For the sake of argument, let's say our most recent common ancestor lived in Africa 10,000s of years ago, humans originally evolved from apes and migrated out of Africa, and the entire creation narrative (including the existence of Adam and our descent from him) is allegorical.

Then what is Paul referring to in Romans 5?

12 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— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

"Adam" is the source of sin and death -- but where do sin and death actually come from, if not literally from our common ancestor?

  • Welcome to Christianity Stack. We're somewhat different to other sites, and I would encourage you to take our tour: christianity.stackexchange.com/tour
    – Lesley
    May 25, 2019 at 16:34
  • That's like saying, if Remus and Romulus aren't literally the first Romans, then what are they ? They are a symbolic representation thereof. Since men, like God, possess the knowledge of good and evil, but, unlike Him, do not possess the power or strength to resist it, then this obviously creates a problem, whose solution is Christ, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 15:44-47), the man par excellence (John 19:5; a famous Johnny Cash song also comes here to mind).
    – user46876
    Aug 19, 2021 at 4:00

3 Answers 3


If Adam was not literally created by God, and if the Genesis account of creation is allegorical, then everything written in the Bible about sin, death and the need for Christ Jesus to come to earth to die for our sins is a lie.

The Genesis account of creation says that birds were created with sea creatures on day five while land animals were not created until day six. This is in direct opposition to the Darwinian view that birds evolved from land animals. The literalist account says birds preceded land animals. The theistic evolutionist view says exactly the opposite.

Theistic evolution denies that Adam and Eve were created by God in His image, and that because of Adam and Eve's disobedience, sin entered into the world and death through sin.

If Adam and Eve did not exist and they were not our "common ancestor" then there would be no need for Christianity and there would be no solution to sin and death would reign supreme. There would be no hope for sinful humanity.

  • Lesley, consider that Genesis 1 is only one of numerous creation-related texts in scripture -- and some of those other texts call its APPARENT chronology into question. In Job 38:4-7 for example, God states that while He was creating the very earth itself (Gen. 1:1), "the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy." Yet if you go to Gen. 1:14-16, it SEEMS to say the stars did not exist until Day 4. Now God may use poetic language but He wouldn't flat-out lie by telling Job that stars existed when they didn't. So Gen. 1:14-16 has to be re-interpreted accordingly.
    – JDM-GBG
    May 25, 2019 at 18:42
  • 2
    Lesley - I agree with your comments above. The record of Gen 1 is inconsistent with both evolution and theistic evolution. However, this is not the place (within comments) to resolve such questions.
    – user43409
    May 25, 2019 at 21:15
  • 1
    Agreed. The genealogy in Luke states seventy generations from Jesus of Nazareth back to Adam, every single named individual being identifiable in recorded, historical documentation.
    – Nigel J
    May 26, 2019 at 7:13
  • Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Origen, Augustine, Ambrose, most of the Patristics did not hold to a solely literal interpretation of Scripture. The idea that if the events depicted did not literally happen as history then scripture is a lie, is itself an invention of 1850s theology. I'm not saying it's wrong, but we need to realize that there are other paradigms, that go back to the very foundation of the Church. Ignoring them blinds us to the rich tradition of the Church Fathers, who provide a way to deal with Historical Criticism, which a literal method cannot overcome.
    – Rob
    May 27, 2019 at 3:58

First a couple of disclaimers: (1) Personally I'm skeptical of motives & specifics of "theistic evolution" as it's called, and (2) though I'm a great admirer of C. S. Lewis I don't agree with or endorse 100% of everything he said or wrote.

That said -- and considering that this site is not about "truth" per se but rather the views of different Christian denominations and traditions -- I offer this quote from C. S. Lewis' book "The Problem of Pain."

In it, he describes his own hypothetical interpretation of creation, which apparently sought to harmonize the evolutionary beliefs as they stood in his time (mid-20th century) with Christian doctrine.

In doing so, he offered an answer (valid or not) to the question you're asking here.

For long centuries, God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. he gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all of the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed in this state for ages before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past…. We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods…. They wanted some corner in this universe of which they could say to God, “This is our business, not yours.” But there is no such corner.

  • Interesting, then who was Adam according to him?
    – Beestocks
    May 25, 2019 at 20:21
  • Keeping in mind that Lewis described this interpretation only as a possibility (and not something he genuinely believed in) -- Adam would have been the chosen pre-human creature that God transformed into the first true Man.
    – JDM-GBG
    May 25, 2019 at 23:49

I hope I understand your question correctly, in that you find confusion in the part about Adam introducing sin into the World; and the part about death reigning over all people until Moses introduced the LAW. First of all we need understand Adam's disobedience. Adam's sin of disobedience was Intentional.

Genesis 3:6 KJV  And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Gen 3:17 KJV  And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

God did not tell Adam that he hearkened to Satan as had Eve; but instead had Harkened to Eve. Therefore, Adam was not deceived by Satan and was fully aware that he was disobeying God's word. That fact will be of importance when we get to the part about being like Jesus. So now let's take a long look at the part about sin not being levied until the law. Until the arrival of Jesus, God had only given his rules to only two men Adam and Moses. Without rules one cannot be charged with disobeying. So when Paul says that death reigned from Adam to Moseseven unto those who had not sinned as Adam had; All of those people who had not intentionally disobeyed God also suffered death; though they were sinless, as there was no prohibition other than not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

That all changed after God gave Moses the ten Commandments. Now God had decreed eleven rules to follow. Therefore, when one of those rules was broken the person was now committing the same sin as Adam that of intentionally disobeying God. Those who had not intentionally sinned had not lived faultless lives, indeed many had committed acts such as Cain killing Abel, but until the ten Commandments were given there was no rule about killing.

If I have misinterpreted your question please let me know. As far as your last paragraph it is the belief in Salvation that is the basis of Christianity, and the hope of eternal life. Otherwise After death there is nothing, and The soul does not exist, we simply die and are gone.

  • Could you clarify the statement, "...death reigned from Adam to Moses even unto those who had not sinned as Adam had; All of those people who had not intentionally disobeyed God also suffered death; though they were sinless..." I'm having trouble understanding how this could be accurate in light of Gen. 4:7 when God warns Cain that "sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." It seems clear that murder was a sin, Cain had been warned of this, and was punished later in Gen. 4 when he committed it.
    – JDM-GBG
    May 26, 2019 at 0:01
  • Be glad to: If there is no Law you cannot break the law. God made no laws after telling Adam not to eat from the tree; until he gave Moses the ten commandments. If God had only decreed that eating from the tree, was prohibited then anyone who had not eaten from the tree had not disobeyed him as had Adam; that is to say that they had not done anything knowing that it was wrong, or intentionally disobeyed God's command. After giving the ten Commandments, God gave many other don'ts as in the other books by Moses. Those were strictly for Israelites.
    – BYE
    May 26, 2019 at 17:42
  • @JDN-GBG Sin is disobedience of God. God warned Cain that his nature was to do as he wished, just as we today have that same sin nature. We are constantly confronted by our own desires rather than do as God would have us do. God has warned us all that that is sinful; yet how many people do not give 10% to God. How many people talk about others wrong doings (gossip). You must also remember that Cain then had the knowledge of good and evil, and was punished for choosing evil. That is also true of those who died before Moses gave the ten commandments.
    – BYE
    May 26, 2019 at 18:04
  • OK, so then Cain was not sinless -- correct?
    – JDM-GBG
    May 28, 2019 at 23:10
  • @JDM-GBG Killing Abel was actually a sin, but it was not imputed to him. David Guzik explains it: Until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law: We know that at the root of it all we are made sinners because of Adam and not because we break the law ourselves. We know this because sin and death were in the world before the Law was ever given.
    – BYE
    May 29, 2019 at 12:56

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