Monday, September 29, 2008

Romans 5:12

(3rd post in a series)

We're discussing the very modern view held by many Christians that animal death is a bad thing and that therefore predation could not have been a part of God's original creation. Two of the Scripture passages used to defend this view are Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. According to Ken Ham,
Physical death and bloodshed of man and animals came into existence after Adam sinned (Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 15).
These two passages say much the same thing, so we'll concentrate our analysis on Romans 5:12. I think it will be easy for my readers to come to a more accurate conclusion--than does Ham--of what this verse is and is not saying. Here's the verse (in part)...
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin...
Let's stop there for a moment. The apostle Paul writes a good deal about death (Greek, thanatos), and often further identifies the death in view. Sometimes, it's "death to sin" or "death to the law." Many other times, he has in mind the spiritual death of humans; occasionally he mentions his own physical death or that of other men. If the "death" here and in Romans 15 is meant to include animal death, these would be the only places in all of his writings where he concerns himself with such. For the moment, let's provisionally accept that this is a possibility, and wait to see if further investigation sheds any light on the issue.

What about the word translated "world?" The Greek word kosmon must--in Ham's view--refer to the entire planet Earth. While this is, in fact, one of the definitions of kosmon in the Greek of New Testament times, it is difficult to find any New Testament passages where this is the most likely meaning. More frequently, the Greek word translated "world" refers to the entire universe, to all humanity, or to a subset of humanity. An example of the latter usage can be found in this very same letter of Paul's. In the greeting, Paul writes (1:8),
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
Theologians and New Testament scholars are unanimous in understanding this "all over the world" to reference a subset of humanity, the people inhabitating the region of the world known at that time to Paul and his readers.

So, before reading the rest of the Romans 5 passage, let's recap what sort of clarifying information we're seeking. The death referred to here could be a number of different things, and we're most interested in whether it explicitly or implicitly includes the physical death of non-human animals. As for "world," we want to discover whether it is best understood as referring to 1) the entire universe, 2) the entire planet Earth (as seemingly required by the view I'm critiquing), 3) all humanity, or 4) a subset of humanity. Now we can read verse 12 in its entirety.
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.
It seems to me that Paul (or the Holy Spirit through Paul) could not have made it much clearer than He did. The definition of kosmon in view here is #3 above--all humanity. Moreover, the death in view is that which comes to all men, and the death which comes as the result of sin (which further identifies it as human death).

Far from supporting the interpretation that there was no animal death before Adam sinned, this passage (like the one in 1 Cor. 15) very carefully and specifically addresses only human death, a death in which all humans share--apart, that is, from the life made available by the Second Adam (of Rom. 5:15 and following), Jesus Christ.

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