I’ve decided to respond to replies first before plowing ahead with the next installment of Romans 5:12. What follows are comments drawn from replies (COMM) and my response (MSH) or clarification. I’m only sticking to the germane material. That is, a lot of the comment I’m referencing misunderstands the idea of contingent immortality (it skips the contingency part), and it’s a peripheral issue anyway. I’ll bring it up again in the subsequent post on “where do babies go,” so I can pick up those parts of the reply then. I want to camp on the real subject at hand here – the idea of Adam’s guilt being transmitted to humanity.
Let me reiterate as I begin that my position includes most of the traditional ideas, though with one important difference. I believe that humanity’s need for grace stems from Adam’s fall. What happened at the Fall did indeed effect every human being, rendering every human in need of a Savior, who is Christ. In other words, I affirm that Adam’s sin put all humankind in the position where they could only share eternity with the true God by virtue of a redemptive act on the part of the true God. This act was, of course, the work of Jesus on the cross and his subsequent bodily resurrection. You may wonder at this point how that relates to what I’ve said about those who are unable to believe (babies, aborted, a fetus, the fertilized egg, the severely retarded, the infant, etc.) and who, in my view, have not incurred guilt before God. That will be the subject of a subsequent post. Where I differ-and what I’m asking readers to think about-is JUST HOW was all humanity affected so that all need a Savior? I got us into the discussion by noting some serious problems with the traditional view-namely, how does Jesus, as a full son of Adam, get away with not inheriting Adam’s guilt? I don’t believe that Adam’s fall affected all humanity by transmitting Adam’s guilt to all humans. I believe Adam’s fall affected all humanity by depriving all humans forever more of the conditions under which they could abide with God in a state of non-sinfulness. Adam and Eve were the only humans to ever live in that condition. After the Fall humans were destined to die, and not only that, they were “on their own” when it came to living in righteousness, a pre-condition for living with God. Adam and Eve met that condition before the fall; they did not need redemption until they sinned. They would live on indefinitely at God’s pleasure. His presence maintained this state, and they were in his presence. I think I would be on safe ground in saying that evangelical theologians across the board, rightly wanting God to get credit for Adam and Eve’s sinless state before the Fall, chalk it up (at least in part) to God’s superintending influence and presence in Eden. God was the chief reason they remained in pre-fall sinlessness. Once humans were removed from that, forget it. After the fall, human beings were left to their own efforts and in a hostile environment-the earth outside Eden. They would inevitably and invariably fail and be unable to save themselves.
Now, on to the comments:
COMM: First, you are saying that babies are born innocent…this is explicitly against Scripture. There is NONE righteous…not even the infant.
MSH: Correct, I am saying babies are born with no moral guilt before God. If they are born, and if they live, they will inevitably and invariably sin and incur moral guilt before God. It is incorrect that this is unscriptural. The ONLY argument from Scripture that babies are born with moral guilt before God is the traditional view of Romans 5:12. When Paul (drawing on Ecclesiastes) says that there are none righteous, he is of course correct. But his point is not “all are under moral guilt.” I would approach Romans 3 in its context. First, Paul is NOT targeting a fetus or zygote; he is targeting all adult Jews and Gentiles to make his point that all of them are under sin. And I would agree. No one “cannot not sin.” How can I be sure this is the way to take Paul here? Let me quote Paul by adding some verses that the responder omitted after citing Romans 3:11: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Note that in verse 12 Paul defines and clarifies verse 11. He is targeting all those who “have turned aside” (a term that denotes rebellion and disobedience), and who “have become worthless” (they had to DO something – i.e., COMMIT A SIN to get into that condition). Regarding the “no one does good,” it is a bit peripheral, but relevant. Augustine had the odd notion that an unbeliever could never ever please God since he/she was an unbeliever. Nothing an unbeliever could do would please God. I think this is silly, since the OT has examples where pagans do God’s will (e.g., Cyrus) – so, was God not happy with his will being done? Makes no sense. At any rate, I bring this up to get to Paul’s point in the phrasing. He isn’t saying “no one ever does anything good.” That isn’t true, and all we need to discuss there is the concept of common grace and examples like that of Cyrus above who fulfilled God’s will as He wanted it done. Rather, Paul’s point is that no one ALWAYS does good – i.e., no one is perfect (and thus deserving of salvation). No one has the righteousness needed to go to heaven. No one gets eternal life by merit, period.
The responder omitted other verses that make the same point: Paul is targeting those who COMMIT SINS OR ACTS OF EVIL: (v. 13 – “they use their tongues to deceive”; v. 14 – “their mouth is full of curses and bitterness”; v. 15 – “their feet are swift to shed blood”), etc. Notice what he doesn’t say: “they have descended from Adam and his guilt is transferred to them.”
If anyone can show me how the fertilized egg of the human conceptus fits these descriptions (DOING evil and COMMITTING sins), then I’ll change my view.
COMM: “You simply cannot escape the Pelagian results of this unless you have not pondered this very hard by reading some of those divines that have gone before you and thought on this harder than you.”
MSH: So now the issue is that I’m not quoting a divinity author or theologian? And how would anyone know how much I’ve though about this? Those sorts of objections are obviously not important. The more important is the Pelagian charge. Let me quote a “divine” for those who may not be familiar with Pelagianism:
The “deepest cleft” separating people calling themselves Christians, Warfield claimed, is that which distinguishes the “naturalistic” conception of salvation held by some from the “supernaturalistic” conception held by others.?? The naturalistic vision, which he designates “autosoterism” (“self-salvation”) and which the church has designated “Pelagianism,” after Pelagius, a late-fourth/early-fifth-century British monk, who proposed it, contends that men can save themselves, that is to say, that their native powers are such that men are capable of doing everything that God requires of them for salvation.1
I think the last post was clear on this, as is the above prefatory commentary to this post. But let me repeat it again threefold: no one saves themselves; no one merits salvation in ANY way; no one gets to heaven apart from the work of Christ. This is the antithesis of Pelagianism! Here the commenter has jumped the gun, presuming what I’ll say in the next post. The reply is incorrect. Stay tuned on that part.
COMM: “Of course, it is infants who do not sin willfully like Adam-there sin and guilt before God is inherited. Paul says that death still reigns over them because they are still sinners and need Christ.”
MSH: I *think* the commenter here presumes that “those who don’t sin like Adam” = babies (and everyone else in my caveat category). Let me quote Paul again in Romans 5:14 (boldfacing mine): “Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not ?like the transgression of Adam, ?who was a type of ?the one who was to come.” Note that while Paul says these “others” who didn’t sin like Adam did nevertheless SIN. The word here (“sinning”) is an accusative aorist participle of hamartano, the normal verb for “to sin.” So Paul’s point is NOT that “Adam sinned a certain way” and others “inherited Adam’s guilt.” The text defies this interpretation. Paul says “Adam sinned a certain way” and “others SINNED some other way.” Again, show me how the aborted fetus commits a sin, and I’ll change my view. I’m just sticking with the text for what it says, and not inserting anything it doesn’t say.
COMM: “Paul says by ONE MAN’S DISOBEDIENCE many were made SINNERS (vs. 19). How can Adam’s sin make other people sinners?”
MSH: Simple. See the above prefatory remarks. Adam’s sin placed humanity outside the conditions that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the garden. As I noted above, God’s superintending influence and presence in Eden was the primary agent or force that kept Adam and Eve sinless. Once humans were removed from that, they had no hope of not sinning (and notice in Genesis 3 that Eve is not in the presence of God when she is deceived, and Adam is also not with God when he sins; the writer is making a point). So how did Adam’s sin cause others to sin? That’s how.
COMM: “I am pondering, what is the difference between innocence and righteousness. You claim that babies are born innocent, but you deny that they are righteous? What is an unrighteous innocence? Was Adam righteously innocent or unrighteously innocent?”
MSH: This is a good question. I’ll likely hit on it in the next post, but a few thoughts here. I believe the responder is using “innocent” as an equation to my “not morally guilty,” so I’ll go with innocent under that assumption. By “innocent” I do mean that the baby, fetus, etc. has not committed any sin, and so is not morally guilty before God. They have committed no violation worthy of the wrath of God. So, does this = “righteous”? Not exactly. Since in my next post I will explain the baby issue in light of this weird category Scripture has called “the second death” (which those without Christ suffer), it isn’t an exact equation. I will be arguing that innocents go to heaven because they are raised with Christ (as is everyone) at the last day. The innocents are redeemed by the resurrection, and so it is wholly of Christ. Innocents really don’t go to heaven because they are righteous; they go there because Jesus rose from the dead as the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead. Those who sinned (not in the innocent category), had to be “made righteous” through faith in Christ. That is why they go to heaven when they are raised (salvation = transfer of Christ’s righteous for their sin + resurrection; TWO elements here, as opposed to the ONE for the innocent; only Christ has the righteousness for salvation, but innocents don’t need the transaction – they just rise with Christ, and so he is the lone source of their salvation AND the salvation of those that sin; it is ALL of Christ). Those who sinned and were not made righteous suffer a SECOND death (see. Rev.20:14; 21:8).
COMM: “Do you believe that these innocent babies are born with a sin nature?”
COMM: “If yes, then how can you have a sin nature without being a sinner?”
MSH: question is irrelevant because of my no answer.
COMM: “If not, then do you have to sin to be a sinner? Or do you merely have to BE sin?”
MSH: yes, you have to sin to be a sinner, and everyone will who is allowed to live.
COMM: “This is my point. If we take Romans 3:23 as a definition of a sinner-someone who falls short of the glory of God-then you do not have to sin to be a sinner-you merely have to miss the mark of God’s glory.”
MSH: This is convoluted logic that presumes what it is seeking to prove. Just what IS the glory of God in this verse? I’d say (and bring a boatload of theologians with me) that it refers to the moral perfection of God; that is, positive and negative. God is without sin and he is completely righteous. Humans need to meet BOTH conditions to “measure up” and be with God in heaven. Innocents do not have sin; they also will not “be like Christ” in righteousness until they are resurrected. They fall short. Sinners of course fall short in that they are not innocent. And thought they have had Christ’s righteousness transferred to them in salvation, we both/all know that this is an “already/not yet” thing. Sinners will only be truly righteous (“like HIM”) upon glorification (just like the innocent). Either way all humans fall short of the perfection of God and are only in God’s eternal family by his grace. And Christ is the lone mechanism for all this.
[Don’t you just love this?! Everywhere you look it’s Jesus.]
COMM: “Now a bone to pick. Regarding Augustine’s seminal headship view, Dr. Heiser, you contend that Persons cannot literally exist pre-birth within their ancestors as it defies logic, philosophy and natural science. All well and good, but what to make of Hebrews 7:8-10?”
MSH: Good question. And a frequent response.
COMM: “Here the author seems to be revealing under inspiration that Levi indeed existed in the loins of his ancestor Abraham and thus gave a tithe to Melchizedek (while in Abraham) thus proving that Melchizekek’s priesthood is of a higher order than the Levitical one. Is this just figurative? (And if it is, I don’t see how this could then be used as a strong argument by the author to render that priesthood obsolete and thus exalt Christ’s.) Could Augustine’s view be upheld in light of this scripture? (I’ve also seen this same scripture be used to defend the Federal Headship view that Abraham stood as the father of the Hebrew line so Levi was represented. What do you make of these verses?
MSH: This hearkens back to our inspiration discussion – the stuff about how biblical writers can make inerrant theological points even thought using flawed, pre-scientific thinking. This is a classic example. We need to start with showing the pre(un)-scientific nature of the writers for this one. And it’s easy. Just THINK about these ideas and verses below – we read right over them all the time and never think about what we’re reading.
We know, as moderns, that children are actually made as the result of the union of a male’s sperm + the female egg. That is, the child is NOT “whole” (it’s not the child) inside the male. No whole biological human being IS EVER OR HAS EVER BEEN IN THE MALE FATHER. My children were never “in” me. When my wife and I had sex, my sperm fertilized an egg inside her and our children were conceived. At that point, a person was inside my wife (and, again, a whole person can NEVER be inside a man). This is biology 101. All that is in the male is sperm. This is absolute, invariable scientific fact. We prove it every time there is an in vitro fertilization procedure. It’s absolute truth. And yet the biblical writers had no clue of it (and how could they). The biblical writers had the common ancient view that a man deposited a child into a woman’s womb, where it would grow to adulthood. Just like planting a seed (this is part of the biblical garden imagery for sex, by the way; it’s also the reason for the need for offerings when blood or semen was lost – it has to do with restoring “loss of life”). This is why in both Greek and Hebrew the word for “seed” in each language describes offspring and plant seeds. They had no idea of the biology behind it all. The reason more modern cultures and languages use “seed” the same way is twofold: (1) we inherit it from the Bible, and (2) biological science didn’t discover how kids were really made until the modern period.
Here are some examples. The OT uses zera` (with ayin – my fonts aren’t going to work) for plant seeds (Gen 1:12; Gen 47:19), offspring (Gen 3:15; Gen 7:3; Gen 9:9), and semen (Gen 38:9; Lev. 15:16-18).
But, to the point. Even if you don’t want to believe that the biblical writers didn’t know about the correct biology, the statement of Hebrews 7:8-10 is scientifically untrue, and even impossible according to our God-given biology. WHOLE human beings (persons) are NEVER in a single parent until AFTER CONCEPTION OCCURS. That is how God made us. Taking Hebrews 7:8-10 the way Augustine would want it (and he didn’t know the biology either, so we’ll give him a pass) is absolutely disallowed by the truth of creation.
So what does Hebrews 7:8-10 mean? I think the Word Biblical Commentary has a nice summation (I’ve omitted the Greek letters because WordPress garbles them and substituted crude transliteration – boldfacing mine):
The basis of Melchizedek’s superiority to the Levitical priests in this second contrast is the “eternity” of Melchizedek predicated in v 3b, which has in view the perpetuation of his priestly office. The importance of this aspect of the argument will become clear in vv 15-16, where it is applied to the messianic priest. So far as the record of Scripture is concerned, Melchizedek has no end of life and his unique priesthood has no successor. But what is true of Melchizedek in a limited and literary sense is true absolutely of the one who serves his people as high priest in the presence of God (F. F. Bruce, 141-42).
9-10 The climax of the argument is reached in v 9 and qualified in v 10. It specifies the implication of the first contrast between Melchizedek and the Levitical priests (vv 5-6a) by deducing the deeper significance of the fact that Abraham allotted a tithe to Melchizedek (Cockerill, Melchizedek Christology, 23-24, 78). The literary phrase hos epos eipen, “one might almost say,” was frequently used when a writer broke off the train of his thought and, not wishing to treat his theme more fully, would summarize as succinctly as possible what he had to say. Here it indicates the writer clearly recognized his statement that Levi had paid a tithe to Melchizedek was not literally true, because at the moment in primal history when Abraham met Melchizedek Levi was as yet unborn. Nevertheless, the statement that Levi had himself paid the tithe was true in an important sense, indicated by the expression di’ Abraam, “through Abraham,” which immediately follows. The corporate solidarity that bound Israel to the patriarch implied that Levi was fully represented in Abraham’s action. Therefore, Levi’s status relative to Melchizedek was affected by Abraham’s relationship to that personage. Consequently, the superiority of Melchizedek over the Levitical priesthood is not merely theoretical but has a basis in history (cf. Riggenbach, 190-91; Williamson, Philo, 107-9; Cockerill, Melchizedek Christology, 78-80).
The assertion in v 9 is justified and explained in v 10, as shown by the explanatory conjunction gar, “because.” Although Levi was as yet unborn when Melchizedek met Abraham, the tithe Abraham gave to Melchizedek was a gesture that anticipated the subordination of Levi and the Levitical priesthood to the priesthood like Melchizedek’s that would be inaugurated at God’s appointed time.2
That last sentence is the theological point (which is not in error), though the writer uses unscientific language to make it.
One last comment:
COMM: “I think you are so anti-tradition because you do not spend any time conversant with those men who have thought on these doctrines much harder than you. You need to read some of the older divines to temper your zeal for the new and innovative.”
MSH: I’m not anti-tradition. I’m indifferent to it. There’s a difference. Tradition should serve the text, not the other way around. My loyalties are to the text only, and to the Lord of the text, not to tradition. Tradition with respect to the church fathers has major problems (like Augustine not knowing Greek or Hebrew – pardon me, but THAT is a problem). The Westminster divines, as capable as they were, did nearly all their work without the decipherment of tens of thousands of lines of ancient Near Eastern texts that contextualize the entire Bible. Sorry, THAT is a problem. But they are still useful – but limited.
I also have no penchant for the innovative. If you haven’t discovered my secret yet, here it is loud and clear: I just affirm the text. I say what it says, contextualized by its ancient culture and by other Scripture texts that comment on the same subjects, and that’s it. I put nothing in it that isn’t there. It’s the Naked Bible. It is what it is; it says what it says; and it doesn’t say what isn’t in it. No secret, and not profound.
(After this you’ll be wondering what the “sin nature” is in my view — yeah, we’ll get to that. And guess what – I’m just going to let Paul says what he says and let the chips fall.)
- Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Lectures delivered at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. and Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.;Nashville: T. Nelson, 1998), 468. Reymond is quoting B.B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, 16-18. ↩
- William L. Lane, vol. 47A, Word Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 1-8 (Word Biblical CommentaryDallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 170. ↩
THANK YOU for answering my Hebrews 7:8-10 question. It pretty much confirmed my suspicions (something kept telling me to look at the line “one might almost say”). It honors inspiration and stays true to our accurate scientific knowledge (don’t you just love context?). By the way, I think the last two paragraphs you wrote are dead on and too bad that person couldn’t remember the name of your blog before starting his rant, lol. I hope you don’t mind but I’m quoting it to everyone I know now because you’ve crystallized for me how one should always look at scripture, thanks!
I took careful notes when I read this post so I would not put any words in your mouth. And I wanted to say that I am impressed on how you handled Hebrews 7. However, I am unimpressed on Romans 5, this is why:
1. You SEEM (I am leaving you the room for clarification) to have restricted death here in Romans 5 to physical death. This is a mistake, for the context clarifies that death is both spiritual and physical.? The death introduced by Adam is conjoined with condemnation (vv. 16, 18), and it is also contrasted with eternal life (v. 21). Thus it can hardly be restricted to physical death.?? Indeed, Paul is likely reflecting on the threat of Gen. 2:17, where Adam is warned that he will die on the very day he transgresses Gods command.?? When Adam sins, however, physical death does not immediately follow. We should not conclude from this that Adam continued to live after his sin. The account in Gen. 3 reveals that Adam died when he sinned, for upon sinning he was immediately separated from God. Adams hiding from God and his expulsion from the garden signal his spiritual separation from God. I am not suggesting that physical death and spiritual death can ultimately be separated, for the former is the culmination and outworking of the latter. Nonetheless, the account in Genesis indicates that death is fundamentally separation from God, and this alienation from God entered the world through Adams sin. It is also vital to understand that sin and death are twin powers that entered the world when Adam transgressed. That sin and death are powers is borne out in the subsequent context, where Paul speaks of sin and death as reigning, of unbelievers as being slaves to sin, and of the wages sin exacts from its subjects: death reigned (Rom. 5:14, 17).
2. I am also perplexed that you can sustain the thesis that death is the result of Adams one sin, but not guilt. Don;t you see that “condemnation” is attributed to the sin of the one man? Condemnation implies guilt. Are you considering this?
3. Remember I said that Rm. 5:12 has the ability to affirm original sin in one of my comments, but I needed my Greek text to see it. Here it is:
When Paul says all sinned, he indeed means that every human being has personally sinned. Nevertheless, we should not read a Pelagian interpretation from this, for the ??? ? (eph ho) phrase explains why all human beings have sinned. As a result of Adams sin death entered the world and engulfed all people; all people enter the world alienated from God and spiritually dead by virtue of Adams sin. By virtue of entering the world in the state of death (i.e., separated from God), all human beings sin. Yes, I admit that this understanding of the text allows the dominance of Paul’s thinking to be on original death rather than original sin in this particular text.? However, the personal sin of human beings is explained by the sway death holds over us. Such an interpretation is also supported by the notion that death is a power that reigns and rules over us now (Rom. 5:14, 17) and that culminates in physical death. Moreover, Paul says specifically in 5:15 that human beings died because of the trespass of Adam. Our alienation and separation from God are due to Adams sin, and thus we sin as a result of being born into the world separated from Gods life. The notion that we are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1; cf. Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13) should be interpreted similarly. This phrase does not mean that first we commit trespasses and sins and as a consequence die (which SEEMS to be your view that I believe is dead wrong). Rather, the idea is that we are born into the world (children of wrath by nature, Eph. 2:3) separated from God, and our sins are a result of the spiritual state of death. The entire context of Eph. 2:110 supports this interpretation, for God remedies the situation by granting life to those of us who are dead and as a result of his life we do good works. The parallel is remarkable: the consequence of death is trespasses and sins, whereas the result of life is good works. Ephesians 4:1718 confirms my interpretation. The reason Gentiles live in a way that displeases God is because they are separated from his life. In other words, the result of spiritual death is a lifestyle of sin. In other words the text CONFIRMS a sin nature (as does Ephesians) contra your spin of the text.
Additionally you cannot argue with me and say that this would contradict where Paul says that death is the result of sin (1:32; 6:16, 21, 23; 7:5, 10, 13, 8:2) because All human beings enter the world alienated from God, and as a result of this alienation they sin. It is also true that they will experience eschatological death if they sin. The eschatological and anthropological distinctions then explain how Paul can talk about death as the result of sin and of a sin nature (a deadness–spiritual deadness) as the result of sin.
4. You say that you will change your beliefs if I can prove that a fetus can sin, but I say that I will change mine if you can prove that man is not born with a sin nature (death, a spiritual deadness that results in physical deadness). You simply cannot get around the fact that we are born as children of wrath BY NATURE!
Grace be with you,
P.S. Sorry about jumping the gun before, but I think these critiques are fair here.
CORRECTION: The eschatological and anthropological distinctions then explain how Paul can talk about death as the result of sin and of a sin nature (a deadnessspiritual deadness) as THAT WHICH PRODUCES sin.
In other words, I was saying that it is impossible for you to affirm that we “cannot not sin” without admitting that we have a nature that makes it so that we “cannot not sin.” Because obviously, if we had a neutral and guiltess nature, then we would “cannot not sin” only after sinning for the first time! Just like what happened to Adam.
One other thing…check this out!
118 O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendants.
(2 Esd 7:118-119)
I am not heralding this as proof for my position, but it is one example of how a Jew identified himself with Adam in his sin in the Garden (the fall was not yours alone, but ours also).
Friendly question Mike (and for the most part I’m tracking with you here):
God was the chief reason they remained in pre-fall sinlessness. Once humans were removed from that, forget it.
Wait a minute. . .isn’t that kinda circular? After all, both Eve’s being deceived, and Adam’s rebellion (and you are right to distinguish the two) happened while they still lived in that pre-separation fellowship with God. Whatever that state was, it clearly was not efficacious at preventing them from sinning. . .
Also a brief rabbit trail–while you are (I believe) on solid ground regarding this discussion on original sin, your throwaway comments about hell suggest to me that you may not have dug into that concept with the same depth. While there is clearly no scriptural basis for universalism, there’s also an interesting body of scripture that suggests (1) annihilation or death as opposed to the common torment assumed in the word “hell,” and (2) a different level of punishment (and, may I infer, perhaps mercy?) toward the ignorant unbeliever as opposed to the one who actively rejects God (particularly if the latter claims divine authority). More on my own blog (subject index links “hell”) if you want to chase this, but I grant it’s a different thread. . .
Here is one more note of worthy pondering:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Ultimately, then, death is the result of our desires…desire spring from the heart…the heart is depraved or not depraved? I am thinking that you would say that it is not depraved until we “fall” like Adam. Would you say this? If so, then are you not denying what Paul says when he says CONDEMNATION WAS BROUGHT (eis katakrima) by Adam’s sin? I deny your attempts to get around this. It is not FIRST my sins that condemn me, but one man’s sins FIRST condemn me because it made me have my sin nature, which makes it so that I cannot not sin.
@dwmtractor: the influence of God in the pre-sin state does not cancel free will. it is giving credit where it’s due, but not erasing free will.
Don’t assume anything about my thinking on hell. A subject for sometime future.
@Joseph Molina: I am sorry that I came across as ranting. This was not my intention, but it definitely has that ring to it from the reading side of it. I often respond from work where it is more difficult for me to organize my thoughts. But I am starting to see how dependent I have become on my Bible software for organizing my arguments! How awful is that!
@cwmyers007: I don’t think Chris is ranting. It’s just a direct discussion, as it should be.
I have been reading this series on Romans 5:12 and honestly there are so many aspects involved in tracing the theological ramifications of each position on each particular point that my head is spinning. I don’t if there is a clear answer to the question I have, but is there a difference between an “act of sin” (whether physical, mental, spiritual, etc.) and being in a “state of sin”? Biblically, the word for “sin” in Hebrew and Greek both, means “to miss the mark”. What is the mark? To be an image of God? (this is the first statement that God made concerning the making of man) To multiply and excercise dominion over the creation as God told Adam to do? To not eat from the forbidden tree’s fruit? (this is a negative command) To be like Jesus? It seems that if “missing the mark” is the biblical definition of sin, then the mark needs to be defined before we can say that babies and aborted fetuses do not sin. I guess a better way of putting it is – Are we judged on the basis of what we DO or on the basis of what we ARE, or ARE NOT? Does salvation in Jesus address what we do, or what we are? Or both?
One thought that came to me as I typed this – Did Eve’s mangling of what God had told Adam about the prohibition of eating constitute “missing the mark”? One more confusing question.
Also, Mike have you read Arthur Custance’s book “The Seed of the Woman”? In it he explains how Jesus could be born as a man and still not be implicated in what Adam did, since what later was used to create the human part of Him was “set apart” and protected in Eve’s ovum when she was “built” by God. The “building of Eve” implies something more complicated was going on than the “squeezing out” (yatzar) of Adam. And yet in this view, Adam himself is still included in the redemption because Eve was taken out of him. There are some interesting paralells that relate to this topic between the temptation of Eve in the garden, and the time Gabriel comes to make his anouncement to Mary about having a son, but that is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
haven’t read Custance’s book, but I’m not buying the word nuances you cite about Adam and Eve.
Once we sin we are sinners.
The point of bringing up Custance’s book was to show that Jesus does not need to be “gotten off the hook” because he is a son of Adam through Eve, since she was taken out of his side. The only place I can see in the bible where Adam is listed in Jesus’ genealogy is in Luke, and there it traces Jesus’ line back through the supposition that Joseph was His father. The “Seed” of the woman was protected and passed down to Eve’s daughters all the way to Mary, Jesus’ mother. Custance correlates this to mitochondrial dna that stays separate and protected inside an ovum that is fertilized by an ‘x’ sperm. This mitochondrial dna is then used to produce the ovum for the developing female embryo. If a ‘y’ sperm fertilizes an ovum, the sac containing the mitochondrial dna is dissolved and the mitochondrial dna is mixed in together with the dna that builds the body of the male fetus. I find it interesting that Adam failed to “guard” the garden and let the nachash (a shining angel-like being) get to Eve, and in the new testament, Gabriel (a very powerful, shining angel) comes to one of Eve’s daughters in the city of “Nazareth” to announce the conception of the Messiah. I know that there is controversy over the Hebrew equivalent for the greek word “Nazareth” in the gospels, but find it interesting that one of the two possibilities means “to guard”.
As for infants not sinning, I believe they are sinners and do sin. They think only of themselves. They quickly learn to change the types of crying they do to whichever one gets the best results. If the “my diaper is wet” cry works to get mom here better than the “I’m hungry” cry, then I’ll use it even though my diaper is not wet. But I also do not believe that they will “go to hell” forever. I believe in biblical universalism, which I know you do not. That is not the topic of this discussion, but if you have a page where you discuss the places where Paul refutes this teaching I would like to read it. Also, is there a place where I can find your discussion of psalm 12:6 about the words of the Lord needing to be “refined, since they have to do with the earth”? I read that a long time ago on your old website but don’t remember where.
Eve was a complete human being; she sinned; Jesus is in her line. One cannot with any coherence say Eve was not a sinner and in no need of redemption. As much as I like Custance’s thoughts on different things, this is sophistry. There is no textual proof at all for any Eve-Serpent union, either.
I should have been clear that my bringing up the similarities in circumstances between Eve and the nachash and when Gabriel visited Mary was not to suggest any “serpent seed” doctrine. I just found the parallels interesting. And I did not get this from any of Custance’s writings. It came to mind as I was typing my first post here.
Whether we like it or not, both of us are reading things into the text to explain how Jesus is the only human to never sin. As far as I know the bible does not explain this.
I forgot to point out – there is no need for Eve to be sinless if God sanctified and protected part of her “seed” that He intended to use to bring forth Jesus later on. The question seems to boil down to whether God entered humanity from the beginning or let humanity go on for a while and then He comes into humanity later on to redeem them. Either way it would take God to do it. If God set apart and hid a “seed” from the beginning, then only He would know how to bring it forth. On the other hand, if He allowed all of Eve, including her seed, to be corrupted by sin, then only His power could overcome this obstacle later on.
The same kind of “timing question” comes into play when talking about babies going to heaven. Do they have to be given the choice of whether to believe in Jesus and be saved to be able to enjoy being there? Or are is their potential to sin taken away when they die and they don’t need to be redeemed from any sin nature?
The basis of Melchizedeks superiority to the Levitical priesthood was that he was both King and Priest. Levitical Priests were not Kings and distinct from prophets.
Like Melchizedek, Christ united the function of the priest with the function of the King. This is why the Melchizedekian priesthood surpassed the Levitical priesthood.
and how is this relevant to the post? (You have to give us all more context than this — those posts are old, and I’m not taking the time to re-read the whole discussion).
Likewise, Levi’s homage to this priestly King was due to the fact Levi honoured his forebear Abraham, who honoured Melchizedek, notwithstanding silly biological arguments.
Since we know how humans are made from the moment of fertilization, we know that no human being exists in ONLY the male human — EVER (egg and sperm need to unite). And so that makes your silly backhand a silly objection. Biology, chemistry, bio-chemistry, and genetics keep us alive, protect is from disease, extend our lives, sustain life on the planet, etc. They are what they are, and work as they work, because God made life to work the way it does. If you don’t like the science, argue with the Creator about it.
Whether biologicly correct or not it was a euphimism. And we all get the point. I don’t get what the argument is about. If not in whole at least in part he was in his loins genetively.
MSH, you’re correct my comments were a bit of a tangent to the point of the post. I apologize.
I wasn’t presenting an objection to your point which I happen to agree with BTW, or your discussion with COMM. Nor am I unhappy with the science. I was reacting to the comment quoted apparently from Word Biblical Commentary in response to the [Heb 7:8] quote:
“The basis of Melchizedeks superiority to the Levitical priests in this second contrast is the eternity of Melchizedek predicated in v 3b, which has in view the perpetuation of his priestly office.”
I didn’t happen to agree with that, but given your overall point about [Romans 5:12] isn’t quite pertinent.
More relevant was my off-hand comment about silly biological arguments. I don’t think your biological argument is untrue, but I do think it unnecessary in the case of the Hebrew quote.
Although I don’t believe ‘Federal headship’, and I agree that Levi was not Abraham’s loins, yet don’t take that verse the same way you take that verse. Linguistically as you know ?? (ben H1121) means son, just as it means grandson and indeed any descendant. Likewise ?? (‘ab H1) means father, just as it means grand-father and ancestor.
Hebrew language had this idiom of themselves with respect to their place in lineal descent relative to their descendants an ancestors. This influenced how Hebrews read [Exo 20:12] for example “Honour your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you”, meaning not just 1 generation father and mother but all previous generations of ancestors. I think I saw somewhere you made a case about the ‘dead looking after the dead’ and how it related to honouring one’s father, so I think you’re aware of this already.
It may be true this world view arose out of a flawed knowledge of biology, I don’t know, but there comes a point in language when an idiom takes on a life of its own, apart from its origin. I don’t see the [Heb 7:9] claim about Levi as a biological claim, rather I see it as a Hebrew idiom meaning that if an ancestor honours someone (Melchizedek) and we honour our ancestor, we honour those our ancestors honour.
In that sense Abraham was committing the “nation and the company of nations” [Gen 35:11] that would come from his loins to also honour Melchizedek whether or not they were there biologically.
This isn’t federal headship in the Adamic sense because honour is commutative, and transferable, whereas guilt is not.
If you are affirming that the Hebrew idiom has nothing to do with science, I would agree with you on that point. But the language of Hebrews goes beyond that to “paying tithes while in the loins.” That isn’t an idiom. However, that act could certainly be construed *abstractly* or theologically without reference to biology. But given the pre-scientific nature of their ideas of how babies were made, for them it’s quite possible they were thinking biologically (for them the male seed was deposited in a female — and so barrenness was a exclusively female problem, an inability of the “garden” to bring the “planted seed” to maturity).
I do agree the idiom has nothing to do with science. Likewise, I agree the language of Hebrews goes to ‘paying tithes while in the loins’ which to a Hebrew audience would have represented something more than mere tithing, but honouring God:
“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD.” [Lev 27:30]
Notwithstanding that Leviticus was written after Abraham, the principle still applied in the minds of Hebrews; that if Abraham had honoured Melchizedek with a tithe (which was Holy and belonged solely to the LORD), all of Abraham’s descendants were also so obligated. Since the tithe belonged to the Lord, Melchizedek represents the Lord in the eyes of Abraham.
This is a powerful argument being made in Hebrews because it suggests a near absolute obligation by Hebrews to worship Jesus they are to honour the commandments of the Lord [Exo 20:12][Lev 27:30].
I suspect your view of ancient Israelite mistaken biology is absolutely correct. That said, what would have resonated with the Hebrew recipients of the letter, would not have been the idea they were in Abraham’s loins while he tithed, but the idea they had an obligation to honour their forebear as a commandment of God (and therefore also honour his tithe).
The resonance here (IMHO) would have been the idiomatic connection between Abraham honouring Melchizedek and his descendants obligation to honour Christ by virtue of Abraham being their father.
Did Levi pay tithes or not? If he did, then the writer assumes his existence *in Abraham* (the male only). If the answer is no, then you’d have a tough time explaining the grammar, which seems to clearly suggest Levi did *something* while being in Abraham’s loins. I think you are abstracting the wording.
Of course they did..
[Heb 7:5] explains how it was the Levitical role to present Israel’s tithes to God [2 Chron 31:12] since they were appointed charge over the tabernacle of the testimony and all of the furnishings of the LORD [Num 1:50] (the tithe was considered a furnishing for it also belonged to the LORD, but was given to the Levites for use [Num 18:21,24]). Just as Abraham honoured God through his tithe to Melchizedek (whose name means “messenger-king”) so Levites honoured God.
I don’t deny your reading is possible. I deny it is necessary, logically OT linguistically (meaning it is not the only valid way to read that verse).
When the writer says in [Heb 7:9] ‘?? ??????’ it is valid to read this as “through Abraham (or by means of)”, as it is to read it as “in Abraham”. That Levi was from Abraham’s loins needn’t mean immediately or directly, or even physically present. Both [Heb 7:5] and [Acts 2:30] show this relationship to be indirect (David understood the Messiah to be a descendant, but not physically present in his loins).
Likewise it is valid to read [Heb 7:10] which says “…for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him” as meaning “Levi hadn’t yet been born when Abraham met Melchizedek” (unless one mistakes the ‘met him’ to mean ‘when Levi met Melchizedek’, but that would be outside of the natural semantic scope of the text, Abraham clearly having been the one doing the meeting).
This was the point of my pointing out that ‘son’ and ‘grandson’ were the same linguistically, but not physically – just as ‘father’ and ‘grandfather’ were.
Maybe I’m not catching what you’re after. Briefly, I’m saying that someone can only pay tithes (in reality) if they exist. No human person exists ONLY in the male. Therefore the statement in Hebrews cannot reflect accurate science. It’s simple “how we perpetuate our species” science.
No worries .. it was a minor point anyway and not worth straining over.
I largely agree with your arguments here, even if I didn’t read the Hebrews quote precisely the same as you.