Exposing the Myth of "Original Sin"
by Jerry Shugart
In his book titled In Adam's Fall I.A. McFarland summarizes Augustine's theory of Original Sin in the following way:
"The Augustianian doctrines of the fall and original sin affirms (1) that Adam and Eve's violation of God's primordial commandment against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil caused a
fundamental deformation in humanity's relationship to God, each other, and the rest of creation; and (2) that this 'fall' includes among its consequences that all human beings thereafter are born into a state
of estrangement from God--an 'original' sin that condemns all individuals prior to and apart from their committing any 'actual' sins in time and space" (I.A. McFarland, In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian
Doctrine of Original Sin [Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010], 85).
What McFarland said here is taught by all of the advocates of the theory of Original Sin even though many of the various teachings differ in some respects from Augustine's complete teaching on the subject.
The Biblical Source for the Theory of Original Sin
Thomas R. Schreiner, the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says Romans 5:12-19 serves as the basis for denying or
affirming orignal sin:
"Whether Scripture teaches what is traditionally called 'original sin' depends significantly on the exegesis of Romans 5:12-19. Since the days of Augustine, the interpretation of this text functions as the basis
for denying or affirming original sin. I will argue in this chapter that the most plausible reading of Romans 5:12-19, both exegetically and theologically, supports the doctrine of original sin and original death"
(Thomas R. Schreiner, "Original Sin and Original Death-Romans 5:12-19" in Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin ed. Hans Madueme and Michael Reeves [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014], 271).
In his book "Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle" Henri Blocher expresses the same thought as Schreiner:
"Romans 5:12ff. fully deserves the appellation 'sedes doctrinae,' the 'seat' or 'fundament' of the doctrine of original sin. Whenever this doctrine is discussed, Romans 5 is in the eye of the
storm" (Henri Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997], 63).
When we examine what is said about these verses by those who defend the idea of Original Sin it becomes obvious that what is traditionally called "Original Sin" is nothing more than a "theory" even though some
theologians call it a "doctrine" of the Church.
Blocher says that Paul's explanation about how Adam communicated a sinful bent to his posterity should be expected in Romans 5:12 but it is not found there:
"It is rather strange that the core idea, or the hinge of the apostle's purpoted logic - that Adam communicated the sinful bent to his posterity - should not be expressed at all in the
passage. It 'might' be explicit; undoubtedly, Paul did share the opinion; yet how surprising that he should not include something here, of all places, to make it clear!" [emphasis added] (Henri
Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle, 66).
Blocher continues, writing that "the crux, or the nut too hard to crack, is found in verses 13-14, Paul's digression in support of his statement at the end of verse 12. For
those whose interpretative strategy concentrates on the fact that all people sin, the apostle's emphasis on the case of those who did 'not' sin
after the likeness of Adam's transgression is somewhat puzzling. Why does Paul make this detour into the pre-Mosaic period?" [emphasis added] (Ibid., 68).
Blocher says that what Paul writes beginning at verse 13 is a "digression" and he also characterizes the digression as "the nut too hard to crack." He also says that what is written at verse 14 is "puzzling." He cannot
understand why Paul makes a so-called detour into the pre-Mosaic period.
What Blocher fails to realize that it is in the very verses which he calls a "nut too hard to crack" where Paul provides the very clue which solves the riddle of verse 12.
Later he calls Original Sin a "riddle" and a "mystery" because he has no answer as to how Adam caused death mentioned at Romans 5:12 to come into all of his descendants:"Has the riddle become less opaque? My thesis offers no magic formula. It makes no claim to master mystery, or to dissect Adam's causality, or
to understand the mechanisms of our solidarity with him" [emphasis added] (Ibid.130).
Douglas Moo asserts that Paul said nothing about how the sin of Adam resulted in the death of everyone:
"Paul says nothing explicitly about 'how' the sin of one man, Adam, has resulted in death for everyone; nor has he made clear the connection between Adam's sin (v. 12a) and the sin of all people
(v. 12d)." [emphasis added] (Douglas J. Moo, Fallen: A Theology of Sin, 122).
Moo, like Blocher, fails to recognize that in verses 13-14 Paul provides a clue which solves the riddle of verse 12.
In his commentary on the epistle to the Romans William Barclay quotes Romans 5:12-21 and then says that "no passage of the New Testament has had such an influence on theology as this; and no passage is
more difficult for a modern mind to understand. It is difficult because Paul expresses himself in a difficult way, we can see, for instance, that the first sentence never ends, but breaks off in mid-air,
while Paul pursues another idea down a sideline" [emphasis added] (William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975], 78.).
Later we will see that Paul does not express himself in a difficult way because Barclay is in error when he asserts that verse 12 never ends and breaks off in mid-air. What Paul says in verses 13-14 is a continuation
of what he said in verse 12. And again, what is said in those two verses provide the clue which explains how Adam's first sin resulted in the death of all people who sin.
John Murray says that verse 12 is an unfinished comparison and that the type of syntax which Paul used at verse 12 has been broken off:
"It is scarcely necessary to argue the fact that verse 12 is an unfinished comparison...It is not difficult to discover the reason why the
comparison introduced in verse 12 has been broken off. The development of Paul's thought required a parenthesis after the concluding clause of verse
12. This parenthesis begins at verse 13 and continues through verse 17...it is quite apparent that Paul does not return to the type of syntax which
had been begun in verse 12, but had been broken off, until we arrive at verse 18." [emphasis added] (John Murray, The Imputation of Adam's Sin, 7-8).
The idea that verses 13-14 belong in a parenthesis puzzles even those who defend the theory of Original Sin, as witnessed by the words of Meredith Kline:
"My immediate interest here is the intriguing exegetical puzzle posed by this parenthesis...As I see it, the customary interpretations of Rom 5:13-14, irrespective of theological perspective, are
alike in one respect: their failure to account satisfactorily for the particular segment of history Paul selects to make his point" [emphasis added] (Meredith Kline, Gospel Until the Law
What Paul says at Romans 5:12 is not broken off. In fact, the first word at verse 13 is the Greek word gar and one of the meanings of that word is "it adduces the Cause or gives the Reason of a preceding statement or opinion." So beginning at verse 13 Paul gives us the clue which gives the reason why Paul said that because of Adam's sin death passed unto all men.
By putting verse 13 into a parenthesis the truth of what is said in that parenthesis is lost to those who teach the theory of Original Sin and that explains Kline's words that the customary interpretations of Romans
5:12-13 of a "failure to account satisfactorily for the particular segment of history Paul selects to make his point."
We will see later that these verses which speak of the time period between Adam and Mose are an integral part of the clue which solves the riddle.
Earlier I quoted Moo saying that "Paul says nothing explicitly about 'how' the sin of one man, Adam, has resulted in death for everyone." He also says that we shouldn't force any resolution that Paul never
"Paul in verse 12 asserts that all people die because of their own account; and in verses 18-19 he claims they die because of Adam's sin. Paul
does not resolve these two perspectives; and we do wrong to try to force a resolution that Paul himself never made" [emphasis added]
(Douglas J. Moo, Fallen:A Theology of Sin, 123).
We will see that all of those who defend the idea of Original Sin do in fact try to force a resolution that Paul himself never made. In fact, we will see that these so-called resolutions dreamed up by these
people amount to nothing more than specuation, and in some cases wild speculation.
According to Blaise Pascal the idea of Original Sin is a "mystery, the most incomprehensible of all":
"Without doubt nothing is more shocking to our reason than to say that the sin of the first man has implicated in its
guilt [men and women] so far from the original sin that they seem incapable of sharing it. The flow of guilt does not seem merely impossible
to us, but indeed most unjust....Certainly nothing jolts us more rudely than this doctrine, and yet, but for this mystery, the most
incomprehensible of all, we remain incomprehensible to ourselves" [emphasis added] (Blaise Pascal, Pensees, trans. A. J.
Krailsheimer [New York: Penguin, 1966], 65).
Of course the theory of Original Sin remains a "mystery" to those who defend the theory because of their failure to correctly interpret what Paul wrote at Romans 5:12-19.
And even at this late stage, after many centuries of discussion about the theory what is taught about it remains in flux. Thomas Schreiner writes that "what Paul says in 5:12cd is fiercely contested and difficult
to understand. Indeed, I have changed my mind on what Romans 5:12cd means since writing my Romans commentary, though the change does not affect the truth that Adam is the covenant head of all human
beings, so that all enter the world condemned and dead because of Adam's sin" (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall, and Original sin, 273).
Next, we will examine in detail what Schreiner now says concerning what is written at Romans 5:12.
What Kind of Death is in View at Romans 5:12?
Let us begin this section with a detailed look at Romans 5:12:
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (pas hamartano)" (Ro.5:12).
Here Paul repeated the phrase "all have sinned" from earlier in the same epistle:
"For all have sinned (pas hamartano), and come short of the glory of God" (Ro.3:23)
Schreiner says that the "death" under discussion is caused by a person's own individual sinning, writing that "5:12cd teaches that death spread to all because all sinned...Paul regularly argues in Romans 5 and 6 that sin begets death, context supports the interpretation, 'and so death spread to all men because all sinned'...to paraphrase: 'death spread to all people because all sinned individually' " [emphasis added] (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, 274,280)
Blocher agrees because he says that "the clause in verse 12d, 'because all have sinned', is given the same meaning as in Romans 3:23; many consider this to be the 'natural' sense" (Ibid., 65).
Douglas J. Moo writes that "Paul certainly uses the verb 'sin' regularly to denote voluntary sinful acts committed by individuals; and this is what most commentators think that this same word, in the same tense as is used here (aorist), designates in 3:23: that all people, 'in their own persons,' commit sins.
Probably a majority of contemporary scholars interpret 5:12d, then, to assert that the death of each person (v.12c) is directly caused by that person's own individual sinning" (Douglas J. Moo, "Sin in Paul," in Fallen: A Theology of Sin ed. Christoper W. Morgan and Robert A.
Peterson [Wheaton IL: Crossway, 2013], 122-3).
Schreiner says that the "death" under discussion is caused by a person's own individual sinning, writing that "5:12cd teaches that death spread to all because all sinned...Paul regularly argues in Romans 5 and 6 that sin begets death, context supports the interpretation, 'and so death spread to all men because all sinned'...to paraphrase: 'death spread to all people because all sinned individually' " (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, 274,280)
All of these commentators agree that it is personal sins which are responsible for the "death" mentioned at Romans 5:12.
Is the Death Spoken of at Romans 5:12 in Regard to Both Physical Death and Spiritual Death?
Schreiner says the following concerning the "death" spoken of at Romans 5:12:
"Death must not be restricted to physical death here, for both physical death and spiritual death is intended" (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall,and Original Sin, 272).
At least Schreiner understands that a spiritual death is in view even though it will be shown that Paul is not referring to a physical death in the verse.
In his commentary on the meaning of the word "death" in Romans 5:12 Moo says that Paul "may refer to physical death only, since 'death' in verse
14 seems to have this meaning. But the passage goes on to contrast death with eternal life (v. 21). Moreover, in verses 16 and 18 Paul uses
'condemnation' in the same way that he uses 'death' here. These points suggest that Paul is referring to 'spiritual' death: the estrangement
from God that is a result of sin and that, if not healed through Christ, will lead to 'eternal' death" [emphasis added] (Douglas J. Moo, Fallen: A Theology of
Despite the fact that Moo thinks that the "death" referred to in Romans 5:12 is "spiritual" death he backtracks, saying the following:
"In fact, however, we are not forced to make a choice between these options. Paul frequently uses 'death' and related words to designate a
'physio-spiritual entity' of 'total death,' the penalty incurred for sin" (Ibid.).
Later in the book Moo says that "the exact meaning of this 'death' is not easy to pin down but probably includes both physical death and
spiritual elements...physical death and spiritual death are intertwined in ways that make it difficult neatly to separate them" (Ibid., 128)
Moo is in error when he says that both types of death are intertwined in ways that make it difficult neatly to separate them because it is not difficult to separate them, as we will see.
It is impossible that the "death" under discussion is in regard to a "physical" death because people do not die physically as a result of their own sins--"and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Because of Adam's sin mankind has been denied the very thing which would allow a person to live for ever in his mortal body--the Tree of Life:
"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Gen.3:22-24).
Beginning with Adam all men have been denied the benefits of the Tree of Life to live for ever and therefore all die physically:
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb.9:27).
Robert Pyne agrees, writing that "Adam and Eve sinned alone, but they were not the only ones locked out of the Garden. Cut off from the tree of life, they and their descendants were all destined to die" [emphasis added] (Robert A. Pyne, Humanity and Sin [Dallas: Word, 1999], 162).
Schreiner sees that same truth because he says that "Paul assumes here that the human race is a unity, rejecting any notion that people are separate from Adam. They enter the world spiritually
dead and destined for physical death because of Adam's one sin" [emphasis added](Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, 284).
From the time when men were denied access to the Tree of Life they have died physically and that death happened irregardless of anyone's personal sins. From all of this we can know that the death in "bold" in the following verse is in regard to a spiritual death and not a physical death:
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Ro.5:12).
When we look at the following passage found at Romans 7 we can understand that the "death" which is in view is a "spiritual" death:
"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (Ro.7:9-11).
Paul is not speaking of "physical" death because he was alive physically when he wrote those words. He is speaking about breaking one of the Ten Commandments (v.7) and it was that which resulted in his "spiritual death."
In his commentary on this passage John A. Witmer writes, "As a result Paul 'died' spiritually (cf. 6:23a) under the sentence of judgment by the Law he had broken...so this sin deceived him...and 'put' him 'to death' (lit., 'killed' him), not physically but spiritually" [emphasis added] (John A. Witmer, "Romans," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck [Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1983], 467).
Now let us look at the following verse again to see if the word "death" means the same thing both times it is used:
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Ro.5:12).
When Adam sinned he died spiritually on the very day when he ate of the forbidden tree:
"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen.2:17).
Adam didn't die physically the day he ate of the tree but instead he died spiritually. Schreiner agrees, writing that "Some interpreters object that Adam did not die on the day he sinned. Such an objection, though superficially attractive, fails to see the point of the narrative. Both Adam and Eve when they sinned died spiritually in that they were separated from God" (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, 272).
From this we can understand that at both places the word "death" is used at Romans 5:12 the meaning is "spiritual" death.
All Died Spiritually So All Were Alive Spiritually
Paul is saying that spiritual death passed upon "all" people because "all" have sinned. That can only mean that at some point in time "all" people are spiritually alive. After all, common sense dictates that before a person can die spiritually that person must first be alive spiritually. And the only way that "all" people can be spiritually alive is because they all emerge from the womb spiritually alive.
Schreiner's teaching contradicts the simple fact that all people are born in a state which can only be described as being spiritually alive when he writes that "human beings enter into the world condemned and spiritually dead because of Adam's one sin...human beings do not enter into the world in a neutral state. They are 'dead upon arrival' because of Adam's sin" (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, 283)
These facts alone disprove the theory of Original Sin.
The Clue Which Solves the Riddle
In verse 12 Paul says that Adam was responsible for bringing death to all who sinned and then in the two verses which follow he explains how that happened:
" For this cause, even as by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death; and thus death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: for until law sin was in the world; but sin is not put to
account when there is no law; but death reigned from Adam until Moses, even upon those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him to come" (Ro.5:12-14;DBY).
As I said earlier, verse 13 begins with the Greek word gar (which is translated 'for') and one of the meanings of that word is "it adduces the Cause or gives the Reason of a preceding statement or opinion" (John Henry Thayer, A
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977], 109).
Here the word "law" is in regard to the law which is written in the heart of which the conscience bears witness:
"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness" (Ro.2:14-15).
According to Paul the "reason" death passed upon all people who sinned between Adam and Moses is the "law," the law written on the
heart of which the "conscience" bears witness. There can be no doubt that the "law" referred to in verses 13 and 14 is speaking of "law" in a "universal" sense because the "deaths" being considered are also
"universal" in nature: "death passed upon all men." Besides that, the only law which was operational between Adam and Moses was the law written in the heart of which the conscience bears witness.
Thomas Schreiner understands that those who lived between Adam and Moses were judged for violating the law inscribed in their hearts:
"Those who lived in the era between Adam and Moses," he says, "were accountable for their sins, so that they were condemned because they violated God's moral norms. Their sin was counted
against them and thus they were judged. Paul himself teaches the same truth in 2:12, when he claims that 'all those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law.'...Gentiles who did not
know or possess the Mosaic law were judged for violating the law inscribed on their hearts (2:14-15)...Romans 2:12 is of paramount importance, for it prevents us from adopting a mistaken view
of 5:12-14" (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall and Original Sin, 279-280).
In his commentary on Romans 5:13 we can see that Albert Barnes came to the same conclusion:
"But sin is not imputed - Is not charged against people, or they are not held guilty of it where there is no law. This is a self-evident proposition, for sin is a violation of law; and if there is no law, there can
be no wrong. Assuming this as a self-evident proposition, the connection is, that there must have been a law of some kind; a 'law written on their hearts,' since sin was in the world, and people could not
be charged with sin, or treated as sinners, unless there was some law" [emphasis added] (Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, Commentary on Romans 5; http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/barnes/rom005.htm).
Solving the Riddle
From this we can understand that in some way Adam was responsible for all men dying spiritually when they sinned. We can understand what Paul is saying
that before the conscience existed sin was in the world but sin is not imputed when there is no conscienciouness of the law written in the heart. But sin was indeed imputed
in regard to those who lived between Adam and Moses because all of those people had a conciousness of the law written on their hears. With that clue to guide us it is a simple
thing to understand exactly how Adam's sin resulted in all people dying spiritually when they sin.
When Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he received a conscience. Then all of his descendants were made in his image and likeness, also having a
consciousness of the law written in their hearts. Then when all of the people who lived between Adam and Moses sinned against their own conscience they died spiritually.
If Adam would have remained in a state of innocence and had not sinned then he would not have received this consciousness of the law written in his heart and therefore his descendants would
not have received this consciousness so any sin they committed would not have been counted against them because "sin is not imputed when there is no law." Therefore, none of them would have died spiritually
when they sinned.
The following verse describes the Adam's sin and the death which followed:
"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen.2:17; KJV).
The Living Bible translates the verse in the following way:
"You may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience--for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad'" (Gen.2:17: TLV).
The evidence indicates that upon eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil Adam and Eve went from a state of innocence unto one where they had a conscience:
"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And
they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of
the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy
voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten
of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the
tree, and I did eat" (Gen.3:7-12).
In his commentary on these verses John Peter Lange writes:
"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked...Their eyes were opened; they had attained to a developed
self-consciousness...they perceive that to go naked was no longer proper for them. They had attained, in consequence, to a moral insight. Shame
entered into men in near cotemporaneity with their knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil; it belongs to the very beginning of moral cognition
and development. This shame, in its lowest degree, limits itself to the covering of the sexual nakedness...The reflection upon their nakedness and
its unseemliness becomes, in the light of the symbolical representation, necessarily known as the first form of the entering consciousness of guilt.
" [emphasis added] (John Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical; http://biblehub.com/commentaries/lange/genesis/3.htm).
Yes, they had received a moral insight in regard to keeping their genitalia covered as well as a consciousness of guilt. When confronted with his
guilt Adam tried to blame his actions on the Lord by telling Him that it was Eve's fault and He gave him Eve.
From this can we not understand that their eating of the tree of good and evil resulted in them receiving a conscience?
In his comments on these verses John Wesley wrote that after eating of the forbidden tree Adam and Eve received a conscience:
"The Eyes of them both were opened - The eyes of their consciences; their hearts smote them for what they had done. Now, when it was too late,
they saw the happiness they were fallen from, and the misery they were fallen into. They saw God provoked, his favour forfeited, his image
lost" (John Wesley, John Wesley's notes on the Bible, Commenatary on Genesis 3; http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/john-wesleys-notes-
Clarence Larkin wrote: "Adam and Eve had no conscience before the 'Fall.' Conscience is a knowledge of 'Good' and 'Evil,' and this Adam and Eve did not have until they had their eyes opened by eating of the 'Fruit' of the 'Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil' " (Clarence Larkin, Rightly Dividing The Word [Rev. Clarence Larkin Est.], 19).
Renald E. Showers writes that "Genesis 3:5 and 22 indicate that mankind obtained its awareness of good and evil as a result of eating the forbidden fruit. In other words, the human conscience began when man rebelled against God...Paul indicated that the conscience is the awareness of good and evil which exists inside human beings. It condemns people internally when they do something in the category of evil, and it commends them internally when they do something in the category of good" (Renald E. Showers, The Second Dispensation, Ankerberg Theological Research Institute; https://www.jashow.org/articles/general/dispensational-theology-part-3/).
When Adam sinned he received a conscience. After that, all of Adam's offspring would likewise have the "law" written on their hearts since they would be made in his likeness:
Adam...Begat a Son in His Own Likeness
All of Adam's descendants would thereafter be born in Adam's likeness and image, also having a "conscience":
"And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth" (Gen.5:3).
From this we know that Adam was responsible for all people having a conscience and so in a sense his sin was responsible for all people dying spiritually when they sinned against their conscience.
We read the following in The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy:
"The Edenic covenant is tied to the dispensation of innocence, whereby God tested man to see if he would live by God's conditions. God told man not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). The dispensation ended in man's failure--Eve was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14) and Adam deliberately disobeyed. As a result, the first man had personal and experiental knowledge of good and evil. What seemed like a simple, limited act of eating fruit ended in a broad, conscious knowledge of right and wrong. In the next dispensation, the descendants of Adam were responsible for this new awareness of sin" [emphasis added] (The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, ed.Tim LaHaye & Ed Hindson, [Eugene: Harvest House, 2004], 86).
If Adam would have obeyed the Lord then he would have remained in a state of "innocence" so therefore "law" would not have come upon his descendants: "when there is no law, sin is not imputed." This principle is illustrated in the following verse:
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (Jas.4:17).
God will not impute sin into a person's account unless that person first knows the difference between what is good and what is not.
Therefore we can understand that if the people who lived between the time of Adam until Moses had no inborn knowledge of what is good and what is evil then sin would not have been imputed into their accounts because "when there is no law sin is not imputed." And since Adam was responsible for all people having a conscience then in an indirect way Adam's sin lead to the spiritual death of all men because all men die spiritually as a result of their own sin against their conscience.
"For until law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come" (Ro.5:13-14).
Here the Greek word alla is translated "nevertheless" but another meaning of that word is "yea, moreover" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon):
" For until law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Yea, moreover, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come" (Ro.5:13-14).
Those who lived between Adam and Moses sinned against the law written in their hearts so those people did not sin after the similitude of Adam's transgression. We also read that Adam is a "figure" or "type" of the Lord Jesus. In other words, Adam foreshadowed some truths about the Lord Jesus in the sense that the impact of the one act of Adam to many prefigured the impact of the Lord Jesus' act to many, as the remaining verses illustrate.
"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded
unto many" (Ro.5:15).
Here we read that because of the offence of Adam "many" died but not "all." This verse alone refutes the teaching of Original Sin because according to those who promote the idea of Original Sin "all" people emerge from the womb spiritually dead. So it is not surprising that Schreiner says that in this verse "many" means "all":
"The word 'many' here certainly means 'all,' as subsequent verses attest. No room is allowed for exceptions. All of humanity, apart from Christ, died because Adam sinned" (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam,
the Fall, and Original Sin, 282).
The problem with the idea that the word "many" means "all" in this verse is the fact that the Greek word translated "many" is used twice in the verse and the second time it is used it is impossible that the reference is to "all":
"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded
unto many" (Ro.5:15).
It is a fact that the second time the word "many" is used it cannot possibly be referring to "all" because the gift by grace has not abounded unto "all." Only those with faith receive the gift and not all people have faith. In
this verse we see Paul employ a figure of speech called Parallelism:
"Parallelism ; or, Parallel Lines. The repetition of similiar, synonymous, or opposite thoughts or words in parallel or successive lines" (The Companion Bible; King James Version [Grand Rapids:
Kregel Publications, 1990], Appendix 6: Figures of Speech, 11).
John Murray recognized this same literary device, writing that "Adam is the type of the one to come (v. 14). Adam as the one is parallel to Jesus Christ as the one (v. 17). The one trespass unto condemnation is parallel to the one righteousness unto justification (v. 18). The
disobedience of the one is parallel to the obedience of one (v.18)" (John Murray, The Imputation of Adam's Sin [Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1959], 33).
In order to be logically consistent in regard to this parallelism the Greek word translated "many" cannot have one meaning the first time it is used and then have an entirely different meaning the second time it is used. Therefore, it is impossible that Paul
is saying that as a result of Adam's sin "all" have died spiritually. I have already demonstrated that a person dies spiritually as a result of his own sin and the "many" are those who have sinned. Those who haven't died
spiritually are infants and little children.
"And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Ro.5:16-18; KJV).
When we look at the part in "bold" in this translation the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. But since all people do not receive the free gift unto justification of life how can this be explained? Let us look at the following translation of verse 18:
"so then as it was by one offence towards all men to condemnation, so by one righteousness towards all men for justification of life" (Ro.5:18; DBY).
The word "towards" is translated from the Greek word eis and in the following verse that word is translated as "intent":
"But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent (eis), that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?" (Acts 9:21).
From this we can understand that the free gift of justification unto life is intended for all people and not that all people actually receive the free gift. In the following two verse Paul speaks of the LORD's intent toward all men in regard to being justified and saved:
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11).
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet.3:9).
The grace of God that brings salvation is the gospel of grace and the LORD's intent is that all people should believe that gospel which results in the free gift unto justification of life but not all believe the gospel.
Therefore, the word eis in the first part of the same verse indicates that the intention was to a condemnation of all men but not that all people are condemned as a result of Adam's sin because some people, in particular infants and little children, have not yet sinned:
"so then as it was by one offence towards (eis) all men to condemnation, so by one righteousness towards all men for justification of life" (Ro.5:18; DBY).
In his comments on verse 18 John Nelson Darby differentiates between the intention (scope) of the action from its actual application:
"In Verse 18 the general argument is resumed in a very abstract way. 'By one offence,' he says, 'towards all for condemnation, even so by one accomplished righteousness (or act of righteousness) towards all men, for justification of life. One offence bore in its bearing, so to speak, referred to all, and so it was with the one act of righteousness. This is the scope of the action in itself. Now for the application: for as by the disobedience of one man (only) many are constituted sinners, so by the obedience of one (only) many are constituted righteous" [emphasis added] (John Nelson Darby, Darby's Synopsis of the Bible; http://biblehub.com/commentaries/darby/romans/5.htm).
"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Ro.5:19).
Here we read that "many" will be made righteous. And since not "all" people will be made righteous then it is impossible that the word "many" refers to all people. And since the word "many" in the second part of the verse cannot refer to "all" people then the same word "many" cannot refer to "all" people the first time it is used.
"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Ro.5:20-21).
Previously Paul had been speaking of the law written in the heart of all men of which the conscience bears witness. But now he speaks of the Law given by Moses and he says that law "entered that the offense might abound" or increase. How did the giving of the law result in the offense increasing?
The law written in the heart of every person is limited in some respect because it does not reveal all of the LORD's demands for personal righteousness. In the following verse Paul says that he wouldn't have known that coveting is a sin unless he had been given the following commandment found in the Law of Moses:
"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Ro.7:7).