Doctrine of Man (Part 14)

December 15, 2013     Time: 00:38:19

In our lesson we have been talking about the doctrine of sin and last time we looked at the nature of sin. Today we want to move on to the question of original sin.

Normally, I don’t like to retrace steps that we’ve already taken. But last week after class someone gave me an article from Science News that was so interesting that I want to go back a step to our discussion of the historicity of Adam and Eve and share this information with you because I think it really is very significant.

In our discussion of the biological or genetic plausibility of an original human pair from which the entire human race is descended, I said nothing (you may have noticed) about the so-called Mitochondrial Eve or the Y-Chromosomal Adam. It has been shown by geneticists that all living human beings on the face of the earth today, based on their mitochondria in our cells, are descended from the same woman. There is literally a mother somewhere in the distant past of the entire human race. Scientists have called her the Mitochondrial Eve. They don’t think that this is the Eve of the Old Testament because they would say this woman was just one of probably thousands of women who existed at that time but remarkably if there were all these other thousands of women their descendants have all died off somehow in the course of history and everybody that exists today is a descendant of this woman who actually lived at some time in the prehistoric past. Moreover, an examination of the Y-chromosome that we men bear also indicates that there is a single man from whom everyone on the face of the earth is descended and he is called, again facetiously, the Y-Chromosomal Adam. Not because they think that this was the original Adam. There were probably, again they think, thousands of men, but at least everybody on the earth is descended from this same man.

The reason I did not mention this (because it would seem to be evidence for a historical Adam and Eve) is because it is thought that these two persons lived tens of thousands of years apart. They weren’t contemporaries. The traditional estimates say that the Y-Chromosomal Adam was only a half or a third as old as the Mitochondrial Eve. The Y-Chromosomal Adam was supposed to have lived between 50,000 and 115,000 years ago but this Mitochondrial Eve was supposed to have lived between 150,000 and 240,000 years ago. So even though everybody on earth is descended from a single man and a single woman nevertheless this man and woman were not thought to be contemporaries and so they couldn’t have been the historical Adam and Eve. So I just passed over that in silence.

In this article, however, it has been now discovered by geneticists that these two persons were apparently roughly contemporaneous according to the evidence. Let me read you from the article from Science News:

The largest analyses to date of the human Y chromosome suggest that modern men can trace their family tree further back in time than previously thought. One of the studies, an analysis of 69 men from nine populations worldwide published in the Aug. 2 Science, finds that their most recent common ancestor lived 120,000 to 156,000 years ago. That’s roughly the same time that the last common ancestor of women is estimated to have lived, researchers report.

The Y chromosome, passed down from father to son, and mitochondrial DNA, passed down from mother to child, are useful in retracing ancestry because they don’t undergo genetic reshuffling as the rest of the genetic instruction book does.[1] Researchers analyze mutations in these parts of the genome to assess when groups split apart. The hypothetical common ancestors of these genetic lineages are sometimes called Y Chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve.

“We’re not saying they’re exact contemporaries or they actually met or all men and women descended from the same couple,” says study coauthor Carlos Bustamante of Stanford University. Y Chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve aren’t the first man and woman either, but they are real people whose Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA have been passed down with modifications to every living male and female.[2]

So remarkably now the evidence seems to be perfectly consistent with the idea that all human beings are descended from an original human pair. These are real people that actually lived in the past and now roughly they are seen to be contemporaneous, which would be consistent with their actually being the historical mother and father of the entire human race.

That puts quite a different perspective on things, I think, and goes to make the doctrine of the ancestry of the human race in an original historical Adam and Eve I think even more plausible.

So I did want to re-capture that element of what we had talked about before to share this most recent news with you.


Question: I don’t believe it is in this article that you mentioned in Science News but other articles have mentioned that the geographic location has been narrowed down. I don’t know if anyone else has more information on that but other articles I have read have narrowed it down to somewhere in that Middle Eastern region. They do that through lineage and they finally get down to that area. They can only narrow it so much.

Answer: Obviously we are talking here rough estimates of age and region but nevertheless it is very provocative, I think, and welcome news.

Question: What is the name of the article and how would you get it?

Answer: The title of the article is “Y chromosome Adam gets older”, subheading “male and female ancestors were roughly contemporary” by Erin Wayman. This is found in Science News, September 7, 2013. It says “for more stories, visit” for more reading on this subject.

Question: While they say that they think that both this Adam and Eve were one of thousands, is that a theory or is there any evidence to that end? In other words, that is just a theory to, I guess, not say that there was a single Adam and Eve, but there could have been but they are saying, no, we don’t believe there was. But is there evidence to justify their position that there were many men and many women?

Answer: Yes, this would be the evidence that we talked about a couple of weeks ago in class concerning the genetic diversity that human beings exhibit in the world today. The question is: on the basis of the genetic diversity that human beings today exhibit, could that have come from a single human pair or did the population have to be larger? And the prevailing opinion is it had to be larger. It could have gotten down to a bottleneck of around two thousand people but not down to just two people. But what we saw in our lectures on this subject was that that assumes, for example, that the mutation rates are constant. If there were accelerated mutation rates then those mathematical models would be off. These are based upon predictions of mathematical models that might be based on assumptions that are unrealistic or false.[3] We also saw that genetic diversity itself could have a selective advantage which would cause genetic diversity to advance more rapidly than otherwise thought. So the evidence, it seems to me, doesn’t require us to say that the population couldn’t have been smaller than two thousand. This new information doesn’t address that issue as you quite rightly point out. It obviously doesn’t tell us that there weren’t others along with this man and woman. That is a different issue and I’d refer you again back to the lectures that we had on that subject.

Followup: But if we had an original man and an original woman from whom all mankind came from and looking at the diversity of mankind today, why couldn’t it have come from them?

Answer: Well, the models would say that in order to have this much diversity, you’d have to have more people in the original population. Think of the example I gave of the sheep on that island where they sampled the genetic diversity of the sheep and they figured that, if you extrapolate backwards, in order to get that kind of genetic diversity there had to be at least (I think it was) eight sheep that were originally put on the island. Well, it turns out that the models were wrong and they know that there were originally only two sheep that were put on the island and the genetic diversity expanded more rapidly. These are all based upon models and evidence that, as you can see from the article I read, could be overturned with new discoveries relating to mutation rates or the selective advantage of genetic diversity and so on.

Original Sin

Biblical Data

We come now to the subject of original sin which we have alluded to many times already in previous lessons. We want to start by looking at some of the biblical data pertinent to the doctrine of original sin. You will not find the doctrine of original sin in the story of the Fall in the book of Genesis. The doctrine of original sin rather is based upon New Testament evidence, particularly Romans 5:12-21. Paul says,

Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned— sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Here we see this typology of Adam and Christ.[4] As sin came into the world through Adam and lead to condemnation for many, so Christ’s single act of righteousness – his death on the cross – brings acquittal and life to many.

The other relevant passage is 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. Paul says, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” There you see again that parallel between Adam and Christ: as all die in Adam so in Christ shall all be made alive.


Question: I just wanted to say that . . . are you sure that this is not taught in the Old Testament? Because Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Answer: Yes. In Psalm 51, David says “I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” I think sometimes those overzealous to find proof texts for the doctrine of origin sin appeal to this. But I think that that is a mistake hermeneutically. The psalms are poetry. They will often use hyperbolic language, and a way of saying how sinful David is is to say “I was born in sin, conceived in iniquity.” I don’t think that is meant to be a theological reflection upon how the sin of Adam is imputed to David and that this is the full blown doctrine of original sin here. I think it is just a poetic and hyperbolic way of affirming his intense sinfulness or feeling of sinfulness before the Lord. But you are quite right in drawing our attention to that verse as one of the proof texts that is often used.

Question: Romans 5:12. Generally the arguments I have seen from the commentaries is they have rejected the “Because all sinned” interpretation. Even Anchor and Word have gone into different interpretations. Stanley Porter has argued:

According to the resultant sense, [the eph ho (ἐφ' ᾧ) which you say “because all sinned”] clearly endorsed by most commentators, sin entered into the world and with it death, and death spread to all people “on the basis of which” all sinned, emphasizing the chiastic structure of verse 12 . . . According to the effective sense, the understanding is that sin entered into the world through one man, and with it death which spread to all people, “on which basis” all sinned.[5]

Answer: So how does it translate the eph ho conjunction?

Followup: “On which basis” or “because of which”

Answer: OK.

Followup: In fact, John Romanides has also argued from church history as well. He said,

It is noteworthy that during this period [the 2nd Century A.D.], the interpretation of the phrase “because of which all have sinned” never appears to be the problem that it became later. This silence is powerful proof that doubt did not exist about the meaning of this passage. If there had been a problem with this passage, the Gnostics would have exploited it easily to support their belief in the fall of souls in a previous existence. The two later interpretations, “in Adam all have sinned” and “because all have sinned,” would have been tantamount to a powerful argument in support of such heretical teachings about the fall.[6]

Answer: All right. So what you are drawing attention to is this conjunction in Romans 5:12 where it says death spread to all men “eph ho” – because all men sinned. The question is how do you translate that? We will say something more about this when we get to Augustine but my translation, the RSV, says it spread to all men “because all men sinned.” That interpretation would not say that all men have sinned in Adam. It would say that because all men sin that is why death spreads to all people. So that wouldn’t be a translation that would favor Augustine’s doctrine of original sin. But you are suggesting even a different translation saying that death spread to all men as a result of which – right? – all men sinned.[7]

Followup: Yeah, “because of which.” Because of death we all have sinned.

Answer: OK. “Because of which” or “as a result of which” all men sinned. Let me just take a little survey here in the class of translations that you are using. Mine is the RSV and it renders this “because” – “it spread to all men because all men sinned.” Does anybody else have a translation here that would say something like this other suggested translation – “as a result of which” all men sinned or “because of which?” What else do we have? So the New American Standard says “because all men sinned.” That tends to be a very literalistic translation. “In so much as all have sinned” – that’s even yet a different one. I think you can see how controverted sometimes or difficult it can be to translate a certain phrase. I think as a result of this, I would say that it would be very ill advised to try and base a doctrine of original sin on this single verse alone. Indeed, as I said, the translation that the RSV gives, the NASB gives, wouldn’t seem to support the traditional doctrine of original sin. If that doctrine is to be adopted, I think it would be found in the passage as a whole and in other verses in the passage rather than in verse 12 alone. I don’t think taking verse 12 alone it would be prudent to balance a pyramid on its point and base your doctrine of original sin on this alone.

Followup: All right. I would say the rest of the passage does support the idea that because of death – that Adam brought original death into the world – and as a result all sinned. As we’ve seen in 1 Corinthians, it is about physical death and it was brought by Adam to humanity. I mean, that is the parallel to the resurrection of the dead. It is not any sort of spiritual death; in 1 Corinthians at least it is not.

Answer: Yeah, well, now in 1 Corinthians I can see why you would say that but don’t you think that Paul is talking here not merely of physical death but of spiritual death?

Followup: I am not seeing that in the passage. It seems like . . .

Answer: I mean we know that Paul thinks that we are all dead in sins and trespasses, right? And need to be regenerated.

Followup: Yes, death has more than one sense in the book of Romans. But in this passage it seems to be that Adam spread death, like the death of the body – physical death, mortality – to all of humanity.

Answer: All right! OK. Well, that is a good discussion. We will say much more about this as we begin to evaluate it.

Question: It seems like . . . I prefer the Eastern view that death is what is . . . separation is the effect of sin and that is what we inherit and then we become sinners by choice, by action, and fulfill that destiny because we are born into a sinful world. It seems like support for that is also from Ezekiel. We haven’t mentioned the Ezekiel passages that talk about the proverb that God hated and that they were saying that the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the sons’ teeth are set on edge.

Answer: Do you have a reference? I know the passage you mean but I don’t know the reference. . . . Chapter 18 of Ezekiel? Let’s just turn to that because that is relevant, I think. Verse 1:

The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die.

So children are not to be punished for the sins of their parents. The soul that sins shall die; each person is held accountable for his own sin and God forbids saying that the children are being punished for the sins of their parents. Some would say: isn’t that inconsistent with the traditional doctrine of original sin that we are culpable and punished for the sin that Adam committed?

Followup: I would say so, yes.

Answer: All right. Well, that is, as you say, the view held by Eastern Orthodoxy and certain other segments of Protestantism – a tiny minority of Protestants. That is good to bring that passage up.[8]

Question: I don’t think the original sin is referred to behavior sin. I think it is a conscience sin. As if a court judge does not judge righteously then the people in the whole land has no chance to be righteous. So when Adam and Eve sin, they replace Satan’s command as God’s command. So that is the separation that they no longer listen to God in their conscience according to what is good and evil. Instead they listen to Satan or in turn themselves. So that original sin passed down – it’s the sealed conscience to all generations because we lost that fellowship and understand what God intended and how he designed how he purposed and instead we listen to our own understanding of what is good for me or what Satan attempted us to . . .

Answer: If I understand you correct, are you saying that as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, there is a kind of corruption that has entered into human nature so that people follow their own conscience rather than God, they are fallen. But! Are you denying that we have condemnation as a result of what Adam did and guilt for the sin that he committed?

Followup: Well, if you don’t know God’s standard, there is no way you can fellowship with him.

Answer: I understand, but do you think though that Adam’s sin – the guilt of his sin – is imputed to you and me?

Followup: Yes, because the sealed conscience passed down. Here, what Ezekiel is prophesying saying the father’s sin won’t pass down to the children, is that because a new standard will come in – Jesus will come in – so the children will have that chance to restore their sealed conscience. So everybody’s souls belong to God because everybody will have that chance.

Answer: So I think what you are saying is you would interpret Ezekiel to be saying that the sins of the fathers are not inevitably visited upon the children. The children have the opportunity to return to God, to repent, and therefore they are not fated to destruction and condemnation just because their fathers have sinned.

Followup: When the salvation arrives, when redemption comes then everybody has a chance to know what God intended so they don’t have to inherit that sealed conscience. But before the salvation comes basically everybody’s conscience are sealed because they don’t have that fellowship. They are separated from God.

Answer: All right.

Question: It seems the only application of this is the age of accountability. It seems like all adults passed that age will sin. It is just they will sin and once they sin we go, “OK, now you are accountable for the sin that you made.” If there is a baby that does not understand and possibly doesn’t sin, does that baby go to heaven? Is there an age of accountability? I think that is the big issue here on original sin.

Answer: It would have very important implication for what happens to infants. You know the Catholic Church invented Limbo to deal with these children. They couldn’t go to heaven because they hadn’t received Christ’s grace and forgiveness but they hadn’t really actualized Adam’s sin so they shouldn’t go to hell. So they put them in Limbo, a doctrine which I think just recently the Catholic Church has now moved away from. You are right to drawing attention to this. This will have implications for baptism as well. What is the purpose of baptism and what does it accomplish?[9]

Question: If the wages of sin is death, then every child when born, upon birth, is not immortal in the sense they are paying the penalty at conception. But at conception they are paying the penalty for sin and the wages of sin is death therefore wouldn’t every child . . . accountability might not enter into it. They are going to pay the penalty.

Answer: You mean in the sense that every human being that is born is mortal and therefore carries this death penalty.

Followup: They call it a generational penalty or death sentence basically.

Answer: OK, these are all very good comments and questions.

What we will do next time is look at a history of various attempts to make sense of this Scriptural data. As you can see the doctrine of original sin is based upon precious few biblical texts. These texts are open to differing interpretations. What we will do next time is look at some of these various interpretations before trying to give some sort of evaluation.[10]


[1] 5:05

[2] Erin Wayman, “Y chromosome Adam gets older: male and female ancestors were roughly contemporary,” Science News, September 7, 2013. Dr. Craig is referencing an older version of this article which can be found at (accessed September 30, 2013). For the latest version of this article, see (accessed September 30, 2013).

[3] 10:01

[4] 15:07

[5] The questioner is quoting from Stanley E. Porter, “The Pauline concept of original sin, in light of rabbinic background,” Tyndale Bulletin 41, no. 1, page 24. See (accessed September 30, 2013).

[6] This is a quote from John Romanides’ book The Ancestral Sin; this quotation can also be found on John Romanides’ online blog post at (accessed September 30, 2013).

[7] 20:12

[8] 25:15

[9] 30:06

[10] Total Running Time: 31:31 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)