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Book: Critical Theory and Early Christianity

Chapter: 12. Recapitulating the Event: Reading Irenaeus with Badiou

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.30156


Irenaeus’s recapitulation theory of atonement and his reading of history more generally appears to many contemporary readers as hopelessly naïve, since it relies generally on an allegorical method. Irenaeus situates otherwise discreet events typologically, putting them in an ontological relationship with each other that seemingly flattens any sense of historical contingency and, indeed, history itself. Phelps provides in this chapter a re-reading of this notion of recapitulation, drawing on the work of Alain Badiou. Assuming Badiou’s general ontology, which conceives of being as multiple in excess of any organization of the one, he draws specifically on his notions of evental recurrence and the resurrection of truth procedures to outline a materialist theory of typology on the basis of Irenaeus’s theology. When read through the lens of Badiou’s philosophy, recapitulation can be understood differently than a reduction of history to types. Recapitulation is, rather, a way to grasp being’s excess and map evental trajectories from it, forcing connections between otherwise contingent and distinct events.

Chapter Contributors

  • Hollis Phelps ( - hphelps) 'University of Mount Olive'