Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sin: A History - Part 1

Currently I am reading Sin: A History by Gary Anderson, and I have to say that the book is fascinating. I don't think that I have time to write a formal review, but I will write a couple of posts discussing some of the important ideas he develops in the book. Today we will take a look at his approach to understanding what sin is.

Building on the work of Paul Ricoeur, Anderson suggests that to understand sin we must understand the metaphors used to describe it. The interesting thing that Anderson notices is that the metaphor seems to change after exile, thus the title of the book, sin has a history and the concept develops throughout the cannon.

Prior to the exile, sin was mainly conceived of as a burden or a weight that needed to be born (see e.g., Gen 4:13). After the exile we get a different metaphor, that of sin as a debt (see e.g., Is 40:1-2), which Anderson believes partly resulted from the influence of Aramaic on Hebrew and partly from the experience of Jews in the exile which they viewed as punishment for their sins. This concept of sin as debt is then carried forward into the New Testament, which is what we will look at in our next post on this book.

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