The Genealogy of a Person(ification)
The problem of how to understand the personal language Paul uses to describe s/Sin is introduced. Literary personification is distinguished from what we might call “person-identification” by an element of self-conscious fiction that recognizes a gap between the personal language deployed and the “actual state of affairs.” The problem is that, for readers of Paul, his construal of the “actual state of affairs” is precisely what is at issue. Three emphases in the history of scholarship are considered: Bultmann’s focus on the sins of the individual; Käsemann’s focus on Sin as a cosmic power; and the liberationists’ focus on social sin. Each school demonstrates that the interpreter’s sense of the “actual state of affairs” cannot be removed from the process of interpretation. This sets the stage for careful consideration of our own readerly sense of how individual, social, and cosmic realities might coexist and interact.
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