Readers of this blog know that several people who’ve commented in the past about my views on Romans 5:12 have thought that plain reading of the text out of step with traditional Christianity. Below is an article (not publicly accessible) that shows that Irenaeus wrote several things that are consistent with my take (humans are sinners estranged from God because of their own guilt, not Adam’s) and which are in step with the 2nd Temple Jewish view of how evil/sin proliferated throughout the human race due to the sin of the Watchers (“sons of God”) in Gen 6:1-4.

D. R. Schultz, “The Origin of Sin in Irenaeus and Jewish Pseudepigraphical Literature,” Vigiliae Christianae, Vol. 32: 3 (Sep., 1978), pp. 161-190

In a nutshell, the view of all this that’s consistent with the biblical text taken in its own context is that sin began in Eden (the first divine and human rebellions), which estranged humanity from God because all humans were then cut off from the divine presence and would invariably and inevitably sin. However, the worldwide depravity known to Christian theology  occurs in the wake of the sin of the Watchers (which has a “causative” effect in the sense that 2nd Temple material views the sin of the Watchers, by example and by design, as a catalyst to human rebellion on a grand scale). The proliferation of sin and a human’s individual guilt before God is not laid at the feet of Adam.

I would point out that, in the stream of orthodox Christian theology, Irenaeus was obviously no heretic.

Though the article by Schultz is not publicly accessible, the PhD dissertation he wrote upon which that journal article is based is:

D. R. Schultz, “The Origin of Sin in Irenaeus and Jewish Pseudepigraphical Literature,” PhD thesis, McMaster University, 1972 (216 pp)

*Note: the link will ask you to save the file named “full text” — just save it and then open and rename it.  It’s all there and web-accessible.

Here are some screen shots of the shorter article (click on them for emlarged viewing):