Although Meghan Duke has already posted accurate praise for Bruce D. Marshall’s review, in the current FT, of Gary Anderson’s book Sin: A History, I want to say a bit more about the review from my own standpoint as a theology buff.
Anderson does not strive, and Marshall does not call, for a panoramic overview of the history of sin. Any such attempt would depressing as well as futile, and depressing partly because it would be futile. Rather, Prof. Marshall suggests, the history highlighted here is that of how ancient Judaism and early Christianity presented sin as the incurring of debt, and salvation as the discharge of that debt through both faith and the works necessarily arising from faith. What’s revealed by that history is how inextricably the interlocking metaphors of debt, repayment, and the forgiveness of debt are woven into what theologians like to call the “sources” of revelation, aka “Scripture” and “Tradition,” which are really the sources by which divine revelation is transmitted to us.
Given my own theological preoccupations, I especially like Anderson’s apparent emphasis on the continuity between Second-Temple Judaism and early Christianity on this point. And juxtaposing that theme with the main theses of N.T. Wright’s recent, controversial book Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision would open still wider theological vistas. I haven’t yet read Anderson’s book, but the review has convinced me that I, and anybody who’s interested, could richly benefit from doing so.