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


Mohr Siebeck 2008

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Gathering Interest


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 God’s goodness and its own sinful nature. Emma Wasserman argues that the monologue can be better contextualized within certain intellectual discourses alive in Paul’s 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 speaker’s 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 (verses 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.

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Key Features

  • Introduces insights from contemporary Hellenistic culture
  • Presents contemporary views on Paul’s thought and theology
  • Considers how Paul's theology might be influenced by ancient psychology


  • Moral Psychology and Platonic Discourse
  • The Death of the Soul in Romans 7
  • The Life and Death of the Soul in Romans 1–8
  • Romans 7 Beyond the Bultmann-Käsemann Debate

Product Details

  • Title: The Death of the Soul in Romans 7: Sin, Death, and the Law in Light of Hellenistic Moral Psychology
  • Author: Emma Wasserman
  • Series: Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament (WUNT)
  • Publisher: Mohr Siebeck
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Pages: 171
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Topic: Pauline Studies

About Emma Wasserman

Emma Wasserman is assistant professor of religion at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition