The Last Temptation of Giorgio Agamben? The Antichrist, the Katechon, and the Mystery of Evil


Abstract: Giorgio Agamben's recent works have been preoccupied with a certain obscure passage from St. Paul's 'Second Epistle to the Thessalonians,' which describes the portentous events that must occur before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ can take place---specifically, the appearance of a 'man of lawlessness' (the Antichrist?) and the exposure of who or what is currently restraining the 'man of lawlessness' from being exposed as the Antichrist: a mysterious agency called the 'katechon.' In 'The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days,' this obscure passage is connected with the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI through certain equally obscure references to the fourth century theologian, Tyconius, although the precise connection between these apocalyptic events and their mysterious agents remains obscure. This review attempts to shed some critical light upon this cryptic subject, both by considering the world-historical context of St. Paul's epistle, and by asking what role these apocalyptic figures play in Agamben's political theology. But, to begin with, the review also asks: Who, really, is the Antichrist? a scarcely rhetorical question that demands a sardonic answer. Although various candidates from contemporary politics are proposed, the review finally argues that the Antichrist and the katechon are not specific individuals or worldly institutions, but rather refer to world-historical trends within Western European Christian civilization itself that have resulted in what Friedrich Nietzsche called 'the devaluation of all higher values' and 'the desecration of the Christian moral world-view': an apocalyptic turn of events which Nietzsche equally sardonically referred to in 'The Antichrist.'



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