Topic 1.4.3
Original sin
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MACRO TOPIC 1.4.3

Original sin

Jesus didn't teach it

Purpose of this study

For sixteen hundred years there have been heated theological arguments over the doctrine of original sin.

Generally speaking, what people think about it is determined by what they have been taught through centuries of tradition within their particular church grouping.

There is enormous pressure on church leaders to conform to tradition. Until now it has usually been adequate simply to quote theology from a long line of church fathers.

But now things are changing. The U.S. church is losing ground rapidly to Millennials and GenZs who are asking tough questions and wanting sensible answers for today that can be supported with statements they can see for themselves in the Bible.

Quoting tradition is not enough, especially when it conflicts with the basic gospel narrative of love, free will and justice.

The purpose of this study is to go to the original New Testament manuscripts – the same as theologians do – and see for ourselves what the Bible teaches (or doesn't teach) about original sin.

THREE-POINT DOCTRINE

summary of beliefs

People who believe it

Here are the three points typically expressed by people who believe in the doctrine of original sin:

  • POINT 1 - Everyone inherits the guilt for Adam's sin. From moment of birth, God holds everyone personally guilty for Adam's sin regardless of time, place, circumstance or knowledge.
  • POINT 2 - Sin is the cause of death. Adam's sin is the cause of all death on earth; prior to Adam's sin, the earth was a perfect paradise, and nothing died.
  • POINT 3 - Unbelievers burn in hell forever. Adam's sin will cause everyone to burn in hell forever except those who accept Jesus as Savior, even the people who never even heard of Adam or Jesus.

Some Christians believe only one or two of the three points, and some (below) don't believe any of them.

People who don't believe it

Here is response to the three points by people who don't believe in the doctrine of original sin:

  • COIUNTER-POINT 1 - Everyone is guilty only for his/her own sin. Nowhere does the Bible teach that one person is guilty for the sin of another, except a possible interpretation of a few words from the Apostle Paul (examined in this study). Jesus never never mentioned Adam or taught original sin.
  • COUNTER-POINT 2 - There was death on earth long before Adam sinned. Bible genealogy says Adam lived about 4000 B.C. We now have ample evidence of death before that time (limestone, dinosaurs, archaeological finds, etc.). Therefore, sin is not the cause of death. Death is not a design flaw in God's plan but rather an intent for everything He created to eventually die, with one exception: Eternal life offered to us now through Jesus Christ. See 1.3 and 1.3.2 for Bible studies about death before Adam.
  • COUNTER-POINT 3 - Unbelievers burn in hell, but not forever. Romans 5 is used as the biblical justification for this doctrine but, as shown in this study, the chapter says nothing at all about hell, and nowhere does the Bible say that people will burn in hell forever. Jesus said that in hell people will eventually die (burned up, perish, destroyed, consumed, His words). See 3.5.1 for Bible study about death and hell.

ORIGIN OF THE DOCTRINE

hundreds of years after Jesus

Background

The term 'original sin' does not appear anywhere in the Bible. It is a doctrine conceived by theologians long after the death of Jesus, the Apostles and all New Testament writers.

The doctrine had its origin in the writings of Tertullian (160-220) and Cyprian (200-258). It was popularized by Augustine (354-430), Luther (1483-1546) and Calvin (1509-1564).

The people who first taught the doctrine of original sin did not have any personal interaction with Jesus or his disciples. Hundreds of years had passed. Oral transmission was no longer consistent and trustworthy, so for truth they studied the manuscripts we now call the New Testament – the exact same manuscripts we can study today.

Today, we can understand those manuscripts better than they could in their time.

Trace to Saint Augustine

Consider Staint Augustine, for example, the person most responsible for popularizing the doctrine of original sin (see 1.1.1).

He lived 1,500 years ago in Africa. He did not have a printed Bible or study books; he lived a thousand years before the printing press. His language was Latin, and he could read only a smattering of Greek, so he read scriptures from hand-written fragments of a Latin translation of the original Greek called the Vulgate, translated by Saint Jerome in the late fourth century.

Now compare Augustine's situation to our situation today. We have the benefit of 1,500 years of collection and study of thousands of actual Greek manuscripts preceding the Vulgate ... Greek-to-English interlinear versions from the world's best linguists who have thoroughly researched word usage and meanings in Palestine at the time of Jesus ... scholarly translations into dozens of English versions (plus hundreds of other languages) which can be compared side-by-side ... and tens of thousands of research projects, books and commentaries.

Virtually all scholars agree on the exact content of the original Greek manuscripts for the book of Romans. Translation and interpretation is the issue, not the source documents themselves.

Today anyone can be better equipped to study scripture than Saint Augustine, who did the best he could with what he had, but he had only parts of the Latin Vulgate. Now all the documentation we need is instantly available to anyone without charge via the Internet!

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

verse-by-verse direct study

Read and think

Most people don't actually study the Bible themselves. They just believe whatever they have been taught within their particular religious grouping.

Even people who engage in personal Bible study usually read and process through the lens of their tradition, to affirm what they already believe.

A deep study on this makes it easy to read objectively what the Bible actually says (or doesn't say) about original sin.

The doctrine of original sin has been constructed primarily from Romans 5:12-21, a portion of a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome in approximately 58 AD, about 3900 years after Adam died (per biblical genealogy) and about 20 years after Jesus' resurrection.

Deep Bible Study
Romans 5:12-21
Open Bible study
Romans 5:12-21
Verse-by-verse study
This is the scripture used to justify the doctrine of original sin
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man,
Sin is not a thing. It is not created or made. It is a condition.
Sin is violation of God's command (law). It is disobedience. Disobedience is nothing by itself but is rather a depravation. Disobedience is lack of obedience, just as cold is lack of heat, dark is lack of light, rot is lack of health, evil is lack of good.
Because sin is not a thing – not something physical that moves – the word 'entered' in this context means first appearance or first identified.
Therefore, the phrase 'sin entered' in this verse should be understood to mean when the condition first occurred.
The phrase 'entered the world' must mean entered the world of humanitynot the first occurrence of sin ever – because other passages in the Bible say that Satan and his angels (demons) sinned earlier. Satan was already in the Garden telling lies before Adam sinned.
This entire Romans 5 passage speaks of 'one man' without ever naming him, but it seems obvious from description and context that the man is Adam. Emphasis is on man, not on Adam; emphasis on humanity, not on a person.
This verse says that sin entered the world 'through one man' – NOT BECAUSE of one man. It does NOT say that sin and death began with Adam. It says only that Adam was the first person on earth who was a culpable sinner.
So what did Adam do that made him the first sinner? The answer is in verses 15-20: He was the first person to commit 'the trespass'replacing God; with full knowledge, trying to take God's place discussed in panel below.
(But why not Eve? She ate forbidden fruit first. For answer, see 1.4.2 and 1 Timothy 2:13-14.)
and death through sin,
There was death on earth long before Adam sinned (see 1.3C).
This verse does NOT say that sin CAUSES death but rather that death (end of existence, see 1.3) now comes 'through sin;' i.e., final death comes after and through resurrection, judgment and punishment for personal sin. It's not annihilation. It's eventual final death (in hell) through consequences of sin.
For humans, death is no longer like it was originally – like all other death in God's creation – when physical death and final death were one and the same. Before sin, that distinction was meaningless. Now death is through sin, by way of sin ... must deal with sin first.
The new order is that hell (consequence of sin) now intervenes before final death. See 3.5.1 for confirmation in Bible study on death and hell.
and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned
This is the way – through judgment and punishment for sin – that final death (end of existence) eventually comes to all people, not because Adam sinned, but because ALL SINNED.
The big point here is that 'all sinned.' If everyone has sinned, it is meaningless to contrive a theory about inheriting our guilt from another person.
Death is – and always has been – the default condition throughout all of God's creation. Everything and everybody dies. Life-and-death is the way God designed the universe. The only exception is that some people (see 1.7) receive an offer from God that, if accepted, can get them out of the default condition and into eternal life. (That offer has been given to us!)
The 'because' does not mean that sin causes death but rather that sin blocks access to eternal life, confining people to the original default condition, which is death. Just as Adam's sin blocked him from the Tree of Life.
Many Christians use this verse to assert that the guilt for Adam's sin is placed on everyone individually because he is federal head of the human race and therefore (why therefore?) all of his billions of descendants are also guilty. This is reading into the verse something that it doesn't say or even imply.
Actually, Adam was NOT the first human (see 1.3) ... the Bible does NOT say that God appointed him federal head of the human race ... the Bible states clearly elsewhere that people are NOT guilty for the sins of their leaders and parents, only for their own sins.
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given,
The first 'law' God ever gave to man was to Adam: do not eat the forbidden fruit. Alternatively, the reference to 'the law' here could refer only to the Law of Moses (Ten Commandments).
There were people on earth before Adam (see 1.3). And this verse says there was sin in the world before Adam, before God had given any commandment (law) to anyone. What kind of sin was that? Why weren't those people the first sinners? See last part of this verse; then see 1.5 for discussion of conscience.
Adam was the first person ever to receive a clear and unmistakable law directly from God. Adam was the first culpable sinner.
God's first law was specifically for people in the Garden of Eden, not for the whole world. The law never applied to anyone other than Adam and Eve because, after God evicted them from the Garden, he prohibited anyone from having access to the Tree of Life (eternal life).
As far as we know from the Bible, the next time God gave a law to anyone was approximately 2,500 years later when he gave Moses the Ten Commandments for the Israelites.
This verse seems to say that, except for the brief law applying only to Adam and Eve, there WAS SIN in the world but NO LAW until time of Moses.
Even when God gave the Ten Commandments, the Law was known and applicable only to the Israelites, a nation that accounted for less than 6% of the world's population at that time (see 1.4A).
but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.
Sin is violation of God's commandment (law). There can be no sin without law because there would be no law to violate. Sin and law are intrinsically linked.
This verse seems to say that an action we call sin because we have the law is not sin when and where there is no law.
Modern analogy: Driving on the left side of the road is a violation if there is law prohibiting it, but not a violation if there is no law.
Or back then: Worship of multiple gods (sun god, harvest god, fertility god) is sin if God has made himself known and commanded worship only to himself, but is not sin if there is no law and people worship in primitive ignorance.
The words 'charged against anyone's account' is a way of saying that sin is individual and situationalnot corporate. This is contrary to the concept of original sin, contrary to saying that guilt for Adam's sin is placed on everyone.
This verse seems to say that God does NOT hold people accountable for things they know nothing about. Unlike the doctrine of origin sin, this is consistent with other portions of scripture which describe God's character as just and loving.
14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses,
'Death reigned' during that time, meaning that death – final death (see 3.5.1) – was the default condition, the way it was ... people just died, period ... no knowledge or opportunity for eternal life ... no burning in hell forever. [There may have been some exceptions – as for Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. – but apparently this is the way it was – death reigned, death was normative – for virtually all people during that time.]
This portion of scripture is about 'death.' Obviously it is not about physical death because people died after Moses. So should not apply physical death to verse 12.
The time from Adam (about 4000 BC) to Moses (about 1500 BC) was about 2,500 years – much longer than the time from Jesus to now!
Because of Adam's sin, God cut off all access to the Tree of Life during that time. Genesis 3:22 indicates that the Tree of Life was then God's only offer of eternal life. The result is that people of that time died (end of existence) without knowing about or being able to choose eternal life. In verses 15-19 those people are called 'the many.'
Proponents of the doctrine of original sin (every person is born with the guilt of Adam's sin) say that this verse doesn't really mean what it says ... they say the word 'death' really means just the opposite, life forever, in hell ... and they have contrived an accommodation doctrine called 'spiritual death' (see 1.4C), a concept (burning in hell forever) which goes far beyond the meaning of eternal separation from God (death).
For people who lived between Adam and Moses (approximately 4000 BC to 1500 BC), this fifth chapter of Romans says simply that those people die. The Bible does NOT say anywhere that those people will live and burn in hell forever (see 3.5.1).
even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam,
The people who lived between Adam and Moses did not sin like Adam sinned – by breaking a direct command from God – because they had no personal encounter with God and no law from God.
So what happened to them? Based on preceding verses, they lived, then died (end of existence), the normal cycle of life on earth.
who is a pattern of the one to come.
THIS IS A TRANSITION POINT (from sin-and-death to Adam-vs-Jesus). The teaching now shifts into a series of five contrasts between Adam (sinner) and Jesus (Savior).
In the remaining verses of this chapter, Adam is a pattern – a particular kind of life (disobedient) – contrasted with 'the one to come' (Jesus, obedient life, God's gift).
The contrasting pattern is summarized succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:22: 'For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.' This is the central Christian message: Eternal life through Jesus Christ, God's gift, our Savior.
15a But the gift is not like the trespass.
This is the first use of the word 'trespass.' (Some English versions translate this Greek word 'paraptoma' as offense, transgression and fall.)
Show verses 15b - 21
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'the trespass'
taking God's place
The story of Adam and Eve is told in Genesis 2:4 - 3:24
There were two trees in the middle of the garden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
God said to Adam (and he told Eve), 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'
Adam had a clear personal choice: either certain death or opportunity for eternal life.
But Satan said to Adam and Eve: 'You will not surely die ... For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'
Here we see the motivation. This was more than a minor infraction. It was revolt, rebellion! They wanted to eat the fruit so they could be like God, so they could set their own rules.
Eating the forbidden fruit was just the outward manifestation of rebellion against God. God looks to the heart and mind and sees the motive.
Three conditions constitute this sin ('the trespass'):
  • Encounter with God
  • Known law from God
  • Rebellion against God
'The trespass' was that Adam wanted to become his own god and set his own rules. People ever since have wanted to be their own god and/or worship other gods.
Approximately 2,500 years passed before God again gave another law, the Ten Commandments, to Moses for the Israelites. The first commandment was: 'You shall have no other Gods before me' (Exodus 20:3).
Another 1,500 years passed before God (Jesus) gave the Great Commandment for everyone: 'Love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength' (Mark 12:30).
God first and only has always been the fundamental commandment (law) from God; to violate it is 'the trespass.'
Another word for this sin is idolatry – when an individual puts self and things in the place of God.
This is more than just ordinary sin; it is rebellion against God, wanting to be one's own God. It is still the critical sin for people today.  It is still the critical sin for people today.
In the remainder of this chapter, Paul calls this sin – Adam's sin – 'the trespass.' See panel below for an explanation of that term so that it will have more meaning when encountered in the remaining verses.
15b For if the many died by the trespass of the one man,
CONTRAST 1 (trespass vs. gift):
'The many' are those in Adam's immediate family and extended families over several thousand years who could have had the opportunity for eternal life if punishment for Adam's sin had not denied them access to the Tree of Life.
(Linguistic technical: The Greek word for 'the many' in this phrase is an adjective referring to the verb which is in the past tense, so it means a large but indefinite number of people who have died already, not people in the future.)
God gave Adam free will and offered life (presumably eternal life) if he chose the Tree of Life (permitted) but death if he chose the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (forbidden).
This verse says that many died because Adam chose the forbidden tree, thus committing the trespass.
Penalty was expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden and permanent closure of the Garden. This denied 'the many' the opportunity to choose eternal life and thus they all died, no eternal life.
This verse says that many died by the sin of one man, but this is NOT the same as saying (original sin) that they and ALL PEOPLE thereafter are condemned to burn in hell forever. That goes far beyond what the verse actually says.
We don't know how many people 'the many' were. Compared to all people who lived between the time of Adam and Moses, 'the many' may have been a relatively small proportion of people, maybe consisting of Adam and his offspring who lived in the Garden of Eden, perhaps similar to the way God made the offer of eternal life only to the Israelites for a long time before making the offer to all people.
Many Christian interpret 'the many' to be 'all, and thus say this verse says that, without Jesus, all people die because of Adam's sin. It is important to recognize that this is not what the verse actually says. In context and in normal language meaning, 'many' is not the same as 'all.' All people do not die because of Adam's sin.
15c how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Paul concludes this chapter by contrasting Adams 'trespass' with God's 'gift.' Adam's trespass is death (end of existence); God's gift is eternal life (no end to existence).
Adam's sin denied eternal life to many people (they just died), but Jesus' offer of eternal life is now made available to a far greater number of people all over the world. The vast majority people who have ever lived have been born after Jesus.
16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:
The magnitude and effect of God's gift relative to Adam's sin is incomparable! In fact, so incomparable that, in scripture, Jesus and the New Testament writers (other than Paul) never even mention Adam. Adam's sin has negligible effect on people today.
The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation,
CONTRAST 2 (condemnation vs. justification):
The judgment and punishment for Adam's trespass – one sinbrought condemnation to many people. Who? How? The judgment closed the Garden and denied further access to the Tree of Life. Those who otherwise could have lived in the Garden and/or extended area and could have eaten from the Tree of Life were instead condemned to death (denied eternal life) because at that time there was no other way to move beyond ordinary death, no other way (yet) for eternal life.
but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
The sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – the gift brought justification for many trespasses (trespassers); i.e., brought large numbers of people into a good relationship with God.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man,
CONTRAST 3 (death vs. life):
For those people, the opportunity for eternal life was blocked, so death reigned (was normative).
Sin is the barrier to eternal life. If a person cannot move past the barrier, then death is the default condition.
how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Now on a larger scale, Jesus is the way through the barrier of sin, the way to move beyond the default condition of death (end of existence). Those who receive God's gift (Jesus) will reign in life (have eternal life).
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people [of that time],
CONTRAST 4 (one sin vs. one righteous act):
This verse is the primary proof-text (without the brackets, explained below) used to support of the belief that, because of Adam's sin, everyone without Jesus as Savior will burn in hell forever (original sin).
so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people [now].
THERE ARE THREE PROBLEMS with using this verse to support the doctrine of original sin:
PROBLEM 1. This verse is also the proof-text used by people who believe in universal salvation. If we say that Adam gives sin to 'all people' (without qualification) then we must treat the second part of the verse the same way and say that Jesus gives eternal life to 'all people.' It is contradictory and meaningless to say that everyone has both original sin (hell) and eternal life (heaven); they cancel each other. Therefore, the broadest interpretation of 'all people' (no qualification) must be incorrect and is contrary to the main theme of the Bible.
PROBLEM 2. There were people on earth before Adam (see 1.3). So if the broadest interpretation of 'all people' is used, then this would have to include the people who lived before Adam. But verse 13 says sin is not charged against those people. It's an unwarranted stretch to say that Adam's sin is placed retroactively on people who have already lived and died or that Jesus died as a substitute for people who were not guilty of sin. Therefore, the broadest interpretation must be incorrect.
PROBLEM 3. If 'all people' is interpreted to mean everyone, without any qualification, this verse is out synch with the surrounding verses which say 'the many.' Therefore the broadest interpretation must be incorrect.
Three words of qualification – for all people [of that time], added in brackets to the translation above – eliminates all three problems. This clarification is justified because, in context, the passage is referring to people who lived in the time period between Adam and Moses (verse 18 'time of Moses to Adam' through verse 20 when 'the law was brought in').
We know that the 'righteous act' of Jesus did not automatically bring eternal life 'to all people,' so in parallel interpretation, we can confidently say that the 'trespass' did not automatically bring condemnation to all people.
Furthermore, regardless of how 'all people' is interpreted this verse – and throughout the entire passage – this says nothing about people burning in hell forever, a concept usually regarded as a component of original sin.
19 For just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made [to remain as] sinners,
CONTRAST 5 (disobedience vs. obedience):
Many people who lived between Adam and Moses (2,500 years) did not have opportunity for eternal life because of Adam's sin, and thus 'the many' remain as sinners ('all sinned') and die (end of existence).
Verse 12 says 'all sinned.' This is confirmed by Romans 3:23 ('all have sinned') and many other portions of scripture. People become sinners individually, their own sin. Brackets added to the text above provide clarification to show that without a means of salvation, people cannot get out of the sinner's condition.
This verse and preceding verses say that Adam's disobedience affected 'the many,' unlike the doctrine of original sin which says 'all.'
so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
THIS IS A TRANSITION POINT (from past to present):
Universal salvation is not taught in the Bible. People are not made righteous involuntarily, automatically and necessarily because of the obedience of Jesus. Nor are people made sinners involuntarily, automatically and necessarily because of the disobedience of Adam. The wording is parallel, so what we say of the one we must say of the other – neither hell nor heaven are forced upon anyone by an act of another. It's personal choice.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
God has since brought in new commandments (law): Ten Commandments (and more) to Moses for the Israelites and the teachings of Jesus for everyone.
First of the Ten Commandments was: 'You shall have no other Gods before me' (Exodus 20:3).
Jesus said the most important commandment is: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength' (Mark 12:30). Violation of this commandment is 'the trespass.'
This commandment has been given to a rapidly growing world population, so it is inevitable that the incidence of trespass [taking God's place] increased. But God's grace increased all the more by His offer of salvation to everyone through Jesus.
21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The key point of it all: We are no longer constrained to death (end of existence after punishment); now everyone can have 'eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.'
Show verses 12 - 15a
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BIBLE STUDY SUMMARY

the foundational verses

Following are summaries of the three major portions of scripture usually cited as the foundation for the doctrine of original sin. The 'points' are comments to help sort through the major issues in each passage.
Romans 5:12-13 / summary

'Therefore,

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 –

for before the law was given, sin was in the world.

But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.'

Point 1. 'Law' means the command God gave to Adam. It does NOT mean the Ten Commandments or other law given to Israelites. Why? Because Adam's sin WAS 'taken into account' by God's law in effect when when Adam was in the Garden.

Point 2. Sin was in the world BEFORE the law was given, so sin was in the world before Adam.

Point 3. Death comes through sin. Since there was sin before Adam, there was death before Adam.

Point 4. The first phrase ('sin entered the world THROUGH one man') seems to contradict the rest of the passage. What does it mean? 'Entered' is Greek word εἰσῆλθεν (eisēlthen), used 43 times in the New Testament, meaning movement, NOT creation. Examples: 'came to the land' (Matt 2:21) ... 'entered the synagogue' (Luke 4:16) ... 'Satan entered into Judas' (Luke 22:3). 'Entered' is an action word, not a causal word.

Point 5. Therefore, the phrase 'sin entered the world through one man' does NOT mean that there was no sin and death before Adam or that Adam was the CAUSE of death. It means that sin and death, already existing, moved THROUGH Adam 'in this way;' i.e., a new way, 'through sin' (resurrection, judgment and hell, now intervening before final death).

Point 6. The CAUSE of death is not Adam's sin but 'BECAUSE ALL sinned.'

Conclusion. This passage does not say that we inherit the guilt for Adam's sin.

Romans 5:18-19 / summary

'Consequently,

just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men,

so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

For just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners,

so also through the obedience of one man the many will be made righteous.

Point 1. '...one trespass was condemnation for all men.' Standing alone, out of context from the whole chapter and from the teachings of Jesus, that translation supports the doctrine of original sin.

Point 2. This is the New International Version. The New King James Version, a more precise English translation that is closer to the original Greek, says this: 'Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.'

Point 3. This comparison – as well as direct study from any Greek-to-English interlinear document – shows what a big difference the translation can make.

Point 4. The first phrase in this passage is murky, but it clears in the second phrase: '... through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners.' Not all, MANY. (The many are described in the main Bible study – large orange button above.)

Point 5. Regarding Jesus, the third line above says that Jesus' sacrificial death 'brings life to all men.' But we know the 'all' has to be modified (as all who accept Jesus as Savior), otherwise it would teach universal salvation. So, regarding Adam in the second line above, we have to modify 'all' (as all who disobey God's command) in order to follow the same rules of interpretation.

Conclusion. This passage does not say that we inherit the guilt for Adam's sin.

I Corinthians 15:21 / summary

'For since death came through a man,

the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

For as in Adam all die,

so in Christ will all be made alive ...'

Point 1. Death [as we now experience it] came through Adam, the first sinner. We understand this meaning from what Paul said earlier in Romans 12:5-12 (studied above). Before Adam, death was simply dying like every other living thing. Since God gave 'law' to humans, death takes a new 'way;' humans now must deal with sin (resurrection, judgment and hell) before final death.

Point 2. Resurrection (dealing with our sin after physical death) comes through Jesus.

Point 3. This is a stark contrast between humanity ('as in Adam') and divinity ('so in Christ').

Point 4. We get death from Adam.

Point 5. We get eternal life from Jesus.

Conclusion. This passage does not say that we inherit the guilt for Adam's sin.

?
'I was brought forth in iniquity' ... 'in sin did my mother conceive me' ... 'by nature deserving of wrath' ... What about these verses?

Many people over-reach with these so-called additional 'proof-texts' they say support the concept of original sin. Notice that these verses never even mention Adam.

  • Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me' (Psalm 51:5). This verse simply says that King David was born into a sinful world and that his mother, like everyone, was a sinner.
  • 'Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies' (Psalm 58:3). This verse simply says that people have free will and a sin nature which become evident at a very early age (obviously not at birth because newborn babies don't spread lies).
  • 'Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath' (Ephesians 2:3).  The verse simply says that everyone has a sinful nature (essential for free will) ... the sinful nature is why everyone sins ... for which everyone deserves punishment. This doesn't make a case for the universal guilt of Adam's sin.

ELEVEN REASONS

for refuting doctrine of original sin

✓ REASON 1. Jesus didn't teach it
The panel above shows that Jesus didn't teach the doctrine of original sin. Jesus didn't even mention it, or anything like it. In fact, he spoke against it. That is reason enough, but there are more reasons:
✓ REASON 2. God always knew everyone would sin
'God saw all he had made, and it was very good' (Genesis 1:31). It is blasphemous to say that God didn't know what he was doing, couldn't foresee the future, and that one man could foul God's master plan. God knew full well what would happen when he gave humans free will, a risk essential for genuine love. No person can wreck God's marvelous creation.
✓ REASON 3. God's love and justice
It is difficult to conceive of anything more unloving and unjust than to condemn billions of people – perhaps a hundred billion or more – to eternal torment for something they did not do or even know about ... especially those to whom he did not offer a means of salvation. That notion is as far from love and justice as anything anyone could possibly imagine and is contrary to God's character.
✓ REASON 4. Human free will
Responsibility and punishment for personal choices – the exercise of our individual free will as taught extensively throughout scripture – become meaningless if everyone is born with maximum guilt and subject to maximum penalty. In fact, this notion is the same as saying that people really don't have free will, since most people have died without knowing about God's offer of salvation through Jesus and thus didn't have any choice in the matter.
✓ REASON 5. God's will
'He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance' (2 Peter 2:9). God would not violate his own will by designing life so that everyone is doomed to perish from the moment of birth, with most are given no means of salvation.
✓ REASON 6. Adam not our representative
Many Christians argue that Adam was the first person and thus the representative of the human race, so all of his descendants must also bear the guilt for his sin. Actually, Adam was probably not the first human (see 1.3), and nowhere does the Bible say that God appointed him to be federal head of the human race. Furthermore, nowhere does the Bible say that people are individually guilty before God for the sins of their leader, even though they may suffer worldly consequences.
✓ REASON 7. Confession not possible
'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness' (I John 1:9). A theme throughout scripture is that confession is a necessary prerequisite for removing the penalty for guilt. It is impossible for people to confess original sin because they didn't commit the sin.
✓ REASON 8. Father's guilt never inherited
'The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father' (Deuteronomy 24:16). 'The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers' (Ezekiel 18:20). The Bible teaches that people will stand before God at judgment for their own sin, not for sin of their fathers.
✓ REASON 9. Old Testament doesn't say it
If Adam's sin were the cause of death and eternal damnation for all people, we would expect the Old Testament to speak frequently about him and his monumental sin, but Adam is never mentioned again after Genesis 5 (except in a long list with hundreds of other names in I Chronicles 1 ). The curses God placed on Adam for his sin did not include corruption of future generations. Adam is not blamed for Cain's murder of Abel or for the flood. The Old Testament stresses consequences for our own sins without ever even a hint that the guilt of one person is inherited by another.
✓ REASON 10. New Testament doesn't say it
This is debatable because many Christians – perhaps most – do believe that the Bible teaches the doctrine of original sin, but very few Christians have ever personally studied it from the Bible. They believe it because it is what they have been told from centuries of tradition. The New Testament never mentions original sin, except possibly for three vague comments from the Apostle Paul. This Topic 1.4 and Topic 1.4.3 study Paul's comments and conclude that the Bible teaches that everyone has a sin nature because of free will but does not teach that everyone is born with the guilt of Adam's sin.
✓ REASON 11. Drives people away from God
It does a Christian no harm to believe in original sin. Whether it's our own sin or Adam's sin, all sin is covered by Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross when we accept Jesus as Savior, and inherited sin becomes a moot issue from our standpoint. But from the standpoint of unbelievers, the doctrine of original sin does great harm, driving them away from God by defaming Him and portraying Him as an unjust vindictive monster rather than as a loving father.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

hindrance to mission

Focus on mission

Our mission from Jesus is to 'go and make disciples of all nations' (Matthew 28:18). The church (body of believers) is now failing miserably in America. The church is contentious and squabbling over secondary points of doctrine and practice while losing disciples (as percent of population) at an alarming rate. The generational gap is huge and growing.

This site shows the many ways Christians are making the Bible say things it doesn't really say, with the result that the Bible is losing credibility ... the add-ons are turning people away from Jesus as Savior ... and Christians are being marginalized as uninformed at best or stupid at worst.

We should be talking to family, friends, associates and neighbors enthusiastically about the things Jesus talked about. (Jesus never mentioned Adam or original sin.) Instead, church doctrines have put us in positions so weak to defend that we get beat up without good answers in spiritual conversations. Most Christians back off and don't even try to explain. Most Christians don't know how to clearly articulate the gospel in a way that modern American can understand or desire.

Persuasive conversations

The purpose of this site is not to convince anyone to give up any personal beliefs or interpretations but rather to recognize that different Christians come to different conclusions about what a particular Bible passage is saying.

The purpose here is to broaden everyone's understanding of scripture to the point that one is willing, in some situations with unbelievers, to explain with an alternate interpretation that is not a conversation stopper. For example, to explain that not all Christians believe in the doctrine of original sin and that a person does not have to embrace it to become a Christian.

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Will people burn in hell forever because of their sins?
What did Jesus say?
SITE IN EARLY STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
Helping Christians engage in intelligent and persuasive conversations with doubters and unbelievers