As you may be aware the thesis that I am writing is titled “Creation Waits: The Pauline Interpretation of the Book of Genesis in the Epistle to the Romans with Emphasis on 8.1-25″. I may be finding what I am seeking simply because I seek to find it, but I am more and more convinced that much of the language used by the Apostle in this epistle is shaped by his interaction with Genesis-motifs (I would add the Book of Isaiah as well). For a long time I had read the reference to “the law of sin and death” (τοῦ νόμου τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ τοῦ θανάτου) in Rom. 8.2 to be in the context of the Law of Moses which is mentioned throughout the epistle as well. Now I think this statement has Gen. 2.17 in mind.
Is the “law of sin and death” a reference to the Law of Moses? Maybe in some sense, but it would be indirect. I think there is a better contender. In Gen. 2.17 we have God announcing that if humans disobey his commandments “you will certainly die”. This cause-and-effect has been established since the Garden of Eden.
In this epistle we have a very obvious Adam-Christ contrast in 5. 12-21, but I postulate that it can be found through the entire epistle beginning with the underlying Adamic themes in 1.18-23 (read this passage with Gen. 1.20-27 and 3.4 in mind) and ending with the cryptic echo of Gen. 3.15 in Rom. 16.20a where it is written, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet”.
In the seventh chapter we see the Apostle merging a personification of Adam/Eve with the negative impact of the Law of Moses upon sinful humans. So when we get to 8.2 we may see the Law as playing into this, but not as the primary referent. No, rather the Apostle has Eden in mind.
The nomos of sin and death is that sin results in death. There is only one “law” that can override this: “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”. Why? It is resurrection that overrides death. Christ’s atoning work has made it so that when the curse of Gen. 2.17 is enacted death cannot keep us down. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in believers (even now, in this age) so it is not possible for us to remain dead, like it was not possible to Christ to remain dead (8.11).
The Adamic cry that all humans share—“Wretched person that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?” (7.24)—is answered by the promise that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (8.1)
Even here in 8.2 the contrast between Adam and Christ is seen. Adam’s sin initiated the “law of sin and death”. Christ’s obedience initiates “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”. For a broader commentary by the Apostle on this subject that seems to go well with what I am saying here read 1 Cor. 15.45-49.
If you continue on this trajectory you might end up in covenant theology. Of course, you are not stating anything particularly unique to covenant theology at this point. But if you were to see a strong correspondence between Adam and Christ, you will see Christ doing what Adam failed to and that is crushing the head the of the serpent and securing life for all his seed, which should have been Adam’s response in the garden. This is the basic framework for a covenant of works. The victory of Christ is what represents those in Christ, while the failure of Adam represents those outside of Christ. In this sense, that is what covenant theology means by saying Christ earned salvation for us, just like we would have said Adam earned life (but instead forfeited life) for us through the crushing of the serpents head. You alluded to this slightly, but the next step would be to see the correspondence between Adam and Israel and dealing with the issue of law there.
@Casey: I don’t know if I am moving toward covenant theology or not (every time I think I am in a system the people in that system tell me that I am not), but I do see Adam-Israel in relation in Rom. 1-3. In 1.18-32 we have all humanity embodying the rebellion of Adam (following Morna Hooker and James D.G. Dunn here), which leads to the second and third chapter spelling out how Israel herself is also Adamic and therefore in need of the Messiah. Is this the take of those who hold to covenant theology?
I’ve always understood the law of sin and death to be a general “principle” or operating power, so to speak, without a particular referent, but your suggestion of Gen 2:17 is interesting. Perhaps when you’re finished with your thesis, I might be so graced as to read it? 🙂
Your turn around is quick! So I read your blog often and I promised myself I would start commenting and not merely observe. I do drop by everyday.
To answer your question, I would say yes but as with any system there is a spectrum. I have not read Dunn or Hooker but I agree with their conclusions above. The relationship between Israel and Adam that I had in mind though had more to do with their covenant parallels, which some call a republication of works. To be honest, I am not entirely sure where I land yet so this rant is just me thinking out loud.
Israel is surely Adamic but there were those who walked in the Abrahamic footsteps of faith (Romans 4:12) and in that case were no longer under the Adamic curse of eternal death (I am reading this back into the text), yet who would still suffer for the national curse of Israel’s covenant breaking.
The Adam-Israel connection I had in mind has to with Israel’s obedience in securing life in the land in comparison to Adam’s obedience in securing life in the garden. The covenant God made with Adam was essentially the same he made with Israel; obedience unto life and disobedience unto death. Israel’s election in the end sets the stage for a global redeemer, which deals with the problem of Adam. You could say Israel’s national-geographic problem is representative of the international-global problem. I like how Meredith Kline puts it, “Israel as the theocratic nation was mankind stationed once again in a paradise-sanctuary, under probation in a covenant of works. In the context of that situation, the Incarnation event was legible; apart from it the meaning of the appearing and ministry of the Son of Man would hardly have been perspicuous. Because of the congruence between Jesus’ particular historical identity as the true Israel, born under the law, and his universally relevant role as the second Adam, the significance of his mission as the accomplishing of a probationary assignment in a works covenant in behalf of the elect of all ages was lucidly expressed and readily readable. Much more than the works-probation aspect of Jesus’ task was included in the revelatory design of the typal kingdom. It prepared a public context in world history in which the meaning of Jesus’ mission as a whole might be communicated effectively.”
@Jason: Indeed, but that won’t be until much later this year. I will drop pieces here and there on this blog.
@Casey: It does seem to go both ways. Israel is in Adam, yet to be saved means, in some sense, to be in Israel (a tension which 9-11 addresses as it shows that not all Israel is really Israel yet Gentiles must be graphed into Israel to be part of the people of God)! I think this is why the Apostle goes back to Adam as the archtype for rebellious humanity and Christ as the archtype for those who are in right standing with God. Some “Israel” is in Adam, yet to be in “Israel” (those who are saved, including the remnant and in-graphed Gentiles) one must be “in Christ”, the true Israel.
Thanks for commenting! I am enjoying this interaction so don’t be a stranger.
This raises an interesting question within the recent topic on “hell.” If Paul’s referral is to sin / death… wages of sin is death; in what manner does Paul understand the final state of the unsaved.
@Craig: Interesting question, but I don’t know if I have an answer here. Paul mentions “wrath”, but this is very ambiguous. Paul equates salvation with resurrection and death seems to be punishment. It is interesting that he seems to stop there.
Good stuff! Well, since Paul was preoccupied with covenant and creation, from the old to the new, then I can appreciate what you’re arguing.
@T.C.: Thanks! I will be writing more on my Genesis-in-Romans reading as I work through my thesis.
Nice, question, Who are getting the most help from?
I am currently reading Richard Hays’ Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. I learned a lot from J.R. Daniel Kirk’s Unlocking Romans and then others like N.T. Wright, Morna Hooker, James D.G. Dunn, Gary Anderson, Peter Bouteneff, R.R. Reno, and Walter Brueggemann. Interestingly enough, it has been the last four and other OT scholars who seem to pick up the echoes fairly easy while many NT commentators seem to miss these things.
I should add that Athansius and Irenaeus were also helpful because their canonical approached opened my eyes to intertestamental echoes and I gained much from Levison’s Filled with the Spirit.
This reminds me of a journal article on the similar phrasing in 1 Cor 15 (linking law, sin & death) – titled somethinge like “an edenic triad,” and as I recall it’s by Vlachos. Have you come across it? Might be worth interacting with it 🙂
@Matthew: I have not come across that but I will look for it now. Do you remember what journal? I have noticed many connections between Rom. 8 and 1 Cor. 15.
Solid sources. Tell me, Where in Iranaeus and Athansius? I’ve taken great interest in these guys in the last few months.
@T.C.: For Athanasius it was in his Letters to Serapion on the Holy Spirit for which I wrote an introduction here. Unfortunately, it has been translated into English only once by C.R.B Shapland and it is hard to find copies (though being down in the LA area will afford you more library options).
For Irenaeus it would be in Against Heresies in one of the very last books, but I don’t have a copy nearby and it appears the Christian Classics Ethereal Library is off-line right now so I can’t search it.
My own very brief thoughts are here: http://cryptotheology.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/1-cor-15-as-forerunner-to-romans-7/
The article I mentioned can be found here: http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/47/47-2/47-2-pp277-298_JETS.pdf
Thanks bro. I’ll definitely have to put these on my reading list.
@Matt: Awesome, thanks! I will look at both later this morning.
@T.C.: You’re welcome!
This is a great article!! I am especially impressed by your revelation on disobedience bringing death—this is exactly what Paul said. If by one man’s disobedience sin entered the world and death reigned–much more by one Man’s obedience “life” reigns. We need to individually take that to heart. Jesus said to those that claimed to heal the sick, prophesy, and cast out devils that He never knew them because they did not do the will of His Father. WOW!
I have been led to study this subject and have been meditating on it for some time, this just adds to what the Lord has revealed. Truly if we yield our members as instruments of righteousness and sin not, there is no condemnation for us and we are legally and (can experientially) live under the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus that has set us free from the law of sin and death. YAY!! Glory!!
The “law of sin and death” is not written in Genesis. See Romans 10:5; & Galatians 3:12. The original is Leviticus 18:5. The law revolves around 2 words…”do” & “live”. The opposite is “sin” & “die”. This law was salvation by works, which is why it became death to all who come short. The law of Christ is salvation by faith, which why it becomes life (eternally) to believers.
Only Jesus was able to do & live. This is shown by His sinless perfection and death defying resurrection. God made a Way to get credit for Jesus’ perfection and resurrection by faith.
Eternal Salvation by works never existed as a concept in OT. Salvation carries a few different meaning in the OT. Salvation from a premature death ,salvation from death by the first resurrection which provides a prolonged life in the land promised as a possession to Abraham and salvation from certain eternal death by not being worthy to be in the presence of the Elohim for Judgement which Grace was given on the account of Yahshua allowing Him to mediate for us at judgement.
Before Yahshua’s perfect sacrifice as the Lamb ,salvation was through faith that the animal sacrifices pointed to the perfected sacrifice . The law of sacrifices was added because of transgressions to the Commandments which we see from Able it was added right after Adam sinned.
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