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When water comes through a tap the nozzle of the tap itself might look the same whether the tap was the creating first cause of the water or merely a conduit for the water passing through it. Sin came out of Adam but as it came "through" Adam it also entered him. i.e. Adam was the channel not the creator of sin according to the word "through". Can "through" in 1 Cor15v21 have any other possible meaning?

  • My understanding of your question, in grammatical terms, is whether Adam was a 'means' or an 'agent'. – Nigel J Apr 19 '19 at 13:04
  • @Nigel. My dictionary gives two meanings for "agent" 1. instrumental 2. Ultimate. – C. Stroud Apr 19 '19 at 20:10
  • The grammatical term 'agent' is the second of your dictionary's meanings. – Nigel J Apr 19 '19 at 20:49
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1 Corinthians 15:21 KJV

"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead."

[came] through δι’ (di’) Preposition Strong's Greek 1223: A primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through.

  1. dia Strong's Concordance dia: through, on account of, because of Original Word: διά Part of Speech: Preposition Transliteration: dia Phonetic Spelling: (dee-ah') Definition: through, on account of, because of Usage: (a) gen: through, throughout, by the instrumentality of, (b) acc: through, on account of, by reason of, for the sake of, because of.

1223 diá (a preposition) – properly, across (to the other side), back-and-forth to go all the way through, "successfully across" ("thoroughly"). 1223 (diá) is also commonly used as a prefix and lend the same idea ("thoroughly," literally, "successfully" across to the other side).

[1223 (diá) is a root of the English term diameter ("across to the other side, through"). Before a vowel, dia is simply written di̓.]

  1. dia dee-ah' a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through (in very wide applications, local, causal, or occasional):--after, always, among, at, to avoid, because of (that), briefly, by, for (cause) ... fore, from, in, by occasion of, of, by reason of, for sake, that, thereby, therefore, X though, through(-out), to, wherefore, with (-in). In composition it retains the same general importance.

I thought the prefix meaning was interesting but it's not used in this manner. I don't see it meaning anything other than that Adam was the vessel, the instrument by which sin and death entered the world. Adam certainly didn't create sin. Can any but God create? Sin was already created, it just entered through Adam into the world.

Commentaries on the verse all seem to agree (KJV): https://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_corinthians/15-21.htm

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  • You say "Sin was already created" can you expand on that? – C. Stroud Apr 26 '19 at 11:35
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Daniel B Wallace in his "Greek Grammar : Beyond the Basics" [1996 p368] states of dia :

    1. With Genitive

A. Agency : by, through

B. Means : through

C. Spatial : through

D. Temporal : through

    1. With Accusative

A. Cause : because of, on account of, for the sake of

B. Spatial (rare) : through

In I Corinthians 15:21, di anthropou 'o thanatos (by man the death) dia is of course elided due to the vowel after it and the noun is in the genitive so Wallace's first meanings apply.

The question is, was Adam the means by which sin and death entered the world or was he the agent by which sin and death entered ?

Dia, in the genitive, as we see above, can express both, depending on context, so we must look at the context and other scriptures to develop the context.


I would say that both means and agency are seen in Eden, the woman being the means and the man being the agent. For Adam was not deceived, I Timothy 2:14, but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression. She was a party to it, but not the agent of it.

This, of course, is on earth. Whatever may be the state of things in heaven (and, clearly, something is wrong, that a spirit approaches a woman on earth, unauthorised, and slanders God) on earth, the situation is that sin is not - yet - in the world, until serpent, woman and man conspire together.

The situation is also made clear in Romans 5:12 - by one man (it is again dia and genitive, di enos anthropou) sin entered into the world and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned. Adam is the agent, but all men are culpable.

As regards the world, the natural sphere : woman, the means; man, the agent ; all men culpable.

That Adam is the agent (on earth) is also made clear in Romans 5:14 where the situation prior to Moses is made clear despite that men in general had not sinned "after the similitude of Adam's transgression".

Here, what Adam did is called parabasis, a matter of stepping (basis is a participle) in a parallel path. He has deliberately guided his own foot out of the true path and has gone a different way than he was instructed.

In doing so, he acts not only on his own behalf but on behalf of all his progeny - all that will come from his own loins.

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  • @ Nigel J Despite your care I still think "through man came death" is not an overt statement that man can create [his behaviour]. It could merely be that God didn't give Adam the grace to obey. That our theology, not the Bible, so easily imposes a meaning, is my concern. – C. Stroud Apr 21 '19 at 14:28
  • @ Nigel J Do we understand the word "culpable" in the same way? My way: vessels of dishonour are worthy of punishment because of what they are, not how they became what they are. – C. Stroud Apr 21 '19 at 14:42
  • I think some of these fine distinctions are not inherent in the Bible. We must be careful not to distinguish what the Bible does not distinguish. 1 Cor 4:6. – user25930 Apr 21 '19 at 22:10
  • @Mac'sMusings I agree very much about inventing terminology and forcing it on to scripture. Absolutely. In this case I think the distinction that Paul makes in I Timothy 2:14 and the grammar of the preposition dia warrant a distinction being seen between Adam's part and Eve's part. – Nigel J Apr 22 '19 at 4:58
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For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 1 Cor 15:21

Note that in v47, Paul describes Adam as the first man, and Jesus as the second man (see also Rom 5:12-19 where Paul makes an almost identical argument). The word translated "through" is διά (dia).

BDAG offers a range of meanings for this very common preposition; but the relevant meaning here is "marker of instrumentality or circumstances whereby something is accomplished or effected, by, via, through".

In 1 Cor 12:21 διά (dia) occurs twice before the word "anthropos" (man). Thus Paul makes the simple point that sin entered the world through the first man/Adam but we have [eternal] life through the second man/Adam, namely Jesus Christ. The same point is made in Rom 5:12-19, over and over in different words by contrasting two men - the first Adam and second Adam.

The meaning of διά (dia) is general enough to allow two meanings here:

  • Sin entered through Adam meaning that it existed previously but was introduced by Adam. If this meaning is adopted, then the same must be said for the resurrection of the dead that came via Jesus.
  • Sin entered by the agency (conscious decision) of Adam which was obviously the case. If this meaning is adopted, then the same must be said of the resurrection of the dead.

The total meaning is clearly a combination of both in typical Pauline literary economy; but both these shades of meaning fit within the BDAG definition above.

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  • To allow 2 meanings is not to prove either. – C. Stroud Apr 21 '19 at 14:54
  • Why not? The mere statement of an unproved aphorism does not prove the point. – user25930 Apr 21 '19 at 21:05
  • Did not the resurrection of the dead come about via Jesus because the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. And, Adam's decisions were a reflection of what grace God gave or withheld from him. – C. Stroud Apr 21 '19 at 21:28
  • What connection are you making here? I do not see your point. – user25930 Apr 21 '19 at 22:07
  • It appears to me that compatibilist Christians sometimes use circular thinking in assuming man to be the first cause of his actions, and using this to define e.g. "through" and then using their definition to support further similar thinking. – C. Stroud Apr 23 '19 at 17:04

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