The Status of the Torah in the Pre-Sinaitic Period: St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans

Gary A. Anderson

Harvard Divinity School

In his recent book Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence Schiffman declares that he wishes to correct a fundamental misreading of their importance.1 For some forty-five years, he writes, these scrolls have been interpreted and understood mainly in terms of how they pertain to history of early Christianity with little sustained attention to the history of Judaism proper. There is no doubt a large degree of truth to this claim. Schiffman's argument is sharpened by observing that the role of Jewish law in the formation of the sect and in its self-definition has been one of the major lacunae in the study of these texts. But the problem that Schiffman has isolated is not limited to the history of Judaism alone; somewhat paradoxically it has also had a deleterious effect on how these texts have been employed in Christian materials as well. In the present essay I would like to extend an argument I made earlier about the role of the Law prior to Sinai in Jubilees and the Dead Sea Scrolls to the writings of St. Paul.2 I hope to show that an acquaintance with certain legal categories of Second Temple Judaism are absolutely imperative for understanding a fundamental metaphor of Pauline thought.


Let me begin with a consideration of the place of the Sinaitic revelation in the Torah in general. A striking feature of the final canonical form of the Bible, one that pre-moderns and moderns have attended to, is the uneven fit between law and narrative. This is certainly true within the Sinai narrative itself where, time and again, one is faced with narrative incongruities between a particular legal pericope and its narrative frame.3 But even more striking is how this problem affects the final form of the Torah as a whole. In this larger frame of reference one must reckon with the almost complete isolation of the Sinaitic revelation from the Patriarchal narrative that anticipates it. Not only is precious little said about the law prior to its delivery, but occasionally what seems to be an intimation of that law, such as the narrative regarding not eating the sinew of the thigh (Gen 32:33), the burning of Tamar (Gen 38:24),4 or the story about the "bridegroom of blood" (Exod 4:24-26) stands in an very uneasy if not outright contradictory relationship to Sinai itself.

The disparity between these two blocks of material is so great that the tendency of all interpreters is to bridge this gap in one fashion or another. In a metaphoric sense Exodus 19 functions as a semi-permeable membrane that separates two very different bodies of material. Because nature abhors such an imbalance, some sort of equilibrium, or homeostasis, must be attained. Perhaps the only group of interpreters who have resisted this tendency are moderns but they do so by altering the material so that no gross inequality exists. For in the perspective of modern source criticism the patriarchal stories came from the epic sources [J and E], sources which correspondingly took far less interest in the narrative of law giving. For the epic sources, law-giving was a brief interlude between the promises made to the Patriarchs and their fulfillment in the giving of the land. This solution of modern source-criticism6 comes at the expense of the final form of the Biblical text and will provide little help for understanding the vast majority of Biblical interpreters who take their Bible whole. Here one might argue, albeit somewhat polemically, that Philo's declaration that the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob represent "living exemplars of the law"(e)myuxoi_ lo&goi)5 constitutes a more astute grasp of the Bible's ove rall shape than that of Wellhausen, Noth and other moderns.

I should add one caveat here. It is not the case that the gap between law and patriarchal narrative is altogether unbridged in the Bible. Sinaitic law is intimated in the pre-Sinaitic period. The law of the Sabbath is perhaps our best example, a law that is revealed by our Divine narrator already in Gen 2:1-3 and latter is revealed at least in partial form just after the Exodus from Egypt in the story about the giving of the Manna (Exod 16). But one should also mention the way in which certain Sinaitic laws are narrativized prior to Sinai. D. Daube showed that the law of slave-release was anticipated in just this fashion.6 The law of slave-release requires that one pay a slave his wages when his period of enslavement comes to a close. This law is anticipated in the story of the Exodus when the Egyptian women, who see the Israelite slaves about to leave, hasten to divest themselves of their precious possessions (Exod 3:21-22; 11:2-3; 12:35-36). The Israelites go forth not simply as redeemed slaves, but slaves who have received material compensation from their former masters.7

In some senses we could say that what documents like Jubilees or the biblical retellings in the Damascus Covenant are doing when they have the Patriarchs observe the law is extend the project that Daube sees as already present in incipient form in the Torah itself. Indeed, many of the standard examples of this process are those cases where the Patriarchs anticipate the positive commands given in the Torah such as the laws of sacrifice, distinguishing clean from unclean, or keeping sacred festivals. But equally important but rarely reflected upon is quite different category of legal knowledge. This would be the problem of how the Patriarchs are punished or not punished. The issue posed by the legislation of Sinai is not simply what was known when, but what were the consequences of such knowledge regarding human accountability for personal and corporate sin.

A good example of this can be found in the sexual dalliance between Reuben and Bilhah. According to the Bible neither Reuben nor Bilhah were punished for this act of impropriety, yet the book of Leviticus is quite explicit about the punishment which ought to be meted out for such actions; they should be put to death (Lev 20:11). This fact is emphasized by the angelic intermediator who instructs Moses to keep this sin in mind when he teaches Israel the commandments8:

And you, Moses, command the children of Israel and let them keep this word because it is a judgment worthy of death. And it is a defilement. And there is no forgiveness in order to atone for a man who has done this, forever, but only to execute him and kill him and stone him and to uproot him from the midst of the people of our God. For any man who does this in Israel should not have life for a single day upon the earth because he is despicable and polluted. (Jubilees 33:13-14)

But then how, one might ask, does the book of Jubilees understand the leniency accorded to Reuben. Is the Law of God subject to human contingency and hence, temporal development? Hardly so. The Law, according to Jubilees is eternal, it is the human understanding of it that is contingent and temporal. At this point in time Reuben is ignorant of the command. By being ignorant, his sin does not imply any willful violation of the Torah and his wrongdoing is tolerated by the hand of heaven is tolerated. Our writer concludes, "Let them not say, 'Reuben had life and forgiveness after he lay with his father's concubine. . . For the ordinance and judgment and law had not been revealed till then (as) completed for everyone, but in your days (it is) like the law of (appointed) times and days and an eternal law for everlasting generations . . . there is no forgiveness for it . . . On the day when they have done this they shall be killed (Jubilees 33:15-17)."

Oddly this explanation of ignorance does not work for Bilhah. Our writer explains that Reuben came upon her while she was sleeping in bed (Jubilees 33:3). This peculiarity can only be explained in view of the parallel problem of Tamar in Gen 38. For there it is quite evident that Jacob knows this action is wrong and that death by fire was the proper punishment. Our writer deduced that Jacob could have drawn the same conclusion here as well and as a result had to construct some other literary artifice in order to preserve the innocence of Bilhah. Our supposition is confirmed by the fact that a pre-Sinaitic law about just such an action can be found. Just prior to Abraham's death he gathers his children to teach them the commandments that he knows.9 One of those commands reads as follows:

And when any woman or girl fornicates among you, you will burn her with fire, and let them not fornicate with her after their eyes and hearts (Jubilees 20:4)

This command is put into the mouth of Abraham in order to make Tamar violate a publicly revealed command and so be liable for its stipulated punishment.

The Dead Sea Scrolls show a similar tendency to that of Jubilees. Though the texts we possess do not fill out the Patriarchal era with same range of detail, they disclose how those very same exegetical decisions had a correlative affect on sectarian self-definition. As I have shown elsewhere, the Dead Scrolls show us how central Numbers 15:22-31 was in the development of these sectarian tendencies.10

Numbers 15:22-31 is a very volatile text.11 It went to the dangerous extreme of requiring the penalty of karet (trk) for each and every violation of the law, a legal ruling that is without parallel in the rest of the Torah.12 Rabbinic thinking, no doubt sensitive to this explosive possibility, defused the potential for such damage by presuming that Num 15:22-31 was not at all a general law for Torah-violation; rather it addressed the problem of a single category of sin alone, that of idolatry (M. Horayot 2:6). For the covenanters at Qumran, however, Num 15:22-31 was used for precisely this end: it provided grounds for finding virtually all of Israel outside of the sect guilty of intentional sin and, therefore, worthy of trk); In addition to this, Num 15:22-31 served one additional function. It provided a rational for appending cereal and drink offerings to each and every purification offering, a legal ruling unknown elsewhere in Jewish law.

In order to show the similarity of the Qumranic approach to the book of Jubilees let us consider the second observation first, the law that each and every purification offering required a corresponding cereal and drink offering. In the Temple Scroll this is evident in the laws for Sukkot:

11QTemple 28:6-9 (A, B, C) // Num 29:20-22a (A', B', C')

A. On the third day [of Sukkoth]: eleven bulls, two rams, fourteen lambs, and a single goat from the herd for a purification offering,

A'. On the third day: eleven bulls, two rams, fourteen lambs that are one year old and unblemished.

B. along with the cereal and drink offerings according to the law regarding the bulls, the rams, the lambs, and the goat.

B'. Cereal and drink offerings shall accompany the bulls, rams, and lambs in proportion to their number in accordance with the law.


C'. And a single goat for a purification offering in addition to the Tamid and its cereal and drink offerings.

In this text the law regarding the special treatment for the purification sacrifice (C') has no correlate in the Temple Scroll. This is because the law has been reworked in such a form that it now becomes identical to the treatment of the other sacrifices on that day. An exact duplication of this type of exegetical recombination can be found in Jubilees regarding the laws of the sacrifices for New Year's day:

Jubilees 7:3ff13 (A, B, C, D) // Numbers 29:2ff (A', B', C', D'):

A.You shall offer the burnt offering as a soothing odor to the Lord, a bull son of the herd, a single ram and seven sheep, each one year old.

A'. [you shall offer] one young [bull], one ram, seven sheep (each a year old), and a he-goat, to make atonement with it for himself and for his sons.

B. And he prepared the [he-goat] first and put some of its blood on the flesh that was on the altar he had made, and all the fat he laid on the altar where he offered the [burnt]-offering; and he did also with the [bull] and the ram and the sheep, and he laid all their flesh on the altar.


C. And he put all their [cereal] offerings, mixed with oil, on it. And afterwards he sprinkled wine on the fire he had previously made on the altar, and put incense on the altar, and made a soothing odor acceptable before the Lord his God.

C'. Their cereal offering: wheat mixed with oil, 3/10 for the bull, 2/10 for the ram and a 1/10 for each sheep.


D'. And a he-goat from the herd as a purification offering to effect purgation for yourselves.

Again the laws for the purification sacrifice (D') have been reworked so that they fit imperceptibly into the laws of the other animal sacrifices. All of them, as a group, receive cereal and drink offerings (C).

This is not an insignificant decision because it bespeaks a common sectarian understanding of this very difficult and volatile text. Both groups understood Num 15:22-31 to be a general ruling about the nature of the hatta't (t)+x) offering and so generalized its prescriptions over the entire legal corpus of the Torah. This being a complete reversal of the situation found in Rabbinic writings wherein Num 15 is limited to the specific problem of the idolater alone.14 The recent publication of a fragment from the Damascus Covenant by Joseph Baumgarten allows us to say even more. The covenanters construed the penalty of trk as a form of banishment (gerush #wrg) and this banishment could take two different forms. Firstly, those who sinned inadvertently (hgg#b) were banned temporarily from the community. This period of extirpation was, Baumgarten rightly argues, "[a] valid substitute for sin offerings." In other words, the roster of various periods of banishment found in the penal code (I QS 6:24-7:25) was a replacement for the (t)+x offering of Leviticus 4/Numbers 15. Secondly, in contrast to this lenient approach to inadvertencies, all those who sinned with "a high hand" shared a single punishment: permanent banishment.

One further wrinkle must be added to this scenario. At Qumran the concept of inadvertent/intentional sin was not simply a category of the will; it was also directly related to knowledge. The law was divided into two categories: 1. those laws which were plainly revealed in the Torah of Moses (twlgn) and 2. those laws which had hitherto been hidden from public view but now, thanks to the inspired exegesis of the sect, were being made known (nistarot twrtsn). Sins against those unknown laws were understood as inadvertent by definition, whereas sins against the known laws were frequently classified as intentional, again almost by definition.

If we carry this sectarian halakhic framework back to the Patriarchal period we will notice a striking homology. In some senses the covenanters are not unlike the Patriarchs. They both have a set of revealed laws for which they are accountable in every way and both stand in a state of partial if not complete ignorance regarding a set of hidden laws that still await full disclosure. In light of this I think we can better understand two texts, the first being a statement of purpose about admission into the sect, the other being the concluding paragraph of a detailed retelling of the Patriarchal era.

1. Everyone who enters the council of the community shall enter the covenant of God in the presence of all those who have freely entered [in the past]. And they shall take upon themselves a binding oath (Num 30:3) to return to the Torah of Moses [revealed law] according to all which he commanded with all [their] heart and soul (Dt 30:2) and to all which has been revealed from it by the sons of Zadok [hidden law] , the priests, the guarders of the covenant, and interpreters of his will. . . . [They shall separate themselves] from all evil men who walk in a wicked path. For they are not reckoned among [those of] his covenant because they do not search out nor interpret his statutes so as to discern the hidden laws (twrtsn). For [in these hidden matters] they have strayed [inadvertently -- w(t15] so as to incur guilt. But toward the revealed laws (twlgn) they have acted in a high-handed fashion (intentionally, Num 15:30) so as to raise up wrath for judgment and the executing of revenge according to the curses of the covenant (Dt 29: 18,19,20). (IQS 5:7-12)

2. Because the first members of the covenant [i.e. those responsible for the exile] became liable, they were given over to the sword (Ps 78:62). They had forsaken the covenant of God (2 Chron 28:6) and chosen their own will. They turned after their stubborn heart (Num 15:39) so that each did his own will. But for those who hold fast to the commandments of God [i.e. the sect itself or their immediate progenitors], who remained from them, God established his eternal covenant so as to reveal the hidden laws twrtsn) which all Israel had strayed (w(t) from: [the laws regarding] his holy sabbaths (Neh 9:14), his glorious festivals, his righteous ordinances, his true ways, and the objects of his desire, concerning which if a man does them he shall live thereby (Lev 18:5). (CD 3:10-1)

In these texts the generation of the exile -- a moment in time, we must remember, that had not ended in the perspective of the sect16 -- has suffered and continues to suffer because of their conscious violation of the Torah. In addition they have now become inadvertent violators of the hidden law. The covenanters, on the other hand, had been faithful -- or pledged renewed faithfulness -- to the Torah and as a result gained knowledge of these hidden laws.

We can draw three different conclusions from this Jewish material. First, we must emphasize that the revelation of the law, whether Sinaitic or Messianic, is a true bonum or moment of grace. The revelation of the law allows for complete human sanctification. But the revelation has another, not unrelated quality. It reveals the magnitude of human sin. To come to knowledge of hidden commands, whether they be of a moral or cultic order, revealed in far sharper terms the nature and depth of human waywardness, especially the waywardness of those outside the sect. Their fate was already sealed, of course, by virtue of their high-handed rebellion against the h#m trwt, but each revelation of the twrtsn provided further clarification of the depths of their error. In the words of the Damascus Covenant this Messianic Torah "reveal[ed] the hidden laws (twrtsn) from which all Israel had strayed (w(t)."

Secondly there is a striking legal homology between the era of the Patriarchs and that of the sect. Both have received laws to which they are accountable; but both stand this side of a corpus of law that is, as yet, unrevealed.

Our third conclusion is perhaps more a summary observation. Let us step back from the legal detail we have examined and face squarely the larger hermeneutical horizon in which they sit. In Jubilees and Qumran we see two groups who deeply revere and love the Torah. My language of endearment here is altogether conscious and devoid of sentimentality. These Jewish sectarians, like their later Rabbinic counterparts, stood in an uncompromising position of adoration vis à vis Sinai. Should it come to the attention of one of these readers that the laws of Sinai were contradicted in some way by the actions of the Patriarchs then it is the actions of the Patriarchs that are in need of correction or further interpretation not vice versa. The mythic importance of Sinai was capable of trumping any particular irregularity that stood in its way. In short, the textual membrane of Ex 19 was extremely permeable and the nomoi of Ex 20 and beyond were capable of grasping, possessing and even transforming everything that stood before them.



Like the writers of Jubilees and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Paul also had a keen interest in the way the law functioned in the Patriarchal period. And just like these sources Paul was very much interested in why individuals prior to Sinai were held accountable to the full weight of the law. Indeed numerous commentators have noted the close correspondence of the situation of Reuben in the book of Jubilees to the Pauline dictum that "where there is no law neither is there any transgression [of that law]" (Romans 4:15).17 But none of these commentators, to my knowledge, has spelled out what the wider implications of this parallel might be. In this sense we can say with some justification that Christian material cannot always be illuminated by Second Temple sources without first placing those sources in a trajectory of Jewish development.

Paul's argument in Romans 4 concerns the way in which Abraham became righteous. For Paul, it is crucial that this status accrues to Abraham prior to the reception of any legal commandment. Unlike workers who earn their wages according to a contractual norm, the reward given to Abraham takes place apart from any such agreement. In Paul's idiom, it is due to grace alone (4:4-5). One might suppose that the Abrahamic era of "faith" would have come to a close with the revelation of the Mosaic Torah. With the revelation of a broader covenantal charter and the election of a specific people to uphold hold it, the promise made to Abraham could now be actualized. Not so for Paul, for if the inheritance of Abraham comes through the law then the specific form of the promise made to him would be superseded: "For if those who are to inherit the promise do so through the law, then faith is nullified and the promise is voided (Rom 4:14)." In a grand reversal of the way traditional Jewry had read their Bible, Paul claims that the promise made to Abraham trumps the moment of Torah-revelation. The Torah given to Moses becomes a secondary or epiphenomenal moment in the history of God's people. What then is the purpose of the law? Its purpose is purely instrumental. The law exposes human error (Rom 7:13); it "locks up" (Gal 3:22) all things under sin in order to demonstrate the need for faith. Abraham is important for Paul, not simply because he was a man of faith qua faith, but also because of the temporal moment in which Abraham found that faith. "[T]he law brings wrath," Paul asserts, "but where there is no law, neither is there violation of that law." By this statement Paul declares that the law revealed on Mount Sinai brought humankind into a state of legal accountability. The law itself was not evil, but after its revelation human nature found itself weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Here the reader must pause. Just what situation is Paul imagining? Earlier in Romans he had argued that all people stood condemned in God's eyes, both Jew and Gentile (Rom 1:18ff). The Gentiles were condemned by a universal, natural law, the Jews by their revealed law. Yet in Romans 4 Paul avers that the Jews knew no law prior to Sinai. If this is so must we not make the rather unhappy deduction that even the "natural" law was unknown to them? Paul's statement "where this is no law, neither is there transgression" would seem to apply to Jews alone and only for that brief amount of time prior to the revelation at Sinai.

This problem has befuddled ancient and modern commentators alike. For Origen the way around this problem was to expand vastly the role of the natural law at the expense of the references to the Mosaic law. Indeed Origen frequently understood the term nomos no&moj as referring to the natural law even in those contexts where almost all other commentators would say Paul had the Jewish law in mind.18 One example of this would be the Origen's exegesis of "where there is no law, neither is there violation." Origen begins with the standard characterization of the verse:

Some might argue, [that the text] "if there is no law then there is no transgression" shows that no one committed a transgression prior to Moses. And if no one did, then no one was blameworthy, neither Cain, nor any of those who through their sins suffered the consequences of the flood. Nor did the Sodomites commit transgression and, prior to them, neither did Adam and Eve.19

Such a conclusion for Origen was completely non-sensical. The only way to save this Pauline text from such error was to understand the reference to law in a non-Mosaic fashion.

Scripture says that the law inscribed naturally (fusiko&j) in us -- [that is] in the tables of our fleshly hearts [which are] engraved by God -- brought wrath (o)rgh&n) to Cain, to those destroyed in the flood, and [. . .] even the Sodomites. And if [it is true that] "where there is no law neither is there transgression" [then one must concede that] there was transgression among these. Thus, a law was in them but not the law of Moses, rather the law that was older than that of Moses, the law written not on stone tablets but in the tablets of our fleshly hearts.20

In the view of most moderns, it is presumed that Paul has bracketed the particular examples of Cain, the generation of the flood and the Sodomites and considered the question of human culpability in the pre-Sinaitic era in the broadest, most general terms. In short, Paul has telescoped Biblical history from the time of Adam and Eve to that of Sinai, and in so doing foreshortened the prominent examples of wrongdoing that Origen listed. But for Origen such a reading of Paul was nonsensical, perhaps bordering on the anti-theological. Paul knew the Bible inside and out and would hardly "bracket" such fundamental moments in Biblical history as the flood or Sodom and Gomorra. The Pauline argument could only be saved by transforming these allusions to Jewish law into references to the natural law.

Quite the contrary tendency is to be found in St. Chrysostom. Here we can find the inner Jewish element of Paul's argument creeping into texts where it originally had no place. Consider Romans 2:12, "all who have sinned law-lessly will also perish law-lessly, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law." This text is understood by nearly all commentators to define the equal level of culpability accorded both Jew and Gentile, the former perishes under the Mosaic law ("[he] will be judged by the [Mosaic] law), the latter under the moral law ("[he] will perish apart from the [Mosaic] law [but not apart from the moral law]").21 St. Chrysostom sees no such thing. He concludes that those who lived prior to Sinai perished in a more lenient manner.22

For those who commit the very same sins as our ancestors will not suffer the same punishment. It is possible to learn this in a concise fashion from the wise teacher of the entire world, I mean, the blessed Paul, who says, "All who sin apart from the law die apart from the law, all who sin by the law are judged through the law." What it is means is something like this: Those who lived prior to the Mosaic law will not receive the same judgment as those after the law. Rather those who sin after the giving of the law fall under a stiffer penalty. "For all who sin apart from the law, die apart from the law" that is, the very fact of not having the teaching and assistance of the law makes their punishment more moderate. "All who sin by the law, through the law they are judged." These people, he says, since they had the law as a teacher and did not as a result show moderation but instead committed the same sins, they will pay a greater punishment.

Being law-less meant they lived in era prior to the reception of any positive law. To perish law-lessly was to perish under a lighter legal burden; a privilege only extended to the generation that lived prior to Sinai. Those who came after the giving the law were extended no such mercy; in their cases retribution was swift and sure.

These Patristic writers indicate the difficulties of making sense of these two sides of the Pauline argument. Though there is a certain communality to both -- Paul wishes to show the general culpability of all mankind -- there is also a distinctive line of argumentation proper to each. And these distinctive arguments cannot be harmonized. Heikki Räisänen has observed that Paul's thought is confused on this issue and that Paul is fundamentally inconsistent in his use of the term no&moj.23. E. P. Sanders has also noticed this inconsistency, but has attempted to make sense of it.24 For Sanders, the key point of emphasis in the Pauline system is the fact that salvation cannot proceed along two separate tracks, one Jewish another Gentile. Paul begins with an answer: salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. From this "answer" Paul works backward to the question: in what way does humankind stand in need? In this way Sanders believes he can explain why the Christological answer given can be defined without too much ambiguity whereas the Anthropological problem is susceptible to a variety of formulations depending on the rhetorical needs of the moment.

In Paul's mind the Gentiles stand condemned in the eyes of God for violation of a natural law that is written in their hearts (Rom 1:18-32). This law was made manifest in the very fabric of creation and no human being can escape knowledge of it. The Gentiles, in respect to their guilt, are without excuse (Rom 3:9). One might presume that such an understanding would carry over to the Jews as well, after all they had a similar relationship to the created order, but here is where the Pauline argument takes a decidedly different turn. For Paul, the Jewish people are a privileged people, they possess the positive revelation of God (Rom 3:2). Because of this revealed law they are both more honored and more responsible. Hence Paul is willing to gloss the general affirmation that God shows no partiality to the Jew with the important clarification that in regard to glory as well as punishment the Jew is first (Rom 2:9-11). The law has two aspects. On the hand. it is spiritual, a true bonum given to the Jews that they as an elected people are privileged to possess. On the other hand, it is a stern and uncompromising judge, penetrating and articulating with utter precision the nature of human sin. And so Paul avers, "no flesh can be justified before [God] through the works of the law, for through the law, is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20).

The idea that Abraham's faith was significant because of the epoch in which it took place allows us to understand what Paul means when he says that "the law brings wrath." In this case Paul has in mind the coming of the Sinaitic law and the clear condemnation that it would prescribe for all human sin.25 For as Paul repeatedly emphasized, the Jews know their condemned status by virtue of the law of Moses (Romans 3:19-20). This argument is quite different from his earlier argument about Gentile culpability. The natural law no longer commands center-stage when Paul takes up the problem of sin prior Sinai. When dealing with this issue Paul adopts the standard Jewish picture that prior to the revelation of the law there can be no transgression of it. The o)rgh& or wrath of God presumes a conscious violation of a known precept.

We can better appreciate the subtle nuance of Paul's exegetical point by recalling the parallel in Jubilees. For in that book we noted that a variety of aberrant Patriarchal behaviors were condoned by the writer precisely because they occurred prior to Sinai ("Let them not say, 'Reuben had life and forgiveness after he lay with his father's concubine. . . For the ordinance and judgment and law had not been revealed'"). All of those Patriarchs would have stood under strict judgment had they committed those offenses after Sinai.26 For Paul, as well, this moment of pre-Sinaitic existence was one of leniency. Yet Paul is quite unique in terms of his evaluation of this era of leniency. For Jewish interpreters this particular aspect of the Patriarchal age was hardly salutary. Quite the reverse, it pointed out the need for a higher moral norm which would, in turn, result in the potential for true sanctification. Paul draws the exactly opposite conclusion. The revelation of this higher moral norm could only result in clearer and more precise grounds for condemnation; legal leniency, or its Pauline correlate, imputed righteousness, was mankind's only possible escape from the fiery wrath of God. In this sense the Patriarchal and Messianic eras were comparable; in both eras it was faith in God's promise that brought redemption.

So far we have seen Paul divide up Jewish history into three eras: the period before Sinai, from Sinai to the advent of the Messiah, and the Messianic era. But if this model is to do justice to Paul's complete thinking on the subject then this periodization of the Torah would have to admit at least one more category, that being the era of Adam.27 The text where this fourth category is made known is Romans 5:12-14.

In this famous text Paul compares the sin and condemnation of the First Adam to the righteousness and salvation of the Second. Before addressing the interpretation of these three verses it will be helpful to locate them within the larger frame of the chapter. The section reads:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all, with the result that all eventually sinned.28 13 Sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man's [act of] sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness lead to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.29 20 But the law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The first thing to be noted about the text is the rather difficult syntax with which it opens. The first sentence of this paragraph, "just as sin came into the world. . ." is never completed. As Fitzmyer has noted, one would have expected Paul to have said: "Just as sin came into the world through Adam (and with it death, which affects all human beings), so through Christ came uprightness (and with it life eternal)."30 Indeed, Irenaeus, when he summarizes the Pauline argument of Romans 5 finishes the Pauline phrase in exactly this way.31 Yet Paul himself leaves this correlative element unfinished. Instead he provides a long gloss on the first part, a gloss that seems at odds with his overall argument. For rather than continuing with a comparison of the two Adams, Paul articulates the peculiar state of human culpability that obtained between Adam and Moses. During this period, death reigned over all human flesh even over those who had not sinned in the fashion of Adam.

For many New Testament scholars this long gloss is awkward at best, unintelligible at worst. Paul had just asserted that, through Adam, all human flesh fell under the sway of sin and death with the end result that all sinned. Yet here he tells us that during the era of the Patriarchs sin was not legally reckoned. So why did those people die? The Reformers were not so dumbfounded and solved the problem by understanding the term "reckoned" as referring to a human subject. Sin was not reckoned by humankind even though it was reckoned by God!32 Moderns have rightly rejected this opinion but they have not always been able to offer an alternative. In the words of Bultmann: "Wie kann sie [die Sünde] den Tod nach sich gezogen haben, wenn sie nicht angerechnet wurde? [How could sin lead to death if this sin was not reckoned?]."33 Bultmann's response is at least honest: "no answer can be given." It remains "vollends unverständlich." C. K. Barret makes a similar observation: "[since] no law existed between Adam and Moses, [...] it might be expected that in that period no deaths would take place. This, however, was not so. Paul notes the anomaly, but without offering a formal explanation."34 Cranfield attempts to make Paul more clear by arguing that the term "reckoned" means that it is not a "clearly defined thing."35 But this answer begs the question. It seems to be little better than that of the Reformers. For what does "not clearly defined" mean and just for whom is it so unclear, God? Even E. P. Sanders fails to find a solution, "[T]he statements of Romans 2 and Romans 5 are not harmonious. Romans 2 argues that the same law judges everyone; Romans 5:12-14 that, during the period from Adam to Moses, sin led to death even without the law. Paul then inconsistently says that law is required for sin to be counted, but that it was counted anyway."36

In order to understand Paul we must avoid the temptation to assimilate the First Adam/Second Adam typology of Romans to that of Paul's earlier letter to the Corinthians. Though they appear to have a similar interest -- contrasting what was wrought by the first Adam in contrast to the second -- in fact what they emphasize is quite different. In Corinthians Paul is interested in what bodily nature is inherited from the different Adams, in Romans the issue is that of legal culpability that is at stake. Accordingly we hear nothing about the matter of Mosaic law I Cor 15; rather Paul turns his attention to bodily creation and re-creation(I Cor 15:42-49, cf. Gen 2:7).37 Paul's point is that all mankind possesses a body like that of Adam, a body that comes from the earth and returns to the earth. There is hardly a hint that human sin was a causative factor. Indeed, one could infer just the opposite as Paul presumes that Adam was fashioned as a mortal being. The language is also unqualifiedly universal and so no distinction is made between Jew and Gentile.

In Romans 5 a very different rhetorical interest is at stake. The utilization of Adam is no longer quite so universal. He has consciously set Adam within the framework of Jewish salvation history. This becomes altogether clear at the end of this chapter when Paul returns to theme of Jewish law: "But the law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21. so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." These verses show clear links in diction with the opening argument of this section: The "entrance" of the law (v. 20) recalls the entrance of sin and death (v. 12) whereas the rulership of death wrought by the law(v. 21) corresponds exactly with the rulership of death inaugurated by Adam (v.14).38 Verses 12-14 and 20-21, frame the entire literary unit and provide the overall legal framework for the understanding of the two Adams.39

The key to understanding this entire section are these last two verses. Not only does Paul return to the theme that opened this unit (5:12-14), that of the dominion of sin and death, but Paul continues this same theme in the very next section of his letter (Romans 6:1-14). Paul returns to the issue of the dominion of sin and death after the giving of the Torah because he had left that element of his equation unfinished in the first portion of his argument. Earlier he was satisfied to describe the reign of death that Adam initiated, a reign that continued unabated from Adam to Moses (vv. 13-14). The concluding section (vv. 20-21) does two things. It extends the reign of death from Moses to the present day and then contrasts this entire epoch of the death's tyrannical rule with the eschatological kingdom of life. Again it must be emphasized that the language is altogether legal and forensic. In the eschaton grace rules "through [imputed] righteousness with result of eternal life".40

The notion that each Adam inaugurated a period of tyranny, one of terror the other of grace, was not lost on Patristic writers. Irenaeus is particularly perceptive in this respect. He argues that the revelation of the law had two purposes. On the one hand it made human beings responsible for their sins. On the other, it showed that Death was truly a robber and a tyrant for he took human life even without justification.

But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death's) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death.

This understanding is quite frequent in the Fathers. In fact, Romans 5 is frequently attached to early the early Christian myth of Christus Victor, the idea that Christ as a valiant warrior had bested the powers of Sin and Darkness during his 3 day descent into the depths of Hades. This is well attested in the Hymns of Ephrem on this subject but also quite in evidence in Aphrahat as well. Just prior to introducing the Christus Victor motif, Aphrahat has this to say about Romans 541,

The righteous know that Death rules by Divine Decree on account of Adam's transgression of the commandment, just as the Apostle [Paul] says: "Death ruled from Adam to Moses, and even over those who did not sin, and so it was that it came upon all men just as it came upon Adam." How did Death rule form Adam to Moses? When God gave him a command he warned him and said, "on the day you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will die by death." When he transgressed the command and ate from the tree death ruled over him and all his children. He ruled even over those who did not sin, by means of the transgression of the command given to Adam. Why does it say "until Moses"? Moses announced that his kingdom would end; [whereas] Death had thought his kingdom eternal.

Aphrahat, like Irenaeus, also underscores the tyrannical rule of Death and declares that his rule as such was terminated by Moses who received the revelation that the dead would again rise. but is almost never alluded to in discussion of Patristic reading of Romans 5. The myth of Christus Victor is frequently tied to this Romans 5 passage but very infrequently commented upon by modern scholars, either New Testament or Patristic. This is certainly due to the legacy of Augustine's reading of e)f' w|{ in 5:12 and its alleged influence on his understanding of Original Sin.42

The importance of Patristic observations about legal culpability should not be lost on us if we wish to understand the peculiarity of the Pauline interlude in vv. 13-14. Let us consider those verses again: "Sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come." Paul outlines three discrete eras of legal responsibility. First is the era of Adam himself. Adam heard a commandment from God to which the penalty of death was attached. He violated that command and so the punishment logically followed. Second is the era of the Patriarchs. These individuals, though they heard no such commandment died anyways. This was proof for Paul that death ruled irrespective of human accountability. In the Irenaean reading of Paul, this tyrannical rulership of Death was made clear to the Israelites at Sinai when they themselves fell under the full responsibility of the law. For though they now were to be held accountable for their wrongdoing they could clearly infer that death's reign over their immediate ancestors was not just. Their own sins may have been similar to that of Adam but not those of their ancestors.

A framework very much like the Pauline one can be found in Exodus Rabbah (32:1). In this text the Rabbis attempt to exegete the curious phrase of Ps 82:6, "I said you are [as] gods nevertheless you shall die as [A]dam." This verse is presumed by the Rabbis to be a reference to the status of Israel just after hearing the commandments.

If Israel had waited for Moses and had not done that deed [worshipped the golden calf] there would not have been any exiles nor would the angel of death have ruled over them. For thus scripture says: "The writing was the writing of God inscribed (twrx) on the tablets." What does harut mean? R. Judah says, "free (twrx) from exiles." R. Nehemiah says, "free from the angel of death." When Israel said: "All which God said we will do and we will hear," then the Holy One Blessed be He said, "I commanded the first man with a single command that he might keep it and I established him as a ministering angel. For scripture says: 'Behold the man was like one of us' (Gen 3:22). And if these people do and keep the 613 commandments, apart from the inferences of the general rules, the specific cases, and the finer points, is it not logical the they live forever?" . . . But when they said, "These are your gods O Israel" (Ex 32:8) then death came over them. The Holy One Blessed be He said: "You have walked in the manner of the first man who could not withstand temptation for even 3 hours. . . 'I said you were [as] gods' (Ps 82:6) but you walked in the manner of the first man, 'therefore you shall die like Adam'" (Ps 82:7)

This text, like Paul, invokes two central movements in the advent of mortality. It begins with the figure of Adam who broke a commandment that was punishable by death, and concludes with those at Sinai who also consciously chose to disobey such a commandment. But what of those in between? Our midrash over the textual space of the Patriarchal era in silence.

What is striking about the relationship of this midrash to Paul is not the similarity of comparing Adam's sin to the sins of Israel after Sinai, but the highlighting of the difficulties created by the intervening Patriarchal period. What is passed over in silence by Rabbinic midrash assumes center stage in writings of Paul. Paul constructs an exegetical framework that is at one and the same time Jewish and anti-Jewish. The question he engages is this: both Adam and the generation at Sinai heard commandments which were punishable by death if they were disobeyed. But the Patriarchs who lived in between these two eras did not hear any such commandments, thus the sins which they committed should not have led to their death. Yet they all died. How is one to explain this? A consideration of the parallels from Jubilees and the Dead Sea Scrolls give ample indication that this question captured the imagination of early Jewish Biblical interpreters. At one level Paul shares with these Jewish readers a common hermeneutical horizon. Yet there is one rather important difference. Jewish sources always and everywhere attempted to provide scriptural reasons for the legal incongruities of the pre-Sinaitic era. This was a stock and trade item in the tool box of these interpreters. Paul, though familiar with this type of argument, avoids it. In the mind of Paul, unlike the author of Jubilees or the Damascus Covenant, the non-retributive factor that operates in the Patriarchal period is not a problem that needs exegetical explanation; rather it is a model that can be correlated to the present messianic era.

Let us, by way of summary, consider the radicality of the Pauline understanding. As we saw earlier, Exodus 19 stands as a sort of semi-permeable membrane in the Bible. On one side of the divide is the era of the Patriarchs in which the mandates of the Torah are rather casually if not blithely ignored whereas on the other side the centrality of these commandments could hardly be more emphatically underscored ["you shall keep my statutes and ordinances, by doing so one shall live, I am the LORD." (Lev 18:5)] This severe imbalance sought some sort of equilibrium and in virtually any Jewish document one would care to consult, outside of the Pauline correspondence, the tendency was for the ethos if not the norms of Sinai to cross over into the era of the Patriarchs.43 The Torah of Judaism was larger than the Torah of the Bible. The Torah of Judaism was the fundamental mytholegumenon that tied together all parts of the Bible. If Reuben remains unscathed in spite of his violation of a precept of Torah the only explanation must be his ignorance of said violation. His violation is an act of inadvertence and can be assimilated to Sinaitic mores. Is Tamar nearly punished by fire for an act that has not been clearly proscribed nor attached to a definite penalty? Then, our early commentator reasons, Abraham must have given that very command and penalty for its violation a generation back. The fundamental spirit that informs this hermeneutical strategy is one of eros. True, the commands will reveal human sin, but their revelation will also allow for the sanctification of the world. Love for Torah, for its own sake, provides sufficient motivation for these rather ingenious exegetical artifices.

For Paul a quite different mytholegumenon is at work. The fundamental integrating principle of the Bible cannot be obedience to Torah. As a result Paul saw no need to articulate a legally compelling reason for the deaths of those between Adam and Moses. But to what positive end is Paul's argument made? Stated differently, why highlight the incongruity of how death was meted out prior to the law? No doubt because this understanding quite aptly and ably provided a necessary counterpoint to another, more important theme in Paul's Gospel, namely that our release from the tyranny of death is even more incongruous. A merciless despot who destroys irregardless of merit is replaced with a life-giving benefactor who bestows riches regardless of moral stature. In sum, Paul and other Jewish writers of this period were common heirs to a fractured foundational narrative. For Jewish writers the solution, though capable of varying formulation, was singular in nature: The norms of Sinai were somehow brought into alignment with the lives of the Patriarchs. For Paul, this chronological divide and the fracture it created served as the fulcrum upon which he separated the religion of Sinai from that of Abraham. A legacy whose roots can be traced back to those humble caves at Qumran but whose branches extend forward to the present day.


1 Lawrence Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: The History of Judaism, the Background of Chrstianity, the Lost Library of Qumran (New York: Doubleday, 1995). [Back to Text]

2 G. Anderson, "The Status of the Torah in the Pre-Sinaitic Period: The Retelling of the Bible in Jubilees, and the Damascus Covenant," Dead Sea Discoveries, 1 (1994) 1-29. [Back to Text]

3 Perhaps the best treatment of this problem is A. Toeg, Mattan Torah be-Sinai (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1974). [Back to Text]

4 The law revealed at Sinai is doubly problematic. First of all it has not been revealed yet, secondly it contradicts the Genesis text (stoning is prescribed not burning). On this contradiction see L. Finkelstein, "The Book of Jubilees and the Rabbinic Halakha," HTR 16 (1923) 55-57. [Back to Text]

5 De Abrahamo, 5. [Back to Text]

6 D. Daube, The Exodus Pattern in the Bible (London, 1963) pp. 55ff. [Back to Text]

7 J. Nohrnberg has carried this theme one step further (Like unto Moses, (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana Press, 1995) p. 136. He notes that when Moses is saved from the Nile, his own mother is brought to Pharoah's home in order to suckle him: "The servants are doing their masters' living for them, and the roayl house is paying for what ordinarily a child secures for free. For the mother takes wages for nursing her own son. The despoiling of the Eyptians, a motif that turns up three times in the exodus narrative proper (Exod 3:21-22, 11:2, 12:35-36), has already begun." [Back to Text]

8 The translation for this section of Jubilees is that of O. Wintermute in J. Charlesworth, The Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Garden City: Doubleday, 1985) II. [Back to Text]

9 It is certainly significant that Abraham gives these commands in two different places, first to his children at large (Jub. 20) and latter to Isaac alone (21). Isaac, representing the line of election, receives a far more specific set of commands including those commands that pertain to cultic service. [Back to Text]

10 These findings have now been corraborated, in part, by the dissertation of Aharon Semesh of Bar-Ilan University, "Onesh Malqot" (1995) pp. 218-38. [Back to Text]

11 I have discussed the use of this text in far greater detail elsewhere. See my articles, "The Interpretation of the Purification Offering (tafj) in the Temple Scroll (11QT) and Rabbinic Literature," JBL, 111 (1992) 17-35, and "Intentional and Unintentional Sin in the Dead Sea Scrolls." To appear Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom. Edited by D. Wright, D. N. Freedman, and A. Hurvitz, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake IN, 49-64. [Back to Text]

12 On the legal severity of this chapter see A. Toeg, "Num 15:22-31 -- Midrash Halakha" Tarbiz 43 (1974) 16-20. [Back to Text]

13 The text is adapted slightly from the translation of Charles [reworked by Rabin] found in H. Sparks, The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984). [Back to Text]

14 In Rabbinic materials Lev 4 was the general law for the t)+x sacrifice. In contrast, the covenanters at Qumran believed that Lev 4 outlined the prescriptions for the ordination of the High Priest. [Back to Text]

15 On the verb h(t as a marker of inadvertent sin in the scrolls see E. Qimron. [Back to Text]

16 M. Knibb, "Exile in the Damascus Document," JSOT 99 (1983) 99-117. [Back to Text]

17 This was already noted by R. H. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1913) 2: 64, see also the commentary of J. Fitzmyer, Romans (Anchor Bible 33; Garden City: Doubleday, 1993, p. 385. [Back to Text]

18 This peculiar feature of Origens is nicely laid out by T. Heither, Translatio Religionis: Die Paulus deutung des Origenes, (Bonner Beiträge zur Kirchengeschichte 16, Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 1990). She in particular noted that wherever nomos is used in the context of human sin, Origen always understands the law in question as the natural law. In addition see the fine treatment of M. Harl, "Origène et la semantique du langage biblique," Vigiliae Christianae 26 (1972) 161-87. I am indebted to my student R. Layton for assistance in this section of my argument. [Back to Text]

19 J. Scherer, Le Commentaire d'Origène sur Rom iii.5-v.7, (Cairo, 1957) 200. [Back to Text]

20 Commentaire d'Origène, 204. [Back to Text]

21 So the commentary of C. K. Barrett, Romans, p. 49, "In i.19 ff. Paul showed that the Gentile was guilty of a responsible act of rebellion against the Creator; lack of a special revelation did not excuse him. In the same way lack of a revealed law is now seen not to open a way of escape from judgement. The fact is first laid down in general terms: "Those who have sinned outside the sphere of the law ..." The law of Moses is the plainest statment (outside Christian revelation) of the claim of God upon his creatures, but the claim is independent of the statement of it, and failure to acknowledge the claim can never be anything other than culpable." [Back to Text]

22 Chrysostom, PG 53.149 [Back to Text]

23 H. Räisänen, Paul and the Law (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986). [Back to Text]

24 See E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (London, 1977) and, most recently, Paul, the Law and the Jewish People (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983). [Back to Text]

25 The fact that the law gives us such knowledge was already affirmed in Romans 3:20, "for through the law comes the knowledge of sin." But perhaps the most famous expression of this notion is to be found in his letter to the Galatians: "Why then the law? It was added in order [to show us] our transgression (trans mine), until the offspring would come to whom the promise has been made" (3:19) Does this make the law in anyway an evil thing. "Certainly not," Paul asseverates (3:21). Why then the law? On the one hand to show us our trespasses, but also to be our disciplinarian until the coming revelation of Christ (3:23)." [Back to Text]

26 We should also note that this concept of when the Sinaitic laws are revealed has both a personal dimension in addition to its historical one. Earlier my earlier essay ("Torah Before Sinai") I noted that Rashi was able to exonerate the sons of Noah from the coming judgment of the flood by an appeal to their age. Since those sons had not reached the age of majority when they would become accountable to the commandments, they could not be punished with death for violating them. A very similar point is made by Paul in Romans 7:9-13. Only when Paul came of age did the commandments lead to death. Not of course because those laws were bad in and of themselves, but because they exposed his behavior for what it was, sin. [Back to Text]

27 See, in addition, G. Friedrich, "Hamartia ouk ellogeitai, Röm 5,13," TLZ 77 (1952) 523. [Back to Text]

28 The last clause in this verse is particularly problematic and has spawned articles in the hundreds. It is not only difficult from the perspective of what Paul meant but also how Paul was received in the early Church, especially St. Augustine. Our reading reflects the recent article of J. Fitzmyer who has argued on the basis of parallel usages in other Greek writers that the preposition phrase is a "consecutive usage." See J. Fitzmyer, "The Consecutive Meaning of eph' ho' in Romans 5.12," NTS 39 (1993), 321-339. [Back to Text]

29 Verse 19 is one spot where this difficulty is most obvious, for the verse would seem to imply that our present sinfulness is an imputed one, that is one that exists outside the bounds of anything we have done. The remarks of St. Chrysostom are altogether appropriate:

What he says seems indeed to involve no small question: but if any one attends to it diligently, this too will admit of any easy solution. What then is the question? It is the saying that through the offence of one many were made sinners. For the fact that when he had sinned and become mortal, those who were of him should be so also, is nothing unlikely. But how would it follow that from his disobedience another would become a sinner? For at this rate a man of this sort will not even deserve punishment, if, that is, it was not from his own self that he became a sinner. When then does the word "sinners" mean here? To me it seems to mean liable to punishement and condemned to death.

Chrysostom has adopted what New Testament scholars would call a "participationist" view of sin as opposed to a perspective which views sin as "concrete acts". That is, he describes sin as a power whose rule is inaugurated by Adam's disobedience and hence whose effects perdure in even over us inrrespective of what we do. That we were made sinners, Chrysostom argues, is simply elegant short hand for saying we became liable to Adam's punishment and condemned to death. Indeed, Chrysostum's understanding of this verse is simply restated by many NT scholars. For example Barrett notes that the terms "sinners" and "righteous" is verse 19 cannot refer to character, that is one's own deeds. Rather the terms refer to relationship. Thus, "Adam's disobedience did not mean that all men necessarily and without their consent committed particular acts of sin; it meant that they were born into a race which had separated itself from God. Similarly, Christ's obedience did not mean that henceforth men did nothing but righteous acts, but that in Christ they were related to God as Christ himself was related to his Father." p. 117. [Back to Text]

30 Romans, 406. [Back to Text]

31 Against Heresies, IV, 21.10: "For as by one man's disobedience sin entered, and death obtained [a place] through sin; so also by the obedience of one man, righteousness having been introduced, shall cause life to fructify in those persons who in times past were dead." The translation is from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, (Edinburgh, 1868) vol. 5, p. 454. [Back to Text]

32 Melanchton wrote (Corpus reformatorum, Melanchton, XV, 921) : "ubi non est lex, non agnoscitur, non accusatur peccatum in nobis ipsis. Loquitur enim Paulus de judicio nostrae conscientiae." Cited from G. Friedrich, "Hamartia ouk ellogeitai, Röm 5,13," TLZ 77 (1952) 523. [Back to Text]

33 R. Bultmann, Theologie des NT (1948) 248, cited from G. Friedrich, "Hamartia ouk ellogeitai," 523. [Back to Text]

34 C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper and Row, 1957) 112. [Back to Text]

35 C. E. B. Cranfield, "On Some of the Problems in the Interpretation of Romans 5:12," Scottish Journal of Theology 10 (1969), 339. [Back to Text]

36 E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law and the Jewish People, 35-36. [Back to Text]

37 It should occasion no surprise that this section from Corinthians was very important to Origen in regard to his idea that there were two fall, the first being prior to the creation of man. When Adam is created from the dust of the earth in Gen 2:7 he is, according to this reading of Paul, already mortal. [Back to Text]

38 The correlation of the opening and concluding parts of this section were also observed by Barrett, Romans, 118. [Back to Text]

39 It should occasion no surprise that many scholars who find it hard to understand vv. 12-14 also find it hard to understand vv. 20-21. Both are unexpected Jewish legalisms. Bultmann writes ("Adam and Christ According to Romans 5" in W. Klassen, and G Snyder eds., Current Issues in New Testament Interpretation, (New York: Harper and Row, 1962) p. 159.) that "with verse 19 the train of thought could be closed." Verse 20ff lead the discussion back to the law, in Bultmann's view, an idea that had been inaugurated in vv 13-14, but Bultmann derives no importance of this fact for the understanding of Paul's argument. [Back to Text]

40 Käsemann (Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) p. 157) was quite right to emphasize the apocalyptic tone of the language here. The reign of death is not a benevolent one, it exacts its price irregardless of the moral standing of its servants. Its mode of rulership is fundamentally irrational. But so on the other side, in Paul's mind is the reign of grace. It offers its riches in the same irrational fashion, taking no account of human merits in the process. [Back to Text]

41 Aphrahat, Demonstration 22:1-2. The Christus Victor motif follows in 3ff. [Back to Text]

42 The literature on this problem is too massive to cite here. For the nature of the problem in its New Testament context with some reference to early Patristic thought see the useful summary of Fitzmyer, Romans, 409-417. A fine summary of the Patristic usage of this verse in relation to Augustine can be found in See the article of D. Weaver "From Paul to Augustine: Romans 5:12 in Early Christian Exegesis," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 3 (1983) 187-206. He traces the entire history with the only the question of seminal transmissio in view. [Back to Text]

43 One frequently finds, side by side the portrayal of Patriarchal ignorance about the commands given at Sinai, their ability to prefigure them or even know [and teach!] them in detail. [Back to Text]

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