Fortress Press

We the People: Israel and the Catholicity of Jesus

We the People

Israel and the Catholicity of Jesus

Tommy Givens (Author)

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We the People explores John Howard Yoder’s account of peoplehood and develops an appreciative revision that considers the politics of Jesus in relation to the people of Israel. This revision articulates the theopolitical stakes in relation to the modern nation-state’s claims to peoplehood and the observable effects of its exegetical and historical moorings in self-assertion as the new and purified Israel. Tommy Givens then undertakes a critical engagement with Karl Barth’s account of God’s election and a theologically sensitive exegesis of key biblical texts in dialogue with Carl Schmitt, Jacob Taubes, and N. T. Wright.
  • ISBN 9781451472035
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 352
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Publication Date October 1, 2014


"In this refreshingly serious book, New Testament scholar and theologian Tommy Givens emancipates the usurped rallying cry ‘we the people’ from its ecclesially and nationally institutionalized violence to an innovative mode of discursive power by emplotting peoplehood internal to God’s gratuitous election of Israel. Givens has marshaled a startling array of sources, faculties, and commitments toward a relentlessly perspicacious review of theopolitics that is first frightening and then emboldening."
—Jonathan Tran
Baylor University
“It’s all about peoplehood: understanding Israel and the Church as people (Yoder), understanding Israel’s peoplehood as divine election, alone (Barth), understanding the violent modern state as the bad fruit of humanity’s reassigning the work of election to itself (Givens on Balibar), and showing us what it would mean for both the Church and modern theo-politics to rediscover the meaning of God’s electing Israel as people (Givens). An utterly brilliant approach to re-reading Yoder and Barth (and Paul and Jesus) on Jewish and Christian peoplehood and, in the process, diagnosing what is wrong with modern accounts of ‘We the People’ (American accounts as well).”
—Peter Ochs
University of Virginia
"We the People is a dangerous title tempting the reader to think they know the ‘we’ before reading this extraordinary book. However, through the argument Givens develops, we come to a chastened understanding of the ‘we.’ He does so by giving us fresh eyes to see how the ‘we’ that refers to the American ‘we’ can make us less than God’s people. This is a demanding but very important book."
—Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law
Duke University 

"In this provocative book, Tommy Givens exposes and challenges the dangerous theological roots and deadly consequences of modern ‘peoplehood’ and its expression in nation-states. In critical conversation with Yoder, Barth, and N. T. Wright, he calls on Christians to recognize the election of Israel and its incarnation in Jesus as the foundation of a peaceable Christian identity and witness. His biblical and theological arguments deserve a wide hearing and careful engagement."
—Michael J. Gorman
St. Mary’s Seminary & University, Baltimore
"Tommy Givens contends that the failure of much Christian theology to grapple adequately with the scriptural representation of Israel’s election produced disastrous lacunae in early Christian confessional standards and in subsequent theological development. He argues that this failure is not a consequence of the teaching of the New Testament writings themselves; rather, it is a failure of the subsequent tradition to grasp and incorporate the actual witness of the New Testament concerning Israel’s election. Of course, this argument requires careful critical reassessments of the New Testament texts that have often been supposed to support, or even require, a supersessionist rejection of ethnic Israel. Focusing particularly on Matthew and Romans as test cases, Givens presents a strong and provocative theological argument. This is essential reading for all concerned about the integrity of Christian ecclesiology and Christian thought about the people of Israel."
—Richard B. Hays
Duke Divinity School

"I am sympathetic with the purpose and the spirit of what Givens has accomplished in this book. Chapter four is a tour de force displaying a spectacular grasp of the complex dialectics of election as Barth understood it. I don’t know of any discussion that succeeds as well as this one on that difficult but important topic. Givens has written a deep and theologically serious work of biblical scholarship that will need to be reckoned with for years to come."
—George Hunsinger
Princeton Theological Seminary