Chris Boesel and Catherine Keller

in Apophatic Bodies

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230815
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235087 | DOI:

Series: Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquia


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The ancient tradition of apophasis, or negative theology, concerns itself with the infinity called “God”. It says and unsays talk about that God. It falls speechless before a mystery that inspires more speech in the next moment. Surely the paradox entailed in this traditional apophatic gesture is mind-bending enough—speaking as unspeaking, knowing as unknowing, darkness as light—to keep us occupied for all these pages? The apophatic mystics—Jewish, Christian, Muslim—do surely speak. They speak and unspeak volumes. With uninhibited kataphasis (the presumed affirmative opposite of apophasis), at once confessional and speculative, liturgical and philosophical, they speak about God. The relation of the classic apophatic traditions to the body, and therefore to this split obligation between divine infinity and embodied finitude, may not be as straightforward as it appears at first blush. The problem posed by the apophatic gesture is also one of too great a distance, too radical a separation, between divine and creaturely reality; too absolute a sense of divine transcendence in relation to the finite realm of creaturely embodiment.

Keywords: apophasis; negative theology; God; divine transcendence; mystery; body; infinity; finitude; reality; creaturely embodiment

Chapter.  7985 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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