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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 13

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 13 [XI.]—Meaning of the Apostle’s Phrase “The Reign of Death.”

“Nevertheless,” says he, “death reigned from Adam even unto Moses,” 252 —that is to say, from p. 20 the first man even to the very law which was promulged by the divine authority, because even it was unable to abolish the reign of death. Now death must be understood “to reign,” whenever the guilt of sin 253 so dominates in men that it prevents their attainment of that eternal life which is the only true life, and drags them down even to the second death which is penally eternal. This reign of death is only destroyed in any man by the Saviour’s grace, which wrought even in the saints of the olden time, all of whom, though previous to the coming of Christ in the flesh, yet lived in relation to His assisting grace, not to the letter of the law, which only knew how to command, but not to help them. In the Old Testament, indeed, that was hidden (conformably to the perfectly just dispensation of the times) which is now revealed in the New Testament. Therefore “death reigned from Adam unto Moses,” in all who were not assisted by the grace of Christ, that in them the kingdom of death might be destroyed, “even in those who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” 254 that is, who had not yet sinned of their own individual will, as Adam did, but had drawn from him original sin, “who is the figure of him that was to come,” 255 because in him was constituted the form of condemnation to his future progeny, who should spring from him by natural descent; so that from one all men were born to a condemnation, from which there is no deliverance but in the Saviour’s grace. I am quite aware, indeed, that several Latin copies of the Scriptures read the passage thus: “Death reigned from Adam to Moses over them who have sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression;” 256 but even this version is referred by those who so read it to the very same purport, for they understood those who have sinned in him to have sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; so that they are created in his likeness, not only as men born of a man, but as sinners born of a sinner, dying ones of a dying one, and condemned ones to a condemned one. However, the Greek copies from which the Latin version was made, have all, without exception or nearly so, the reading which I first adduced.


Footnotes

19:252

Rom. v. 14.

20:253

Reatus peccati.

20:254

Rom. v. 14.

20:255

Rom. v. 14.

20:256

Comp. Epist. 157, n. 19. [Some few Greek copies have come down to us (e.g. 67**) which omit the “not,” but no Latin copy (unless d* be an exception), although other Latin writers (e.g. Ambrosiaster) testify to their former existence.—W.]


Next: Chapter 14

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