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Sin: A History Paperback – August 31, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Anderson is entirely successful in demonstrating the significance of metaphor in shaping thoughts and actions in relation to sin and especially the importance of the debt metaphor in early Judaism and Christianity. Equally impressive in this book is the way that Anderson takes complex issues and presents them in a way that is entirely accessible to a more general audience. Such an achievement is exceedingly rare in biblical and Second Temple studies. . . . In sum, "Sin: A History "is erudite, informative, and accessible."--Jeffrey Stackert, "The Journal of Religion"--Jeffrey Stackert "The Journal of Religion "

"This slender volume, bearing the author''s wide learning with a rare grace, addresses a significant question in Jewish and Christian thought, one with far-reaching implications for theology, ethics, and the church''s work. . . . [Anderson''s] work offers a learned, and in many ways spiritually liberating, alternative to both evangelical and liberal views of sin and justification while taking human obligation seriously."--Gary A./i>--Gary A. Anderson "Restoration Quarterly "

About the Author

Gary A. Anderson is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana. He is the author of "Jesus: A Pilgrimage".
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780300168099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300168099
  • ASIN: 0300168098
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #281,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Gary Anderson's new book, Sin, is the rare combination of informative academic work and thoughtful theological insight; of penetrating depth of research and commendable breadth in scope. Anderson is clearly well-versed in Hebrew Scripture, early Christian writings, and important works from church history (such as Anselm). And yet, the book never gets bogged down in any of them or becomes tedious. On the contrary, Anderson moves effortlessly and clearly between the disciplines, providing a rich pay-off for the reader. This is one of the best models I've seen of how sound historical-critical research can be theologically constructive. In particular, the discussion of Lev 25-26 and the contextualization of some of Jesus' sayings (such as the Lord's Prayer and his exchange with the rich young ruler) were alone worth the price of the book. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Who would have thunk to write a history of sin? Starting from biblical sources, Anderson argues persuasively that the metaphors for sin change through time. This change had real implications for early Judaism and Christianity, including Syriac Christianity, an Aramaic form of the religion that offers unique insight into the metaphor of sin as debt. This development of the metaphors for sin are not isolated linguistic or textual issues, but rather have actual impact on church history, including Anselm's theory of atonement and Catholic/Protestant dialogue. As a result, these metaphors for sin have practical implications in the life of the church, and this careful study of the topic can have fruitful impact on both inter- and intra-religious dialogue.

It is a rare scholar who blends cutting edge biblical scholarship with extensive knowledge of Jewish and church history. Anderson's book combines academic acumen, carefully executed methodology, and clear writing. The result is an innovative book on one of the oldest topics in the history of Judeo-Christian thought.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gary Anderson's examination of sin was not the sort of book I was expecting when I chose it over and instead of Sin: The Early History of an Idea. The write-up on Amazon indicated his look at sin's progression from being seen as a weight to its interpretation as a debt. While this is technically true, the work is not as balanced as that description might lead you to believe. Anderson deals with the interpretation of sin as a weight or burden in very short order; after establishing that this was the most common conception prior to the exile, he leaves it behind and spends the remainder of the book treating sin as debt.

The initial chapters of the book come off as somewhat repetitive, as Anderson builds his arguments in short sections and then feels to the need to summarize them again only a few paragraphs later. As I continued to read, this problem became less apparent as he expanded the lexicon of ideas and managed to raise my level of interest. I cannot recall exactly when it clicked for me, but maybe a third of the way into the book I realized that Anderson is primarily concerned with linguistics. Theology is only secondary to him, and in fact he understands theology via language and its interpretation through translation. This is not a criticism per se, but it was unexpected. With this in mind, Anderson's arguments can be better appreciated.

Some parts are more interesting than others. His examination of the interpolations into Leviticus and the importance of the Sabbatical years is of some interest but wears thin. His attempt to parse the meaning of some very similar phrases in Daniel ("when the transgressions have reached their full measure" and "to finish the transgression") seems forced.
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A caveat: This is one of the only times in my life I’ve put a book back on the shelf before finishing it. I gave up at page 51. I think that for many serious students of Tanakh, this book will turn out to be unreadable.
I had hoped for a treatment of “sin” from a Jewish and Christian vantage point. For example: How do the Hebrew and Christian Bibles define sin? From where did sin arise and how does it arise now? What is the relationship between evil and sin? How do sins of omission differ from sins of commission? What was the nature of Adam’s, Eve’s, and the serpent’s sins—the very first sins? What is the relationship between sin and free will? Can a sin become meritorious in certain circumstances? Why does God allow sin to occur? What is the relationship between the body and sin? What is "original sin"?
These questions are not addressed. Instead, this book would be more accurately entitled: “Repaying the Debt Resulting from Sin” as it deals (at least up to page 51) solely with theories and practices of repentance and atonement. Anderson believes that the Hebrew Bible conceives of sin as a weight, then a debt, by various means of which may be repaid. But these notions don’t address the questions of what is sin and what is the history of the development of ideas about it.
There are three biblical Hebrew roots usually translated as “sin”: cheit, sh’gagah, and pesha (pardon my transliterations). I had hoped Anderson would discuss how these differ from each other.
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