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There is already a question about a possible contradiction between Romans 5:12 and 5:15, but this question focuses exclusively on the translation of 5:12 (which may inadvertently also answer the other question).

Compare these translations:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (KJV)....

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 (ESV)....

On account of this as if through one man the sin into the world entered, and through the sin death; and thus to all men death went through, because by which reason all sinned (ABP)....

Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to everyone. because {of which} all sinned (EOB)....

Διὰ τοῦτο ὥσπερ δι’ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ἡ ἁμαρτία εἰς τὸν κόσμον εἰσῆλθεν καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος, καὶ οὕτως εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὁ θάνατος διῆλθεν, ἐφ’ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον (NA28

I recently read the following in an article by John S. Romanides1 (below footnotes renumbered and retained from original article):

From what has been observed, the famous expression, eph'ho pantes hemarton [(ἐφ’ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον)], can be safely interpreted as modifying the word, thanatos [(θάνατος)], which precedes it, and which grammatically is the only word which fits the context. Eph'ho [(ἐφ’ ᾧ)] as a reference to Adam is both grammatically and exegetically impossible. Such an interpretation was first introduced by Origen, who obviously used it with a purpose in mind, because he believed in the pre-existence of all souls whereby he could easily say that all sinned in Adam. The interpretation of eph'ho [(ἐφ’ ᾧ)] as "because" was first introduced into the East by Photius,2 who claims that there are two interpretations prevalent—Adam and thanatos [(θάνατος)]—but he would interpret it dioti ([διότι,] because). He bases his argument on a false interpretation of II Corinthians 5:4 by interpreting eph'ho [(ἐφ’ ᾧ)], here again, as dioti [(διότι)]. But here it is quite clear that eph'ho [(ἐφ’ ᾧ)] refers to skenei [σκήνει] ([ἐφ’ ᾧ (σκήνει) οὐ θέλομεν ἐκδύσασθαι], eph'ho (skenei) ou thelomen ekdysasthai). Photius is interpreting Paul within the framework of natural moral law and is seeking to justify the death of all men by personal guilt. He claims that all men die because they sin by following in the footsteps of Adam.3 However, neither he nor any of the Eastern Fathers accepts the teaching that all men are made guilty for the sin of Adam.

From purely grammatical considerations it is impossible to interpret eph'ho [(ἐφ’ ᾧ)] as a reference to any word other than thanatos [(θάνατος)]. Each time the grammatical construction of the preposition epi [(ἐπί)] with the dative is used by Paul, it is always used as a relative pronoun which modifies a preceding noun4 or phrase.5 To make an exception in Romans 5:12 by making St. Paul use the wrong Greek expression to express the idea, "because," is to beg the issue. The correct interpretation of this passage, both grammatically and exegetically, can be supplied only when eph'ho [(ἐφ’ ᾧ)] is understood to modify thanatos [(θάνατος)]—kai houtos eis pantas anthropous ho thanatos dielthen eph'ho (thanato) pantes hemarton [(καὶ οὕτως εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὁ θάνατος διῆλθεν, ἐφ’ ᾧ (θάνατο) πάντες ἥμαρτον)]—"because of which" (death), or "on the basis of which" (death), or "for which (death) all have sinned." Satan, being himself the principle of sin, through death and corruption involves all of humanity and creation in sin and death. Thus, to be under the power of death according to Paul is to be a slave to the devil and a sinner, because of the inability of the flesh to live according to the law of God, which is selfless love.1

Which is the better translation (focus on the linguistic aspects of the text and theological issues present in the original context, not on later soteriological ideas read back into the text)?


1 John S. Romanides, "Original Sin According to Saint Paul", St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, Vol. IV, Nos. 1 and 2, 1955-6.

2 Amphilochia, heroteseis, 84, Migne, P.G.t. 101, c. 553-556.

3 Ecumenius, extracts from Photius, Migne, P.G.t. 118, c. 418.

4 Rom. 9:33; 10:19; 15:12; II Cor. 5:4; Rom. 6:21.

5 Phil. 4:10.

  • 3
    Fight! ;) Re: ἐφ᾽ ᾧ - Sanday & Headlam, p. 133: "Though this expression has been much fought over there can now be little doubt that the true rendering is 'because'." / James Denney, p. 627: "ἐφ᾽ ᾧ means propterea quod [because] as in 2 Cor. v. 4 and perhaps in Phil. iii. 12." Both have full and nuanced discussions (also noting the need to take the link to v. 13 into account) that contribute nicely to this question. – Dɑvïd Dec 30 '14 at 12:54
  • Διὰ τοῦτο ὥσπερ δι’ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ἡ ἁμαρτία εἰς τὸν κόσμον εἰσῆλθεν καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος, καὶ οὕτως εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὁ θάνατος διῆλθεν, ἐφ’ πάντες ἥμαρτον· What is τοῦτο? All that Paul developed in reference coming to the verse. No other neuter word is used but τοῦτο. θάνατος is masculine. And is neuter rel. pron. What is wrong connecting ἐφ’ ᾧ with τοῦτο meaning: ἐφ’ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον is the result of διὰ τοῦτο without Christ. Greetings from Germany! Great blog and many thanx! – user6740 Jan 20 '15 at 22:22
  • I think you probably understand this, but Prof. Romanides is not presenting his private interpretation of the text; he is explaining how the passage is understood by the entire eastern Orthodox Church, to which most, if not all, the Greek churches mentioned throughout the New Testament have continued to belong for the past two millennia. – user33515 Mar 29 '17 at 20:58
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This verse happens to appear in the portion of Scripture that is a key part of my dissertation. This is all my own work (and thinking through Romanides's examples helped solidify further my own take on the verse that I had previously come to).

Romanides's Errors

Romanides makes some errors in his argument that should be exposed. Your quote from him was as follows (note: I've incorporated the footnote info in brackets here to ease the discussion):

Each time the grammatical construction of the preposition epi [(ἐπί)] with the dative is used by Paul, it is always used as a relative pronoun which modifies a preceding noun [Rom. 9:33; 10:19; 15:12; II Cor. 5:4; Rom. 6:21] or phrase [Phil. 4:10].


First, it is a little unclear to me when Romanides says "it is always used as a relative pronoun" if he intends the "it" to refer to the relative pronoun itself in the dative case, or if he intends the "it" to refer to the whole prepositional construction. I believe he intends the second, based on his examples, but in either case he would be in error.

If he in fact intends the first idea, then three of his "preceding noun" proofs are not proofs at all, because they are not constructions using a relative pronoun. They are Rom 9:33 (ἐπʼ αὐτῷ), 10:19 (ἐπʼ οὐκ ἔθνει, ἐπʼ ἔθνει ἀσυνέτῳ), 15:12 (ἐπʼ αὐτῷ); so two using a personal pronoun and one using no pronouns at all. This seems too obvious, and thus why I believe he intends the second idea.

However, if he intends the second idea, he is still in error with the same three verses, as the prepositional phrase does not act as a relative pronoun at all in those verses. It should also be noted that all three of those verses are intended by Paul as quotations (or at least references back to prior Scripture), so the wording is not strictly showing Paul's "usage" anyway, as it would be influenced by what he is referencing.

In two verses it acts as the direct object of who is believed in (Rom 9:33) or hoped upon (Rom 15:12):

Rom 9:33 (NKJV/NA28)

As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

καθὼς γέγραπται· ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον προσκόμματος καὶ πέτραν σκανδάλου, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται.

Rom 15:12 (NKJV/NA28)

καὶ πάλιν Ἠσαΐας λέγει· ἔσται ἡ ῥίζα τοῦ Ἰεσσαὶ καὶ ὁ ἀνιστάμενος ἄρχειν ἐθνῶν, ἐπʼ αὐτῷ ἔθνη ἐλπιοῦσιν.

And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope.” (NKJV)

It is an adverbial modifier of means/agency in Rom 10:19. It should also be stated that the second of the two uses here precedes that which it modifies in the Greek, so Romanides is also in error about the construction always relating to something (noun or phrase) that preceded the preposition's usage.

Rom 10:19 (NKJV/NA28)

But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”

ἀλλὰ λέγω, μὴ Ἰσραὴλ οὐκ ἔγνω; πρῶτος Μωϋσῆς λέγει· ἐγὼ παραζηλώσω ὑμᾶς ἐπʼ οὐκ ἔθνει, ἐπʼ ἔθνει ἀσυνέτῳ παροργιῶ ὑμᾶς.


Second, the remaining two "preceding noun" proofs have the correct grammatical construction, but I would argue should be included as proof of reference to a "preceding ... phrase" along with Phil 4:10. Note in all three of these cases the object of the preposition is itself the relative pronoun, and that is what makes the phrase function in a relative sense at all. For the translations here, I still use the NKJV, but have amended it with my own translation of the phrase to better see where it functions. I have also bolded both the prepositional phrase and what the relative pronoun points back to, and also included the referent of ᾧ inside curly braces {} .

2 Cor 5:4 (NKJV [+mine]/NA28)

For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because [of which] we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

καὶ γὰρ {οἱ ὄντες ἐν τῷ σκήνει} στενάζομεν βαρούμενοι, ἐφʼ ᾧ οὐ θέλομεν ἐκδύσασθαι ἀλλʼ ἐπενδύσασθαι, ἵνα καταποθῇ τὸ θνητὸν ὑπὸ τῆς ζωῆς.

The relative phrase beginning with ἐφʼ ᾧ here is explaining why they feel burdened and are groaning but also that it is for more clothing not less. It is "not because [being in a tent] we want to be unclothed, but further clothed." The ᾧ is referring back to being in a tent, not simply the preceding noun of the "tent" (σκήνει) itself (as Romanides appears to assert), but the whole concept of people being in an "earthly house" (v.1), which 2 Cor 4 demonstrates is referring to the physical body. So this refers back to a preceding phrase, not a noun.

Rom 6:19-21 (NKJV [+mine]/NA28)

I include v.19 and v.20 here because v.19 is where the referent resides.

19I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as {you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness,} so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21What fruit did you have then [because of] the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

19Ἀνθρώπινον λέγω διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν. ὥσπερ γὰρ {παρεστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἀνομίᾳ εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν,} οὕτως νῦν παραστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ εἰς ἁγιασμόν. 20ὅτε γὰρ δοῦλοι ἦτε τῆς ἁμαρτίας, ἐλεύθεροι ἦτε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ. 21τίνα οὖν καρπὸν εἴχετε τότε; ἐφʼ οἷς νῦν ἐπαισχύνεσθε, τὸ γὰρ τέλος ἐκείνων θάνατος.

The relative phrase beginning with ἐφʼ οἷς here is explaining why they have shame in fruit they bore. The plural οἷς does not refer back to the singular nown "fruit" (καρπὸν), which must be Romanides view since he classifies this as referring back to the "preceding noun." Granted, "fruit" can have a collective meaning, and a plural could theoretically be used to refer back to it. But the "fruit" is what is itself being explained by the relative referent that caused the fruit. The two things (plural) that bore the fruit are found back in v.19, uncleanness and lawlessness, which they had served. So this refers back to a preceding phrase in v.19, not a noun.

Romanides potentially makes one correct parallel (potential, because I am not certain what phrase he is keying to), which I'll include here for completeness and because it relates to the two verses preveiously discussed.

Phil 4:9-10 (NKJV [+mine]/NA28)

I include v.9 here because it is where the referent resides.

9{The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me}, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. 10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; [because of which] you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.

9{ἃ καὶ ἐμάθετε καὶ παρελάβετε καὶ ἠκούσατε καὶ εἴδετε ἐν ἐμοί}, ταῦτα πράσσετε· καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθʼ ὑμῶν. 10Ἐχάρην δὲ ἐν κυρίῳ μεγάλως ὅτι ἤδη ποτὲ ἀνεθάλετε τὸ ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ φρονεῖν, ἐφʼ ᾧ καὶ ἐφρονεῖτε, ἠκαιρεῖσθε δέ.

The relative phrase beginning with ἐφʼ ᾧ here is explaining why the Philippians "surely did care" about Paul and thus why that care was flourishing. He does not use the plural οἷς here to refer back to these four things (as he did in Rom 6:21) because he is not referring back to each of the individual things as why they cared, but rather the sum total of all four of them (i.e. Paul's ministry to them).

Important Observations and Grammatical Considerations

There are three important observations from the analysis above.

  1. The ἐφʼ ᾧ (or plural form οἷς) construction exclusively used by Paul to refer back to a previous concept expressed in a phrase or clause (more than just a single word) that preceded.
  2. The concept is always somewhat "distant" from the ἐφʼ ᾧ, meaning the relative pronoun never refers to the immediately preceding topic, but in fact refers to a topic prior to that, for the immediately preceding topic is the one being explained with help of the more distant referent being combined into a new relationship to what follows.
  3. Related to #2, each ἐφʼ ᾧ gives a ground cause for the immediately preceding statement by the prepositional phrase, but the relative pronoun is actually functioning within the prepositional phrase to modify the following part of that phrase as well. To illustrate this, the core idea of the three verses above can be rewritten to show logic of how this construction is working.

    2 Cor 5:4 We are not desiring to be unclothed because of the fact that {we are dwelling in a tent}, but further clothed, and so we are burdened and groan.

    Rom 6:21 You are now ashamed because of {uncleanness and lawlessness}, and so what fruit do you have then?

    Phil 4:10 You surely did care for me because of the fact of {the things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me}, and so now at last your care for me has flourished again.

This can be confirmed as a valid understanding by piecing together some grammatical considerations.

  1. The preposition ἐπί with the dative case can be a "marker of basis for a state of being, action, or result" (BDAG, s.v. ἐπί, 6).
  2. The dative itself can be used to indicate cause (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics [Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999], 167).
  3. The neuter relative pronoun can look back to a whole clause (BDAG, s.v. ὅς, 1.g.β).
  4. The relative pronoun used with a preposition can produce a "kind of conjunction" (BDAG, s.v. ὅς, 1.k, esp. 1.k.δ for ἐφʼ ᾧ), and when so used, it "either has no antecedent, or else its antecedent is conceptual, not grammatical" (Wallace, 342; emphasis added).

Having a conceptual antecedent does not mean, however, that the concept should be considered missing from the context. So in fact in these instances, evidence shows the antecedent concept is just a step before the relative reference. Essentially, Paul's usage appears to be mapped like so:

[Concept #1] [Concept #2] [ἐφʼ ᾧ] [Concept #3]

The construction is then following this logic:

  1. The neuter relative pronoun ᾧ refers back to [Concept #1] (or concepts, in the case of the plural relative).
  2. The use of the dative relative pronoun is functioning within the propositional phrase to indicate that [Concept #1] also relates to the cause of [Concept #3], and it is [Concept #1] causing [Concept #3].
  3. The prepositional phrase itself, using the contracted preposition ἐπί (ἐφʼ) with the dative indicates it is giving a basis or ground for [Concept #2], but it is doing so by connecting the basis not just to [Concept #1] but also [Concept #3], so [Concept #1] causing [Concept #3] that causes [Concept #2].

(Perhaps at some point I or someone may be able to examine extra biblical evidence to support this same formatting and construction of conceptual connection. My dissertation is not about this at all, but I did need to think through what Rom 5:12 was saying to fit with my argument for Rom 5:12-21 that I am making in my dissertation.)

Applying to Romans 5:12

Romans 5:12 matches both the observations above, as well as the greater scope of revelation regarding the relation of sin and death when so viewed.

Romans 5:12 (NA28/my translation [brackets inferred])

Διὰ τοῦτο ὥσπερ {διʼ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ἡ ἁμαρτία εἰς τὸν κόσμον εἰσῆλθεν καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος,} καὶ οὕτως εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὁ θάνατος διῆλθεν, ἐφʼ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον·

Because of this, just as {through one man sin entered the world and through sin [is] death,} and so upon all men death spread, because of which fact [i.e. sin entering and bringing death] all sinned.

The relative phrase beginning with ἐφʼ ᾧ here is explaining why death comes to all. Applying observation #1, we are looking for a phrase/clause concept, not a single word. Applying observation #2, we are looking for this concept to be distant, preceding that which immediately preceded the prepositional phrase itself. Applying observation #3, we need to relate the prepositional phrase itself directly with that which follows. I have attempted to reflect this in my translation, but it will be helpful to reword the thought as I did for the other verses noted when giving observation #3.

All sinned because of the fact that {through one man sin entered the world and through sin [is] death}, and so upon all men death spread.

Why all sin is because sin entered, but why all die is because death came as the consequence of sin. So the combined thought is needed here to link both concepts (sin and death) the phrase is related to.

Theologically, the thought matches Romans 3:23 (that all sinned). It matches what Romans 5 indicates about death, that it comes because of sin itself being in the world from Adam's transgression (v.12, 15, 17-18), not because of accounting others' individual transgressions (v.13-14).

But how is it so that "all sinned" (past tense) because of Adam's sin? How does the mere presence of sin entering the world cause all to be considered as having sinned? It is because the nature of mankind was changed at that point, and mankind lost the aspect of being righteous "like God" had designed mankind to be (Rom 1:18-19; cf. Gen 1:26). Instead, as Romans 5 related prior to this, mankind became by nature "without strength" (v.6), "ungodly" (v.6), "sinners" (v.8), and "enemies" to God (v.10). A person does not need to transgress God's law (v.13) to still be otherwise sinful against that person's God intended nature (v.14), which nature changed because of the sin of the first member and head of the humanity, Adam.

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  • You do realize that Prof. Romanides was Greek and he taught theology in Greek in Greece, right? – user33515 Mar 7 '17 at 4:51
  • @user33515: I'm not quite sure about the relevance of your statement. While credentials are great (I have some of my own), it does not make a person infallible in interpretation. So whatever his credentials, he can be in error just like any other human can be. From my analysis, Romanides was in error here, so I set forth to demonstrate that. – ScottS Mar 8 '17 at 18:20
  • I guess I am still surprised. He was a pre-eminent theologian within the Greek Orthodox Church. His interpretation of the Greek is consistent with how Greek Orthodox theologians interpret the passage today and have interpreted in the past. You are maintaining that their understanding of New Testament Greek is somehow impaired. – user33515 Mar 8 '17 at 21:29
  • Are there any Greek Church Fathers that seem to read the verse the way you do, given the way they comment on it? – user33515 Mar 8 '17 at 21:30
  • @ScottS "Because of this, just as {through one man sin entered the world and through sin [is] death,} and so upon all men death spread, because of which fact [i.e. sin entering and bringing death] all sinned." (~ScottS) Like your reading, this is my understanding of it, also, but your reading is clearer. But why must we read it as "because" ... "Through to~this [matter], as-just through one man the failing into the regulated-world had into-come, and through the failing, the death, and thus, for’ all men the death had through-come, on which~a [matter] all [men] had failed;" (~robin) – robin Dec 14 '17 at 22:08
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Eastern/Greek Interpretation

Professor Romanides' explanation of the text is not his own private interpretation, but is an explanation of how Romans 5:12 is understood by the Greek Orthodox (as well as the greater Eastern Orthodox) Church today and, the Orthodox would maintain, has always been understood in the east when correctly interpreted. (John Romanides was a prominent 20th century Orthodox theologian and served as a professor of Orthodox dogmatic theology in Greece, at the University of Thessoloniki). This is the reason that you see agreement with Prof. Romanides' interpretation in the EOB version of the verse (also reflected in the KJV), but disagreement in some of the Protestant Bible versions you quote. Agreement can also be found in The Orthodox New Testament, which reads:

Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death passed to all men, on account of which all have sinned

The necessity to see something other than what the Orthodox see in the text stems, I think, from a fundamental difference between the Orthodox understanding of the consequences of the Fall of Adam on the one hand, and the Roman Catholic understanding - which emerged more or less unscathed in the Reformation - on the other. In the Orthodox understanding, death is primarily what was inherited from Adam; in the western understanding, it was Adam's guilt that was inherited.

The late Archbishop Dmitri Royster explains the verse from the Orthodox perspective in his book, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans: A Pastoral Commentary:

Death then, is what all men have inherited form their forefather Adam; because of sin's being unleashed in the world, all men were in a sinful state: all have sinned and all die. Do all men inherit Adam's guilt? The consensus of the holy fathers is no, they do not. St. Symeon the New Theologian (Discourse V, No.11) admonishes us: "Whenever, then, we fall into any kind of sin, let no one accuse and blame Adam, but rather himself." In other words, all men sin, and being responsible for their own works and deeds, they all die. As the Apostle will tell us later (6:23), "The wages of sin is death."1

The author acknowledges the controversy surrounding the translation:

Concerning the vocabulary of this crucial verse, it should be noted that it has been argued by some (Origen, for example; op. cit., Book 5, chap. 1, no. 3) that the introductory "therefore" (dia touto) does not, in fact, connect the present verse with the foregoing. "As" translates the Greek hōsper; "by one man" translates di' henos anthrōpou, the henos being literally, numerically "one." "Entered into" translates Greek eisēlthen, and in some texts, diēlthen, from eiserchomai and dierchomai respectively. "By sin" is dia tēs hamartias, and "death," thanatos. There has been much controversy about how to read Greek eph' (epi), here in the KJV translated correctly as "for that", or "for which", or even better "because of which," referring to death in "because of death all have sinned," since eph' (epi) is causal. (See also 2 Corinthians 5:4; Philippians 3:13; 4:10 for other examples.) Some interpreters have translated it as "in whom," making it refer to Adam (see Origen, ibid., and the Venerable Bede, Homilies on the Gospels, Sermon 11.)2

Western Interpretation

The alternative translation suggested in one other answer and in some of the versions quoted does have solid support in how this verse was understood in the west by non-Greeks and later translated into Latin:

Propterea sicut per unum hominem peccatum in hunc mundum intravit, et per peccatum mors, et ita in omnes homines mors pertransiit, in quo omnes peccaverunt.

which, rendered into English via the Douay-Rheims translation, reads:

Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.

where the masculine relative pronoun qui rather than the neuter quod is used to translate εφ ω. A footnote to Michael Pomazanski's Orthodox Dogmatic Theology states:

The term "original sin" itself comes from Blessed Augustine's treatise De Peccato Originale [On Original Sin], and a few people imagine that merely to use this term implies acceptance of Augustine's exaggerations of this doctrine. This, of course, need not be the case ["ancestral sin" is the term preferred by Orthodox theologians].

The Latin exaggeration of the doctrine may be seen to have derived, at least in part, from a Latin mistranslation of Romans 5:12: "And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." The Latin translation of the latter clause, "in whom all have sinned," overstates the doctrine and might be interpreted to imply that all men are guilty of Adam's sin.3


1 pp.131-132
2 Ibid., pp.132
3 p. 169n (3rd ed.)

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The Idea in Brief

The American Standard Version (ASV) provides a near literal translation, which appears to be very accurate.

Romans 5:12 (ASV)
12 Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that [reason] all sinned:—

The death here is not just physical, but spiritual; that is, Adam's original sin precipitated spiritual death, which is absolute cosmological separation from the life and presence of God. In other words, all people from Adam onward who are born in this cosmological sphere of spiritual death are de facto sinners, and thus the normal plain reading of the ASV stands correct.

The following paragraphs will provide the grammatical analysis for this view, and then an analysis through the use of visual illustrations.

Discussion

Grammatical Analysis

There are only six (6) instances in the 28th Edition of the Greek New Testament where the preposition ἐπί (e-pē') captures some form of the relative pronoun in the dative case. These instances provide perspective on understanding the problem, and all but one are from Paul's writings.

Please click on the image below to view these occurrences.

enter image description here
The NASB is one of the most literal translations for verbal equivalence. In this image above, the NASB captures the literal sense except just for three verses (noted below). That is, the NASB could have been consistent and translated the following three verses as follows.

  • Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because OF WHICH [DEATH] all sinned—
  • 2 Cor 5:4 - For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because OF WHICH [TENT] we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.
  • Phil 4:10 - But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, BECAUSE OF WHICH [CONCERN] you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.

As already noted, an acceptable translation of this verse appears in the ASV.

Romans 5:12 (ASV)
12 Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that [reason] all sinned:—

The verse avers that spiritual death came through Adam; and this spiritual death is the reason that all (everyone) are sinners: that is, they are all born in absolute cosmological separation from the life and presence of God, because of which they have incurred the sin of Adam. Thus everyone is born a de facto sinner.

Graphic Illustrations

The translation of Romans 5:12 in the ASV is the best because of the wider context of Romans 5, which is difficult to understand. In the chapter, Paul is juxtaposing at least five major factors at the same time: Adam/Jesus; disobedience/obedience; death/life; transgression/grace; and condemnation/justification. The following schematic illustrations bring these juxtapositions together visually but in a simplified manner, which helps to understand why the ASV provides the most accurate translation of Romans 5:12.

First, all are born spiritually dead because of Adam's disobedience in the Garden of Eden. This is Problem #1, which affects all human beings. Adam cast the entire human race into absolute cosmological separation from the life and presence of God. Everyone born after Adam are born in the state, and therefore all are condemned in this state of spiritual death. Please click on the image below to enlarge.

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Secondly, all people commit transgressions as they get older. This is Problem #2. All people commit sins because they were born in absolute cosmological separation from the life and presence of God through Adam. The sins are transgressions, or direct offenses, against God. Please click on the image below to enlarge.

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In order to deal with both problems, the second Adam, Jesus, was the sacrificial offering for the sins of the entire world, which addresses Problem #2. His sacrifice was in contradistinction to Adam, who disobeyed the will of God. Please click on the image below to enlarge.

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Finally, Problem #1 is solved for the sinner who repents and receives the free gift of eternal life (which is not like the transgression of spiritual death that is applied to everyone automatically in Adam). In other words, while sins are all atoned for with no volitional involvement of the sinner, the receipt of eternal life comes through repentance through the volition of the sinner to respond to the call of salvation. Please click on the image below to enlarge.

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In summary, these schematic illustrations provide the visual depiction of the various elements in Romans Chapter 5, which include Adam/Jesus; disobedience/obedience; death/life; transgression/grace; and condemnation/justification. These graphical illustrations help to understand the correct translation of Romans 5:12, which is found in the ASV.

Conclusion

The correct translation of the verse in question appears in the Authorized Standard Version (ASV).

Romans 5:12 (ASV)
12 Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that [reason] all sinned:—

The reason that this translation is the most accurate is because the verse says that spiritual death is the reason that all have sinned. That is, all men are born in absolute cosmological separation from the life and presence of God, because of which they have incurred the sin of Adam. (In this very sense "all have sinned.") Finally, sins (transgressions) will appear later in life as the sinner develops and matures. Thus there are two problems: spiritual death (Problem #1) and transgressions (Problem #2), which all originate from the first Adam. The second Adam, Jesus, however, addresses both problems through his eternal life and his sacrifice on the cross for sins, respectively.

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  • You said (above) that the NASB could have been consistent and translated the following three verses as follows "Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because OF WHICH [DEATH] all sinned" ... But, that relative pronoun is not genitive, nor is it masculine, so even though the conclusion is, indeed, about "death," it doesn't seem (to me) proper to directly relate (editorially), that neuter pronoun with the masculine "death." [Just trying to get my head around this, that's all, not poking] – robin Dec 17 '17 at 1:15
  • If all men we're separated from God because of Adams sin, then how we're other men able to find God, and live life pleasant to God. Like Enoch, Abel, etc – Faith Mendel Nov 4 '19 at 8:07

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