In 2013, Benedict XVI became only the second pope in the history of the Catholic Church to resign from office. In this brief but illuminating study, Giorgio Agamben argues that Benedict's gesture, far from being solely a matter of internal ecclesiastical politics, is exemplary in an age when the question of legitimacy has been virtually left aside in favor of a narrow focus on legality. This reflection on the recent history of the Church opens out into an analysis of one of the earliest documents of Christianity: the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, which stages a dramatic confrontation between the "man of lawlessness" and the enigmatic katechon, the power that holds back the end of days. In Agamben's hands, this infamously obscure passage reveals the theological dynamics of history that continue to inform Western culture to this day.
About the author
Giorgio Agamben is a contemporary Italian philosopher and political theorist whose works have been translated into numerous languages. His most recent title with Stanford University Press is The Fire and the Tale (2017).
"[I]f you are hoping to be challenged with a sophisticated and articulate reflection on the relationship between the mystery of evil, its deeper eschatological context, and its consequences on both life in the public human polis and the intimate chambers of the human heart, this slender text will be a splendid addition to your bookshelves, without causing them to sag too considerably."
—Michael M. Canaris, Reading Religion
"The Mystery of Evil contains two short texts by Agamben, followed by a twenty-five page containing mainly patristic texts....[It] is a slight but not insubstantial book."
—D.L. Dsenbury, Times Literary Supplement