Sunday, August 19, 2012

Five original books approaching the subject of sin

Paula Fredriksen is an historian of ancient Christianity who works as well on the social relations between pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Roman Empire. Among her books are From Jesus to Christ; Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews; Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism; and, most recently, Sin: The Early History of an Idea.

One of her five best books with an original way of approaching the subject of sin, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
God: A Biography
by Jack Miles (1996)

Sin stands at the intersection of moral agency and the problem of evil. But what does the world look like if its ultimate moral agent, God, is himself terribly, tragically flawed? This is the haunting premise of Jack Miles's "God: A Biography." Miles reads through the books of the Bible in their Jewish sequence as if they provided an unfolding psychological study of their main character, "God." The divine personality who emerges is troubled, talented, moody. Benevolent or enraged in fits and starts, "God" alternately creates and destroys his human self-image. But it is only when, on a whim, "God" makes a wager with Satan, and consequently brings unbearable sufferings upon his servant Job, that he sees—to his own horror—the fiend that dwells within him. These ancient Jewish texts, says Miles, the fonts of Western monotheism, describe a deity who is tragically overburdened with an excess of personalities: Creator, Destroyer, Judge, Warrior, Lover, Mother. They cannot fuse into a coherent moral whole. Contemporary Western culture, Miles concludes, remains even now haunted by the unstable character of this biblical god who, though absent, has never finally departed. This god is the "divided original whose divided image we remain. His is the restless breathing we still hear in our sleep."
Read about another book on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Sin: The Early History of an Idea.

Writers Read: Paula Fredriksen.

--Marshal Zeringue