Deracializing the Matthean Jesus: "King of the Judeans" on Trial
Park, Gideon Wongi
In Matthew 26-27, questions surrounding the identity of Jesus come into sharp focus: the repetition of the title ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων in the trial scenes that comprise the passion narrative accents its pivotal role. Despite the explicit citation of ethnoracial terminology, previous scholarship has understood the title curiously in non-racial ways. The argument of this project is that the pattern of non-racial readings of Jesus’ identity as ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων is not an isolated phenomenon in the history of modern biblical scholarship. It is rather one of the many instantiations of the dominant narrative of Christianity as being universal, non-ethnic, and pitted against race-ethnicity. To substantiate this claim, I develop a discursive and dialectical approach to deracialization. The first half of the project (Chapters 1-2) offers a deconstructive analysis that traces the dominant narrative surrounding the interpretation of the title in the world of production and consumption. The second half of the project (Chapters 3-4) follows suit with a constructive proposal for an alternative narrative drawing on the insights of minority biblical criticism. Accordingly, the ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων title is not a positive messianic designation, but a racial slur that signifies Jesus’ death on a Roman crucifix as a grotesque act of minoritization, and specifically, Judean racialization.