O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Taken from Richard James Fischer’s book, Historical Genesis: From Adam to Abraham, Pages 26-29.  By Rich Duncan



A contention exists among some traditionalist that there was no death even in the animal world until Adam sinned.  To support this idea, about one half of one verse in Romans is cited: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin…” (Rom. 5:12a).  Did sin inflict both man and animals in the eyes of Paul?

One consideration is that the fossil record is replete with over half a billion years’ worth of animal death from the Cambrian period until now, and traces of animal life can be found long before then.  Further, that is not what the complete verse implies.  What follows the oft-cited text is the second half of the verse, usually overlooked.  Romans 5:12b: “and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”.  According to Paul it was men who suffered the consequences—not animals.

Continuing with Romans, in 1656, Isaac de la Peyrere argued eloquently in Men Before Adam that a literal interpretation of Romans 5:12-14 indicated the world was populated before Adam.8  The key was verse 13: “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”

Peyrere reasoned that the law was given to Adam shortly after his creation and if there was “sin in the world” at that time, there must have been people to do it:

…it must be held that sin was in the world before Adam and until Adam: but that sin was not imputed before Adam; Therefore other men were to be allowed before Adam who had indeed sinn’d, but without imputation; because before the law sins wer [sic] not imputed.9

Although men and sin were in the world before Adam, the manner of sin was in the form of offenses against nature, violations of “natural law,” and all died a natural death. It was not until God imposed moral law, with Adam the first to be subject to it, that men were capable of “legal sin,” trespasses against God’s law.10  Beginning with Adam’s Fall, human beings died both a natural death and a “legal” or spiritual death.

Ten years before Peyrere wrote Men Before Adam, the Westminster Divines penned their Confession of Faith.  They sought to avoid any implications that all of humanity did not commence with Adam by putting the law on Moses.  But if Mosaic law, and not Adamic law, was intended by Romans 5:13, it could mean that sin was not charged before Moses!  No, the interpreters were not stepping into that trap.  The Divines clearly recognized that the moral law, the “covenant of works,” was given to Adam and said so:

The rule of obedience revealed to Adam in the estate of innocence, and to all mankind in him…was the moral law.11

If moral law was given to Adam, and already “sin was in the world,” then wouldn’t this involve people?  The Westminster Divines were unwilling to entertain that possibility.  They believed humanity started with Adam, and sin was passed to his posterity by “natural generation.”  The harmonizing device employed (although not mentioned specifically in the Westminster Confession) was to maintain that imputation of sin was through the law of Moses, but that it somehow applied retroactively to Adam and his descendents.  This made no sense, of course, but they were torn between the illogical and the unthinkable.  So, according to the Divines, the moral law was not “comprehended” until the Ten Commandments were delivered by God to Moses.12

Pryrere railed against the position taken by the Divines and their insistence that “the law” was the law of Moses:

The Interpreters being between two such inconvenience, were at a stand, nor did [they] know which way to turn themselves; But because it seemed lass prejudicial to affirm, that sins were not imputed before Moses, and until Moses, than to affirm that there were any men before Adam!  Therefore they preferred the first inconvenience before the second.13

In Peyrere’s mind, since the law transgressed was the law given to Adam of Genesis, the sin was perpetrated by those who co-existed and pre-existed Adam.  Sin was not imputed to those forerunners, however, until Adam disobeyed God’s law.

Before the Law of God, or till that Law of God was violated by Adam, sin and death were in the world, yet had gained no power over it: they had got no lawful possession, they had got no absolute power.  The reason is, because before that time there was no Law given by God.14

Clearly, sin was imputed from Adam to Moses.  What brought the flood?  Was the flood not judgment for sin?  Or for that matter, what about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?  And if the subject of Romans 5:13 was Adamic law, the sin that “was in the world” was committed by men other than Adam.

We will never know Adam’s mission on earth with certainty.  Probably it was intended that he was to bring news of God’s kingdom to the polytheistic heathen to introduce them to accountable behavior.  Adam had life to offer, perhaps tied to the tree of life some way.  But regardless of what Adam was supposed to have done, however, he would have done it, being human, he failed.  The “second Adam” was God incarnate, and succeeded.


9.  Isaac de la Peyrere, Men Before Adam.  Or a Discourse upon the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth Verses of the Fifth Chapter of the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans.  By which are prov’d, That the first Men were created before Adam. (London: 1656), 19.
10.  Peyrere, Men Before Adam, 3-5
11.  “The Larger Catechism,” The Confession of Faith (Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1838): 246.
12.  “Larger Catechism,” 251.
13.  Peyrere, Men Before Adam, 19.
14.  Peyrere, Men Before Adam, 19.

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Comment by Tim Martin on January 5, 2012 at 6:56pm

That is one fascinating passage. Thanks for posting, Jeff.

Tim Martin

Comment by JL Vaughn on January 5, 2012 at 8:24pm


Dick Fischer believes Adam was Adapa of Eridu-Eden (about 5000 BC).  Adapa's temple is the oldest known temple with an altar.  Gobekli-Tepe does not have an altar.

There is surprisingly little agreement about the date of Adam on the Historical Adam group of which Norm, Dick Fischer, and I are members.  I think Don Stoner has both the earliest date and latest date for anyone in the group (documented IQ of 175+ and he's confused, what hope is there for the rest of us :) ).

I've seen no evidence for hunter gatherers in lower Mesopotamia.  The people who first settled lower Mesopotamia appear to have brought culture and civilization with them, as well as farming and herding.  Well into the neolithic.  By Fischer's chronology, Adam would have been one of the first men to enter lower Mesopotamia, but 7K not 75K years ago.

Pick an appropriate place and time period, and I can make a case for Adam having been there.  But I still have my preference/bias.



Comment by JL Vaughn on January 6, 2012 at 1:38am

The Blombos cave artifacts are much older than Gobekli-Tepe which is much older than Adam. Both were products of homo sapiens sapiens.

1) I think God's own standards requires Adam and the Genesis 1 creation event to have occurred after the invention of writing.

2) Gen. 2:4 is in the form of a standard Sumerian colophon.  If it is a colophon, it claims Gen. 1:1-2:4 was written by Heavens and Earth "on the day" the event occurred.

3) Gen. 5:1 is also in the form of a standard Sumerian colophon, and adds the word "book."  If it is a colophon, then Gen. 2:5-5:1 was written by Adam himself (though some later person might have inserted some of the text in that passage).

4)  Genesis has several narrators.  Where these narrators start and end match the colophons.  These narrators do not match the documentary hypothesis.  None of these narrators were Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ezra, or any other linguistically identifiable person in the Old Testament.  This would be expected if Genesis was written consecutively by witnesses and/or people who had personal contact with witnesses, that is, Genesis 1-36 was likely written by the people named in the colophons.

I think the presence of Sumerian colophons in Genesis is a big deal.  It demonstrates Genesis was written by those men who lived through those events.

Comment by Wanda Short on January 6, 2012 at 7:25am

Thanks for sharing this Jeff - I posted with a link back here on our church site.  We were discussing this a few weeks ago in bible study and i think this article is excellent!  :-}

Comment by John on January 6, 2012 at 7:47am

To download the full PDF document version of the book synopsis, Click Here. Also posted two short videos by Fisher here. Historical Genesis Record and Historical Genesis From Adam to Abraham.

Comment by JL Vaughn on January 6, 2012 at 1:10pm


I've not heard of Jebel Faya before.  At 60K BC, they would have been pre-Ice Age? I need to modify my statement above.  These people appear to have moved out long before the Ubaidians, Sumerians, Akkadians, and Elamites moved in 7-5K BC.

The Ubaidians, etc. appear to have developed culture and irrigation technology elsewhere, before moving into Mesopotamia proper.  And they appear to have moved in from the north, not (directly at least) from Africa.  Culturally, they descended from the people at Gobekli-Tepe and those displaced by the Black Sea Flood.  I highly recommend Ryan and Pitman's book on this later topic.

Also Ryan & Pitman have a chapter on oral transmission (The Guslar's Tale, if memory serves) which is very good.  They don't seem to realize it, but they disproved their own assumption that early Genesis was passed down orally.  Genesis 1 has only one of the six features that Ryan & Pittman's sources document as contained in all oral transmissions.  Wiseman's hypothesis is a far better explanation.  Job has one of the six.  Genesis 3 has one small hint of one of the features.  The rest of Genesis has none of these features.  I think that any claim of oral transmission of any part of Genesis (except possibly a few later scribal inserts) is falsified.

If Wisemann's colophon hypothesis is correct, then Adam wrote the original text for Gen. 2:5-5:1.  Eve's thoughts on why she ate the forbidden fruit and Cain's genealogy might have been later scribal inserts.  But if they were, the inserter was pre-Abraham.

Another thing, if the texts were written from an oral tradition, they would likely have a common narrator.  And would we see a change from Sumerian textual forms in Gen. 1-11 to Akkadian textual forms in Gen. 12-36 and to a 3rd textual form in Gen. 37?  Those changes happen precisely when the patriarchial family moved from Sumer to Akkad and from Akkadian speaking Palestine to Egypt.

Once I abandoned Adam as the first ish, I started looking for cultural indicators for Adam the first Adam.  They all seem to make Adam a historical figure and not a prehistorical figure.  This is the fundamental distinction between the Historical Genesis group and everyone else.


Comment by JL Vaughn on January 6, 2012 at 3:04pm

Thanks Ken.

Comment by Dan Moran on January 6, 2012 at 5:24pm

Johnny come laterly to the discussion.  Let me throw in some thoughts here. 

First, about Paul's position letter to the Romans; It must be understood that Paul does not discuss any law before Moses.  He uses Abraham as an absolute to make this point that he, like Christians are not under a  covenant of legislation.  That covenant was given to the Jews through Moses and the apostles' argument is about the universal salavation of all men; using Abraham as a proof.  Abraham was justified before law and before circumcision... his faith is the example to Jew and to Gentile (all nations) that anyone can be saved. 

Romans 4:  9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.


John clearly understood that the law came through Moses, certainly not Adam: John 1: 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.


The law was given to Moses and God used the Jews to show the transcendent power and holiness of God: Romans 3:  19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

The purpose of the law becomes clear as does the reason for using the Jewish nation through that law;  making them unique but making them an example to the whole world so all are accuntable to God:  Romans 9  22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? [these are the Jews -DLM] 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  [all the world can be saved-DLM].


Paul is clear that sin is not counted where there is no law.  YET death reigned from Adam to Moses, a period which had no God given revelation of law.   This is exactly what Romans 5 says... 13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the

Comment by Dan Moran on January 6, 2012 at 5:28pm

Dang... what is the word limit on these posts... I just lost 50% of my thoughts!

Comment by JL Vaughn on January 6, 2012 at 5:59pm


First, about Paul's position letter to the Romans; It must be understood that Paul does not discuss any law before Moses.

Can you demonstrate this contention?  Or is it merely an assertion?  Could you please address Fischer's remarks in the OP, instead of ignoring and talking past them?



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