Vol 7, No 1 (2011) Reading the Philippians “Christ-Hymn” Alongside Blanchot’s Orpheus and Kristeva’s Dead Christ

READING THE PHILIPPIANS “CHRIST-HYMN” ALONGSIDE BLANCHOT’S ORPHEUS AND KRISTEVA’S DEAD CHRIST

Andrew Wilson

ABSTRACT

This essay begins by observing that traditional readings of the so-called Christ-hymn, from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, typically support and sustain traditional theological formulations. The problem is that these formulations tend be more philosophical in character and consequently sideline the poetic dimension/experience of this text. This essay then seeks to interpret the hymn precisely in those poetic terms that are routinely marginalized in scholarship. Reclaimed, this facet of the text proves to be a powerful contributing factor to theological discourse in a way that conditions its traditionally philosophical character. As a point of comparison, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as interpreted by French literary theorist Maurice Blanchot is read alongside the narrative pattern present in the hymn. In his reading, Blanchot links affective “literary” or poetic experience with the “impossible” and ultimately with death. A similar pattern is at work in the hymn, where at the heart of this poetic text, the moment of death is rendered unpresentable. The reading is further aided by the psychoanalytic theoretical work of Julia Kristeva, particularly her reading of Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. Ultimately, what becomes clear is that reading the hymn involves playing out the human confrontation with otherness in a way that puts the death of Jesus at the very centre of this psychic drama.

KEYWORDS

Philippians; Christ-Hymn; Julia Kristeva; Maurice Blanchot

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