The Significance of Original Sin for People Today, Part 3

The following is part-three of our four-part series on Original Sin. I our last article we discussed some of the literature supporting the various views concerning Adam’s sin and its impact to humanity.  In this article we will discuss the concept of corporate solidarity and the idea of how the actions of one person has an effect on others. We will seek to explain how this is possible and theological implications of this topic to humanity.

Corporate Solidarity Examined

Solidarity in the Fall of Adam

As mentioned in our introduction, the concept of corporate solidarity is key as it relates to biblical typology and the correlation of the Old and New Testament themes. Particularly with regards to the Apostle Paul’s writing and his Adam Christ typology, the concept of corporate solidarity is key to gaining proper understanding of the intent and meaning of the apostle’s writing, and specifically Romans chapter 5:14 where the apostle states that Adam was a “type of the one who was to come” meaning Christ. Therefore, Paul’s discussion of Adam’s sin and its transmission to the human race cannot only be understood through the types and traditions that informed the apostles views. Leonhard Goppelt explains:

Paul’s theology is not simply informed by tradition; rather, he is using tradition to formulate something new. Paul was familiar with the hermeneutical principle which states that ultimately the meaning of the OT type can ony be comprehended on the basis of the NT antitype. He believed that the meaning of Scripture (i.e., of the OT) is only unlocked by faith in Christ (2 Cor. 3:15f).1

Leonhard Goppelt 

According to Goppelt, in order to understand the significance of Adam and the imputation of his sin to the human race, it is necessary to view the matter through the sense of the New Testament antitype of Adam Christ and his salvific work. But before we do this, it is necessary to explore what types the apostle may have using as a reference for his Adam-Christ typology in Romans chapter 5. 

Biblical Types and Intertextuality

When discussing types and how they may relate to Adam and the concept of the imputation of Adam’s sin through the corporate solidarity of the entire human race with Adam, many Bible commentators refer to the story of Achan and his sin at Jericho and the resulting defeat of Israel at Ai (Jos. 7). Achan sinned by taking booty from the spoil of Jericho and hiding it under his tent. Subsequently, when the people of Israel sought conquest at the city of Ai, they were defeated. Joshua sought the Lord to find out why they suffered defeat at Ai even though Israel had a much larger and stronger army. The answer, “Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings” (Jos. 7:11). Please take note of the plural usage in God’s response to Joshua in that four times God responds with “they” have taken, stolen, and put them among their own belongings. Although it was only Achan who transgressed God’s commands, all of Israel collectively was held responsible for the sin and suffered together in the offense before God. Theologians, according to Jerome Creach, “often point out…that sin is also corporate; the individual, though free to ‘refuse the evil and choose the good’ (Isa. 7:15), is caught in a web of evil that spawns and perpetuates rebellion against God.”2 In more recent history, too much emphasis has been placed on individualism and the idea of sin as an individual’s act and choice irrespective of the consequential impact it has to the world around them. However, this concept of individualistic sin is foreign to the Bible. Quoting Hendrikus Berkhof, Creach writes, “Sin is interpersonal in that every deceitful act is due in part to the influence of other people. It is also suprapersonal, that is, evil is systemic in the human community, and the individual cannot escape it.”3 As such, in the story of Achan, the question of who was guilty of sin was completely overshadowed by comparison of the much larger picture of corporate solidarity in that they all collectively were held responsible for the sin of one man. The parallel between Achan’s sin and Adam’s sin cannot be missed. 

Another Old Testament type illustrating corporate solidarity that is generally not often cited by theologians, perhaps because the meaning is not as clear, is the relationship between David and the Philistine giant Goliath of Gath (1 Sam. 17). Although many Bible commentators see the analogy between the story of David and Goliath as a type of the triumph of the Son of God over Satan, they fail to make the connection with Paul’s analogy in Romans 5:12-19 between Adam and Christ.4 Interestingly, David, who foreshadows Christ in the story, recognized that Adam was a foreshadow of Christ in that while writing about God’s creation he states, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…” (Ps. 8:4-6; cf. Gen. 1;26; 1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:6-8).5 Therein numerous references between the Genesis Adamic event and the messianic Christ event showing divine inspiration in David’s writing and his understanding of the parallel between the Adamic event and Christ event. 

The pivotal moment as it relates to our subject and the corporate solidarity of responsibility for Adam’s sin is found in 1 Samuel 17:8-9, where there in the Valley of Elah the mighty Philistine warrior challenged the armies of Israel by shouting, “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” Goliath challenges Israel to a contest of representative battle where one individual is selected from each nation for battle, and whichever one wins by defeating the other has won the battle for the entire nation. The defeated nation is then enslaved by the victors and held in servitude. The comparison to Paul’s analogy in Romans 5:14-15 where he presents Adam, who was defeated in the garden and Christ who is our victor and purchased freedom for humanity from slavery is striking. Paul states, “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one-man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Rom. 5:15). Writing regarding Adam’s representative role on behalf of the human race, Douglas Moo states, “Adam was the representative appointed by God of all human beings. So just as the senator who represents my state may vote, in a sense, and by voting casts votes, as it were, for everybody in the state he represents, so God has appointed Adam to be that kind of representative figure. He sinned and brought death into the world, and when he sinned, all of us—all human beings—sinned in and with him.”6 Thus, there is a correlation between the David and Goliath story and the Adamic event as given in Romans chapter 5. Adam, who was representative of the human race was defeated and declared a sinner, which resulted in the subsequent declaration that the human race collectively were declared sinners. At this point we must ask if the title of “sinner,” which was placed on the human race by virtue of Adam’s defeat is not the same thing as the imputation of Adam’s sin? 

The Nature and Character of Imputation

The Imputation of Sin in Romans 5:12-19

Some theologians, along with Tertullian and Pelagius, have argued that man sins in the likeness or imitation of Adam. While these arguments were made to emphasize man’s free will to choose to sin or not sin, and to deny man’s responsibility in God’s eyes for the defeat of Adam and his sin, these arguments fail to recognize and deny the innate sin of man. In Romans 5:13-14a, Paul argues that “sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not countedwhere there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses…” (emphasis added). One may ask, how is it that the apostle writes that sin was not counted, if it were not, in fact, present in humanity? The word used for counted in Romans 5:13 is ellogeō and its meaning is synonymous with the words to “reckon” or “impute,”7 just as “Abraham believed God and it was counted [“reckoned”] to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). Paul quotes the LXX of Genesis 15:6 where Abraham is reckoned, or received, imputed righteousness. In the LXX of Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3 Paul uses the word logizomai, whereas in Romans 5:13 he uses the word ellogeō, however by definition the meaning is the same.While most Bible commentators tend to gloss over the concept of the imputation of sin in Romans 4:3, Douglas Moo touches on the subject. Moo, who is the foremost biblical scholar concerning the book of Romans today, explains:

In claiming that Adam brought death into the world and that death spread to all people because of sin, Paul is rehearsing standard biblical and Jewish teaching. But difficulties begin when he probes a bit deeper and asks why, or how, all people sinned. Clearly, at the minimum, Adam’s sin must have introduced a fatal bent into human nature itself, predisposing human beings to turn from rather than toward God (see Rom 1:18–32).9

Douglas Moo

Moo states that, “Adam’s sin must have introduced a ‘fatal bent’ into human nature itself…” In other words, by virtue of Adam’s representative role of humanity man’s very nature was changed from sinless to sinner, perhaps? Again, we must ask if this transmission of Adam’s sin to the human race was so significant that it accounts for a transformation in human nature itself, then how it is not synonymous with the definition of imputation? 

Read Part 4 of the series here



1. Leonhard Goppelt, Typos: The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New, trans. Donald H. Madvig (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002), 219. 

2. Jerome F. D. Creach, Joshua, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 70.

3. Hendrikus Berkhof, Christian Faith (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2000), 213, in Jerome F. D. Creach, Joshua, 70.

4. While Pink related David as a type and foreshadowing of Christ in the story, he identified Goliath as a type of the Antichrist. Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), 229.

5. Ada R. Habershon, Study of the Types (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), 122. 

6. Douglas J. Moo, NT331 Book Study: Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

7. William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006, ἐλλογέω. 

8. “Impute,” in W. E., Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996).

9. Douglas J. Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans: a Theological Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 105.