Okay, I can’t contain myself any longer. Along with the canon posts, which I’ll continue, I have to start in on Romans 5:12. This verse is on my short list of most abused and misunderstood texts in the Bible. I’m going to start with an egregious abuse of it, and then move to problems traditional interpretations of it create for biblical theology, whether mainline denominations realize it or not (frankly, the views are so entrenched by centuries of repetition that Christian theologians have simply invented answers to the problems that also cannot be legitimized in the text). Romans 5:12 is an excellent example of whether we are going to get our theology from the text or import it into the text.
Let’s start with the verse (in a couple English versions and in Greek):
(ESV): 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.
(NIV): Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.
(NRSV): Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned.
(NKJV): Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.
(NASB): Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
Now for the abuse. Romans 5:12 is commonly used by strict creationists (24-hour day, six solar days for creation) to argue that there can be no fossils before the fall. Here’s a representative quotation with my highlighting:
According to Genesis, God created a picture of perfection. Death didn’t come on the scene until man sinned. Genesis 3:15 and Romans 5:12 explain how death came after man sinned. I Corinthians 15 declares sin is rebellion against God and that it results in death. Physical death came as an effect of sin. Before sin, there was no death-not even in the animal world according to Genesis. Both man and animal were vegetarians. 1
Anyone see a problem in the plain text of Romans 5:12? How about “through one MAN…” and “dead spread to all MEN.” The text says absolutely nothing about animals – zero. Whatever happened at the Fall resulted in a transition from (apparent) immortality to mortality for humankind. Animal life has to be read into the text for the purpose of promoting a specific view of the fossil record. Nothing is said of any other life than humankind, so we should not infer anything about it. The verse cannot be used to justify the idea that animal life (and of course plant life) could not and did not die before the Fall. To argue anything in that regard from this verse is to insert it into the verse.
- Dennis Gordon Lindsay, Foundations for Creationism (Dallas: Christ for the Nations, 1998, c1990). ↩