Adam the sinner and Christ the righteous one: The theological and exegetical substructure of Romans 5:12-21

David Paul Seemuth, Marquette University


Scholars have recognized for some time that the interpretation of Rom 5:12-21 has been far from clear. Issues dealing with the role of Rom 5:12-21 in the letter, the continuity of the internal structure of the argument, the possible OT background for Paul's thought, the nature of the "Adam typology" of Rom 5:14, and Paul's use of comparison in Rom 5:15-9 have been difficult. This study focuses on these questions and proposes that Rom 5:12-21 forms a summary statement and conclusion of the first part of Paul's argument (Rom 1:18-5:21). Secondly, Paul does not introduce an anacolouthon in Rom 5:12 but has a tightly knit argument which flows freely from Rom 5:12 to Rom 5:13-14. Third, the phrase in Rom 5:12d ($\epsilon\phi$' $\acute\omega$ $\pi\acute\alpha\nu\tau\epsilon\varsigma$ $\eta\mu\alpha\rho\tau o\nu)$ must refer to acts of sin committed by individuals. Fourth, Adam is properly seen as a type of Moses and not, as has been supposed, a type of Christ. Fifth, Rom 5:15-19 is not a comparison between Adam and Christ but between the trespass, the result of life under law, and the gift, the result of life under grace. Paul desires to show that life under grace is vastly superior to life under law. Sixth, the key to interpreting Rom 5:15,17 is found in the kal vahomer argument itself. Once the method of arguing is understood, a solution may be proposed to overcome the difficulties of Paul's thought. Finally, it is imperative that one understand the literary background of Paul which is indicative of Paul's exegetical and theological substructure and upon which he relies. Paul used a method called gezerah shavah, which depends on verbal similarities between two or more texts to link each other, amplifying and interpreting each other. In Rom 5:12-21 Paul appears to rely on Ezekiel 18, Jer 38:29-34 (LXX), Wis 2:10-3:10, and Isaiah 52-53 as sources for his thought. From these texts, which are connected by verbal and thematic links, the background in mind, the flow of thought and the individual points of Paul's argument become clear.

Recommended Citation

Seemuth, David Paul, "Adam the sinner and Christ the righteous one: The theological and exegetical substructure of Romans 5:12-21" (1989). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9014062.