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The Early History of an Idea
Paula Fredriksen

Book Description | Table of Contents
Prologue [in PDF format]


"For something referred to so often by Christians of every stripe, 'sin' is a remarkably changeable and debatable concept. Religious historian and author Paula Fredriksen (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews and Augustine and the Jews, among other distinguished titles) traces the frequent and often bewildering shifts in the meaning of 'sin' in the four centuries between Jesus and Augustine, especially the enormous change from the belief that sin is something one does to the belief that sin is something one is born into. The journey takes her from John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul of Tarsus to the Gnostics, Origen and Augustine. It amounts to an original and entertaining history of early Christianity."--Globe & Mail

"Paula Fredriksen . . . has provided readers with a fascinating history of the idea of sin. . . . Sin is a lively and engaging study. It interacts with almost everything that has anything to do with sin (sacrifice, atonement, forgiveness, salvation, God). . . . It is well worth reading."--Craig A. Evans,

"Fredriksen, an eminent American religious scholar, notes that Jesus announced good news to his world: God was about to redeem it. Yet 350 years later, the Church founded in his name proclaimed that the greater part of humanity was condemned for all eternity. Sin is Fredriksen's take on how Christianity got from one pole to the other."--Brian Bethune, Maclean's

"The author's talent lies in expressing complex theological concepts in everyday language."--Dawn Eden, Weekly Standard

"This is an informative text on the development of the Christian concept of sin, and a valuable source of juxtaposition for Jewish scholars seeking the root of the two faiths' different philosophies."--Rabbi Dr Charles H Middleburgh, Charles Middleburgh Blog

"Though this book is short . . . and directed towards an audience of general, well-educated readers, it re-reads a topic that many had previously assumed to be a monolith. As a result, Fredriksen's work offers an invaluable addition to the scholarly discourse about sin during the early centuries of Christianity, not only because she underscores the Jewish roots of this concept, but also, and more significantly, because she emphasizes the diversity present in early Christian circles in relation to the idea of sin."--Deborah Forger, Reviews of the Enoch Seminar

"Fredriksen covers a huge amount of ground in a compact book which provides swift initial orientation for the newcomer and is also sufficiently provocative to stimulate those who know the subject well."--Timothy Carter, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"It is a work of learned, well-informed synthesis and interpretation. . . . Fredriksen's book is engaging, abundantly documented and elegantly written."--Brian E. Daley, Biblical Archeology Review

"Fredriksen has accomplished a difficult task: to produce a highly readable and accessible survey of early Christian thought, one that discusses much more than the specific topic of 'sin.' Most patristic scholars will be familiar with most of the material here, but Fredriksen's synthesis is her own, and it is worth reading. Moreover, the book will be a useful resource for non-specialists, including college students, in need of a reliable account of the diversity of ancient Christian theology."--David G. Hunter, Journal of Early Christian Studies


"Paula Fredriksen's new book offers a masterfully clear and readable exposition of complex issues, showing how traditional Jewish views of sin were transmuted by the Christian theologians Origen and Augustine in nearly opposite ways, to create startlingly different views of human nature."--Elaine Pagels, author of The Origin of Satan

"Paula Fredriksen's Sin is a gripping book on an immense theme. Fredriksen makes us realize that what is at stake is not simply 'sin' (as we usually think of it) but what it is to be human, to live in a material universe, and to expect redemption from a God of many faces. To follow the idea of sin from figures such as John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, and Paul of Tarsus, through the Gnostics to Origen and Augustine is to travel along the high peaks of religious thought in the ancient world. It is a magnificent ride."--Peter Brown, Princeton University

"In Sin, Paula Fredriksen takes readers on a lively trip through the early Christian theological landscape, making strategic stops that clarify divergent convictions about sin and redemption. This is a book that offers surprises as well as startling illumination."--Karen L. King, author of The Secret Revelation of John

"Writing with verve and flair, Fredriksen makes a complex subject accessible to general readers. Few scholars are able to handle both New Testament and early Christian sources as clearly and effectively as Fredriksen."--Anne McGuire, Haverford College

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File created: 4/24/2017

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