Re: How to interpret Adam (was: Re: Kerkut)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sat Feb 28 2004 - 16:45:39 EST

Peter Ruest wrote:
> George Murphy wrote:

> >
> > As you say, Romans 5:12 does not - as Augustine thought - support the
> > idea of a strictly _hereditary_ transmission of a sinful condition, the whole
> > passage 12-21 does say that what the first human did resulted in a condition
> > of sinfulness, condemnation and death for the whole human race. "For if the
> > many died through the one man's trespass ..." (v.15) & "Therefore just as one
> > man's trespass led to condemnation for all ..." (v.18). There is a condition
> > of "original sin", though it cannot be understood simply as genetic.
> Paul compares the "one man's" trespass resulting in sin and death for "all
> men" with Christ's righteous act resulting in grace and life for "all men".
> But there is no perfect parallelism. We know that not all men are saved (as
> many refuse the offer of grace), and that many living before Christ were
> also saved through him. We would say that _not all but many_, before and
> after Christ, were saved, namely _just those_ who accepted his offer of
> grace. But _all_, before and after Adam, fell into sin, as _all_ of them
> were disobedient to God's law, which was at least written in their hearts.
> This is as much as we can draw from this parallelism, as far as the fall and
> its cause is concerned.
> That "the many died by the trespass of the one man" (v.15) refers back to
> "just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and
> in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (v.12): "in this way"
> (houtos) = "in the same way", i.e. by also sinning _themselves_, and not
> because of someone else's (e.g. a first man's) trespass. Paul explicitely
> emphasizes this. Similarly, "just as the result of one trespass was
> condemnation for all men" (v.18, NIV, di'henos paraptomatos) must be
> interpreted on the basis of what Paul had specified initially in v.12:
> although different people may sin in many different ways, the _type_ of
> their trespass is always the same, namely turning away from trusting God, it
> is _one trespass_ by all, and as a result of this there is condemnation for
> all. I think this is the "condition of 'original sin'" you mention, but it
> is not "original" in the sense of being caused by some first man. The
> unbiblical term "original" is really misleading. Nothing changes
> theologically if the type-man illustrating this view is not the temporally
> first man................

        This is simply an attempt to evades the thrust of Paul's argument. The
statement that "one man's trespass led to condemnation for all [people]" (di' henos
paraptomatos eis pantas anthropous eis katakrima) clearly means that that "one man's
trespass" had some kind of causal role in bringing about a condition deserving of
condemnation for all. It cannot be reduced to the statement that all people "just
happened" to sin in the same way that one arbitrarily chosen representative or exemplar
sinned. That is reinforced by the continuation of v.18, "so one man's [of course
Christ's] act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all." Christ is, of
course, the real cause of justification and life, not simply a representative that
people may emulate in order to be justified. (& that is not to say that there is "exact
parallelism" but that Paul meant there to be some logical connection - houtos- between
the 2 parts of his sentence.)
        & this is in no contradiction with the correct translation of v.12. Each person
does, indeed, sin as Adam/the 1st humans did - but why? People are not simply imitating
the sin of Adam because most have never heard of him. Why are all people "born in the
natural manner without true fear of God and true faith in God"? v.12 is not the sum
total of what Paul says in Rom.5 about the sinful condition of humanity. Without
presenting any "genetic" answer to the question, he says that what happened with Adam
has resulted in a sinful condition which merits condemnation for all people.

> > I confess that this kind of discussion seems a bit unreal to me - not
> > because original sin &c are unimportant concepts but because we get into
> > involved theological discussions & lose track of what seems to me the most
> > obvious thing in the world - that in the biblical story Adam & Eve are the
> > first human beings. There's just no suggestion anywhere in the Bible that
> > there were any "pre-Adamites". Don't bother to tell me about Sumerians &c.
> > Where, _in the biblical text_, is any pre-Adamite?
> No, there is no explicit mention of pre-Adamites in the biblical text, just
> as there is no explicit mention of the trinity, of Satan's fall, of a very
> long period between pentecost and Christ's coming again, of a solution to
> paradoxes like free will vs. grace alone, and many other things. There is no
> mention of how modern humans in Australia 60,000 years ago could be saved,
> etc.

        It's not only that there's no explicit mention of pre-Adamites - there's no
mention simpliciter. I agree - as I've said before - that you can force them into the
text, just as you can jam in the idea that the sun & moon broke through the clouds on
the 4th day. But it's quite another matter to try to get such things out of the text.

> I don't want to offend you, but to me it seems that "the most obvious thing
> in the world - that in the biblical story Adam & Eve are the first human
> beings" sounds like the confidence of Cardinal Bellarmine in front of
> Galileo "that the doctrine attributed to Copernicus is contrary to the Holy
> Scriptures and therefore cannot be defended or held." (C.E. Hummel, "The
> Galileo Connection" (IVP 1986), p.11).

        1st, the fact that Bellarmine was overconfident & wrong about this does not mean
that there's nothing at all that we can claim with certainty that the Bible says. & 2d,
I'm not the one trying to uphold - as he did - the idea that the scientific picture of
the world held by biblical writers has to be taken as authoritative today. I fear that
you're ahead of me in the running for the Bellarmine Prize.



George L. Murphy
Received on Sat Feb 28 16:50:39 2004

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