Eutychus and His Kin: October 11, 1974

1974This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.
The Wages Of Sin (Tr.)

N.B. As Eutychus VI is on vacation, he has offered this column to the noted demythologizing theologian Heinrich v. Schlunk. Originally entitled “Die Sündenbelohnung im Hinblick auf das mythologische Selbstverständnis,” this article first appeared in Entmythologisierte Rundschau, 1973, and was widely hailed as an example of relevant contemporary exegesis.

The attractive if elusive Pauline concept of the wages of sin has its locus classicus in the lapidary, aphoristic assertion of Rom. 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” Although each of the concepts, wagesExtensive mention of wages is found in the Nag-ei-Hammadi tablets excavated by the late Sol Hurok in the course of a talent search., sinSin Is also frequently mentioned in extrabiblical literature; cf. e.g. the Code of Hammurabi, passim., and deathThat death was a familiar concept to ancient Near Eastern man may be inferred from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as well as from numerous funerary inscriptions. is freqently encountered in earlier literature, it is to the former rabbinical scholar and world traveler Paul that we owe the revolutionary concept of wages of sin.

The somewhat jarring amalgamation of the three concepts, wages, sin, and death, into the Gestalt the-wages-of-sin-is-death may prove misleading and even alarming, until we recognize that the third element, death, is clearly mythological in nature. In antiquity, death was associated with a voyage, particularly over water: the crossing of the river, such as Lethe, Styx, or Jordan. Boats are found in Egyptian tombs.A survival of this ancient Egyptian journey-motif is found in the slang expression “take [someone] for a ride.” Paul has evidently taken over this primitive mythical element, ...

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