Biopolitics in the trial of Jesus (John 18:28-19:16a)

Sung Uk Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the biopolitical dimension of the trial of Jesus in John 18:28-19:16a from the Agambenian perspective of "bare life." According to Giorgio Agamben, bare life, namely, life at risk of death through sovereign power, operates in the "state of exception." The state of exception is a state wherein the threshold between the juridical order and anomie, or that between an insider and outsider of the juridical order becomes blurred as a result of a law that is suspended from its effectiveness yet is effective in its suspension. Jesus can be interpreted as a bare life in a zone of absolute undecidability in which both the Jewish and Roman laws simultaneously are operative and ineffectual. More specifically, Jesus is an insider in both the Jewish and Roman worlds on the grounds that he is subject to both the rules of Judaism and the Roman Empire. But at the same time, Jesus is an outsider from both the Jewish and Roman worlds explicitly because his kingship goes beyond both earthly rules (18:36; cf. 8:23; 17:14, 16). Paradoxically, Jesus is simultaneously an insider in and an outsider from each of the Jewish and Roman sovereignties. That is to say, Jesus lives in both of the sovereignties, while at the same time belonging to neither of them. It follows from this that Jesus resides in an in-between zone between insider and outsider. My contention, therefore, is that Jesus is such a liminal character - an unfixed and unfixable character in a zone of uncertainty - that he subverts the sovereign power and hierarchical dualism of the Jewish and Roman worlds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-216
Number of pages8
JournalExpository Times
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© SAGE Publications.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies


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