Nijay Gupta (Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary) and John Goodrich (Program Head and Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute) have teamed up with eight other contributors to produce a book on how Paul tackles the problem of sin and its remedy.
This collection of essays began as a set of conference papers. The aim of the two-year study was to try to answer the following questions:
- How does Paul conceptualize sin?
- Does he primarily regard sin as disobedience, or as an enslaving power?
- If both, is there a model or perspective that best accounts for these multiple conceptualities?
- And what do the answers to these questions suggest about christological and pneumatological remedies to the problem of sin as Paul conceives of them? (xi).
Nijay Gupta begins the book by surveying the use of the word “sin” (ἁμαρτία and its cognates) in both Greco-Roman and Jewish literature. Gupta surveys pagan texts “to understand how this terminology was used more widely in Greco-Roman society” (1). Paul would have been aware of these uses, but this helps us understand the assumptions the majority of his gentile readers would have had toward the word “sin,” “even while Paul was communicating his own conceptualization of ‘sin'” (1).
Within the Greco-Roman world, Gupta surveys Aristotle, Polybius, Strabo, Plutarch, and Arrian. The usage of ἁμαρτία in Greco-roman literature was quite uncommon. When people talk about “sin” today, everyone thinks about “sin” being against God in some way. Yet Gupta writes that it was not religious language: “It was not viewed as a ‘sin’ against god or the divine realm” (6). It could just be an “error” or “fault” (4). Pagan writers didn’t associate ἁμαρτία and its cognates “with morality per se” (12). It was often (though not always) seen as an intentional/harmless error or mistake. However, Judaism and Jewish literature had a very different view of “sin.” Paul’s notion of sin correspond to some of the Jewish views, but could also be quite philosophical too (Gal 3:22; Rom 5-6; 14:23). Not only could one sin against God, but a Christian could sin against Christ.
Gupta piqued my curiosity into how gentile pagan converts might have been surprised to hear how Paul referred to sin. Though we probably can’t know without some original documents. As well, any shock or confusion they may have had would likely have been cleared up in person, such so that when gnetile churches received Paul’s letters, they already knew what he meant by sin.
While this book is only 160 pages, it is packed with good information (though I’ve only touched on three of the chapters). Having some knowledge of Greek will certainly be helpful (if nothing else than to know the English translations without having to look them up). I highly recommend this volume any pastors, teachers, and students either working through any of these letters, or to anyone who wants a better understanding of how Paul views sin and its remedy in Jesus Christ.
Nijay Gupta is Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, and John Goodrich is Program Head and Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute.
- Editors: Nijay Gupta & John Goodrich
- Paperback: 194 pages
- Publisher: Cascade Books (September 22, 2020)
- Preview the book on Google Books
Find it on Amazon and Cascade Books!
Disclosure: I received this book free from Wipf and Stock. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.