Sin: The Early History of an Idea

Paula Fredriksen, Author
Paula Fredriksen. Princeton Univ., $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-691-12890-0
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 06/01/2012
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-280-49401-7
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4008-4159-2
Paperback - 209 pages - 978-0-691-16090-0
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In her characteristically brisk and engaging prose, Fredriksen (Augustine and the Jews) explores the evolution of the idea of sin in the first four centuries of Christianity, asking hard questions about what various ideas of sin tell us about the corresponding ideas of God and humanity. Focusing on seven figures—Jesus, Paul, Marcion, Justin, Valentinus, Origen, and Augustine—she examines the ways that these bearers or writers of the early Christian message answered such questions as who is saved from sin, and how, as well as the ways that sin defines redemption. For Jesus and his hearers, sin is “Jewish” sin, such as breaking the commandments, and Jesus teaches that repentance, especially as practiced in the ideal teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, restores Jews to good relationships with their neighbors and with God. For Valentinus and Justin, though in different ways, sin is a function of ignorance; sinners sin because they do not know God’s will, both a cause and effect of not reading scripture with spiritual insight. Fredriksen’s eloquent study traces the early development of the idea of sin, illustrating the intricate patterns woven by the many colorful threads of culture and religion and the ways that those patterns influence contemporary Christian religion. (July)
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