Here we go again – same format as before.

COMM: Spiritual death is a Biblical truth that you have not considered in your rejection of original sin…

MSH: First, I haven’t rejected original sin. There was an original sin. That’s plain from the text. What I am rejecting is the idea that Adam’s GUILT was transmitted to all humans (the “federal headship” view), or that all humans were “in Adam” in the garden when he sinned (the “seminal headship” view). In other words (and I can’t imagine how much clearer I can make this), I am rejecting interpretive explanations of the original sin of Adam, not the fact of his original sin. So let’s be clear (as you have prompted me to on occasion!).

COMM: Here is some Scripture that shows a distinction (this is just off the top of my head…I will search for more in due time).

But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22) – (How can physically dead people bury anyone?)

MSH: So, this verse refers to spiritually dead people? Really? Can we honestly look at it and draw that conclusion? A look at a few good (i.e., exegetical, not homiletical) commentaries will tell you it’s a colloquialism. Your view is POSSIBLE (see the quotation below – but note that no Scripture text is cited for the idea!) but not PROBABLE for other reasons noted in the quotation below (it’s long – sorry) and in what follows. And, it still doesn’t get Jesus off the hook-which is what I have told you and everyone else is the real reason behind my position on Romans 5:12. You have yet to address that at all. Here’s the quote:

Indeed, this was required of a son by the Torah implicitly in the commandment to honor one’s father and mother and hence explicitly in later Jewish tradition (cf. Gen 50:5; Tob 4:3; cf. Sir 38:16; m Ber. 3:1, where burial of the dead supersedes other religious duties; in Lev 21:2 priests are allowed the defilement of touching the dead in the case of close family members); indeed, not to do so would violate the command of God. Yet Jesus in his response denies the legitimacy of such a delay. It is tempting for this reason to understand “to bury my father,” in the sense of “look after him until he dies” (for evidence that the phrase could have been understood in this sense, see K. E. Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980] 26-27), but this too is required by the Torah. In fact, so important is the commitment to honor one’s parents that to fail in any of the following responsibilities is to be untrue to the Torah: to bury a father who has just died, to participate in the six days of official mourning after such a death, to look after one who is sick and perhaps near death, and to provide for an aging parent who may yet live many years. From the standpoint of the call to discipleship, the longer the delay involved the more reasonable Jesus’ negative reaction becomes (cf. 15:4). But the call to discipleship is for Jesus an absolute one that need not satisfy any normal canons of responsibility… “Follow [for the importance of akalouthein in Matthew, see Comment on 4:20] me, and let the dead bury the dead.” Jesus’ call in this case supersedes even strict obedience to the commandment of the Torah. . . . The concluding words of Jesus as they stand in the Greek text mean “let the dead bury their own dead” and are perhaps to be understood as “let the spiritually dead bury their own physically dead.” The notion of being “spiritually dead” was not unknown to the Jews (cf. Str-B 1:489; 3:165). On the other hand, it may well be that the Greek has misunderstood this underlying Aramaic, reading l?miqbar, “to bury,” for limqabber, “to the burier, to the undertaker” (see Perles; Montefiore, Synoptic Gospels 2:134), which may have run “let the grave-diggers bury the dead.” (Cf. M. Black’s suggestion [Aramaic Approach, 207-8] that m?????n, “dead,” has been mistakenly read for m????n??n, “waverers” [“Let the waverers bury the dead”].) T. W. Manson may be closest to the truth, however, when he speculates that the statement means something like “that business can take care of itself” (Sayings, 73).1

MSH: Here’s the point of all this: A possible view of this single passage that cannot cancel out the other view (mine, for example), means that my view has not been defeated. It just means that it has competition on this point. The commenter would have to show that the spiritual death view is (a) the point of the passage – not sure how that could be done; and (b) that it is superior to any other view, in that no other view has as much explanatory power. I submit that it cannot do that, and there’s really no way to do it. The debate can only be resolved by one’s overall position. We can even agree that there is a an idea called “spiritual death” (see my note on Rom 6:23 in Part 5) – but can we prove that is the point of Romans 5:12, as opposed to real, literal death, the loss of immortality? Good luck with that. My view covers both passages WHILE answering all the other problems noted (again) below. The commenter’s view does not, and so it has less explanatory power.

COMM: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

MSH: I don’t see spiritual death here – sounds like an annihilation verse to me (!) if we assume it should be taken literally (i.e., the soul is destroyed and the body, too – so what’s left in hell, huh?).

COMM: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32)

MSH: This is about as far from spiritual death as you can get – the point is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob yet live-with the Lord.

COMM: And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

MSH: You’ve missed the point of Paul’s contrasts in this verse-note how the body and the soul are what are contrasted. You can’t have a righteous, alive soul and be spiritually dead. The redeemed are no longer “dead in trespasses” but alive in Christ. That the body is dead because of sin refers to its unredeemed state (it alone awaits redemption – BODILY resurrection – when we die or are glorified-the internal, immaterial part of the believer is already regenerated — 2 Cor 5:17). Your view has a dead body (your view: a spiritually dead person) and a redeemed soul in the same “person”! You are either alive to Christ or you’re not. I’m not doing Princess Bride theology.

COMM: And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, (Colossians 2:13)

MSH: Aside from the fact that this verse contradicts your interpretation of the previous verse, this is no support. Note that we are dead IN TRESPASSES – i.e., actual sins. Not the trespass of Adam – OUR trespasses. I have zero problem in this verse.

COMM: For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. (1 Peter 4:6)

MSH: “Those who are dead” – yep, those who, because of Adam, have the curse of death hanging over them. These men are “judged in the flesh” – i.e., for the deeds done in/by the body as lost people. Again, no problem.

COMM: Also, you are unfair when you say that “But you still haven’t shown me a single verse that actually SAYS (with words right in the verse) that Adam’s guilt was transmitted to the[sic] rest of humanity.” This is unfair because YOU cannot show me one single verse that actually SAYS that God is a Trinity! You should know by now that there are many doctrines that must be deduced from evidence…the trinity is a fine example…imputation of Christ’s righteousness is another one…..original sin is yet another. You have yet to deal with the problem of the obvious fact that we are by nature-since birth-with a sin nature. You have not even attempted to defend such an assertion. But let me reflect on that in a little while.

MSH: You accept that “no Trinity verse” premise too easily. Actually, there are verses that describe a Trinity. Matthew 28:19 makes no sense unless all three persons are of equal status. Other threefold formula exist as well: 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2. Here’s the point. If we are not to consider the three persons mentioned in such formula, especially the great commission, are they statements of INEQUALITY? That’s what you’d have to prove. Good luck, especially when there are plenty of verses that equate two of the three in different combinations elsewhere. When taken in the context of the NT, these formula are Trinitarian in nature.

COMM: You have yet to deal with the FACT that we are born with a sin-nature. You deny this…and you have not provided adequate support for denying this.

MSH: I can go two ways with this. (1) I can deny it. That we have a “sin nature” is not a fact, since it is dependent on one interpretation of Romans 5:12. I would be denying the traditional concept of a sin nature, and that leads to … (2) I can accept that all humans are cursed by Adam’s fall (and I do) in such a way that they are helpless to save themselves (they are). My view of WHAT THAT CONDITION MEANS or HOW THEY ARE CURSED is the issue. So, I can accept the idea but deny how you (and many others) parse that idea. That’s really what’s going on. I’m not accepting your understanding of the condition of every human being. My view was articulated earlier, so I won’t repeat it here.

COMM: Before I write a response post I had to highlight a major error on your part.

You said: “It [Rom. 5] never says condemnation/guilt passed upon all men.”

But Romans 5:18 says exactly that!

Literally, through one trespass to all men unto condemnation’ (di henos paraptOmatos eis pantas anthrOpous eis katakrima)

This oversight in my view is huge because Paul is using the fact that we are united to Adam in his condemnation as the parallel to how we are united to Christ in his righteousness.

MSH: Thanks for this. My apologies for being careless in my wording. By “condemnation” I meant “Adam’s guilt.” I could have been clearer. That was my bad. You might have seen what I meant by my slash mark (“condemnation/GUILT”), but I should have added Adam’s name (“Adam’s guilt”). But providentially, this provides a nice segue to hammer away at the point you have evaded while clarifying other items.

I am rejecting the idea that Adam’s GUILT was transferred to all humans. You are accepting that, and that is the “normal” view. Now let’s think about it a bit more. I’m going to be direct because I want people to see what drove me to reconsider Romans 5:12. I’ll put you in the box I lived in for a while.

You could ask, “well, how is Adam’s GUILT different than condemnation’?” Good question, and it’s important. Let me illustrate by contrast:

You: “When Adam sinned, his guilt was transferred to all humans who would ever be born; they are under condemnation in that sense: they bear Adam’s guilt.”

Me: “When Adam sinned, all humans lost immortality and became invariably destined to sin; all humans are under condemnation because they cannot no sin. Their guilt is their own, from their first sin.

Notice that BOTH views believe in the reality of Adam’s original sin, and BOTH views have every human being affected by Adam’s fall. The difference is what that effect is. I would submit (and have been doing so!) that your view, though you assume it, is not self-evident from the text of Scripture. But wait, there’s more.

Notice that you must reject Romans 5:18-the verse you put to me-since you MUST exempt Jesus from its wording. While Paul says “condemnation passed to ALL men”, you cannot have Jesus under condemnation WITH YOUR DEFINITION OF CONDEMNATION IN PLAY (So Paul’s “all” doesn’t really mean “all” for your view–and it cannot). The fact that he must be exempt is unavoidable. But the question is, HOW do you do that? The virgin birth is no answer, because Jesus (a) was human; and (b) was in the line of Adam, by explicit scriptural testimony. What you now need is a verse that tells us the guilt of Adam is only passed on by MEN. Good luck. Your sin nature now lives in sperm. Who would have thought! Chapter and verse for that, please.

But wait….there’s still more. Let’s say you argue, “Well, Mike, I believe that the full person of Jesus was just deposited in Mary, and then she just birthed him out with a few human uterine spasms. He has no actual genetic relationship to Mary, so he can’t inherit the guilt of Adam. He just spent time in the womb, that’s it.” Might sound good, but it gets really theologically ugly.

First, you just denied the incarnation. Second, you just denied the full humanity of Jesus. Third, without an incarnation, you just whisked aside the atonement. I think you get the idea.

You can’t have an incarnation without HUMAN flesh. Jesus of Nazareth would have had a HUMAN blood type. He would have had HUMAN DNA. You can have deity incarnated, but you can’t have a “non-human human” which is what the above scenario produces. You’re stuck. Jesus MUST be truly human, he IS a son of Adam, and Paul says that ALL human sons of Adam are under condemnation. Now tell us how you answer that dilemma, as opposed to producing more verses that simply say “all people are guilty because they commit trespasses” and by insisting that Romans 5:12 can only be understood one way-the traditional way. I have an easy answer to the dilemma. You have no coherent answer at all (and believe me, I felt that pain). And THAT is what drove me to reconsider Romans 5:12.

COMM: I’m with you on not reading “spiritual death” into Genesis 3 and avoiding eisegesis that stems from that elsewhere in scripture. But what can we say about Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:1 were Paul says to his reader “you BEING DEAD through your trespasses” and “you WERE DEAD in your trespasses and sins” respectively ?

MSH: Note that you are “dead” IN TRESPASSES AND SINS” (i.e., actual trespasses and sins – not Adam’s-and this accords with my view-we are guilty before God for our own sins; the guilt is our own). Note as well that they are “YOUR” trespasses and sins. The answer is right in the text. That is our condition prior to coming to Christ.

COMM: Real quick…is there something that I am missing in the Hebrew? Because Gen. 2:17 says that “IN THE DAY THAT YOU EAT…YOU WILL SURELY DIE” Does not “in the day that you eat thereof” directly connected to “you will surely die”?

MSH: The statement of the text is correct. As soon as they sinned (ate) they lost their immortality – their fate was sealed. Your problem is that you are assigning TIMING to something that need not be understood as immediate. There’s nothing in the grammar that requires immediacy like that.

I won’t be replying to more “dead in trespasses” questions since that ground has been covered. I want to see someone else put forth an answer for why Jesus is not under Adam’s guilt — condemnation — in the traditional view. Let’s have it. I’ll reply to that if it comes. For me, I plan to go into how this affects babies and innocents who die.

  1. Donald A. Hagner, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13 (, Word Biblical Commentary Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 217.