(KJV) Romans 5:13

13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

(KJV) Romans 7:8

8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

The above texts seem to be implying that those who lived from the time of Adam to Moses sin could not be imputed to them since there was no law.

How can we understand the above texts?

  • Good question Collen. In Romans 2, Paul talked about those without law being Judged without law. But even without law, they bear witness to the existence of the law in their hearts when their consciences accuse or excuse them. I'm going to develop that passage into an answer for your question.
    – user20490
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 10:51
  • Also note. That the sin that was Judged in the days of Noah were due to angelic interference on the earth. And in the case of Cain, he wasn't without law because God had warned him in Gen 4:7.
    – user20490
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 10:52
  • In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, there were the Noahide laws, seven of them which made it possible for sin to be imputed.
    – user20490
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 10:54
  • The so-called Noahide Laws are not found in the Bible, are they? Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 15:27
  • without contradiction - And what contradiction would that be, exactly ?
    – Lucian
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 22:40

6 Answers 6


In the first passage Paul is showing that the Sinai law was given to the Jews in order to turn their sins (which were not being imputed) into transgression (imputed):

(KJV) Romans 5:13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

He points out that even though they did not transgress, as Adam did, they were still going to die as a result of Adam's single transgression. So up until the giving of the Torah there was only the one human transgression and yet death reigned over all men because "death passed through" Adam into all his progeny.

The second passage is not referring to "sins" but rather to sin personified as a devious manstealer (which I call "Mr. Sin") operating within the members of human bodies to enslave them to his will through their desires:

(KJV) Romans 7:8 But [Mr.] sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

The first passage is forensic in nature while the second is a metaphor describing Paul's experience when trying to obey the Torah. These two passages are discussing two distinct things and do not in any way contradict one another.

  • I would have upvoted this answer but for that awful expression 'Mr sin'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 17:34

"Impute" can mean to "impart" (i.e. instill, or transfer to), but this meaning was not common at the time the King James version was published.1 The more common meaning was to attribute or regard something as existing in someone.2 The earlier Tyndale and Coverdale translations of the Textus Receptus (ca 1535) used the word "regard" instead of "impute" in Romans 5:13.

I think when this is understood, the contradiction disappears. There was sin in the world but it was not clearly recognized (regarded, imputed) until the Law came along to make it obvious.

Impute, atone and several other words in the King James Bible and other early English translations are examples of words that were understood to mean one thing at the time the version was published, but came to mean something slightly (or much) different later. These new "imputed" meanings often take hold, though, and blur the intended meaning of the original Greek text.

1. Oxford English Dictionary (1st ed.)
2. Ibid.



1) It was possible to sin without the law according to Paul (Rom 2:12)

2) The law already existed in the heart before it was given at Sinai (Rom 2:14)

3) According to the Talmud and other extra biblical sources, the law seems to have been given in phases


  • Without the Law on stone tablets, there is no witness to the law that is written on the hearts of men.

    • And without that witness, men still have excuses before God.

    • The introduction of the law as a witness to the law written in our hearts eliminates our excuse as men.

    • The elimination of our excuse is what revived sin figuratively (Rom 7:9). i.e Satan's accusations now bear more weight against men due to the double witness that the law provides.

    • That excuse is the reason why Jesus went to preach to the spirits of those who perished in Noah's flood. 1-pet 3:19-20

1 Peter:3.19

by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah.


Romans 2:12

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law

This passage proves that it is possible to sin without the law. The 14th and 15th verses show us how and why it is possible to sin without the law.

Romans 2:14-15 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them

According to this passage, what was given at Sinai was the covenant of the law. It was an affirmation of the law that already existed within all men. It was written on stone tablets by the finger of God to bear witness to our natural convictions. It was given so that no one would be without excuse. God used Sinai to clarify his position on issues of morality once and for all.

a) Even before Sinai, Joseph's brothers knew that they were not supposed to have killed him or sold him. 430 years later, the law says:

Exodus 21:16

He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

b) Lot knew that it wasn't right for the men of Sodom to have sex with his male visitors. But more than four centuries later, the law came to abolish same sex relationships in Lev 20:13

c) Cain had been warned about sin in Gen 4:7. After he killed Abel, he couldn't answer God directly. The law came hundreds of years later to prohibit murder.

Exodus 21:12
"He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.

d) In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, These laws already existed according to some extra biblical sources like the Talmud and the book of Jubilees.

Book of Jubilees 7:20-28

And in the twenty-eighth jubilee Noah began to enjoin upon his sons' sons the ordinances and commandments, and all the judgments that he knew, and he exhorted his sons to observe righteousness, and to cover the shame of their flesh, and to bless their Creator, and honour father and mother, and love their neighbour, and guard their souls from fornication and uncleanness.

According to Maimonides Adam received six commandments against:

(1) idolatry

(2) blasphemy

(3) murder

(4) incest

(5) stealing

(6) perverting justice.

These were enjoined by Noah, who added a seventh, prohibiting the eating of flesh with blood.

  • 2
    If you down vote the answer, kindly tell me what I can do to improve. Thanks.
    – user20490
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 12:49

From my mini commentary of sorts on Romans 7 from another answer:

But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.—Taking occasion by the knowledge (having the law) that something truly is sinful, it makes what may otherwise have been a venial offense (not having full knowledge of the thing's sinfulness) a mortal, that is, damnable sin. (1 Jn 5:16-17).

I'll add to this that "taking occasion" implies a personification, as it were, of sin, where sin 'wants' to convict the sinner, and make sinners out of otherwise innocent men.

This is why St. Paul says that when there is no law to 'vindicate,' or 'back up' sin in its quest to entrap men in it, it is "dead," having no force or consequence (inasmuch as where there is no guilty, there is really no sin). No 'impact.'

Similar to how death (sometimes synonymous with sin in St. Paul's discourses when it comes to the sin of Adam and its consequences) is left without its 'sting' whenever Christ's grace is in the soul, which liberates it from just punishment (eternal damnation):

1 Corinthians 15:55-56 (ASV)

O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? [Now] the sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law:

Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law. Here 'power' and 'sting' stand for their ability to take hold of a person and cause them harm. Their impact. As said before, the impact of sin is taken away where the law isn't there to enforce justice at least so as to be able to convict sinners as held to it as a standard.

'The ability of sin to do damage to a soul lies in the fact that there was a law there to convict them, and thus provide perfect knowledge of the sinfulness of the sin on his part.'

The 'impact' of death is its right to take one who sins. Physically, or eternally. It's fallacious to claim, however, that death cannot exist without sin. For example, Jesus' death. (Arguably Mary's :])

Romans 5:13-15 (ASV)

For until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come. But not as the trespass, [is the gift also]. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many.

That is, in original sin, death passes to all. Original, because by nature. Passed on to all regardless of their not having transgress as Adam did, because not of a separate nature than fallen, sinful Adam (Gn 5:3) (typologically, this could have been derived from the fact of the spiritual headship of Christ which allows us to escape sin, rather than live as born in it)

St. Paul compares the transgression of one man, and guilt passing to all men, and Jesus Christ, "the last Adam," (1 Cor 15:45) of whom Adam was a type, and guilt passing from all men. Yet the respective results of the actions of the two Adams differ in that the latter is a bestowal of grace and reconstitution in it, and not a privation of it.

Thus, these texts are not at odds, because they do not contradict one another.

  • Your answer was down voted too.
    – user20490
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 18:26
  • Didn't show up in my inbox or anything.. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 19:22
  • 1
    This was a very helpful answer, thank you! I’m trying to do a deep dive on Romans 7 and this helped a lot! Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 14:51
  • @Gremosa Glad it helped you. God bless. Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 13:06

Ok, I have been think about this very question recently and have taken something from every answer given before. So the way I see it is as follows, Adam and Eve ate what was forbidden, in doing so they sowed corruption into their bodies, because they sowed something into themselves that never should have been, they are now corrupted by it "sinful nature".Eve is not held responsible for sin and death entering the world and passing upon all men Adam is, but why. Well everything reproduces after its own kind having its seed within itself. Adam is the seed carrier for all mankind. The two trees in the garden bore physical fruit it could be picked and eaten but notice that results of eating of either of the fruits were both physical spiritual. The tree of life if eaten before the fall would have meant that Adam and Eve would have lived forever in their pure created condition so the spiritual fruit was eternal life but they would have lived eternally in their earthly physical bodies so the fruit also bore physical results. Eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge meant physical corruption of "the flesh" and spiritual corruption of mans spirit "hence needing to be born again" to ever receive eternal life as the only part that is changed in regeneration is man's renewed spirit his body remains corrupted and cannot enter the after life so the spirit and soul go on into eternity but the corrupted body is left behind. Adam as the seed carrier of all mankind he has all mankind in his loins but as he is corrupted both physically and spiritually everything he reproduces will reproduce after his kind "his corrupted kind" As Eve is not the seed carrier of all mankind she cannot be held responsible for sin and death entering the world and passing upon all men. The only hope mankind has is in God and in Him getting a pure seed into the world an incorruptible seed called the word of God " who is Jesus". Thinking of the virgin Mary she is under the Jewish system established by God and under the offering of blood for any sin she might commit and as such is cleansed and maintained pure by that shedding of innocent for any sin she might commit. God by His Holy Spirit plants His seed pure incorruptible seed into Mary's womb which unites with here earthly egg to form a baby that has a body in the likeness of sinful flesh but in spirit is pure. So the baby has the sinful flesh of a man "meaning that Jesus can be put to the test and tempted as any man is" but His spirit is pure and uncorrupted "like a born again believers is (Eph 4:24) And he is anointed by the Holy Spirit without measure "he has all the gifts". Ok, so going back mankind has been corrupted by sin and will die, but not for his personal sins, this must be the case for babies are subject to death to having committed no sin when they are born and then unfortunately die, when they die they are not dying because of any sin but because they have been born into a fallen and corrupted world, death reigning over all! So we see that if personal sin is the cause of death then babies should not die. Now Paul states that where there is no law given sin is not charged to mankind's account, if sin is not charged to mankind's account then why does he die? Because he is already dead in Adam because Adam broke the law of sin and death in the garden. When God gave the very first "thou shalt not" in the garden and then said "in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" God was giving the law of sin and death to mankind "Here's my law break it you die" The Law of Sin and Death". These are just my thoughts on this as I have been studying the fall of mankind and Romans 5. So mankind were already all dead in Adam. You see all mankind was removed from the tree of life right at the beginning after Adam disobeyed God so nobody could live forever physically or spiritually anyway whether they sinned or not. Now its true that everybody sinned and that sin is not imputed where there is no law, sin is not being charged to mankind's account before the law was given. So mankind is destined to die in his corrupted condition in Adam as God will not allow humans who have the knowledge of good and evil in them to eat from the tree of life. So we see that mankind are already dead and comitting tresspasses and sins due to the fallen sinful nature they inherited from their father Adam being born of his corrupted physically and spiritually corrupted seed. Ehp 2 if meditated on reveals mankind's unsaved condition he is controlled by the prince and power of the air that is now at work in the children of disobedience, the children of disobedience are Adams children and we were all his children once being born of his corrupted seed. but having now been born again spiritually of incorruptible seed and been given the power to overcome the lusts and desires which still lurk in our sinful flesh which is the Holy Spirit we have been given the power to become the sons of God. For those that are led by the Spirit are the sons of God. Now if sin is not imputed where there is no law how do we explain the flood? Well the truth is these people were already dead in Adam but due to how wicked they have become God just brings death forward for them to protect the very small amount of righteous people left on the earth. In fact God let it get right down to eight. And believe it or not this was an act of mercy towards mankind for if all mankind becomes consumed completely by wickedness there will be nobody left that God can use to establish a bloodline to get the Messiah into the world and save mankind. Something interesting is that Jesus upon his death then goes down into sheol and preaches to the spirits that are in prison of those that perished in the flood of Noah 1 Peter 3:19-20 and so then remembering that sin is not imputed where there is no law is it possible that those in 1 Peter 3:19-20 who heard his voice lived as Jesus describes the two resurrections in John 5:24-29 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.So it would be in this sense that sin was not imputed to these men and that they got a second chance at life when Jesus went and preached to them, this sound fair to me because first they had no law given to them by God to live by and the verse states that where there is no law sin is not charged against you. So all God did was to righteously end their physical lives early so he could ensure the Messiah would be born into the world in order that they might then be saved later when he died for them and so he preaches to them. When people comment on Paul referring to those who sinned pershing with or without the law Paul is surely referring to all dying without Christ but as Christ has preached to those who did not have the law and they appear to have the opportunity to believe him it seems to make all things fair. And just because Peter refers only to those who died in the flood of Noah doesn't mean that this has leaves out others who died before the law entered. Or it could mean that the flood was a witness to all people who lived after the flood up to the law and would be held responsible for their sin, but I dont see how because they have a sinful nature and cannot help but sin, but then again God could hold them responsible for not seeking him when they all knew from the testimony of their father Noah that God had done this and that they needed to seek him as Noah did and was saved because of it. Just my thoughts not saying any of this is fact but just trying to make sense of it all. Love in JC Alan.

  • Welcome to the Hermeneutics forum, Alan. Yikes! Remember, there's beauty in brevity. This forum is different from most others because it's expected that you research and support your posted answer with evidence from scriptural, linguistic, manuscript, commentaries from early writers, or scholarly sources. We're not supposed to offer just our opinion. In your research, you might consider Genesis 3:15, which seems to contradict your position. You might also want to review highly rated answers to get a better idea of what's expected. Best wishes,
    – Dieter
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 4:40
  • Hi Dieter, thanks for you comments, i understand what you are saying about opinion but when reading commentaries they very often vary much in opinion of what the text means. I think the clear statement from Paul is that people were sinning in the world before the law was given "well they would be having become sinful by nature" but sin is not imputed "charged" where there is no law. Paul is making it clear here that people are not dying for their personal sins but for Adams sin. We know this is true for when Adam and Eve "mankind" were removed from the tree of life, and so we die. Gen 3:15???
    – Alan White
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 9:19
  • Alan, Yes. And the forum is all about building a strong case for an assertion from a variety of credible sources. Genesis 3:15 is about the seed of the woman. Maybe you can build a case for what that means. Best wishes,
    – Dieter
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 23:30

The explanation in this commentary is completely off the farm. What does it take to understand that the LAW is as ETERNAL as ALAHAIM is. The LAW being an express image of HIS character. HE is the same, HE doesn't change. The one thing which didn't come from inspiration the law of YAHAWAH ALAHAIM written with HIS very Finger is so grossly misunderstood.

John 3:19 "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

Titus 1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

1 John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his Commandments.

1 John 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his Commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

1 John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his Commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

1 John 3:24 And he that keepeth his Commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his Commandments.

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his Commandments: and his Commandments are not grievous.

2 John 1:6 And this is love, that we walk after his Commandments. This is the Commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the Commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the Commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

Revelation 22:14 Blessed are they that do his Commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

PD And No, I won't write here the simple explanation for Romans 5:13 mainly because once realizing it will make people feel foolish. Those who really want to have that feeling write [email protected] for the answer

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