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Romans 5:14 NASB

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

What is the “likeness of the offense of Adam” referring to?

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Note the fairly consistent way this is understood:

Ellicott:

(14) After the similitude of Adam’s transgression—i.e., “in direct defiance of divine command.” They had not incurred just punishment as Adam had, and yet they died. Why? Because of Adam’s sin, the effects of which extended to them all, just in the same way as the effects of the death of Christ extend to all.

Cambridge:

after the similitude, &c. i.e. by conscious transgression of express precepts. The phrase thus exactly meets the case of infant-death, and also includes all other cases, supposed possible, in which no distinct violation of then-known law was traceable.

Barnes:

After the similitude ... - In the same way; in like manner. The expression "after the similitude" is an Hebraism, denoting in like manner, or as. The difference between their case and that of Adam was plainly that Adam had a revealed and positive law. They had not. They had only the law of nature, or of tradition.

This is true - Adam violated a direct command of God not to eat of the tree. The sin of subsequent generations violated implicit law which was made know explicitly at Sinai. See appendix below.

APPENDIX - Ten Commandments before Sinai

The following (far from exhaustive) list shows that people knew of the (not yet explicit) ten commandments well before the formal giving at Mt Sinai. Indeed, we have the very general comment –

  • Gen 26:5, because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.

Commandment #1 – Worship only YHWH:

  • Gen 22:5, 24:26, 48, 52 all describe worship of the true God of heaven, YHWH.
  • Gen 35:1-4 – Jacob instructs his whole household to eliminate all foreign gods

Commandment #2 – Idolatry prohibited

  • Gen 31:32-35 – Jacob clearly understood that idolatry was forbidden.
  • Gen 35:1-4 – Jacob instructs his whole household to eliminate all foreign gods

Commandment #3 –Cursing and taking the name of the LORD in vain prohibited

  • Job 1:5 – When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.

Commandment #4 – Sabbath worship

  • Gen 2:1-3 – Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. And by the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on that day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on that day He rested from all the work of creation that He had accomplished.
  • Ex 5:5 - And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest [שָׁבַת shabath] from their burdens!”
  • Ex 16 also records the incident with manna and that collecting manna on the seventh-day Sabbath was forbidden

Commandment #5 – Respect for parents, elders and authority

  • Gen 28:6, 7 tells of the story of Jacob following his mother’s advice. Respect for parents is built into the very fabric of the patriarchal stories in Genesis.

Commandment #6 – Sanctity of Human life

  • Gen 4:8-12, 15 records Cain’s punishment for the sin of murder
  • Gen 4:23, 24 – Lamech realises that he has murdered someone and will suffer consequences
  • Gen 9:5, 6 records that murder was prohibited under the ancient Noahide covenant

Commandment #7 – Adultery prohibited

  • Gen 12:10-20, 20:1-17, 26:6-11 all record “adultery narratives” in which the patriarch is (correctly) chided for almost tricking a pagan king into committing adultery
  • Gen 19 records the appalling events involving attempted pack-rape of the two angels
  • Gen 39:7-9 – Joseph calls Potiphar’s wife proposal “a great evil and sin against God”.
  • Gen 49:4 – Reuben is scalded for his sin of incest
  • Gen 34 – the story of Dinah records a heinous incident involving her defilement (plus murder and lying)

Commandment #8 – Stealing prohibited and respect for property

  • Gen 30:33 – Laban and Jacob discuss the problem of stealing of wages and property
  • Gen 31:32-35 – Laban is angry about the sin of stealing the household gods
  • Gen 44:9 – Joseph’s brother accused of stealing his divination cup.

Commandment #9 – Lying prohibited; insistence of honesty and integrity

  • Gen 4 – the story of Cain being punished, among other things for not being honest with Abel and God in his statements
  • Gen 12:10-20, 20:1-17, 26:6-11 all record “adultery narratives” in which the patriarch is (correctly) chided for lying to a pagan king about their marital status
  • In the story of Jacob, he is pejoratively called Jacob = “deceiver”, Gen 27:36.
  • Gen 37:31-33 – Jacob rebuked for lying and deception

Commandment #10 – Coveting prohibited

  • Gen 3:6 – the woman is tricked by the serpent using the sin of covetousness
  • Job 31:9, 10 – Job says he is innocent of coveting his neighbor's wife.
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OP asked:

Never the less death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come."

What is the “likeness of the offense of Adam” referring to?

Here is the definition of likeness:

3667 /homoíōma ("likeness, particular similarity") is a comparison used to increase understanding. 3667 /homoíōma ("resemblance") does not require one element of a comparison to be derived from the other; indeed, it can be wholly separate from it. Rather, 3667 (homoíōma) refers to a basic analogy (resemblance), not an exact copy.

Adam sinned against a direct commandment of God. Because of that one sin death spread to all men. The many that had lived between the time of Adam and Moses had been given no law so there was nothing to transgress against, they still died though because of Adam's one sin that brought death and condemnation to all. They died because of one man's disobedience's to God's one command and death through sin spread to all.

Sin had not been taken into account because there was no law.

Sin was in the world before the law was given; but sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Rom. 5:13

In the same way, or likeness we see how one man's sin affected all mankind, the same is true because of one man's act of Righteousness the result of justification of life to all men.

So then, just as one trespass brought condemnation for all men, so also one act of righteousness brought justification and life for all men. Rom. 5:18

So the likeness is that two men acts effect all men through no choice of their own.

We now see the effect of one mans sin now bringing death and sin to all men. The life that the second man brings to all men will not be seen until later.

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: First Corinthians 15:21-23

The likeness and similarity is that both men were commanded to do one thing unto God. Two different outcomes that affected all of mankind.

One mans act of disobedience to God brings death to all man while the other man's one act of obedience to God brings life to all men.

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The Gospel of God
Up until this point, Paul has said a lot; yet most of his message has been in the form of diatribe where he asks and responds to objections. If we ignore the objections and responses, there are only three passages in which Paul defines and explains the Gospel:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1) [NKJV]

21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3)

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5)

The Gospel has two aspects: justification and reconciliation. This is one application of the phrase from faith to faith in verse 1:17.1Both are from God and are a result of His character: His righteousness and His love. In other words, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith [in justification from His righteousness] and faith [in reconciliation from His love].

Peter F. Ellis gives his explanation of the difference between justification and reconciliation:

To "reconcile" means to put an end to enmity between God and man considered as a rebel, just as justification means to put an end to enmity between God and man considered as a lawbreaker.2

Looking at justification and reconciliation from God's perspective, only reconciliation requires a response from man. That is, if God says a person is justified, they are regardless of their response. On the other hand reconciliation is possible when it is offered, but if that offer is rejected, then enmity with God remains. At the same time there is a difference: the previous state of enmity has been replaced by a refusal to accept God's offer of reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

Adam's Likeness: Rebelling Against God

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:14)

The heart of Adam's transgression is rebellion and everyone does sin by rebelling against God. Yet everyone after Adam rebels in their own way:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1)

Since the creation of the world, what may be known of God has been shown to all. It was shown first to Adam. What is shown outside the Garden is different from what was shown to Adam. Nevertheless, all like Adam, rebel against God.


1. Another is how it introduces verse 3:22. δικαιοσύνη δὲ θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in which the genitive can mean either righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ or righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. In fact in means both. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith [the faithfulness of Jesus Christ] to faith [ones faith through Jesus Christ].
2. Peter F. Ellis, Seven Pauline Letters, The Liturgical Press, 1982, p. 223

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It is a transgression of a law. Adam was like an impression stamped on a coin (a type). Jesus is like the coin stamp. He is sharper, more detailed and facing the other way. Adam had to keep just one commandment, but he was unable to. Between the expulsion from the garden and Sinai, there was no law. The law of Moses was given, so Jesus could keep it and fulfil it and reverse the curse of Eden.

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