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Reading Derrida's New Testament: A Critical Appraisal

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Derrida is a source of profound inspiration for many scholars in recent New Testament studies. He makes available a variety of critical tools with which to examine the fissures and rough edges of the New Testament texts, not (as with source and form critics) in order to reconstitute their origins and original meanings, but rather in recognition of the indeterminacies which constitute the texts themselves. Given his growing importance to the field, however, it is surprising to note that Derrida's own readings of the New Testament often fail to exemplify even the most basic possibilities that deconstruction has to offer. In his hands, the New Testament can take on a surprising resistance to deconstructive critique. This essay is primarily an effort at encouraging New Testament scholars (who clearly can out-Derrida Derrida with regard to the New Testament) to return to Derrida's readings of certain New Testament texts with a fresh, critical eye. It examines a number of Derrida's New Testament interventions, and in the process shows (a) the ways in which his reading of the texts is at odds with the critical project within which it is embedded, and (b) what a more adequately deconstructive reading of the same texts might look like. The article concludes with a complex of tentative thoughts on why Derrida's readings of the New Testament can seem so inadequately Derridean.


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