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Ancient Christians invoked sin to account for an astonishing range of things, from the death of God's son to the politics of the Roman Empire that worshipped him. In this book, award-winning historian of religion Paula Fredriksen tells the surprising story of early Christian concepts of sin, exploring the ways that sin came to shape ideas about God no less than about humanity. Long before Christianity, of course, cultures had articulated the idea that human wrongdoing violated relations with the divine. But Sin tells how, in the fevered atmosphere of the four centuries between Jesus and Augustine, singular new Christian ideas about sin emerged in rapid and vigorous variety, including the momentous shift from the belief that sin is something one does to something that one is born into. As the original defining circumstances of their movement quickly collapsed, early Christians were left to debate the causes, manifestations, and remedies of sin. This is a powerful and original account of the early history of an idea that has centrally shaped Christianity and left a deep impression on the secular world as well.
Paula Fredriksen, renowned historian and author of From Christ to Jesus, begins this inquiry into the historic Jesus with a fact that may be the only undisputed thing we know about him: his crucifixion.Rome reserved this means of execution particularly for political insurrectionists; and the Roman charge posted at the head of the cross indicted Jesus for claiming to be King of the Jews. To reconstruct the Jesus who provoked this punishment, Fredriksen takes us into the religious worlds, Jewish and pagan, of Mediterranean antiquity, through the labyrinth of Galilean and Judean politics, and on into the ancient narratives of Paul's letters, the gospels, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Josephus' histories. The result is a profound contribution both to our understanding of the social and religious contexts within which Jesus of Nazareth moved, and to our appreciation of the mission and message that ended in the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah.
In this exciting book, Paula Fredriksen answers these questions by placing the various canonical images of Jesus within their historical contexts. She provides fascinating insights into the content of Jesus's ministry, the circumstances of his crucifixion, and the social and religious problems facing the earliest churches.
Fredriksen (scripture, Boston U. ) places the third-century AD Augustine's defense of Jews in the context of the long history of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean civilization from the conquests of Alexander the Great in the forth century BCE to the beginning of the twilight of the western Christian empire in fifth-century. From there, she narrows her focus first to Augustine's life and thought, and again to the evolution and revolution of his theology of Jews and Judaism. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc. , Portland, OR (booknews. com)