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September 03, 2006

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jsturges

Chris,

By "Adam" are you asserting a biological tendency toward sin?

And how much credibility do you give to the fear of death? I've lost that fear -- except in the lizard-brain reflexes that make us remove our hands from hot stoves, for example -- but going to Abraham's bosom looks pretty good as an option to lingering in the throes of cancer or dementia. What's to fear? Certainly not the unknown.

YHWH told Israel that the punishment for failing to follow the Law, perfectly, was to be death. And then He came as Jesus to free us from that promise. Why, now, fear?

Faithfully,

Chris Jones

By "Adam" are you asserting a biological tendency toward sin?

Strictly speaking, I'm not "asserting" anything. I'm presenting two alternative interpretations of Ro 5.12 and asking for comment about them. But the traditional Western, Augustinian view of Ro 5.12 actually does amount to something like a "biological" tendency towards sin. The Latin translation of the Scriptures that St Augustine had available to him translated εφ ω παντες ημαρτον with the Latin in quem omnes peccaverunt "in whom all have sinned"; and St Augustine worked from that phrase to the notion that the entire human race somehow pre-existed "in Adam" and therefore took part in his sin. That is pretty close to a "biological" explanation of original sin.

how much credibility do you give to the fear of death?

I give quite a bit of credibility to it. Remember, though, that both Ro 5.12 and Hb 2.15 (and the doctrine of original sin generally) are concerned with the state of the human being after the Fall but before regeneration; that is to say, it's not about the condition of those who have been baptized and are therefore in Christ. Hb 2.15 says that Christ died in order to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage; but He has died and through that death He has defeated death, and we who are in Christ have been delivered from bondage and no longer need fear death.

That is not to say that the old Adam does not remain with us, and that we no longer need to struggle with sin; of course, we do. But the fundamental victory has been won through Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Our struggle is to keep the faith so that we do not fall away, and so that we may, in the end, receive the crown of life that He has won for us. The fear of death remains, but we must exorcize it as the demonic illusion that it is.

Camassia

I'm not seeing the Romans passage demanding an "inheritance" reading. It seems to be saying that one man sinned, so death entered the world, and because we all die we all sin. That seems to agree with the James passage. I think that works whether "which" refers to Adam or to death; the Adam version seems to be saying "because of what this guy did, we're all sinners," which works with either theory.

What I have more trouble squaring this with is the fact that the original Genesis story makes it sound like Adam and Eve would have had to eat the tree of life in order to become immortal, and so death already existed when the humans came along. I'm not quite sure how the apostles were reading that aspect of the tale.

Cheryl

What I have more trouble squaring this with is the fact that the original Genesis story makes it sound like Adam and Eve would have had to eat the tree of life in order to become immortal, and so death already existed when the humans came along. I'm not quite sure how the apostles were reading that aspect of the tale.

I'm not sure one follows from another (ie Adam/Eve had yet to grasp "immortality" THEREFORE, they were subjected to death).

I think alot of it has to do with how we define, "immortality". If we define it as "endless duration (of life)" and "death" as cessation (of life) ("death" is actually a gradual current state, rather than a futuristic one), then we could say that, Adam/Eve when they approached the tree, were living in the, "now". (If that makes sense). Both endless duration (of life) and cessation (of life) lay at their doorstep, but neither was a reality, until that ate of the tree.

Cheryl

It's good to see you posting again Chris.

Todd Granger

Chris (et al), correct me if I'm mistaken about this, but isn't there at least a strain of Orthodox thought that says that humanity sins because we die, not vice versa? If so, this interpretation of Romans 5:12 through Hebrews 2:15 would be spot on.

Sorry to have joined the discussion so belatedly.

Chris Jones

Todd,

Thanks for your comment. However tardy, it is welcome.

There is indeed a prominent strain in Orthodox thought that says "humanity sins because we die", although they would not say "not vice versa". They would say "both/and". It would be hard to say "not vice versa" and square that with "the wages of sin is death".

The fact that the interpretation that I present here tallies with that part of Orthodox thought is certainly no coincidence. I was Orthodox for a number of years, and a theological student (albeit part-time, in "night school") for a time. The specific understanding of Ro 5.12 which I present here was taught to me by my theology professor, Fr Alexander Golitzin (then a missionary in the Diocese of the West, now a professor of theology at Marquette University).

What is new to me is not this way of looking at Ro 5.12, but the support given to it by Hb 2.15.

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