Misused and Misinterpreted Bible Texts - Introduction
Before we point our finger at the cults, let us remember that we are doing exactly what most of them do.
why do we forget that the Psalms are Hebrew poetry, and that virtually all poetry is well known for its figurative language often uses dramatization or hyperbole that is not meant to be taken literally but used to make a vivid, and therefore more lasting impression
What very few do is read or study the verse in context. If we were to take the time and energy necessary to do so, we would find a completely different picture than the skewed ones that have so often been painted for us
The Book of Romans and 1 Corinthians 2:14-15
Several verses are to the development of the doctrine of Original Sin. Except there is a lot more to them than first meets the eye.
Is there is ANY possibility that Adam's sin did something that affected his descendants and caused them to no longer be "in His image"? ... A something that has to be put right before a person can be considered once more a "son of God", eligible for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Misused and Misinterpreted Bible Texts - Introduction:
There are a few verses in Scripture (few and far between) that are often referred to in an effort to prove Original Sin. However they often not exactly known for their clarity. One of the golden rules of sound Bible interpretation is to always interpret the more difficult or unclear passages by the clear ones. Before we point our finger at the cults, let us remember that we are doing exactly what most of them do, i.e
Take a difficult passage and build an entire doctrine around it, totally ignoring those that are uncomplicated and straightforward in their intent and/or instruction.
Totally ignoring other passages that are uncomplicated and straightforward in their intent and/or instruction, we read into the difficult passage a meaning that will comply with what we have already been taught and come to believe,
In contrast to the passages that clearly state that every individual will be rewarded according to his own works, there is not a single passage that clearly teaches a person will eternally condemned because of guilt he inherited from Adam. While there may be a few passages that seem, at first glance, to promote the idea of Original Sin, they invite further study when one considers the sheer number of Scriptures that clearly say exactly the opposite.
Two of the commonly cited passages come from Psalms 51 and 58.
However why are we forgetting that the Psalms are Hebrew poetry, and that virtually all poetry is well known for its figurative language. When a writer uses literal language, he or she is simply stating the facts as they are. On the other hand, figurative language often uses dramatization or hyperbole that is not meant to be taken literally but used to make a vivid, and therefore more lasting impression without using complicated descriptions.
Since figurative language often uses words or expressions that have a meaning quite different from the literal interpretation (Who in their right mind would take the phrase "cry ones heart out" literally?), it is a mistake of tragic proportions to use imaginative figures of speech from poetical literature as a foundation or even as supporting evidence for a major doctrine. The Psalms were never intended to be a handbook of systematic theology... They are songs, poetry set to music, often expressions of emotions, and must be read as such.
And how do we know if the language in any verses is figurative or literal? We can assume it is figurative speech if a literal interpretation of a verse causes it to contradict other literal and straightforward verses.
The argument is that David in this Psalm claims to have been born with sin (the text itself says "in sin") and must be referring to Adam's sin which he, David, inherited.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalms 51:5 NASB)
(Note: This NIV's Calvinistic bent caused them to translate this verse in line with a preconceived theory... "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me". (NIV). On the other hand. the Amplified Bible adds (in brackets) an extremely prejudicial slant not found in the original text... "... was brought forth in (a state of) iniquity" (AB). However the Amplified Bible is not a literal translation, but a paraphrase that uses "alternate readings and amplifications to assist the reader in understanding what Scripture really says". This, in plain English, means it is the idea of the translator that has been presented to the unsuspecting reader, not the original Hebrew and Greek words).
Psalm: 51:5 cannot possibly provide a basis for the doctrine of Original Sin because numerous Bible verses (in plain literal language) teach that sin is not inherited, that human sinfulness commences from one's "youth" , that a child must reach a certain level of maturity before he is able to choose between evil and good. Also Jesus those who would aspire to enter the kingdom had to become like little children. All o f which warrants a closer look at four crucial words in the text - "in iniquity" and "in sin."
In Iniquity - I was brought forth in iniquity gives one the impression that David himself was guilty of iniquity from the time he was brought forth. However, the words translated in iniquity is the Hebrew "be aw-vone'.
be meaning "in"
aw-von meaning perversity, that is, (moral) evil: fault, iniquity, mischief, punishment (of iniquity), sin. (Strong's #5771).
The same two words are used in Genesis: 19:15 where Lot is warned to leave Sodom lest he be consumed in the iniquity (ba·‘a·won ) of the city. The whole point of the story is that Lot was an innocent man who was living in a very sinful city or in the midst of iniquity. Which is probably exactly what David was saying.. He was born in the midst of iniquity - into a very sinful world. Note the NASB renders be aw-vone as punishment. However, in the over 200 occurrences of the word, it is only translated as punishment one other time.
In Sin - The "sin" in the passage "in sin did my mother conceive me" is all too often attributed to David, giving the impression that he was born sinful. However this is not so. Lets substitute the word sin to prove a point...
If the verse said.. 'In drunkeness did my mother conceive me or . in anger did my mother beat me', who would attribute drunkenness or anger to the child?
So why are we attributing sin to David when the passage is quite obviously talking about David's mother. This is by no means suggests that David was conceived as a result of an adulterous relationship, nor that the sexual act of conception is sinful. David is simply describing the general condition of his mother and the rest of the world
It is to be particularly noted that suggesting that David inherited sin from his mother takes us into very shaky ground since if depravity comes by inheritance through our mothers, then Jesus would have been a sinner whether He Himself committed sin or not
Psalm 51 is one of seven Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). It reflects David's anguish resulting from his adulterous liaison with Bathsheba. If in this Psalm, David was saying that he was a sinner by birth, it is no longer a Psalm of penitence but becomes one of excuse, there being no better one than being born "a sinner". However David's words are not those of a man making excuses, but of a man deeply repentant for having himself sinned against God. In it David prays for deliverance from sin and laments the condition of the world into which he was born.
However, there is a change in tone about midway through the Psalm: when David moves away from the language of penitence and forgiveness to the language of new creation and transformation. He admits that his very existence is defined by sin and cries out for what literally amounts to a rebirth..
"Create in me a clean heart, O God. And put a new and a steadfast spirit within me".
To see this Psalm as a proof text for Original Sin is not only misguided, but misses the whole point of the Psalm.
Taking Psalm 58 as a proof text for Original Sin is more absurd yet. It reads
The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth. They have venom like the venom of a serpent; Like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear, So that it does not hear the voice of charmers, Or a skillful caster of spells. O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth; Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord. (Psalms 58:3-6 NASB)
Many readers believe that this Psalm teaches that infants go astray or sin from the moment of birth. But if this is to be taken literally then Psalm 22, that has David saying he trusted in God from his birth, has to be taken literally as well.
Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalms 22:9-10 NASB)
This is similar to the situation found in the book of Job where it is stated that he cared for widows from his mother's womb (Job 31:18). Yet the passage from Job is acknowledged to be figurative while the passage from this Psalm is said to be literal.
However, as explained above, the Psalms were never intended to be a handbook of systematic theology... They are songs, poetry set to music, and must be read as such. The sheer absurdity of trying to press what is obviously dramatic hyperbole into a literal meaning cannot be over stressed.
The fact is that the sinner goes astray rather than being born astray . This indicates personal culpability, and is in line with numerous other verses (in unambiguous prose) like the one found in the book of Isaiah...
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NASB)
This verse has to be one of the most commonly misquoted, misapplied passages in Christianity, and has long been used as a "proof-text' for two totally distinct yet equally unfounded beliefs. Calvinists use it to establish the idea that everything the natural man does is wicked... even good deeds. This helps to set up the dogma of "total inability," the engine which drives their entire theory of salvation. On the other hand, the Evangelical uses the same verse to show that good works, obedience, virtue are all useless. This sets the stage for the doctrine of "accepting Christ" through a once-for-all act of faith and casts an unfavorable slant on the whole Biblical requirement of Holiness.
What very few do is read or study the verse in context. If we were to take the time and energy necessary to do so, we would find a completely different picture than the skewed ones that have so often been painted for us. (See Filthy Rags)
The Book of Romans
is often quoted to bolster the claims of universal depravity that no one ever seeks after God. Paul says
"there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. there is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18 NASB)
However if one examines the source of Paul's quotes a very different picture emerges. The Psalms he cites did not show that no righteous person had ever lived but, on the contrary, often spoke of God's protection and favor towards the virtuous people of that day.
What then could Paul have possibly meant? How could he possibly say that it is of no profit for men to live righteously, when innumerable verses spoke of God's protection and favor towards the righteous. Why did he present one side of the coin and ignore the verses that speak of God's support and favor for those who feared Him? (See None That Seeketh)
Romans 5:12 was a crucial verse in the development of the doctrine of Original Sin.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12 NASB)However, n
Notice that it says "Death passed upon all men for that all have sinned". It does not say, "Death passed upon all men for that Adam sinned." It was through one man that sin entered the world, but death passed to all men because each and every man sinned himself.
Augustine spoke Latin, not Greek, and therefore relied on a Latin Translation. Although the Vulgate was translated by Jerome during Augustine's lifetime, it is not certain whether Augustine based his theology on the it or the earlier, less than accurate, Latin translations. However in the case of Romans 5:12, it seems that the Vulgate was no different. It read,
"By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for in him all men sinned."
This is a far from an accurate translation of the Greek, and all modern translations agree that an accurate translation is "because all men sinned"
Romans: 5:18 -19
The verses read (All Emphasis Added)
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19 NASB)
Paul seems to imply that all people are condemned because of Adam's sin. However if we could just put preconceived ideas and denominational bias aside for just a moment and read only what the text is saying (not what someone else thinks it means), we will find that if this passage teaches universal inherited depravity, it also supports universal salvation ... In other words, if Adam's sin automatically causes all mankind to receive condemnation for something they did not do or had any choice in, then Christ's dying on the cross also automatically causes all mankind to be saved regardless of whether they choose to be or not.
So if these passages are not teaching universal salvation, they cannot be teaching universal depravity. In reality neither is being taught. Paul is simply saying that physical death was introduced into the world by Adam, just as physical life was brought into the world by Christ, who is life.
This seems like an appropriate place to remind the reader of the prophet Ezekiel's words,
"The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20 NASB)
1 Corinthians 2:14-15
But a natural (Gk. Psuchikos) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.
Certainly the word "natural" here stands opposed to "spiritual", but those who believe in Original Sin and/or Calvinism allow their theological presuppositions to drive their interpretation of this verse, insisting that when Paul uses the words natural man he is referring to man in his state of total depravity, applying to every person who is born into this world.
However, these verses can only be properly understood if read as part of the surrounding verses that form the setting, or the big picture. Details In Calvinism Part II A - Total Inability
There is more to this issue than first meets the eye.
In Romans 5 Paul seems to be saying that something happened to all humanity because of Adam's sin - something that affected the entire race. While there no question that guilt cannot be imputed to one who has not committed the crime, we can not ignore the fact that Paul makes a direct connection between Adam’s sin and the fallen condition of the entire race.
This brings up the very interesting question of whether there is ANY possibility that Adam's sin did something that affected his descendants that caused them to be separated from the Tree of Life and therefore doomed to physically die? Is there something that caused man to no longer be "in His image"? ... A something that has to be put right before a person can be considered once more a "son of God", eligible for the Kingdom of Heaven.
What exactly was it that Adam passed down to his descendants ? See Original Sin and Epigenetics
Paul was right in what he said, however, he couldn’t possibly have understood the details. Only in the light of very recent scientific discoveries can we say “So that’s what he was talking about!”