A.Suarez's Treatment on a Pope's Formulation for Original Sin's Transmission!

A very thoughtful answer. Thanks.

Okay. I get where you’re coming from a bit better now. For myself, I see the kingly metaphor as predominate in Gen. 1, and the priestly metaphor as predominate in Gen. 2-3, although I flip-flop on how much ha’adam represents both priest and king. I’d just suggest that a vice-ruler is often a minor child invested with “the crown” but not yet mature enough to exercise that vocation. I’ll forego the scriptural examples.

You’re right that I keep the parent/child metaphor in mind when I read the story. I can’t help adopting Jesus’ perspective of God as Abba, and his nickname for the disciples was “children.” But I’m not one to say that scripture has only one “true” sense. I think scripture contains multiple meanings and metaphors. The primary metaphor of Gen. 1 for the original audience was Creation is a Temple, but that doesn’t exhaust the possibilities. Creation is also work, as you have pointed out elsewhere. In trying to think through the ramifications of “original sin” for past and present, I’ve found the metaphor of maturity more useful than the “kingly” metaphor.

True. God’s moral code is only a facet of God’s rule. But on this point I think the metaphor of kingship is causing you to import some ideas into the text. Just on a straightforward reading, the command is not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and the knowledge they gain when they eat the fruit is moral knowledge, not an understanding of God’s rule. What sort of accountability does God call everyone to?

Were the first humans “created in the image of God”? Yes. But don’t we say that every child is created in the image of God? Yet it’s obvious that not every child born into this world grows up with an understanding of God’s rule or God’s moral code. Nevertheless, God holds them accountable for something. Pulling all of that together, God’s call to A&E to “represent” him doesn’t require a conscious, specific understanding of what God requires of his “vice-regent,” just as God’s call to every child born into this world doesn’t require a conscious knowledge of God’s rule or his moral code. Everyone is accountable for what they learn and know, whether that includes knowledge of God or not; otherwise, how could God judge the world?

Coming back to the text, Gen. 2:7 relates God’s creation of ha’adam, which could be interpreted as God breathing his “image” into the human and bestowing the man with a “calling.” The priestly references begin with the description of Eden is a palace/temple complex, and the man is placed in the garden and given the task of guarding and tending it. These same verbs describe the priests’ service in the temple. What is the priestly task? To keep out what is evil and unclean. The man fails in his task, and the man and woman together gain the knowledge of evil. The priestly metaphor points back to evil and morality.

On the “relationship” front, what is the reason in the story for the woman’s creation? “It’s not good for the man to be alone.” The parade of animals weren’t suitable, so God created a partner for the man. What’s rarely pointed out is the fact that ha’adam wasn’t alone if God had an intimate relationship with him. For the man to be in need of companionship, he must have felt God’s daily absence much more than his presence. Like the rest of us.

I agree. My defense here is that even in early Genesis, the worship of YHWH appears among the other cultural developments in Gen. 4, and God’s specific “call” doesn’t occur until Abram is called out of the worship of “other gods” in Gen. 12. “Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods” Joshua 24:2.

Your second sentence is packed with possible meanings. Taking a stab at it, if a person is ignorant of the true God, is it immoral to worship the god(s) that they were enculturated to worship from childhood? Tough question. I’d say it’s not an immoral act within their culture, but does God view it as “sin”? On the one hand, their conscience would not condemn them, a la Paul in Romans 2. On the other, Isaiah practically equates idolatry with sin. Perhaps it’s a “sin of ignorance”? The Torah specifies sacrifices to “atone” for such sins. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I incline toward the notion that God judges those outside the covenant according to each person’s conscience and deeds (Rom. 2:12-16). If that’s true, I wouldn’t say it was immoral or sinful, unless human sacrifice was involved. But even if sins of ignorance aren’t held against people, that doesn’t mean their conscience doesn’t accuse them of other sinful deeds. Even when measured against the sliding scale of human morality, everyone knowingly violates the conscience sooner or later.

I’d say the A&E narrative is on one level a recapitulation of Israel’s history of violating the commandments and being expelled from their home. On another level, the narrative flow of Gen. 1-11 as a whole is a reply to ANE mythology and origin stories. I can’t locate it at the moment, but in one of Middleton’s essays he points out that in Gen. 1-3 Israel “universalized” its history onto human origins and creation itself. That’s another layer of meaning. No matter how sophisticated the interpretation, I personally can’t read the story and come away with anything other than the impression that it tells of the creation of the first humans.

I wouldn’t disagree with that. I’m simply saying certain evolved capacities are required before spiritual wisdom can even be understood and appreciated. Now, I’m not saying that humanity had no experience of God in the past. Eden is the garden of God’s presence, and the only “real” consequence of the “fall” is banishment from the garden – God’s presence. (The rest are spiritual explanations for present realities. The classic definition of mythology.) It can’t be proven, but I’m optimistic enough to believe that God was present, in some form or fashion, on Earth and with humanity from its earliest beginnings. But when we collectively chose evil, he removed himself from the scene and let us have our own way.

Totally agree. Well said.

I agree sinfulness is a state. I think it propagates as cultural knowledge. And sure, everyone alive hasn’t yet been judged by God. I can appreciate your hopefulness. It strikes me as universalism, though. (Not that that’s a bad thing!) Once the answer key is passed out, everyone makes 100 on the test. haha. I lean toward annihilation, but I don’t think any of us will know for sure until the last day.

I apologize for the length! I started to reply yesterday and finished today and didn’t realize what I’d done until I hit send. Don’t feel obligated to reply to everything (or anything).

Sorry I punted another day, @AntoineSuarez. You’re my next priority.

It seems to me that you are stating in other words the very idea I try to convey:

The “Lebombo bone” evidences sapiens creatures that may be much smarter than chimps today. By contrast it does not evidence humankind made by God in the image of God, i.e. called and ordered to share eternal life in God (“divine beatitude”).

In my opinion, the historical fact that God transformed Homo sapiens into humankind in the image of God is clearly evidenced by signs revealing awareness of moral and legal accountability, as such signs point to creatures that can fulfill or transgress a law, and therefore freely accept or reject God’s will.

For the time being, such signs have been found only in the Neolithic, later than 12,000 BP.

Yes, but … :smile: Our difference is when you and I say awareness of moral accountability showed up in the creatures: You say later than 12,000 BP, when they were evolved enough to take to court, and I say no later than 44,000 BP, when the first creatures to disobey a simple command: “Don’t touch that” touched what they were told not to touch, i.e. when they had more moral awareness than a four-legged beast, but about as much as a two-year old two-legged human who chooses to do what he/she is told not to do without knowing the consequences of disobeying. .

In my view, the animals cannot in principle sin because they are not called by God to share eternal life: Animals neither sin nor have sinful propensities, and therefore are not “subject to the need of redemption”.

By contrast, after the first human sin, the infants are born within a sinful humanity, and for this reason they have sinful propensities. This implies that these infants are “in need of redemption”, even if they have not yet acquired “the knowledge of good and evil”, i.e.: are not yet aware of being morally accountable.

Nonetheless and most important:
If not-yet-conscious infants “in need of redemption” die, they are NOT damned to hell. By contrast, adults who consciously and freely sin become “subject to the need of redemption” in a radically different way: If they die without repenting, they damned themselves “to join the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25: 41).

5 posts were split to a new topic: Yet another discussion of universal salvation

If the question hinges on God’s omnipotence, than we have to wonder why salvation for everyone has not been carried out already? and if it is unconditional, why than did Christ say we must repent (a condition that involves everything pertinent to human act and thought)?

The question revolves around what we as human being are and do - it is within this context that we are astonished at the extent of God’s mercy.


I’ll address Melchizedek first.

I think you’ve already agreed with @Dale that “resembling” or being “like” the Son of God isn’t the same as being the Son of God.

“When Christ appears” in 1 John refers to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and return to Earth. Those things are future occurrences from the perspective of Genesis. “We shall see him as he is” is certainly a future event from John’s perspective. It’s only after Christ appears that we, meaning everyone, will see him as he is. Whatever existence he had prior to incarnation, he was not yet the resurrected and glorified Christ, because that happened within history. (That’s the paradox – that the eternal God should enter time.) Melchizedek didn’t behold Jesus in heaven.

The author of Hebrews is making a metaphorical comparison between Melchizedek’s priesthood and Christ’s priesthood. Even in Ps. 110 – You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek – the emphasis is comparing the priestly order that Melchizedek established prior to the Levitical priesthood and the priestly status of Christ, who was not of the tribe of Levi. What lasts forever is the priestly order of Melchizedek, not the translated and resurrected body of Melchizedek.

Right. They all died, yet they live forever in God’s presence. The same could be said of many. The point of Hebrews is that the sort of priesthood Melchizedek represents will last forever in the person of Christ. There is no hint in the text that Melchizedek himself was taken directly into heaven.

Notice how the words “like” and “resembling” pop up? It’s a metaphorical comparison. Melchizedek is like Jesus, similar to Jesus, etc. That’s a clue that the comparison isn’t exactly literal.

Abraham also pleased God, and he died.

You’re welcome, but you didn’t address the main objections. The idea that Melchizedek was specially created and a contemporary of Adam is pure speculation. The notion that Melchizedek was “sinless” is also groundless, as is Melchizedek appearing from heaven to Abraham. If you assert Melchizedek was a literal human being, then the only evidence we have from Genesis is that he was human when he met Abraham. I’m sorry. The whole thing is just too far-fetched for me.

Right. I assume you choose 44,000 BP because that is when human creativity reached full flower, so to speak. I place the “moral” breakthrough earlier, around 75-65,000 BP, because of a confluence of language, metaphoric thought (full symbolicity), and brain development that started around ~100,000 BP and continued until ~30,000 BP at the latest. Basically, during that time the human brain was “rewired” as the cerebellum expanded and created new neural networks. The midpoint of that trajectory is 65,000 BP. The symbolic and moral breakthroughs logically follow and depend upon the language breakthrough. The final step of the process coincides with the appearance of the “modern” human brain. The result was an explosion of novelty and creativity that was lacking in the archaeological record for millions of years prior. People by 40,000 years ago were no different than those of us alive today. I explain in greater detail here:

@AntoineSuarez places the “fall” and appearance of “original sin”/propensity to sin no earlier than 12,000 years ago and no later than 5,000 years ago.

My first question is how you envision original sin (propensity to sin) spreading through the population. Is it hereditary, genealogical, cultural? Either way, Tasmania was isolated around 14,000 years ago and remained that way until European explorers stumbled upon the place in the 16th century. (K. Lambeck and J. Chappell, “Sea Level Change Through the Last Glacial Cycle,” Science 292 (5517): 6798-8 (2001). doi: 10.1126/science.1059549). If the earliest date you propose is 12,000 years ago, “sin” couldn’t have made its way to Tasmania by any “process” except divine intervention, since it was isolated 2,000 years before your earliest proposed date. Were the islanders unaffected by original sin until the Europeans arrived to “infect” them? This makes no sense. You can read more here.

The problem you have is that hunter-gatherer societies 30,000 years ago are no different than those 15,000 years ago or 1500 years ago. Moral codes existed in oral form long before civilization, “courts,” and writing appeared.

People crossed the land bridge into North America around 15,000 years ago. By the time the Spanish arrived in what is now New Mexico, the peoples along the Rio Grande had been farming and building houses and settlements for a thousand years. To the north and east, the Comanche lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers without permanent dwellings, which is no different than most of the human population 30,000 years ago.

Despite the fact that Neolithic people and some modern cultures don’t have written language or formal “courts” of law, I can assure you all of these peoples had/have moral codes, religious rituals, spiritual beliefs, and a “system” of justice/arbitrating disputes. In tribal cultures, this typically involves bringing the situation before the elders of the community or kinship group. I don’t doubt all of that was happening long before 12,000 years ago, let alone as recently as 5,000 years ago.

Actually, I picked 44,000 BP because that’s the radiocarbon dating of “the Lebombo bone”. Antoine likes 12,000 BP because he believes the ability to form contracts and take somebody to court is important. I prefer my date because I place value on the ability to express concepts formed inside a skull with marks–such as are on the Lebombo bone"–outside of the skull represent, for me, a substantial advance over grunts, barks, and a wrestling match.

Found your paper: “Adam as archetype” and am reading it now.

Yes. :grin:

Thanks for helping me to improve my formulations!

So, we seem to agree to the following tenets:

  1. Melchizedek is a true human being and a High Priest.

  2. Melchizedek is NOT the Son of God.

  3. Melchizedek is like the Son of God.

On the basis of 1 John 3:2 I conclude that the High Priest Melchizedek mentioned in Genesis 14:18–20, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 7, is a true human being, who is already enjoying the immediate vision of God.

If I understand well, you “have no problem with this”.

But then it is rather obvious that:

Melchizedek was a true human being dwelling in heaven beyond space and time.

Even if you have no strong opinion, I would be pleased to know whether you have any problem with this last statement.

You speak in religious language which does not portray the reality, explain anything, or describe the processes involved. You need to couple your religious language with the processes at work in support of your argument. Your error is in thinking that a baby or a toddler can sin without a consciousness of self. Without a self, there is no discernment. Without discernment there is no choosing between good and evil, therefore, no sin. You say babies are not aware of being “morally accountable.” Babies are unaware of their “selves” and so cannot be “self-ish,” only needy, having their needs fulfilled by crying.
“Sinful humanity” and “sinful propensities” means what? Where do those phrases come from? What biological processes do they describe? I say: “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” in the fetus’s development. The only mental trait that precedes self-consciousness in ontogeny or phylogeny is instinct. Instinct is reflexive and does not require conscious decisions, again, no sin, no need for redemption.

You wrote:
“If not-yet-conscious infants “in need of redemption” die, they are NOT damned to hell.”

I would say they are aware but not self-conscious.They are not damned to hell because they are NOT in need of redemption. They have done nothing “wrong” to deserve being damned to hell

Matthew 18:1-7
"At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child, set him in front of them, and said, “I tell you this: unless you turn around and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Let a man humble himself until he is like this child, and he will be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me. But if a man is a cause of stumbling to one of these little ones who have faith in me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Matthew 19:13-14 They brought children for him to lay his hands on them with prayer. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

Notice that the children don’t speak in these passages. Speaking is a sign of self-consciousness.

I am not sure of your tenses, “is a true human being…”, on the one hand, and “was a true human being…”, on the other. Since I already said that I tended not ro think of him as an apparition, he would not have already been dwelling beyond space and time. Certainly he is now. I’m sorry, but this seems to be more than bordering on the pedantic.

Melchizedek is Genesis’ pastoral archetype. He is not a real person (he is not counted among the kings in the battle). There is no temple, priesthood or written law in pastoral Genesis. Melchizedek’s compound name is the key to his significance. He is a priest and a king because (in the absence of a temple, priesthood or written Law) he has righteousness written on his heart. He is priest and warrior, a divine king, like Abraham.

“Abraham put his faith in the Lord, and the Lord counted that faith to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6

That is why Abraham tithes to him and is blessed by him. Melchizedek is the symbol of Abraham’s religious achievement. He symbolically represents a faithful, righteous man who has written the love of God on his heart, like Melchizedek whose very name indicates he has combined priest (wisdom) and warrior (courage).

In the Rig Veda’s Hymn of Man lines 10-12 pastoral Man is sacrificially dis-membered into the priest and warrior classes of national Man. When you re-member the priest and warrior classes of national Man into one individual, you’ve re-constructed Melchizedek who has righteousness written on his heart.

First there was the Rig Veda from which the Torah gets its structure, then there was Zoroastrianism from where the Torah gets aniconism, and then there is Judaism.

The structure of the Torah is identical to the structure of the Rig Veda’s Hymn of Man’s lines 10-12 dismemberment of pastoral Man (Melchizedek) into national Man (separate priest and warrior classes).

Melchizedek, Abraham and Jesus are all of the Order of Melchizedek. They have the “law” (in Genesis, it is faith and righteousness, not the temple, the priesthood or the written law which do not yet exist) that is written on their hearts.

Thanks Mark for this comment.

In my view your criticism is justified if by « doctrinal understanding » one overlooks the fundamental biblical revelation that “God made humankind in the image of God”: This is the reason given in Genesis 9:3,5-6 to establish the foundation of morality and law: Humans ought to respect each other but can use animals for food.

Notice also that “being in the image of God” is possible because God became flesh in Jesus Christ. The incarnation of God is a fact capable of enkindling the highest transformational religious experiences and also the strongest defense of humanity.

Please consider the paper at this link regarding Melchizedek.

Yeah, no. You lost me at your first sentence, “a warrior, born before the daystar…” Pure speculation not supported by the text. Sorry.

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What are you sorry about?
Melchizedek is king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18-19).

A king is not a warrior?

Melchi (king) Zedek priest appears to Abram right after the battle of the kings and blesses him.

Jesus is of the order of Melchizedek because he writes the Law on his heart. That’s the meaning of Melchizedek’s compound name. He’s the pastoral archetype who represents the model of a righteous man in Genesis, like Abraham.
The act of writing the Law (wisdom) on your heart takes courage. Courage is the act of a warrior. Your heart is the receptacle for the Law (wisdom is the role of the priest).
I put wisdom in parentheses because in Genesis there is no written Law.

This is what you didn’t like, though you only got to “warrior.”
It’s an image I put together from Revelations 22:16, 2 Peter 1:19 and Psalm 110:2-4. It’s in the text.

Melchizedek is first and foremost a warrior, born before the daystar like the dew (morning star or Venus).

Revelations 22:16 reads: “I,Jesus… am the bright MORNING STAR."

2 Peter 1:19 reads: “It is like a lamp shining in a dark place until the DAY DAWNS and the light of the MORNING STAR SHINES IN YOUR HEARTS.”

Psalm 110:2-4
The scepter of your power, the LORD will stretch forth from Zion:
“Rule in the midst of your enemies.
Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor,
before the DAYSTAR, like the DEW, I have begotten you.”

The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent:
“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.

Combine the passages with the description in Psalm 110:2-4 and view the image that results – countless drops of dew (each a divine king according to the order of Melchizedek) covering the earth waiting to reflect the first light of Jesus “…the bright morning star.”
It’s a beautiful image straight from the text regarding Melchizedek and Jesus.

Thanks Jay and Terry for raising this question, which is very specific to this thread.

The spreading of “the state of original sin” (i.e.: the state of being subject to “propensity to sin” and in need of redemption) is neither hereditary, nor genealogical, nor cultural.

The propensity to sin emerged after the first sin because:

  1. The first sinners (subsumed under the term “Adam and Eve”) lost the original grace that God had given them for mastering the evolved selfish urges, so that these urges became sinful urges (propensity to sin).

  2. God in his mercy decided to keep the sinners on earth, instead of sending them to hell, to give them opportunity to repent and reach salvation.

  3. To facilitate the redemption of all sinners, God “bound everyone over to disobedience”, i.e.: after the first sin, God decided to create all human beings coming into existence lacking the original grace and therefore subject to the propensity to sin. This is what St. Paul states in Romans 11:32.

From this it follows:

  1. All the genetic descendants of the first sinners (“Adam and Eve”) came into existence lacking the original grace, and therefore affected by sinful propensities, that is, in “the state of original sin”.

  2. Millions of Homo sapiens spread all over the world, also those in Tasmania and America, were made by God into the image of God at some point between 12,000 BP and 5,300 BP the same way as God created “Adam and Eve” (i.e.: the first sinners), but lacking original grace, exactly like the genetic descendants of “Adam and Eve”. Thus, these islanders were subject to the sinful tendencies ingrained in the evolved selfish urges from the very beginning of their existence as “human beings in the image of God”, exactly like the Europeans explorers who “stumbled upon the place in the 16th century”.

In summary:

The islanders in Tasmania and the American natives were already affected by “original sin” when the Europeans explorers arrived.

Indeed, I think that “the ability to form contracts and take somebody to court” is crucial for the Declaration in Genesis 9:3,5-6 to make sense. So I conclude that the creation of humankind in the image of God went along with the emergence of such an ability, i.e. it happened later than 12,000 BP and not later than 5,300 BP .

I fully agree with you in that:

Nonetheless such an ability (however substantial) does not reveal awareness of being accountable toward God and toward humankind, and therefore does not suffice to evidence humankind “in the image of God”, i.e. called and ordered to divine beatitude, and thus capable of rejecting God’s love (“sin”).

In other words, the sapiens creatures which marked the Lebombo bone were undoubtedly smart ones, but were not called and ordered by God to enjoy eternal life in God, very much the same way as we produce AI-devices today that in many respects are smarter than we are, but are not “in the image of God” and ordered to enjoy God in heaven.

I think of the sin of idolatry as giving idol’s God’s rightful place. As spiritual adultery. Can you commit spiritual adultery if you have never committed to the true God in the first place? I think the OT is clear that pagan nations were involved in some wicked stuff in the idol worship. But the harshest critiques of idolatry as a sin are reserved for Israel and their breaking of the covenant.

I don’t believe everyone will choose Christ even when they are standing in front of him, I think some people will choose their own destruction. I think the choices people make in this life to shape our souls and minds will affect their ability to recognize his lordship. Those who are seeking God with the knowledge and insight available to them, even if it is limited by their culture, time, and place, will be better equipped to recognize Jesus for who he is and take the offer of redemption. Those who have pursued their own depravity probably won’t. There is impetus for sharing the gospel in the present because the spiritual insight we gain and grace we experience in this life matters in eternity. But I don’t think people who “never hear” will be denied their chance to respond to truth.