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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Against Two Letters of the...: Chapter 7

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Chapter 7.—What is the Meaning of “In Whom All Have Sinned”?

But these speak thus who wish to wrest men from the apostle’s words into their own thought. For where the apostle says, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so passed upon all men,” 2784 they will have it there understood not that “sin” passed over, but “death.” What, then, is the meaning of what follows, “Whereto all have sinned”? For either the apostle says that in that “one man” all have sinned of whom he had said, “By one man sin entered into the world,” or else in that “sin,” or certainly in “death.” For it need not disturb us that he said not “in which” [using the feminine form of the pronoun], but “in whom” [using the masculine] all have sinned; since “death” in the Greek language is of the masculine gender. Let them, then, choose which they will,—for either in that “man” all have sinned, and it is so said because when he sinned all were in him; or in that “sin” all have sinned, because that was the doing of all in general which all those who were born would have to derive; or it remains for them to say that in that “death” all sinned. But in what way this can be understood, I do not clearly see. For all die in the sin; they do not sin in the death; for when sin precedes, death follows—not when death precedes, sin follows. Because sin is the sting of death—that is, the sting by whose stroke death occurs, not the sting with which death strikes. 2785 Just as poison, if it is drunk, is called the cup of death, because by that cup death is caused, not because the cup is caused by the death, or is given by death. But if “sin” cannot be understood by those words of the apostle as being that “wherein all have sinned,” because in Greek, from which the Epistle is translated, “sin” is expressed in the feminine gender, it remains that all men are understood to have sinned in that first “man,” because all men were in him when he sinned; and from him sin is derived by birth, and is not remitted save by being born again. p. 420 For thus also the sainted Hilary understood what is written, “wherein all have sinned;” for he says, “wherein,” that is, in Adam, “all have sinned.” 2786 Then he adds, “It is manifest that all have sinned in Adam, as it were in the mass; for he himself was corrupted by sin, and all whom he begot were born under sin.” When he wrote this, Hilary, without any ambiguity, indicated how we should understand the words, “wherein all have sinned.”



Rom. v. 12.


[This is a distinction as to the kind of genitive involved in the phrase “sting of death.” Augustin says “of death” is genitive of the object, not of the author or subject.—W.]


Commentaries by Hilary the Deacon, printed among the Works of Ambrose, vol. iv. (Patrol. Lat. xvii.)

Next: Chapter 8