Romans 5:12-14 - The law of sin and death

panta dokimazete

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I saw that this had been discussed earlier, but comments were disabled, so I kicked a new thread off, since I want to discuss where I am landing on these verses.

Romans 5:12–14

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—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (ESV)

I am reading this as a contrast between the Mosaic Law and what I believe Paul is describing as the original "law of sin and death" (Rom 8:2). That is, Paul is stating that even though the Mosaic law had not yet been given, all died because they violated God's foundational law, which Jesus identified as "love God and love your neighbor", as well as through the imputed sin of Adam.

I also think that "but sin" should be translated as "and sin", as it is in YLT, which may better contextualize this view.

Thanks, in advance, for your considered response.
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panta dokimazete

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I was thinking about how the foundational law of sin and death (love God and your neighbor) applies to Adam:
  1. He didn't love God (He sinned/disobeyed)
  2. He didn't love his neighbor (imputing sin and death to all of us)


The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
JD, could Paul be waxing rhetorical? It seems Paul is stating that the Law was in effect despite the revelation of the Decalogue coming after Adam. Yes, the Decalogue was specifically written in stone during Moses but... Death reigned from Adam because it was in effect.

I also note that the Moral Law given to Adam was placed in a specific context. That context no longer exists. Adam destroyed that possibility. He broke the Covenant that was given to Adam. I would also ask you to consider Romans 7 as there is a lot there to unpack concerning your question I believe.

Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Rom 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
Rom 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Rom 7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
Rom 7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Rom 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Rom 7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

panta dokimazete

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thanks for the response!

I don’t think he was necessarily being rhetorical, but I do think he expected some sense of understanding that Adam broke the first Covenant (obey and prosper, or disobey and die) by violating the foundational law (love God and your neighbor) and that law was in effect as the rule for pre-Mosaic Law people.

Whereas the Mosaic came to be an explicit tutor, the foundational law was meant as the superseding justification for wrath and punishment.