Does the Torah have a notion of Original Sin ?

My last weblogs assumed that the Torah had a notion of Original Sin. In this, I followed the reasoning of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the philosophy of Paul ~ Simon Magus.

However, rabbi Tovia Singer argues that Paul gives a distorted view of the Torah.

“This stunning misquote in Romans stands out as a remarkable illustration of Paul’s ability to shape scriptures in order to create the illusion that his theological message conformed to the principles of the Torah. By removing the final segment of this verse, Paul succeeded in convincing his largely gentile readers that his Christian teachings were supported by the principles of the Hebrew Bible.

Deuteronomy 30:14 Romans 10:8
But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach).

(…) throughout his epistles Paul sidesteps any statement in the Jewish scriptures that could undermine his teaching on original sin. For example, immediately after the sin of Adam and Eve is narrated, the Torah declares that man can master his passionate lust for sin. In Genesis 4:6-7, God turns to Cain and warns him,

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? If, though, you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you shall master over it.

For Christian architects like Paul, Augustine, and Calvin, this declaration of man’s capacity to restrain and govern his lust for sin is nothing short of heresy.  Moreover, the fact that the Torah places these assuring words immediately following the sin in the Garden of Eden [ftnt] is profoundly troubling for the church. How can depraved humanity control its iniquity when the Book of Romans repeatedly insists that man can do nothing to release himself from sin’s powerful grip?  Yet notice that there is nothing in the Eden narrative that could be construed as support for Paul’s teaching on humanity’s dire condition. On the contrary, in just these two inspiring verses, the Torah dispels forever the church’s teachings on original sin.

(…) In Jewish terms, sin is not a person, it’s an event, and that event happened yesterday.  In chapter after chapter, the prophets of Israel beseech those who lost their way to turn back to the Merciful One because today is a new day.” (Rabbi Tovia Singer.)

Matthew is supposed to have written for the Jews, but Singer holds that what he wrote turned them away because of his lack of proper understanding …

Let us first regard normal sin, in relation to the Torah law, and find that mercy is not automatic:

  • Yahweh offered the law so that his chosen people could follow these and know that he would be satisfied.
  • Perhaps Yahweh did not count it as “sin” if his commandments were not obeyed. But, he would not regard it as positive. On the day of judgement it would not be counted in favour. When it was determined who would go to heaven, why would you be selected ? Not being selected (e.g. being neglected) would be a punishment.
  • Thus, we may hold that the very notion of “law” implies the notion of “sin”.
  • A fortiori, we have Torah texts in which Yahweh sends out punishment.
  • Thus mercy is not automatic.

Let us next consider Original Sin. Yahweh required Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge. They disobeyed, and hence they and their descendants are no longer in Paradise. Let us define Original Sin ~ Eating Apple ~ Original Punishment ~ Not being in Paradise. All humanity suffers from that Original Sin (with pain and death). There is nothing in Torah law that you can do redeem this sin, i.e. so that you would directly enter Paradise. You only can obey Torah law during your life and hope for the best afterwards. There is no guarantee that your soul will be allowed into Paradise. Especially since Yahweh is a rather fickle god. Thus:

  • Singer likely is right that the Torah has no explicit statement on Original Sin.
  • He is wrong about the logical implications from the Torah.
  • Obviously Paul should not have changed the Torah quotes.
  • He should have explained that those were inadequate for saving your soul, for above reasons.
  • It doesn’t seem unreasonable that Paul could presume that the Torah had the equivalent of Original Sin.
  • When Christian teaching to Judaism isn’t very effective, this might be because Judaism neglects the logic in the Torah, or adopts an irrational hope for the mercy of Yahweh, or they don’t believe in the fairy tale of Paradise.
  • Rabbi Tovia Singer should have told us this analysis instead of giving this rather simplistic criticism of Paul.

For completeness I refer to the wikipedia article as a portal to more views.

Addendum January 30, 2015

I just discovered that Paul ~ Simon Magus found a way to still get to Paradise without Jesus, namely by means of Gnosis. His assertion would be another argument for the Christian Church to get rid of Gnosis.

“It is not expedient for me, doubtless, to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I can not tell; or whether out of the body, I can not tell: God knoweth); such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man. . . . How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” Paul (II Cor. xii. 1-4)

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