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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

The Death of the Soul in Romans 7: Sin, Death, and the Law in Light of Hellenistic Moral Psychology
Wasserman, Emma

TŁbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008 pp. x + 171. Ä44.00

Series Information
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 2/256

Description: The monologue of Romans 7 has proved central to the Christian West, where interpreters such as Augustine and Martin Luther have made the text into a paradigm for the plight of mankind, torn between the demands of Godís goodness and its own sinful nature. Emma Wasserman argues that the monologue can be better contextualized within certain intellectual discourses alive in Paulís day. In light of certain Platonic traditions about the soul, the monologue emerges as the voice of reason or mind describing its defeat at the hands of passions and desires represented as sin. Especially as developed by Philo of Alexandria, Platonic traditions of representing extreme cases of immorality account for a number of difficult features of the text. Such traditions can account for the metaphors of enslavement, imprisonment, warfare, and death; the representation of the passions as sin and the association with the body, members, and flesh; the Platonic language about mind and the speakerís role in reasoning, reflecting, and judging; the problem of the law in the first part of the monologue (verses 7-13) and the plight of self-contradiction in the second (14-25). The reading thus finds that the speaker is reason or mind, recounting its discovery that it cannot put any of its good judgments into action because of the dominance of the passions.

Subjects: Bible, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Romans, Literature

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Review by Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr
Published 12/15/2010
Citation: Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, review of Emma Wasserman, The Death of the Soul in Romans 7: Sin, Death, and the Law in Light of Hellenistic Moral Psychology, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2010).

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