Reviews

|

Out with the Old (Testament)?
Image: Jacopo da Ponte
Out with the Old (Testament)?
Sin: The Early History of an Idea
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Book Title
Sin: The Early History of an Idea
Author
Publisher
Princeton University Press
Release Date
June 10, 2012
Pages
208
Price
$7.12
Buy Sin: The Early History of an Idea from Amazon

Paula Fredriksen, professor of comparative religion at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has provided readers with a fascinating history of the idea of sin. In her latest book, Sin: The Early History of an Idea (Princeton University Press), Fredriksen (also the author of a study on Augustine's relationship to the Jewish faith) focuses on seven figures: Jesus and Paul (chap. 1); Justin Martyr, the Gnostic theologian Valentinus, and the eventual heretic Marcion (chap. 2); and Origen and Augustine (chap. 3). Together, these figures are meant to emphasize what Fredriksen takes, somewhat exaggeratedly, to be a significant degree of diversity within the early Christian community on the subject of sin.

Her choice of figures is interesting, but highly selective. For the beginnings of the Christian movement, Jesus and Paul are good choices, since about two-thirds of the appearances of "sin" and related words found in the New Testament come from the Gospels and Paul's letters. Many of the remainder appear in the Book of Hebrews, whose contribution is not taken into account. Fredriksen's second-century choices are curious. Including Valentinus and Marcion, whose views the early church rejected, exaggerates the diversity, which seems to be the author's point. Origen is a good choice for the third century and Augustine is an excellent choice for the late fourth/early fifth century.

What struck me as odd at the outset is that Fredriksen's "early history" of sin begins with Jesus and the New Testament, not with Israel and the Old Testament. Jesus and the early church's theologians presupposed Old Testament teaching on sin. Perhaps this explains Fredriksen's omission of Hebrews, whose treatment ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Browse All Book Reviews By:
Read These Next
Current IssueHow to End Sibling Rivalry Like a Christian
How to End Sibling Rivalry Like a Christian Subscriber Access Only
No teasing, no favorites, and hours and hours of time with one other.
RecommendedWho’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
The age of the Internet has birthed a crisis of authority, especially for women.
TrendingThe Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
How the former FBI director’s interest in Reinhold Niebuhr shaped his approach to political power.
Editor's PickThe Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us
The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us
A leading Nigerian theologian believes the real danger to Christianity in Africa is in the church.
Christianity Today
Out with the Old (Testament)?
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

September 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.