Sin Came Through One Man – Romans 5:12-14

apple-two-bitesIn order to show how justification “works,” Paul alludes to Genesis 3, Adam’s rebellion against God in the Garden. Genesis 3 indicates the penalty for eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is death, and Genesis 5 demonstrates that result since all of Adam’s descendants die. This is the only genealogy which includes the phrase “and then he died.”

Sometimes there are discussions of whether Paul was referring to Adam him as a name or the first human. In verse 12 he uses the word for man, in verse 14 he uses the proper name. The current discussion of a “historical Adam in the “misses the point that for Paul Adam existed. He completely accepts the story of genesis 2-3 and would not consider anything other than a real Adam.

Does death come to all because all people sin (or personal, actual sins)? Or do all people die because of Adam’s sin?  How is Adam’s sin passed along to his descendants? The difficulty with Romans 5:12 is the meaning of the phrase ἐφʼ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον. How should the preposition ἐφʼ be translated in this context? Fitzmyer has eleven possibilities, Longenecker reduces this to four viable options (Fiztmyer, Romans, 413-17; Longenecker, Romans, 587-8):

  • “In whom,” referring Adam.
  • “On the basis of which,” referring to sin. The NIV 2011 seems to follow this option, “and in this way death came…”
  • “Because of this,” equivalent to a causal conjunction.
  • “For this reason” or “so that,” equivalent to a consecutive conjunction, this seems to be what the ESV has done, “so that death spread…” In addition, by translating the verb “spread” the ESV gives the impression sin is like an epidemic spreading throughout the human race.

As a result of Adam’s rebellion, “death spread to all men.” The verb διέρχομαι can refer to crossing through a territory or moving toward a destination. Occasionally it can refer to passing through something like a sword (Luke 2:35). Longenecker points out the word “death” in 5:12 has an article. Paul is personifying death as a malevolent enemy of humanity (Longenecker, Romans, 587). Adam’s rebellion against God unleashed a powerful enemy into the world, one that will overcome all humans.

Paul’s view of the effect of sin on humanity differs from some other voices in Second Temple texts. Sirach 25:24 shifts the blame from Adam to Eve: “From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die.” Notice the title of this post refers to one man, Adam. For Paul in Romans 5, only Adam is responsible for sin. 2 Baruch 54:15, for example, connects Adam’s sin and the death of all of his descendants. Yet a few lines later, the writer says Adam is not the cause of our sin, because each person becomes “their own Adam.”

2 Baruch 54:15 For, although Adam sinned first and has brought death upon all who were not in his own time, yet each of them who has been born from him has prepared for himself the coming torment. And further, each of them has chosen for himself the coming glory.

2 Baruch 54:15 Adam is, therefore, not the cause, except only for himself, but each of us has become our own Adam.

Paul’s claim is therefore that all humans somehow participate in the sin of Adam and are therefore destined to die. He does not build a theological statement compatible with later, post-Reformation theology. As a Jewish thinker, Paul understands that all people participated in the sin of Adam without working out the details of the doctrine of imputation.

For Paul, those who are “in Adam” die; those who are “in Christ” will live. All people are “in Adam” by default. The problem is how one becomes “in Christ.”


23 thoughts on “Sin Came Through One Man – Romans 5:12-14

  1. Hi Phillip. I hope you had a great weekend. I just want to ask you if you have the book The Gospel According to St. Mark by C.E.B. Cranfield. If so, I would like to chat with you about a paragraph in this book. Thanks

  2. I agree that sin came through Adam and all humans are subject to having sin in their lives, because of Adam. I know there is possibility that some people may say, but Eve ate the apple first! (Gen 3:6). I believe since they became one unit or one person (Gen. 2:23-25). The claim saying sin came through Adam is the same as claiming it came through Adam and Eve or just Eve. I believe Paul recognizes Adam’s name, because in the time that the Romans was written people understood that the father or the head of a family begins things. Since Adam is the father of all humanity, sin entered through him, because it occurred during his life time and him and Eve were the only humans on the earth.

  3. You can tell from Romans 5:12-21, and also verses like 1 Cor. 15:22, 45, 1 Tim. 2:13, that Paul believed that Adam existed, and we can even read about how Jesus believed in Adam’s existence as well when he alludes to it in Matt. 19:4-6. Rom. 5:12-21 is a very confusing section to look into. Douglass Moo states that we all die because we all sin, not because only Adam sinned. According to Paul, we sinned when Adam did. We are genetically tied to Adam (vv. 12, 18, 19) (Moo). The phrase “death spread to all men” makes it sound like a disease, that we cannot do anything about, which is sort of true in a way. Moo also explains that the word for Adam is “human being”, so Paul could be referring to humans in general (Moo). I do not think we can ever know for certain what Paul means in this passage with 100% clarity. However it seems that Paul does believe that we all sinned along with Adam. Sin is the problem, as you mentioned. It is important to remember though that this passage happens to present to us the wonderful hope of salvation and God’s righteousness, not just the problem of our sin.

    Moo, Douglass J. Encountering the Book of Romans. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Print.

  4. It is interesting to see that scholars, and authors of other Second Temple Texts, come to a conclusion that does not coincide with what Genesis 3 and 5 have to say. I am curious if Paul was the only one in their day to understand Adam’s role in how sin spread throughout the world, or if others also understood. Regardless if the scholars and authors of old understood sin properly or not, Paul cared more about getting the truth about sin known to as many as possible. He wanted them to understand that because Adam, the original representative of mankind sinned, now all humanity is connected to sin in some form as we live out our lives. This declaration that sin spread through the world from one man, Adam, and is still being passed down to this day is supported by Romans 5:12. However, the proceeding eleven verses of the chapter tell of how through one man, Christ Jesus, grace and reconciliation are available to all people. Just as through one man sin entered the world (as 5:12 mentions), so then we needed one man to redeem the world. Jesus being pure and without sin, was the only one who could have become an atoning sacrifice for all humans. There is no way for sin to be overcome within the human body unless we come to Jesus in repentance, asking to be cleansed of our sins. So many people get too caught up in whose fault sin is, whether judgment for our sins is fair or not, and concerning whether or not works are necessary to be worthy of the gift of salvation.Instead of focusing on the whose faults and what ifs, people need to pay attention to the fact that the we have all been offered a free gift thanks to Jesus, and that we cannot do anything by ourselves to rid ourselves of sin, nor do enough works to bail us out of the judgment waiting for all unsaved sinners at the end of their lives. Once we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are then alive in Christ. We are no longer living under the reign of sin, but under grace. Moo points out that Romans 5 is concerned with the fact that, “who we were in Adam has been done away with when we were crucified with Christ”(98). This shows once again that the affects of these two men, have a direct affects and connection to the rest of humanity. While we are “Adamic people” we are stuck living in sin’s trap, but once we become “Christian people” we are then transformed from a sinner into one cloaked with righteousness (Moo 99). Only through Christ could we be justified. Paul was using the reference to Adam to explain why Christ doing what He did was so important.

  5. We are all sinners, evil and condemned under Adam because of his disobedience, yet we can be made alive, have salvation and be forgiven in Christ. Two completely different options, yet Adam and Christ are often times compared. Adam brought sin and death into the world and Christ brings life. It took one man to mess everything up and one man to fix it all (Romans 5:12). It has often been a bother to me knowing that because of one mans bad decision and disobedience, we all must suffer. It does not seem fair, but God had a plan in everything that took place. After reading this post and the comments, it is interesting and eye opening to read what others think on this matter. Was Paul the only one in that time that truly understood Adam’s role in the story, that through his disobedience sin entered the world? Thanks to Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, we are all able to come freely to Christ and find life, freedom and peace. Moo states that believers can have confidence and a sense of peace that one day they will share the glory of Christ (Moo, 1827). We do not need to stay stuck and get caught up in the fact that Adam messed things up and look to blame him or anyone else, instead we can have a hope that Christ is coming back for us. We are all born evil and sinful, but we do not have to stay that way. There is an easy answer and solution to the “problem of how one becomes in Christ” stated above, it is to believe in Christ and accept him into your life as the one in complete control. Once you have taken this step, there is no limit to the amazing things he will do in your life.

  6. I love the examples that Paul uses to relate to the audience of the book. In chapter 4, he used the Old Testament character of Abraham to relate both to the Jews and Gentiles to drill home his topic of justification by faith. Now, in chapter 5, to show how justifications works, Paul also connects the Old Testament to his preaching with the use of Adam. In this passage of Romans, we are reminded of Adam’s disobedience towards God and also of how sin came into the world. As you mentioned in your article, “As a result of Adam’s rebellion, ‘death spread to all men.’” Paul uses the example to show that Adam’s decision effected all men. In contrast, the decision that God made to send his son Jesus into the world to die on the cross for our sins, effected all men as well. Just as we “died” through Adam, we are alive in Christ! Although, we come into the world and do not have a choice to be effected by Adam. We are born with a sin nature. Since God is just and merciful, he gave us an option to accept what Christ did for us on the cross. We can either accept it and believe in him, and pursue a relationship of love for what he did, or we can decide to live our own life in sin.

  7. I think looking at Adam brings a new yet well known perspective to the table. We are all “in Adam” when we start this life in the fallen world we are a part of. This is why we need grace and we need to remember that we can be forgiven of our sins. We belong to sin because we are born into it which is unfortunate but if we accept God’s love, grace and compassion we can accept Jesus and no longer be “in Adam.” We will still sin and fall short but we then will have the gift of salvation and once we have that we can begin to live a more Godly lifestyle because we are no longer just in “in Adam” but we are in Grace. I love that Paul uses a story that people can relate to when reading Romans and still helps those people to understand who they were but now who they can be in God.

  8. Interesting point regarding Sirach and his shifting the blame towards Eve. The centrality of Adam’s sin in Paul’s thought in Romans and 1 Corinthians makes Paul’s arguments in 1 Timothy 2 about Eve all the more strange. I imagine other second temple voices also preferred to emphasize Satan’s role in the fall as in Wisdom 2:24.

  9. Since we are all have sinned we all fall short of the Glory of God. But I also understand and believe that sin started because of Adam. Even though Eve ate it first it could come down to the man being responsible for those actions as well simply because they are one together. Like i said earlier even though they both started the fall of sin for every one after we are responsible for what we do. Death comes to all people now because of it, that is set in stone. Unfortunately as the article states is that with Adam going against God with his disobedience he has now unleashed a powerful enemy on this earth that is looked at as inevitable. The question that i now early think about when i read this article is when it says “For Paul, those who are “in Adam” die; those who are “in Christ” will live. All people are “in Adam” by default. The problem is how one becomes “in Christ.” Does this mean if we have Jesus in our Heart we are saved meaning we live because we will go to Heaven or is there anyone meaning to this? I understand when it says by default when we are born we are “in Adam” because of sin. But the way to get out of it is by accepting Christ as your personal savior. That is what I want to know.

  10. I find it really interesting that some believed that the fault should have been placed on Eve. Not that I’m saying she wasn’t the one that initiated it and gave the forbidden fruit to her husband, because she did and that is clear in scripture: Genesis 3:6. With this idea of Eve at fault, it puts the “curse of sin” on Eve and not Adam. That defeats the whole idea of sin and death entering the world through one man and then through another man, Christ, life was possible again. “Since Adam is the representative of all human beings, Adam’s sin is at the same time the sin of all human beings” (Moo, 89). I also didn’t know that there were so many views on the how sin is understood in correlation to Adam. Growing up I always learned that sin entered the world like a disease that infected every person after Adam and Eve at the forbidden fruit. Within the post, it talks about how Paul said that, as humans, we all shared some part in the sin of Adam. I never view it that way, but we do because we have all shared in the act of sin (Romans 3:23).

  11. The last point you make when you say, “those who are in Adam die; those who are ‘in Christ’ will live. All people are ‘in Adam’ by default,” is a great reminder. You suggest that the problem we face is how one becomes, “in Christ.” This is absolutely true. Original sin refers to the pass down of sinful nature through the genealogy of Adam, the original man. When we are born we are all born in Adam. Into sin. We are all born as sinners (because of Adam, or Eve?). The only way to become justified is by asking Jesus into our lives to become our Lord and Savior. This is how we tackle the problem – becoming righteous in Christ and defeating sin. Because of this I do believe that all people (before they accept Christ) have death in their future. It isn’t until they accept Christ into their life when they can inherit eternal life in heaven.
    I think this agrees with Paul’s view. PLong mentioned that Paul claims that all humans participate in the sin of adam and are destined to die. Following basic logic, since all people are born dead in their faith (without salvation), if one does not believe in Christ Jesus, then yes, they will be destined to die. In our textbook, Moo mentions that we die because WE sin, not necessarily only because of Adam. But Paul says that we sinned when Adam did. I believe that we do inherit original sin from Adam, and the only way to fix it is by accepting Christ.

  12. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in the same way death came to all people, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).” Paul wrote that sin entered the world through one-man Adam. But it wasn’t just sin that entered the world. Death was also brought into the world as a result of sin. And it’s not just a physical death but a spiritual death. I’ve actually gotten a question that was related to death by a teenager. They asked me why do people die? My response to them was that people die as a result to sin. For Adam and Eve God warned them that if they ate from the tree of good and evil, they would die. What God meant was that they wouldn’t just have a physical death but a spiritual death as well. It is because of sin that humans die. It is our punishment for the sins that we commit. Paul said that death comes to all people because all people have sinned. Because of Adam’s original sin, which has been passed down to all of humanity, we are all born sinners. And that is the reason that we all die. God made death the penalty for sin. But he also provided a way to enjoy life with him for all eternity, through the crucifixion of his son Jesus. After three days Jesus was raised to life, and returned to the Father. For those who believe in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our sins, has the gift of eternal life given to them by God.

  13. By default, at the very origin, all people are in Adam, and its Adam’s rebellion against God had a significant influence on a person, genetically, biologically, and physically. It does not discriminate whether a person is Jew or gentile as long a person is a human being, the sin of Adam came through his life. It’s inescapable. Therefore, all human being is destined to eternal death, slave to sin, under the law, and dominated by the flesh, and in order to escape this God must grant us some sort of gift and grace, something that we don’t deserve. In Roman 5-8 Paul gives us a clear explanation of the gift of God to humanity, and to receive the gift of God we must be “in Christ’ which will ultimately eliminate the old nature. Moo expounds the two kinds of the realm in his book, the old realm, and the new realm. The new realm, referring to the Christian, and transform a person to be “in Christ, new man, slave to righteousness, destined for eternal life, ruled over by grace and dominated by the spirit (Moo,99). This is the process of how a person can be “in Christ” which will ultimately save him from God’s wrath.

  14. I believe that Paul is making the connection that because of Adam’s sin we are all going to die, since we are his offspring. With his use of the greek verb διερχομαι, it is clear he understands Adam’s sin to have spread to all humanity (Long, 77). So whether we commit sin or not, we are already fallen and marred with sin nature. While this is what I believe Paul is getting at here, I don’t think it matters that much. For even if humanity wasn’t immediately made sinful by Adam’s sin, each one of us would agree we have already sinned. I don’t know anyone who would argue that they haven’t sinned even once in their life. So whether it is because of Adam, or because of our own personal sins, each of us is under the power of sin, and in need of being justified to God. So while there can be room for debate on both sides of the isle, I believe common ground in found in recognizing our need for a savior and submitting to Jesus as our Lord and savior.

  15. When Adam ate the fruit, he didn’t die, but what he was post to be died that day, and that is why we need salvation through Jesus Christ, we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God but through Jesus we can restore that which was lost in the garden that day, it died, but Jesus came to bring life again and give us a hope and a future. “for when you eat from it you will certainly die” Gen. 2:17 we see it says die, but it was there oneness with God that died that day. we are all going to die but we only have true life if our faith is in Christ. and we live for him.

  16. I really liked how you said “those who are in Adam die; those who are ‘in Christ’ will live. All people are ‘in Adam’ by default”. The problem with today is that more and more people are living through Adam and not trying to find Christ. We as people are born into Adam because of the sin that he committed by eating the fruit, but this does not mean we are always stuck to Adam. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Adam is the root of all sin for humanity and for the time period it would make sense for Adam to be blamed even though Eve was the first to eat the fruit. During the time Romans was written the man of the house was the one to start things, therefore Adam is to blame for sin entering the world. Paul claims that all humans participate in the sin of Adam but we as followers of Christ are able to escape that by accepting Christ into our hearts and living out a life that is pleasing to God. We are born into sin because of Adam but with Christ we are able to escape it.

  17. It can get tricky when trying to decipher what is meant by the sin of Adam. When looking at the Genesis account, it is true that sin entered into the world in the garden of Eden, but it is heavily argued as to who was responsible for this sin: Adam, Eve, both, or neither. It does not make any sense that neither of them is responsible for the sin of the world, though people do make the argument that the reason sin is in the world is because of the devil. People make the argument that because the devil tricked Adam and Eve into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the devil is responsible for the first sin of the world. A counter argument against this is that Adam and Eve had free will to either choose to eat the fruit or not. Though I do not believe the devil is directly responsible for the first sin of the world, I do believe he for sure had influence. I believe that Adam and Eve had the most responsibility for the first sin of the world, but the devil had influence in that too. Looking back at Rom 5:13-14, what I believe Paul is getting at here is the fact that sin has been around since after the first creation of man and woman. It is nothing new to believers and nonbelievers alike, but the importance is what you believe in. Those stuck in their sin are “of Adam” and those who choose to follow Christ and stick to his example are “of Christ”. Also, when Paul refers to the ten commandments in v. 14, he is explaining that sin is not limited to breaking those commandments. Sin involves all acts of disobedience towards God. In the same way, in v. 13, sin is not only limited to the law, but sin is all acts of disobedience against God. To reiterate a little bit, the focus here should not be on our past ancestry, but on what decisions we are making now. Though today we are born into sin, it does not mean we have to choose it and live in it. We can choose to live in Christ and choose to follow him. Though sin will always be a part of our lives, it does not define us. The imago Dei is what defines us.

  18. Romans 5:12-14 can be a very confusing passage to understand, especially when read in full context because the verses following it seem to talk in circles and you almost need to sit and try to draw it out to get anywhere. To begin with, Paul is referencing the first sin of Adam and Eve, when they ate from the tree that God had told them not to. This is the story told in Genesis 3. The blog explains that the result of this sin was death and that this is evidenced in chapter five where it is the only genealogy to include “an then he died.” I had read this genealogy before and always thought it was a bit repetitive to always add that phrase, nor had I ever noticed it was the only genealogy to include that they died. Paul explains that through that sin, death entered the world. This section of verses is often referenced when people are arguing about weather a person is born sinful or if they only become sinful once they have sinned and arguing about what age that occurs at. The blog also brings up this argument briefly, in the question does death come because all sin or do all die because of Adam’s sin? It would be helpful to include in the blog what the Greek phrase is typically translated to in the Bible. I am confused as to what part of the verse is being talked about. I like how the verses following this section (5-20) compare Adam and Christ. To me, this section shows the incredible power of salvation, that one man could provide salvation for all.

  19. That’s a good question ‘’ how one becomes ‘’in Christ’’. This makes me think that it totally makes us all become a sinner because Adam sinned, we are the bloodline of Adam and we are passing down that sinned originally, from birth. But we didn’t descend from Jesus, then how could we be in Christ? To understand, we have to go way back to the beginning (Genesis).
    There are two things that I see so far. The question is, ‘’what is sin?’’ and ‘’what is death’’, according to what was said: ‘’You shall surely die’’ Genesis 2:17. The first point of view of sin is rebellion against God (1 Samuel 15:23). Which means disagree on what God had made. Another point of view of sin is disobedience (1 John 3:4), we break the law when we don’t listen to what is told. And the Result of disobedience (Sin) is Death (Romans 6:23). What is death? There are still many different views. Some said, death is departure or Separation with God. but in the biblical view, death is ‘’the last enemy’’. Which means, since Man disobeyed God, they became enemies to each to death.
    From Adam, all human beings, became the enemy of God, there is no choice to reconcile. But one option is to pay for forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). Humans want to reconcile and they try by work but they fail. So shows his heart (reconciliation) by incarnating himself to pay for a sinner and to become a sinner (2 Cor 5:21). And He paid with death by shedding the blood on the cross. Now by the Blood of Jesus, death became alive. Which means, become a friend and family or restore relationship with God again.

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