When I awake, I am still with thee. (I need the unambiguous singular here.)
Then I will be innocent of the great offence. (I need the impossible.)
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. (I need escape.)
The third essay in chapter 12 is by Miroslav Volf, The Lamb of God and the Sin of the World. My understanding of sin has been like this: no God, no sin. He puts it this way:
He's right - no God, no sin.
Sin is an irreducibly theocentric notion that cannot be translated without loss into psychological, sociological, or cosmological terms. Whatever sin may be formally (e.g. homelessness or disharmony), it is "ungodliness" in the sense of turning away from God.
Fundamentally sin is a failure in a relationship. Am I still with thee (Psalm 139)? Sin is unknown - there are hidden and presumptuous sins as we see in the last stanza of Psalm 19 - under detailed verse by verse examination by John with of course mad-colour disease by me. And sin is hard to face - so we deceive ourselves. (1 John)
Jews and Christians have a strong sense of sin. So much so that lots of people argue about it - especially original sin. Chapter 12 begins with a sensitive essay Turn us to you and we shall return: Original Sin, Atonement, and Redemption in Jewish Terms, by Stephen Kepnes. He reads Paul with understanding and shows several phrases and words in the TNK that undergird the 'concept' of original sin focussing particularly on galut, exile, as a way of helping a Jewish reader identify with the 'Christian' concept.
I put these terms in single quotes, because it is too easy to get lost in speculative cerebralism when the problem is relational - and relational with the only possible solver of the problem - God.
And of course, God's solution is not very attractive - death! (Hey - wait a minute - what about repentance?)
Oh - right. There is repentance, but both traditions ask if that is something I / you /we can do? Can we turn from our sin? Here Kepnes has picked in his title the essential verse - Turn us to you and we will turn. Lamentations 5:21 - right at the end of arguably one of the greatest expressions of human sorrow in poetry. We're in a catch-22 - needing something, deceived by ourselves, and yet knowing that there is more. I hear the problem caught in Psalm 90 - Lord, Thou has been our refuge, another poem about turning, and also caught in the Shaker song - till by turning, turning, we come round right.
Kepnes engages the scope of the problem and the many Jewish pointers to the reality of the I-Thou that must resolve it. He writes of the liturgical and sacrificial components from the Akedah (Abraham and Isaac) and its interpretation in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to the sin offering, to Yom Kippur. It's a short essay that is full to overflowing.
Volf accepts the efficacy of the liturgy and exile as analogy, but he does not accept exile as a sufficient image. He deals with the New Testament critical texts such as "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself." Theologically, this atonement is an "event in the life of God".
Volf ends with gratitude that Prefessor Kepnes has been very sympathetic but puzzlement that he has not asked the hard questions such as: why does repentance not suffice that the Son of God must take the sins of the world away? Or if I can add Nanos question to me: if the Messiah has come, why are we not yet living in the Messianaic age?
The middle essay - I think I have figured out what they were trying to do - the middle essay is a Jewish response to the Jewish first essay. I will have to read the book again and see if I can make better sense of them. The middle essay is by Laurie Zoloth, Exile and Return in a World of Injustice: A Response to Stephen Kepnes. I didn't want to go here in this review. Sin is pervasive and has large and complex consequences. Maybe later.
There is only one chapter left: The Image of God. Other chapter reviews in this series: 1-4 5 6 7 8 9, 10a and 10b, 11.