Posted by: religionthink | May 18, 2007

Know That All Lives Are Mine- Thoughts On Original Sin

Know That All Lives Are Mine- Thoughts On Original Sin

By A. D. Wayman

Since the day of Saint Augustine brought forth his view of original sin 1 , and that view was implemented in the Orthodox Christian Church it later spread to become the biblical “world view.” It is with this idea that led Christians to see the whole world, born lost, without hope of redemption, only though the saving power of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Distorting the views of the Apostle Paul and misunderstanding what the term “Born Again’ meant from a Jewish perspective, they set out to reap the fields that were white with harvest. It is the intent of this essay to show, in essence, what the victims of that harvest thought, and to point out a few major differences between the Jewish theology of original sin and that of their Christian counterparts.

It is the Jewish view that Man is responsible for his own sin. He is born with the gift of free will (”beirah”). However he is also frail and and has evil tendencies. Therefore Yahweh, in his mercy allows him to repent. While some hold that Adam was responsible for passing on sin the majority do not view it in these terms. 2

Below we read the text where such an idea was dispelled and it is this text that is overlooked by many in the camp of original sin descending from Adam. Below we read clearly that Yahweh told Ezekiel to expel this issue from being among Israeli thinking. The whole of Ezekiel 18 discusses the issue, showing alternating generations of righteous and unrighteous. It is within the following verses below that seem to be most relevant.

“The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die. Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.” (Eze 18:20-32 NRSV)

So in light of the text above why would there still be controversy on the issue of sin being passed on. There are many examples that the opposition can list in opposition to the text above. The First is Genesis 8:21 and another is from the Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 20. It is also important to note the wandering in the wilderness for the forty year stretch.

The text from Genesis comes to us from the J writer. In the text we read:

“And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.” (Gen 8:21)

Above it sounds as if the deity admits his issues creating man, and acknowledges his perceived inbred inclination to do evil. This is counter acted by the concept that believe Yahweh suppresses the free will allowing one to transgress until full punishment is met for the sin committed. 3 This also could be an explanation on the reaction of Pharaoh during the competition between the gods of Egypt and Moses’ god Yahweh.

The text from the Babylonian Talmud also appears to infer that sin is passed on. This text deals with the sin of the golden calf lasted for some time before it was “worked off”. Below we read:

“It reads [Michah, l. 14]: “Therefore shalt thou have to give presents to Moreshe thgath: the houses of Achzib shall become a deception to the kings of Israel.” Said R. Hanina b. Papa: A heavenly voice was heard saying: “To him who has killed Goliath the Philistine and inherited to you the city of Gath, should ye send away his descendants?” Therefore the house of Achzib shall be a deception to the kings of Israel. It reads [II Kings, xvii. 21]: “And Jeroboam misled Israel from following the Lord, and caused them to commit a great sin.” Said R. Hanina: As one throws a stick by means of another stick–i.e., he makes Israel to sin against their will. Said R. Aushia: Until Jeroboam came, Israel had to bear the iniquity of one golden calf, and from that time farther on for two and three. Said R. Itz’hak: Every evil dispensation which came upon Israel contained in it a twenty-fourth part as punishment for the golden calf, as the above cited verse [Ex. xxxii.] states. Said R. Hanina: After twenty-four generations this verse was fulfilled, as it reads [Ezek, ix, i]: “The ‘pkudas’ of the city came already at an end.” 4

The above could be explained that it was not by original sin that they had to work off the burden but by sin after their birth. It is interesting to note the difference. One born unclean is in stark contrast to being born into the world clean, and then committing transgressions out of human frailty and ignorance. For all things that come from the creator, according to the Jewish Mindset is clean. It is man that has the issues. Free will also plays an important role. It is from this view point that possibly is the reason why in the Jewish after life one’s experience in Sheol is not for all eternity. In Jewish thought there is not sin that can not be pardoned.5

In passing some scholars bring up the text of The Zohar. It is the opinion of the author that these text, although being Jewish literature, because they are from the 13th century, cannot be used in this essay. The text, Zohar, for those who are unfamiliar in places refer to the sin of Adam eating the apple and Eve copulating with the serpent. These places are directly influenced by Christian views and don not give us an accurate view of the Jewish thinking and theology on original sin. 6

1. Augustine “On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin” Book I

2. Jewish Encyclopedia “Sin”…id=812&letter=S

3. Rejoinder to Talmid’s Thoughts on Deuteronomy 30:6.…847/talmid.html

4. Rodkinson, Michael L. Babylonian Talmud. Boston New Talmud Publishing Company, Cincinnati, OH. 1903. pg 325-326.

5. Jewish Encyclopedia “ Atonement”…d=2092&letter=A

6. A good article addressing this topic is: Cooper, Alan. “A medieval Jewish version of original sin: Ephraim of Luntshits on Leviticus 12.” Harvard Theological Review. 10/01/2004

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