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Romans 5, Part 3

Oct 27, 2010

In Romans 5:12,  Paul introduces a very important comparison between Adam and Christ, whom he calls (in 1 Cor. 15:45) "the last Adam."

(12) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because [eph' ho, "on which"] all sinned--

Paul never finishes his sentence, but starts again in the next verse. We first learn that through one man (i.e., Adam) "sin entered into the world." That is Paul's beginning point, and as we will see shortly, he compares Adam to Jesus Christ, through whom righteousness and life enters the world to overcome the effects of Adam's sin.

Then Paul reveals a truth that few theologians understand today, and for this reason even the NASB has mistranslated the term eph' ho, giving it the exact opposite meaning that Paul intended. Paul wrote literally that death, or mortality, has come upon all men on which we sin. In other words, we sin because mortality has made us weak. Mortality, or death, is the cause of our own sin.

The NASB (and many other translations) turn this around to make us believe that we have mortality "because" we have sinned. The translators essentially disagree with Paul, or think that Paul made a mistake on account of Paul's statement in Romans 6:23, "the wages of sin is death," where sin is a cause of death.

The translators did not recognize that there are two kinds of death. Mortality is the first death, whereas the lake of fire is the second death. Rev. 20:14 says, "This is the second death, the lake of fire."

The first death is the judgment for Adam's sin.
The second death is the judgment for our own sin.

Paul was telling us in Romans 5:12 that Adam sinned, and we all became mortal as a result of his sin. In other words, we were all born mortal, even as babies. No man had to sin first in order to become mortal. The Emphatic Diaglott does not seem to know how to translate this phrase. In its word-for-word translation it reads, "and thus to all men the death passed through, in which all sinned." But in the second column, where the actual translation is given, it reads: "so also death passed upon All Men." There he stops.

Thus, Benjamin Wilson, the translator, ignores it completely. The Jerome Biblical Commentary, sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church, discusses the problem more fully in its New Testament section, page 307. Its commentary on Romans is attributed to Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J. (Society of Jesus--that is, the Jesuit Order). He writes,

"The meaning of the phrase eph' ho is much disputed. . . On the grounds of which, an interpretation that understands 'death" as the antecedent . . . but this is hard to reconcile with Rom. 5:21; 6:23, where death is the result of sin, not its source.

"Moreover, this interpretation seems to make Paul say that death spread to all men on condition that they would sin after its entry. Does he mean this? . . . In view this diversity of opinion, the best meaning is still 'because, inasmuch as.' A difficulty often found with it is that it seems to make Paul say in 5:12c-d something contradictory to what he says in 12a-b. In the beginning of the verse sin and death are ascribed to Adam; now death seems to be due to man's deeds."

So Fitzmyer finds refuge in "this diversity of opinion" to agree with the incorrect majority. He claims that to take eph' ho literally would contradict Rom. 6:23, when the problem is actually that the translators did not understand the distinction between the two deaths. To those who understand Paul, it is clear that in Romans 5:12 he was writing about the effects of Adam's sin upon us, but in Romans 6:23 he was writing about the effects of our own sin.

Both Rotherham and Young defer to the King James Version, saying "for that" all sinned. This phrase carries the same meaning as "because" and is just as wrong, but "for that" is more obscure. It seems that they were hoping to muddy the water, hoping no one would see the issue clearly.

Only the Concordant Version (that I know of) translates it correctly,

(12) Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed through into all mankind, on which all sinned--

There is no doubt that the C.V.'s correct translation is based upon their acceptance of Paul's teaching from here through the rest of the chapter. Conversely, it seems clear that the other translators refused to translate eph' ho as "on which," because they knew the theological implications of this. In their desire to re-interpret Paul's later statements to mean the opposite of what he plainly states, these translators found it necessary to twist Paul's words in his introduction in verse 12.

This is one of the most egregious examples of deliberate mistranslation designed to make Paul agree with the incorrect views of the translators.

In the next two verses Paul proves his point that the first death, brought to us by Adam's sin, is the cause of our own weakness and sin.

(13) for until the Law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (14) Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Paul discusses here the time period from Adam to Moses. It was the time between Adam's sin and the law that was given through Moses. Men were mortal during that time period, even though the law had not yet been given through Moses. But "sin is not imputed when there is no law," Paul says. So by what law did men die prior to Moses? How could the law judge men for their personal sins when it had not yet been given?

It is obvious, from Paul's perspective, that men died on account of Adam's sin, NOT on account of their own sin. The logic of verses 13 and 14 tell us exactly what Paul meant in verse 12. The "dirty little secret" is that these translators did not want to attribute our mortality to Adam, probably because they thought it would be unjust of God to make us pay for sins that we had not personally committed ourselves. Yet Paul proves his point by citing all who died between Adam and Moses.

Paul then tells us that Adam "is a type of Him who was to come." Christ is the Last Adam, but their acts and the effect of their actions stand as opposites. These two men are inversely related. Many translators have found this idea so repugnant that they found it necessary to contradict Paul's plain statement and to hide the great truth that Paul had revealed.

As we will see shortly, this great truth is this: Adam's sin has brought death to all mankind. Mortality is the result of Adam's sin, not our own.  Conversely, Jesus' righteousness has brought life (immortality) to all mankind, and this immortality is the result of Christ's act, not our own. Paul put it another way in 1 Cor. 15:22 and 23,

(22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (23) But each in his own order [tagma, "squadron"]. . .

Adam and Christ are comparable in opposite ways. Adam sinned, bringing death to all; Christ reversed this, bringing life to all. The only qualification is that not all are given immortality at the same time, but "each in his own squadron."

This is the third part of a series titled "Romans 5." To view all parts, click the link below.

Romans 5

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Dr. Stephen Jones

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