in which the first-born or beloved son undergoes a symbolic death" (p. 59).
His treatment of the aqedah (binding) of Isaac in rabbinic Judaism and the early church is especially interesting. By 200 B.C.E. or shortly thereafter the aqedah had become "the supreme moment in the life of Abraham." It took on the role of foundation story for the Passover festival, "with the near-sacrifice of Isaac foreshadowing the literal slaughter of the lamb." More and more attention was devoted to Isaac, who was often construed as willingly offering his life as a martyr in obedience to God, and this self-giving was seen as bringing about atonement (pp. 198-9). The author shows that the Apostle Paul drew upon the Isaac paradigm for formulating the meaning of Christ's crucifixion.
Judaism and Christianity finally appeal, says Levenson, to a common root in Abraham, which "ensures that [they] will be mutually exclusive" (p. 219). The relationship between the two is "usually characterized as one of parent and child," but it "is better seen as a rivalry of two siblings for their father's unique blessing." Each has developed its own kind of universalism, that is, the ability "to affirm the spiritual dignity of those who stand outside their own communities. But the two traditions lose definition and fade when that universalistic affirmation overwhelms the ancient, protean, and strangely resilient story of the death and resurrection of the beloved son" (p. 232).
Although Levenson does not name the sources of his assumptions and basic concepts, his perspective comes across as influenced primarily by a structuralist paradigm, which posits the inevitability of binary oppositions. It is the fundamental principle of Lévi-Strauss's work and the point of departure in the deconstructionism of postmodern perspectives. Now this structuralist paradigm of language is a way of trying to avoid the problematic opened up by the great thinkers of the nineteenth century, particularly Nietzsche, for with the Nietzschean dialectic of the Apollonian and the Dionysian the alternatives at the extremes are positivist historicism and nihilism. Levenson is neither a positivist nor a nihilist, but at times he appears to be caught in the structuralist trap in that he opposes Judaism and Christianity as inevitable rivals in conflict.
But why should the conflictual opposition that Levenson posits be accepted as tragically inevitable? There are other, and I think better, interpretive models, and it would be carrying coals to Newcastle in a Bulletin review to explicate René Girard's model of the exception in the process of emerging. Here I will simply refer to two parables. First, the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. It could be taken as implying a comment on the relationship of the emerging church to its Jewish origins, particularly in the narrative context of the gospel of Luke. It pictures a father who says to the angry older brother, "Son you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours" (Lk 15:31). "All that is mine is yours." This is quite striking if the father is understood as the voice of God speaking to the older brother qua Jewish people. Indeed, according to Jesus in Luke, eternal life is already found in the Law and the Prophets (Lk 10:25-28; cf. 16:31). So why should the older brother not rejoice and be glad that the younger brother, who was "dead" is now "alive, he was lost, and is found" (Lk 15:32)? Of course, it is a different matter if the younger brother becomes uppity and supersessionist, sometimes in dangerous and violent ways. But the problem is not that we are doomed by our common biblical root to conflictual rivalry. We do indeed have the continual potential of turning our models into rival- obstacles whom we desire to eliminate or escape. But there is a biblical tradition of witness that says rivals can become brothers and sisters and friends if they imitate a divine model of love that turns sacrifice into self-giving (Rom 12:1-2). Levenson touches on this biblical witness, but his assumptions about language and textual code prevent him from focusing on the biblical theme of the emerging exception and human transformation.
Levenson reads his model of dichotomous oppositions back into his comparison of rabbinic and gospel parables about wicked husbandmen who rent a vineyard from an owner/king. The point in both the Jewish and the Christian context is that the owner, in exasperation over the dishonesty of the tenants, sends his son, the rightful heir or, in the rabbinic parable, orders that the property be repossessed for his son. In the gospel texts (and in Thomas) the son is murdered by the wicked tenants. The gospel form of this parable has indeed been used to justify dispossession of the Jews as God's people, the "beloved son," but in the gospels the matter is much more complicated and potentially irenic than Levenson indicates. In all three NT gospels the parable is not directed against "the Jews" as some abstract whole, but against dominant religious leaders, particularly priests and Pharisees (Matt 21:45-46; Lk 20:19; Mk 11:27, 12:12). Underlying these controversy stories is an intra-Jewish dispute over authority to interpret Scripture. Matthew, for example, pits Jesus unrelentingly against the Pharisees, but the issue is not one of "Jew" against "Christian," no matter how badly the gospel of Matthew has been used and abused by both Christians and Jews. "...[T]ill heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (Matt 5:18).
At the core of the biblical legacy is not sibling rivalry but the call to the beloved son and all his descendants to bring good news of peace (Isa 52:7) and, even if through suffering, to be agents of healing (Isa 53:5).
James G. Williams
Georg Baudler, Töten oder Lieben: Gewalt und Ge waltlosigkeit in Religion und Christentum. München: Kösel-Verlag, 1994. 432pp.
Like his first two books -- "Erlösung vom Stiergott" (1989) and "Gott und Frau" (1991) -- Georg Baudler's latest book again deals with violence, religion and Christianity. Baudler begins his first chapter (17-101) with an analysis of the usage of the term "sacrifice" in the Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and he maintains that this term cannot be separated from the context of violence. Hence in the following discussion on various theories of sacrifice he associates himself with R. Girard and W. Burkert. Yet towards the end of the chapter Baudler dissociates himself from both these authors: he tries to prove that there is, in addition to the "sacred murder", a further and older "original scene": this is the attachment of a mother to her child, and the funeral where the dead are accepted as persons. As in his former books Georg Baudler regards man's start of big-game hunting as the root of human violence which dates back 1.7 million years. But originally, i.e. due to his evolutionary structure, man is non-violent. This is proved by the original scene of the relationship between a mother and her child. Unfortunately this scene had almost been completely concealed by the sacrificial religions in the course of human history.
Following K. Jasper's idea of the "Achsenzeit", the second chapter (103-164) concentrates on the religious and philosophical changes in China (Confucius, Laotse), India (Buddha), Persia (Zarathustra), and Greece (Plato). These changes have in common the criticism of sacrifice, striving for non-violence and love of one's enemy. But these steps of progress in the history of mankind had been widely distorted by setbacks into traditional sacrificial religiousness.
In the third chapter (165-242) Baudler describes how Jahwe became the advocate of the persecuted and the God of victims in the Old Testament. Here, in the Old Testament, it was religious experience that led to the concept of nonviolence whereas in the "Achsenzeit" it was reflection. The reason for the concern for the persecuted in the early history of Israel lies in the nomadic background of the belief in Jahwe. Yet there are also a lot of texts in the Old Testament which show Jahwe as a God of war and revenge. The dramatic contrast between violent and peaceful religiousness is characteristic in the Old Testament.
The fourth chapter (243-334) turns to the New Testament, and immediately concentrates on the death of Jesus. The idea of a non-violent God as it was established in the "Achsenzeit" and in the Old Testament reveals its complete meaning. But the sacrificial tradition was still alive. This can be seen when Jesus threatened with hell and his death is explained as a sacrifice by Paul and in Hebrews. These are both strongly criticized by Baudler.
The fifth and last chapter (335-422) deals with the relapse of Christianity into violence since the Constantinian Era. The turn to violence was possible, because the New Testament and the early Fathers use warlike pictures. Baudler finishes his book with some thoughts about the peculiarities of the Christian cult. His criticism of any form of fixed ritual is particularly conspicuous (414ff), and so is his rejection of any form of devotion ("Hingabe") as sacrificial.
This summary itself shows that the dispute with Girard is a central matter of this book -- especially with the inclusion of feminism and the pluralistic theology of religion. The Catholic theologian, Eugen Biser, has discussed it comprehensively and favorably in Theologische Revue (No. 5, 90  355-364, 367-68 ). Above all, he criticizes Baudler's adhesion to Girard. Biser dismisses Girard's idea as an "absurd thesis" and combines it with a sharp attack on R. Schwager and his disciples (367). In his reply Baudler emphasizes his distance to Girard (ibid., 365) and this is quite true: he has taken on many elements from Girard's theory, but all in all he is an exponent of another anthropology. The thesis about the founding murder as origin of culture and religion is not acceptable to him. He emphasizes that it leads to a fatal paralysis which exposes Man to violence (80) and ignores his freedom (90). This crucial difference includes all the others. It is therefore pointless here to cite in detail the moments where Baudler insufficiently reports the position of Girard; for reference see pages 62, 68, 74, 98, 151f, 292. The essential problem with Baudler's criticism of Girard is that he receives him within the scope of his own premises. In doing so he changes the position of Girard just by reporting them. It is the same with his understanding of founding murder, scapegoat mechanism and sacrifice, where Baudler seems to take on literally the analyses of Girard. But Baudler founds these in "male murdering exhibitionism" ("Tötungsimponiergehabe") -- an unusual word even in German. The understanding of founding murder is thereby fundamentally modified by being subordinated as secondary to the original non- violence of Man. Thus it is presumed that the socialization of Man is basically unproblematic.
Baudler understands his book as an empirical-pheno menological study (172f, 254). But on the evidence of numerous one-sided and violent historical interpretations -- not only in chapter 2 -- for this book in reality is a deductive construction -- of history. Baudler's anthropology is not its result but its criterion and its premise. His historical analyses serve to project them upon history. A critique of this book must, therefore, concentrate on its anthropological and theological position. Here I just want to refer to its handling of the theory of evolution. The anthropological essence is regarded as the phylogenetic earlier one. In that position there is a total incomprehension of the possibilities of an empirical theory and the relationship between freedom and evolution. An epistemological reflection on the anthropological relevance of the theory of evolution is missing. The thesis, the transition to big-game hunting as the Fall of Man is not a modern form of original sin as one at first likes to think. On the contrary, it is intended to found the hope for Man's final goodness and thus it abolishes original sin.
Furthermore, a strange tension can be noticed: on the one hand Baudler emphasizes the overpowering role of violence in societies and religions. He deals with the New Testament and the early Christianity much more harshly than Girard or Schwager -- apparently due to his rejection of devotion. On the other hand he considers violence as something which is external to Man; he refers to the "debris" and "rubbish" of violence (93f, 101, 171f, 180, 261, 421), from the "violence costume" in which Man is dressed (292ff, 324, 333). Between non-violent nature and the violent history of Man there exists an unbalanced contrast. Violence of Man becomes an industrial accident of evolution. It is not reflected why Man is endangered by violence. In Girard's work this is based on mimesis, to which Baudler also indicates a few times (60f, 73f, 81f, 271). But to him mimesis is not of anthropological significance. Girard's criticism of romantic individualism is completely ignored.
The center of Baudler's anthropology and theology, respectively, remains incomprehensible to me even after intensive preoccupation with both his earlier works. I suspect he is fixated on an individualistic understanding of self-realization, the belief that Man is good in himself. It is revealing that sin, mimesis and rivalry are identified in one passage where it is said that Man remains "not in himself and his world" (271).
The book also shows that the reception of Girard in Germany until now has been one-sided; it concentrates on the meaning of Jesus's cross and there is the danger of losing sight of the mimetic theory.
Joseph Kufulu Mandunu, Das "Kindoki" im Licht der Sündenbocktheologie: Versuch einer christlichen Be wältigung des Hexenglaubens in Schwarz-Afrika ["'Kindoki' in the Light of Scapegoat Theology: Towards a Christian Solution to the Problem of Witchcraft Beliefs in Black Africa"], Frankfurt am Main, etc.: Peter Lang, 1992. (Studies in the Intercultural History of Christianity, vol. 85). ISBN 3- 631-45508-9. 247 pp.
Joseph Kufulu Mandunu is a Zairian theologian who studied at the University of Innsbruck. This book is his doctoral thesis written under the supervision of Professor Raymund Schwager. On the basis of the mimetic theory he advocates the adoption by the African churches of a new approach to witchcraft. Kufulu Mandunu uses two terms from his mother-tongue Kikongo (spoken in Congo, western Zaire and northern Angola); "kindoki", and "ndoki " in referring to witchcraft and to its agents respectively.
In many African societies illnesses that cannot be treated by herbalists or western doctors, complaints of a psychosocial character, misfortunes of all sorts (accidents, barrenness, social failure) are ascribed to the work of 'evil-doers'. They are cured by religious healers (called nganga in many Bantu languages; medicine-man, witch-doctor) who employ divination and spiritpossession to determine the cause of the disorder. In its most elementary form the healing process involves the elimination or neutralization of a person, usually a relative or a member of the same community. The designation of this evil-doer, the ndoki, is usually put before an oracle administered by the nganga, for confirmation. Healing rites target the community more than they do the individual. In general the nganga is believed to make use of the same dangerous powers as the ndoki. However the nganga is expected to only use them for the well-being of the community.
While the old mission churches have, without much success, tried to suppress these healing practices, the many independent African Churches have taken a more accommodating attitude -- to the extent of making witch- finding an integral part of their socio-therapeutic practices (p. 100). Kufulu Mandunu rejects the approach of the old churches as futile and that of the Independent African Churches as contrary to the Christian commandment of neighborly love. He wants to lay the theoretical foundation for a third option. Since to most Africans the practices involving kindoki have real effects the church should formulate its message of salvation in an idiom that acknowledges their reality while keeping clear of their practical implications. The tool for translating the gospel into the idiom of African beliefs is Girardian theory. Kindoki is the African perception of the human reality of deadly mimetic rivalry. The ndoki and the drive of the community to eliminate the ndoki correspond to the scapegoat-mechanism. The Christian message reveals that the selection of the ndoki is arbitrary, and that, in fact, in the drive for the victim, all are ndoki. A Christian practice of divination should therefore reverse the arrow of victimage and confront the scapegoaters with their ndoki-ness.
Kufulu Mandunu's book is divided in 5 sections. After a presentation of the problem of kindoki as a malignant cancerous growth ("das Krebsübel") in African Christianity (ch.l), an overview of leading interpretations of healing and witchcraft by contemporary theologians of the African mission churches is given (ch.2). A number of sociological interpretations of witchcraft are examined but are shown to fall short of giving an explanation of the parapsychological, occult, dimension of the phenomenon (ch.3). After a discussion of Girard's fundamental anthropology (ch.4), Mandunu, in a concluding chapter, presents his idea of an African Christian healing praxis as the inversion of the witch-hunt. The argument is well- documented. The book has not less than 1216 footnotes, some containing extensive quotations in French and German.
As a social scientist I wish Kufulu Mandunu had provided his readers with more empirical detail: case- histories of kindoki-sociotherapy, and, if there are any, of its Christian reversal. Though I would like to agree with him that the fundamental structure of witchcraft practices is the same throughout Africa (as well as in many other parts of the world) I don't think the immense variety of types of practitioners and of methods used is irrelevant. In Africa here is considerable variation in the social importance of witchcraft. During my research in southern Sudan I was struck by the relative unimportance of witchcraft among the stateless pastoralists who had remained comparatively unaffected by colonial and post- colonial pacification, and the important role it played among some of the agricultural peoples whose warrior- culture had been dismantled. This seems to suggest an inverse correlation between the role of warfare -- confronting the enemy outside -- and witchcraft -- the preoccupation with the enemy within. This observation leads to the suggestion that the current importance of kindoki on the continent may be related to the limitations on the possibility for honorable warfare in Africa.
Speaking of honorable warfare, I need to make another point. In Kufulu Mandunu's view all cultural practices that betray elements of mimetic rivalry and of the scapegoat mechanism are to be condemned and redeemed in their entirety. This messianic attitude of "great refusal" leaves no room for an anthropological interest in the concrete diversity of human life. I don't share this polarized vision. Cultural diversity, in my view, is of great interest because it is witness of the many ways in which we humans have coped, and are coping, with the problem of violence. Cultural institutions are not one-dimensional emanations of mimetic dynamics and the scapegoat mechanism. They play a twofold role: they facilitate their operation and, simultaneously, keep their potential violence within certain bounds. Witchcraft as a socially accepted set of beliefs has a regulating function with regards to scapegoating. Divination often functions as a check on the arbitrary selection of witches, and on the outbreak of witch-hunts. The same twofold dynamic of allowing and constraining violence is operative in the institutionalized forms of warfare and economic competition (the latter strongly condemned by Mandunu, p. 224). This openness to the ambiguity of cultural institutions creates a space in which the different cultural experiences, including the African one, can be compared and evaluated.
The central message of Kindoki in the Light of Scapegoat Theology is very timely. Post cold-war Africa experiences an increase in the killing of different types of scapegoats. In the country where this review is written hundreds of thousands of people were killed many with the open complicity of the church. It is to be hoped that a summary of Mandunu's argument will soon be available in languages more easily accessible on the continent.
Simon Simonse (Kigali, January 1995)
I would like in the first place to thank Father Schwager and Józef Niewiadomski for their extensive and thoughtful consideration of the abstract of my essay, "Isaiah 52-53, René Girard and the Innocent Victim." I offer the following remarks in the spirit of an ongoing Jewish-Christian dialogue.
The point of my essay was to question René Girard's insi stence that the uniqueness of the Gospel is linked to the theory of the innocent victim since that theory already appears in full in the Isaiah text. Thus I am surprised that although Father Schwager seems aware that this is my theme, he never addresses it. The only place (aside from the opening paragraph) René Girard's name comes up at all is in Father Schwager's fifth paragraph, and there only with regard to issues that are questionable (is it clear that "evil" may be equated with "rivalry" and with "violence" in Girard's thinking?) and seemingly unrelated to the issue at hand (what has the overcoming of mimetic desire by Triune love -- if that is indeed what René thinks -- to do with the theory of the innocent victim vis à vis Is. 52-3?). Rather, Father Schwager seems determined to consider my essay as a touchstone for examining the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in general. Let me turn, therefore, in sequence to the paragraphs in which those concerns are raised.
1) "I very much appreciate," Father Schwager writes, "the fact that Sandor interprets the Hebrew Bible in light of Isaiah 52-53." Do I? Do I not rather see Isaiah 52-3 as one of a complex of texts which already contain in full the kinds of insights Girard claims are unique to the Gospel? Which is not to say that the Gospel is not unique. Nor that there are not other things going on in Isaiah 52-3. Nor that the Isaiah 52-3 has any special status with regard to the Tanakh as a whole.
2) No doubt for Christians, as Father Schwager notes in his first objection, Jesus is the "center" of the New Testament. No doubt, equally, as a consequence, the revelation of the sacrificial foundations of culture -- as that revelation is seen to derive from the fate of Jesus -- is central. No doubt either that the Hebrew Bible does not have such a center. But is that a problem? It is only a problem if we assume that it should have a center, and that that center should be Jesus. In fact, from a Jewish point of view, the Torah itself is already such a "center" (one which the New Testament displaces in regarding Jesus as the Word of God), and the revelation of sacrificial violence is everywhere. Christianity's super sessionist claim that Jesus is the center and that Judaism must be read in its light is itself a Jewish borrowing.
Moreover, the notion of a "conflict of interpretations" is less a Hebraic notion than a Platonic Greek one which depends on ontological distinctions between true and false readings. There is no alternative "clarification" in Judaism because the matter there is neither clear nor unclear. Without entering into an extended discussion of the nature of interpretation in Judaism, suffice it to say that in Judaism there are no true and false interpretations, only a multiplicity of readings all of which enable the text -- and the practice of anti-idolatry as reflected in and inaugurated by that text -- to come alive within a given hour or cultural setting. Only if we presuppose that the Hebrew Bible "lacks clarification" and is a battleground of conflicting claims to truth can we argue that a Christian (or any other) perspective resolves that conflict.
3) Yes, it is true that the figure of the suffering servant in Is. 52-53 may be read in different ways. Traditionally the "servant" is understood to be Israel (cf. Is. 41.8). Others argue that it may be an individual. But it is not clear to me how either reading has anything to do with the resurrection from the dead which in Judaism will occur only in the world to come. What is important from a Jewish perspective in Is. 52-3 is the revelation of the dynamic of scapegoat violence, whether that scapegoat is regarded as a single individual or an entire people. Only a Christian reading, which needs to know whether the pro phet is predicting a personal or general resurrection, has a difficulty here. Constructing the text as an impoverished prefiguration the Christian reading then charges that text with being impoverished.
4) Father Schwager's third objection is a very odd reading of Is. 53:4-5. In Judaism the reference of the "we" in Hebrew is not "converts." It is still Isaiah who is speaking, even if he lends his pronominal reference to the entire community. Who specifically the prophet refers to as "we" is irrelevant, and what new understanding of Torah the people to whom the prophet speaks will adopt remains to be seen. Once again only if we presuppose in advance a Christian thematic of conversion can we find an inadequacy here.
5) Father Schwager's fourth objection seems riddled with difficulties. Here are three. a) Is it clear, even from a believing Christian point of view, that the reason for Jesus' rejection in the New Testament is "[his] claim that he came from God in a unique way and was one with Him"? b) Once again, there is no indication from a Jewish perspective that the suffering servant is the Messiah and to be resurrected, and the text is only a problem if the servant is to be so identified. Even if there were such an indication, there is no problem from a Jewish perspective. The word mashiach, messiah, anointed, is commonly applied to kings upon their accession (cf. 2 Sam. 2.4). There is no unresolved tension in Hebrew at least between God acting through Cyrus in one moment, and the suffering servant in another. c) Father Schwager's claim seems in excess here of even a Girardian view. From a Jewish perspective, Is. 52-3 reveals the dynamic of scapegoat violence. That is all it needs to do for a Girardian reading. Girard never claims that Messianic status of Jesus, or his status as resurrected, has any me thodological import. He argues theoretically only for the revelatory message of Jesus vis à vis sacrificial origins of culture. The fact that Girard happens also to be a believing Christian, that he may accept the revelation, the sonship or messiahship of Jesus, has nothing substantively to do with his theory of mimetic desire and violence. His theory makes no claim to explain everything -- as he himself has remarked on numerous occasions. The Christian revelation for him is one instance of the revelation of sacrificial violence. But such a revelation of sacrificial violence is by no means necessarily only Christian. One may be Christian without believing in the revelation of sacrificial violence, and one may accept the revelation of sacrificial violence without being Christian.
Father Schwager's overall strategy, of course, is an old and familiar one. It is the typological prefigurative strategy by which the Church in its earliest days first read Judaism in light of its own assumed truths and then condemned Judaism for not displaying them. Borrowing from the Greek, the Jewish, and other traditions, it enacted the mimetic appropriation it formally attacked. If we are to move forward with a Jewish-Christian dialogue, we need to give up such rote theo-ideological reflexes. In the anti- sacrificial spirit which is also a part of the Christian tradition (as René Girard has taught us so powerfully), we need to challenge such sacrificial interpretative presuppositions, and read these prophetic texts in the historical and religious context in which they occur, texts which could open the door to a common ground for genuine understanding.
In contrast to my uneasiness with the reply of Father Schwager, I find myself sympathetic to Józef Niewiadomski's reply from beginning to end.
He focuses in the first place upon my challenge to René Girard's reliance upon the theory of the innocent victim for defining the uniqueness of Christianity -- which is what my piece was about. He affirms my thesis and adds the astounding suggestion that the Songs of the Suffering Servant "actually form the hermeneutic framework for the New Testament's description of the fate of Jesus Christ."
Secondly, he recognizes implicitly that I do not say that Christianity is not unique, only that René has not yet shown us why it is unique and that the matter remains to be discussed. On the matter of the revelation of the scapegoat victim alone it is not so.
Thirdly, he offers a suggestion regarding what that uniqueness might be which I for one find extraordinarily compelling -- namely, that what the New Testament can cause us to reflect upon is "its perspective," the nature of the "special" and "binding" logic by which the "order of secondary and primary text traditions" get linked. If we note that the word religion comes from this same binding logic, then this is a powerful suggestion indeed.
Fourthly, it seems to me he is right to suggest that such a critical discussion of binding logics is currently foreign to the rabbinic tradition as well where the relation to Christianity is hardly mentioned, and that to raise the question of binding logics between Judaism and Christianity is also to raise it within each domain. We need to examine the Jewish prophetic texts in context of other prophetic texts -- the Psalms, Jeremiah, Jonah, of course, but equally texts which are not formally "prophetic" but nonetheless a part of the post-destruction canonizing spirit in the ancient sixth century which was doggedly prophetic -- for example, Job, and the five books of Torah proper.
Finally, I find his last suggestion the most powerful and the most hopeful. What we may derive, he suggests, from finding Israel to be the place where the sacred logic is broken and the face of God is revealed is the intensification of the potential of this entire biblical history within a single historical existence. Jesus of Nazareth, who is Jewish and whose "passion remains the passion of the suffering servant," and yet who lives and dies within a history of rememberable dates and names, bears witness to a prophetic religious historical experience which is available to all of us.
The implications of Niewiadomski's suggestions are far reaching. The early Church, which substituted itself for the Synagogue, did far more he suggests than "[deprive] Jesus of his Jewish roots." At a moment when the greatest demystificatory truths were available and all could suddenly become possible, it resacralized them. It reconstructed the sacred veil. It read the relation between Judaism and Christianity sacrificially and seized dogmatic control of a special logic it has taken some two thousand years -- and countless body piles -- to recover.
I join Józef Niewiadomski in welcoming the "dead end" of this "sacralizing logic" and look forward to the vertiginous possibilities of a newly available common Jewish-Christian prophetic pursuit. I would also like again to thank both respondents for their efforts, and especially the editor -- Wolfgang Palaver -- for bringing together such a rich array of interpretative orientations.
Loyola University Chicago (June 1-3, 1995)
THURSDAY, JUNE 1
9:00 a.m. Welcome: Introductory Remarks
9:15 Literature I
Moderator: Jon Pahl, Valparaiso University
William Mishler, University of Minnesota: Rivalry and Sacrifice in Ibsen's "Emperor and Galilean"
Charles Bellinger, University of Virginia: Kierkegaard and Girard: Comparison and Contrast
William Johnsen, Michigan State University: Ibsen and the Drama of Self-Sacrifice
11:00 Women Question(s) I
Moderator: Judith Arias, East Carolina University
Jennifer Rike, Harvard University: Feminist Constructions of Selfhood
Patricia Klindienst, Independent Scholar: Virginia Woolf and the Problem of the Sacred
Natasha Reed, Princeton University: Dostoevsky's "Gentle Creature:" The Metamorphosis of a Truism
2:00 Secular Institutions
Moderator: Adriaan Peperzak, Loyola University Chicago
Eric Gans, UCLA: The Unique Source of Religion and Morality
Tobin Siebers, University of Michigan: Politics and Peace
3:45 Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Stanford University: The King and the Crowd
Wolfgang Palaver, Universität Innsbruck: Carl Schmitt: Liberalism, Communitarianism, and Sacrifice
Michael Elias, Lexis (Amsterdam): The Mimetic Praxis of Riddles and TV Quizzes
7:30 Jean-Michel, Oughourlian, Université de Besançon: The Mimetic Model in Psychotherapy
Response: Rusty Palmer, University of Washington
9:00 Welcome Reception
FRIDAY, JUNE 2
9:00 a.m. Biblical Studies
Moderator: Gil Bailie, Florilegia Institute (Sonoma)
James Williams, Syracuse University: The "Jews" in the Gospel of Matthew
David McCracken, University of Washington: Resisting Gospel Scandal
Cesáreo Bandera, University of North Carolina-CH: Christianity and Literature
11:00 Literature II
Moderator: Diana Culbertson, Kent State University
Andrew Bartlett, University of British Columbia: Violence, Inheritance, and Family Romance
Christopher Weimer, Oklahoma State University: The Phantom "pharmakos" in Tirso de Molina
Rebecca Adams, University of Notre Dame: Mesomorphs, Mothers, Myth, and Mimesis
2:00 Women Question(s) II
Moderator: Christine Froula, Northwestern University
Susan Nowak, Syracuse University: Mimetic Theory among Feminists
Martha Reineke, University of Northern Iowa: Race, Gender, and Violence in Nella Larson's Novels
Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, Meredith College: Mimetic Sister Societies
Moderator: James Alison, O.P., Instituto Pedro de Cordoba
Paul Neuchterlein, Emmaus Lutheran Church (Racine, WI): Sacrifice, Sacrament, Communion
Mark Wallace, Swarthmore Collge: Toward a Non-sacrificial Ecclesiology
Anthony Bartlett, Syracuse University: Ecclesial Projections of a Non-Sacrificial Gospel
7:30 René Girard, Stanford University: Mimesis and Paradox in Classical and Medieval Culture
Response: Martha Nussbaum, Brown University
SATURDAY, JUNE 3
9:00 a.m. Interfaith Dialogue
Moderator: Roberto Goizueta, Loyola University Chicago
Leo Lefebure, Saint Mary's University: Desire and Violence in Mimetic Theory and Socially Engaged Buddhism
Józef Niewiadomski, Universität Linz: Encounter of Religions in the Context of World Civilization
Raymund Schwager, Universität Innsbruck: Redemption by Sin? -- Jacob Taubes: A Jewish Reception of Pauline Theology
11:00 Jewish Christian Dialogue
Sandor Goodhart, Whitman College
Charles Mabee, Ecumenical Theological Center (Detroit)
Richard Prystowsky, Irvine Valley College
12:30 Box Lunch: COV&R Business Meeting
2:00 Parallel Workshops
Thurman Society: The Violence Reduction Workshop Model
Thee Smith, Emory University and National Coalition Building Institute
4:00 Discussion-Response: Roel Kaptein, Centre for the Study of Conflict, University of Ulster
2:00 Criminal Justice
Wayne Northey, Victim-Offender Ministries, Mennonite Central Committee, Canada
Peter Cordella, Dept. of Criminal Justice, St. Anselm College
Pat Barrett, Chaplaincy and Related Ministries, United Methodist Church
4:00 Response, Summary and Discussion: Vern Redekop, St. Paul University (Ottawa) and Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution
6:30 Banquet Reception for all registrants
Bailie, Gil. Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. New York: Crossroad, 1995.
Calasso, Roberto. The Ruin of Kasch. Translated by William Weaver and Stephen Sartarelli. Cambridge, Ma.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994.
Quinones, Ricardo J. Foundation Sacrifice in Dante's Commedia. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
June 1-3, 1995: Annual symposium of COV&R, at Loyola University of Chicago. Theme: "Mimesis, Violence, and the Subject of Responsibility."
October 13-15, 1995: The Ernest Becker Foundation plans a conference on the "Love of Violence" to be held in Seattle on the University of Washington campus in collaboration with the Department of Comparative Religion (see further information below)
November 17, 1995: Meeting of COV&R in Philadelphia, in conjunction with AAR/SBL.
Late May, 1996: Annual symposium of COV&R, at CISAC, Stanford University. Provisional theme: "Religion, Ethnic Conflict, and International Peacekeeping."
November 15, 1996: Meeting of COV&R in San Francisco, in conjunction with AAR/SBL.
June 4-7, 1997: Annual symposium of COV&R in Israel. Provisional theme: "Interreligious Dialogue."
Further Information on the Conference Sponsored by the Becker Foundation.
As with Becker's work, the focus will be interdisciplinary, on the boundary between science and philosophy/religion. Tentative commitments have been made by scholars in the pertinent disciplines, and "practitioners" of activist antiviolence groups will also be invited. The projected audience would be made up of the following constituencies: (1) the invited speakers communicating with each other (probably for the first time); (2) those on the Ernest Becker Foundation mailing list; (3) the large activist groups in western Washington; (4) the religious community; and (5) any interested members and friends of COV&R.
Direct suggestions and queries to Neil Elgee, President, Ernest Becker Foundation, 3621 72nd Ave. SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040, USA.