A History

By Gary A. Anderson
(Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300149890, 272pp.)

Publication Date: September 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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What is sin? Is it simply wrongdoing? Why do its effects linger over time? In this sensitive, imaginative, and original work, Gary Anderson shows how changing conceptions of sin and forgiveness lay at the very heart of the biblical tradition. Spanning nearly two thousand years, the book brilliantly demonstrates how sin, once conceived of as a physical burden, becomes, over time, eclipsed by economic metaphors. Transformed from a weight that an individual carried, sin becomes a debt that must be repaid in order to be redeemed in God's eyes.

Anderson shows how this ancient Jewish revolution in thought shaped the way the Christian church understood the death and resurrection of Jesus and eventually led to the development of various penitential disciplines, deeds of charity, and even papal indulgences. In so doing it reveals how these changing notions of sin provided a spur for the Protestant Reformation.

Broad in scope while still exceptionally attentive to detail, this ambitious and profound book unveils one of the most seismic shifts that occurred in religious belief and practice, deepening our understanding of one of the most fundamental aspects of human experience.

About the Author

Gary A. Anderson is professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

Praise For Sin

“In this highly original study, Gary Anderson draws on a cornucopia of sources (biblical, patristic, rabbinic) to show how different metaphors, e.g. a weight on one''s back or a debt to be paid, have shaped the development of Jewish and Christian understandings of sin. Though Anderson ranges far and wide, he never loses sight of the big picture.”—Robert Louis Wilken, University of Virginia

-Robert Louis Wilken

“Anderson is developing a new approach to biblical theology, by probing the root metaphors for theological ideas, and tracing their interpretation in postbiblical Judaism and Christianity. This book is important not only for the history of sin, but also for the central theological idea of atonement. An important and original book.”—John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale University

-John J. Collins

“Wonderful and surprising . . . a significant contribution both to scriptural interpretation and to theology proper, and an object lesson in how to do both well. . . . [Anderson] brings the traditions he interprets alive and shows how Christianity and Judaism each provides a thread in a single figural fabric.”—Commonweal

“Astonishing . . . compelling . . . . This book merits wide and sustained attention . . . . There are few books available that offer as many generative insights as this one.”—Walter Brueggemann, Christian Century

-Walter Brueggemann

“Impressive . . . powerfully reasoned and compelling.”—Peter Lopatin, Commentary

-Peter Lopatin

“Scholarship at its best . . . well-argued insights and lively prose . . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

"Anderson''s clear concise writing and solid line of argumentation on the history of sin as a debt is to be highly commended to students, scholars, and libraries as a valuable and insightful addition."—Theodore James Whapham, Catholic Books Review
-Theodore James Whapham

"One of those rare volumes that charts new territory, that speaks new wisdom . . . fascinating . . . [and] as gripping as a detective novel."—Nicola Hoggard Creegan, Colloquium

-Nicola Hoggard Creegan

"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. Anderson, Restoration Quarterly
-Gary A. Anderson

"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

"At times Anderson''s insights are breathtaking . . . This book might—and should—have enormous impact on theology."—James F. Keenan, Theological Studies
-James F. Keenan

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