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Romans 5:12 NASB
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—

In my country's language, the word "sinned" is translated as an act against God's will. And the word "death" means spiritually dead.

So my interpretation is that someone— either a very young child age of 3 or a teenager to adult— has to do something against God's will first, then this person is spiritually dead. So (for example) if a toddler has not done something which is against God's will yet, this toddler is still spiritually alive.

My questions:

  1. In the English language world, does the word "sinned" in that verse also mean an act against God's will or something else?

  2. In the English language world, what does the word "death" mean in that verse? Does it mean that the person is not breathing anymore, or that they are spiritually dead?

  • 1
    Those words which are a translation to English are nothing more than the general understanding of the word's meaning. To thoroughly understand these Scriptures, one need learn the original Greek. That having been said if you are seeking the modern English understanding of those words, we can do that, but that does not tell us what Paul's original ,meaning was in saying that. Much must be taken into consideration in understanding the words true meaning. – BYE Nov 20 '16 at 12:23
  • @bye, thank you for your explanation. Yes, I really wonder what was Paul's original meaning of those words. Just now I'm googling about the original Greek word. Thanatos ---> death, physical or spiritual. Hamartano (sin) is a verb ---> so, someone need to act something which is against God's will first, then this "thanatos" spread to this someone. Considering it's absurd to think that a newly born baby who died physically after a few hours it's because this baby did something which is against God's will, I prefer to think that what Paul's original meaning of "thanatos" is the spiritual one. – karma Nov 20 '16 at 14:54
  • There are some real clues to unraveling this mystery in Genesis, first three chapters, which need some knowledge of the ancient Hebrew language. It is also important to understand the part about 'the knowledge of good and evil; sinning requires knowing the difference of what is right and what is wrong, and salvation requires regret in deviating from right to embrace evil. Hope this helps. – BYE Nov 21 '16 at 13:41
  • @bye, maybe there is any link reference which is written by someone who has the knowledge of the ancient Hebrew language, so he/she already unraveled the mystery in Genesis first three chapters ? I wonder what is the connection with the word "sin" and "death" in Romans 5:12. Thank you, bye. – karma Nov 22 '16 at 17:02
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    There is disagreement between Orthodox on the one hand and Roman Catholics and Protestants on the other on how this verse should be translated. As one answer to How is the Vulgate rendering of Romans 5:12 explained (Roman Catholic perspective)? demonstrated, linguistically there are at least 19 different ways to understand the Greek in English. Many/most English translations assign a sense other than that understood by the majority of Greek Christians today. – guest37 Mar 7 '17 at 4:38
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Your first question:

In the English language world, does the word "sinned" in that verse also mean an act against God's will or something else?

My answer to this would be that the Oxford dictionary of English states that the word "sin {verb; sins, sinning, sinned}" means:

"an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law {an act regarded as a serious or regrettable fault, offence, or omission}.

Your second question:

In the English language world, what does the word "death" mean in that verse? Does it mean that the person is not breathing anymore, or that they are spiritually dead?

My answer to your second point is that the word "death" found in Romans 5:12 can be referenced as physical and spiritual death simultaneously {see below my understanding of the text where the emphasis is mine}.

Therefore, just as through one man {Adam} sin entered into the world {because He disobeyed God in Eden thus cursing the whole creation}, and death through sin {because the creation is no longer perfect, but fallen due to sin; hence why we die}, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned {because we are all descendants of Adam it is in our nature to sin in thought, word and deed}.

  • thank you for your explanation. You wrote : {because we are all descendants of Adam it is in our nature to sin in thought, word and deed}. I agree to it. But I think it will take an amount of time of someone to do a sin after he/she was born. That's why I prefer to think that Paul's original meaning of "thanatos" in this verse is the spiritual one. Neither simultaneously (spiritual - physical), nor the physical one. – karma Nov 20 '16 at 15:07
  • No problem Karma. Indeed; from my own studies one can argue that one is a sinner from birth as King David alludes {Psalm 51:5}; but then there is also the view that we do not inherit the sins of our parents { Ezekiel 18:20}. This is a similar question to "should children/infants be baptised"; depending on the denomination one obtains different answers. Best of luck in your study. you might be interested in this article: gotquestions.org/parents-sin.html – David Nov 20 '16 at 15:22
  • Another thought: Remember though that God is love {1 John 4:8}, God does not take joy in destroying anyone {Ezekiel 18:32 } & Jesus does not prevent children coming to him as the kingdom is theirs {Matthew 19:14}, no doubt due to children being open and innocent. Cheers. – David Nov 20 '16 at 15:24
  • Thanks for the verses, David. I've just read them, but I can not lead myself to a conclusion that {Psalm 51:5} means David was saying that when still as a fetus he was already a sinner during her mother pregnancy. Besides I feel awkward if I change the verse to something like this : “death spread to all babies because all babies sinned” :). Regards. (thank you also for the link) – karma Nov 20 '16 at 16:25
  • No problem Karma. It is certainly a dichotomy. We find ourselves in a cursed world; we must have faith however that God will soon act! As a final thought; you might find studying the principles of Calvanism a satisfying answer {in part}. gotquestions.org/calvinism.html – David Nov 20 '16 at 16:43
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  1. In the English language world, does the word "sinned" in that verse also mean an act against God's will or something else?

As an English bible reader we can define sin as follows, 1 john 3:4 nkjv

4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.

So in that sense, sin is breaking God's commandment.

However, the idea that babies are without sin before a certain age (you mentioned 3) is debatable.

Psalm 51:5

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

Here King David is writing a psalm about his specific sins with Bathseba and Uriah. However he mentions that even before this he was born in Sin, Even at his conception (beginning of life) He was made in sin.

As humans, we are not just responsible for our own personal sins, but we are also under the penalty of Adam's sin.

Adam is like the representative for humanity. Imagine the President of the United States attacked Russia and there was now a war between Russia and the U.S.

Im a U.S. citizen, i didnt do anything to attack Russia, but because of what my representative did, Russia still considers me an enemy.

Adam is like our President in that sense, and he sinned against war, causing hostility between humanity and God.

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In the English language world, what does the word "death" mean in that verse? Does it mean that the person is not breathing anymore, or that they are spiritually dead?

in English we dont have two different words for "dead" and "spiritually dead." But the fact is that the two are very related, it is because of sin that we die spiritually, and Physically.

God's original plan for people was that they would live eternally. Physical death is a result of the Spiritual death brought by Sin.

So in that sense Sin causes both "deaths", and the only difference is time (physically death takes ~80 years, which is short when you think of eternity)

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