In the Red

A History
Gary A. Anderson
Yale University Press, $30, 235 pp.

This wonderful and surprising book is a historical and exegetical recovery of the idea of sin as debt, and of almsgiving (and other works of mercy) as the principal means by which that debt may be repaid. Gary A. Anderson is professor of Old Testament at the University of Notre Dame. He is a theologically interested interpreter of the Old Testament, fully equipped with all the philological and historical skills necessary for that task, and yet also concerned with theological questions. He has written fascinatingly on, among other things, Adam and Eve in the Jewish and Christian imagination, the human fall, and the significance of imagery about temple and tabernacle for thought about God’s presence. Sin: A History should increase his reputation, for it is a significant contribution both to scriptural interpretation and to theology proper, and an object lesson in how to do both well.

In the first seven chapters of his book, Anderson shows how deep the debt metaphor is in Scripture and in early rabbinic thought. With close attention to the language about debt forgiveness in the sabbatical- and jubilee-year regulations found in Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15, and to the development and use of associated terms in rabbinic thought, Anderson shows that there is in the lexicon of rabbinic Hebrew “a complete interchangeability between commercial and theological terminology,” and...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Paul J. Griffiths holds the Warren Chair of Catholic Theology at Duke University.