Exposing the Myth of "Original Sin"

by Jerry Shugart

The Interpretation of Romans 5:12-21 by Those Who Teach "Original Sin"

The following translation of Romans 5:13-14 has been the source of much confusion for many years:

"For until the 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; KJV).

The following interpretation of these verses comes The Daily Study Bible Series:

"The law did not come until the time of Moses. Now, if there is no law, there can be no breach of the law; that is to say, there can be no sin. Therefore, the men who lived between Adam and Moses did in fact commit sinful actions, but they could not be counted as sinners, for the law did not yet exist.

"In spite of the fact that sin could not be recokned to them, they still died. Death reigned over them, although they could not be accused of breaking a non-existent law.

Why, then, did they die? It was because they had sinned in Adam. Their involvment in his sin caused their deaths, although there was no law for them to break. That, in fact, is Paul's proof that all men did sin in Adam" (William Barclay,The Daily Study Bible Series: The Letter to the Romans; Revised Edition [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975], 81).

The problem with this explanation is the fact that it is contradicted by the Scriptures. Here we can see that the Lord spoke of the "sin" committed by those of Sodom and Gomorrah and that happened before "the law" came into existence:

"And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous" (Gen.18:20).

The fate of these ungodly men who lived in those cities bears witness to the fact that their sins were indeed imputed into their account:

"Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7).

John Calvin understood that sin was indeed imputed to men before "the law" came into existence, writing that "before the law iniquities were by God imputed to men is evident from the punishment of Cain, from the deluge by which the whole world was destroyed, from the fate of Sodom, and from the plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and Abimelech on account of Abraham, and also from the plagues brought on the Egyptians" (Calvin, Commentary on Romans 5:13).

"The Law" or "Law"?

The following translation of the same verses serves to begin to clear up this confusion:

"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.5:13-14; DBY).

Here we see that there is no definite article (the) before the Greek word translated "law." How is the word "law" to be understood here? Beginning in the second chapter of this epistle Paul speaks of "law" as being in regard to the "moral law" as revealed by either "the law" of Moses or by the "conscience." Here we see a reference to the only "moral law" which was universally known between Adam and the giving of "the law" by Moses:

" 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).

The Definite Article

Here Dr. John F. Walvoord, the second President of Dallas Theological Seminary, discusses the presence or the absence of the definite article before the Greek word translated "law":

It is obvious that there must be some meaning to the use of the article or its absence, particularly when we observe careful distinction often in the same verse of Scripture. It is the writer's contention that the article when used has some significance, and when it is not used there must be some reason for its absence He (Paul) therefore concludes in 3:20 that 'by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.' As the 'law' includes both Jews and Gentiles in this summary, it is clear that it has the general meaning of any moral law" [emphasis added] (Walvoord, "Law in the Epistle to the Romans," Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan., 1937, [Vol. 94, #373], 17,21).

Of course the only "moral law" which men were responsible for keeping in a universal sense between Adam and the giving of the law by Moses was the law written in men's heart, the same law of which the conscience bears witness.

Later in the same journal Walvoord says the same thing in regard to Romans 10:4-5: "In both instances 'nomos' occurs without the article. In the first instance, in vs. 4, it seems clear that the reference is to any moral law. The argument is that Christ is the end of all law, as far as law resulting in righteousness is concerned" [emphasis added] (Walvoord, "Law in the Book of Romans", Bibliotheca Sacra, July-Sept., 1937; [Vol.94, #375], 286).

Now let us look at this passage again:

"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.5:13-14; DBY).

Here the Greek word alla is translated "but." However, that word can also mean "yea, moreover" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon). Now let us insert this meaning into verse 14 and we get the following:

"for until law sin was in the world; but sin is not put to account when there is no law; yea, morever 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.5:13-14).

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