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

Tom Holland's New Commentary on Romans


For those who found Tom Holland’s work “Contours of Pauline Theology” useful, you might be interested in Tom’s new Romans Commentary “Romans: The Divine Marriage”. Tom makes some mistakes but by and large his work gets as close to the Preterist hermeneutic of Max King’s as anyone out there.  This is especially true in regards to his exploration of Romans concerning the corporate understanding of “body”.  I was hoping that he would tie his Rom 5-8 discussion into 1 Cor 15 concerning the “body” in but it seems he won’t touch 1 Cor 15 with a ten foot pole in either of his two books. He likely realizes the implications and just steers clear of opening up that can of worms; however it is glaring that he sidesteps it so completely.


I am going to quote a section from one of Holland’s chapter excursions which many of you might find useful.  I found it on this review link and it’s an extensive article from which I quote this snippet from.


The link is found here: 

Begin Quote:


Sin in the theology of Paul


Paul has much to say about humankind’s sinful condition. His understanding has huge implications for how Christians understand the Bible’s teaching on the state of man, i.e., how he stands before God and how he relates to the rest of creation. The following discussion is an attempt to highlight the danger of absorbing ideas from the culture which Paul would have never owned, particularly about sin, and reading them back into Scripture. These non-Hebraic thought-streams have become so embedded in Western Christian thinking that we unintentionally misrepresent what Paul and the other Scripture writers actually teach.[1]


OT background of NT sarx (NIV translation: “sinful nature”)


The Greek word σὰρξ (sarx) is used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew םָשָר (bāsār), the accepted English translation of both sarx and bāsār being “flesh.” It requires a close study of each OT passage in which the term is found to understand how it should be interpreted because it has a number of meanings. This brief OT survey will attempt to show the various ways in which the term was used by the OT writers.


The use of “flesh” to describe a covenant relationship


An important use of “flesh,” is found in the latter part of Gen 2:23-24, where we find Adam saying of Eve: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” The writer of Genesis continues: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Here, “flesh,” implies the covenant relationship a man has with his wife. She was “one flesh” with him. The provision of this relationship was Yahweh’s response to Adam’s loneliness and frailty. Despite it being a holy relationship (it was approved by God before the fall), it did not change the creaturely vulnerability of man.


The use of “flesh” to describe human frailty


The condition of human frailty is also called “flesh” in the OT. It is found in the writings of prophets such as Isaiah and Ezekiel. Isaiah, with his lofty view of Yahweh, emphasized that flesh was weak compared to the might of God. He paints a powerful picture of man’s frailty: “all men (flesh) are like grass … the grass withers and the flowers fall” (Isa 40:6). The prophet Ezekiel promised that the great gift of the new covenant would be a “heart of flesh” which would replace a “heart of stone” (Ezek 36:26-27). Clearly, Ezekiel does not liken “flesh” to sin but to a heart dependent on God.

End Quote:

The biggest mistake that I believe Holland makes is equating Adam as an ongoing futurist entity in which those who do not profess their faith in Christ are still bound up in Adam’s “sin and death”. He fails to recognize fully that Adam is tied covenantally to the Law and with the ending of Old Covenant Law.  Adam has become the “dead husband” leaving Eve to marry another; namely the last Adam Christ. However don’t let this detract you because Holland explores so much of these ramifications of Rom 5-8 that we CC recognize lay the foundation of our understanding and despite his missteps does a wonderful job for the serious bible student and I find this book highly recommendable.  However if you are not well studied in the implications of tying Adam wrongly to an ongoing covenant entity beyond the Law Holland may confuse you even more. It would have helped if he had paid closer attention to 1 Cor 15:56 and realized that the end of Law was the death of Adam which could have helped him avoid his mistake. Again this is likely the reason he avoids 1 Cor 15 almost exclusively.


1Co 15:56  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.


What constitutes those outside of Christ post old covenant law is not those in the first Adam because those are being thrown back permanently into the realm of Darkness from which Adam was taken and placed in the Garden. Adam was placed in the Garden out of this realm of Darkness yet when he fell he was relegated back to the “mortal” dust of the earth until the redeemer lifted him out of this dust to stand again. This fallen realm of Adam is also equated to “darkness” by Paul and this is because those under law were associated with the rest of lost humanity because they were not in a complete relationship with God. The coming judgment demonstrated through the sign of condemnation upon the Temple and Judaism is the last breath of the old covenant people. Either they were found in the New Covenant or they were relegated to outer darkness where there was gnashing of teeth. This is a position that means the old covenant people were no closer to God than the Pagans.


Eph 2:12  remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.


Mat 8:12  while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."


2Th 1:7-9  and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels  (8)  in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  (9)  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,


So Adam died and with him the law, the temple made with hands and animal sacrifices. They have been relegated back to the original Darkness and chaos from which the First Adam was to bring the light to the Gentiles. Yet he could find no helpers among those animals. ;-)  


Holland gets the basics right but he mixes it up in the process but it’s still quite a bit better than most futurist out there.



Views: 238

Comment by samuel m. frost on January 4, 2012 at 1:44am

Norm, thanks for posting, looking forward to getting the book.  You wrote, "He fails to recognize fully that Adam is tied covenantally to the Law and with the ending of Old Covenant Law."  I now see this the other way around: The Law of Moses is tied to Adam and the universal "transgession" of the "commandment".  The Law of Moses was "added" to "the Sin" of Adam in order to highlight the universal application: "all men are under sin alike."  All men are not "under the Law of Moses", but all men are "under" the Law of the Garden, which Adam "transgressed".  The Law of Moses merely "increased" this fact with a particular, temporal "nation".  From this, Paul can now argue the universality of the Last Adam, releasing those "under the Law" of Moses, as well as those under the Law of Adam (of which, ultimately, all men, Jews and the nations, were under and which the Law of Moses was given merely to indicate the exceeding sinfulness of man - his propensity towards sin and his easily becoming entangled it).  Now, you may deny that you are immune from becoming so easily entangled, but I no longer do.  I have a propensity towards it.  It's easy to sin.  It's hard to love and obey.  I don't have to discipline myself to sin.  I do have to discipline myself to obey.  Thankfully, when I do sin, I have, now, an Advocate, who has set me free from the ultimate condemnation, and shall deliver me entirely at the resurrection of the dead - body and soul.


On another note, the dissolution of the Old Covenant, does not mean the dissolution of the residual effects of the Adamic Covenant.  The dissolution of the Old Covenant had absolutely nothing to do with the nations, who were never "under Law" (Romans 2).  Rather, working backwards (reversal), Adam's Law came first, then the Law of Moses.  By effectively ending the Law of Moses, God is now effectively removing the Law of Adam (and all of its effects, entirely).  He has already shown us this complete reversal in the Man, Christ Jesus, who, bodily, is no longer subject to death in any way, shape, or form (Romans 6). 

Comment by Norm on January 4, 2012 at 2:47pm

Sam, the universal transgression of the covenant is bound to those in “covenant with God”, so entering into covenant is a qualification.  This makes Adam a covenant corporate entity for sure (but not necessarily biological).  We are no more biological descendants of the First Adam than we are of the last Adam, yet the faithful of Israel were covenant members of Adam’s Body as we are covenantaly associated with Christ as members of His corporate Body.


We see this association corporately reflected by those under Law as illustrated here in Hosea 6.


Hosea 6: 7 But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant:


And by the way Holland disagrees with those who posit that Hosea is not talking about Adam there.


Also much of Second Temple Judaism and early Christian literature often treats Adam as their covenant father.


Here is a sample from the Aramaic early Christian writing of “The Book of Adam and Eve” which provides us with a commentary of sorts on how the early church read Adam as a covenantal Father of Israel.  


3: 6 Then God in his mercy for Adam who was made after His own image and likeness, explained to him, that these were 5,000 and 500 years; and how One would then come and save him and his descendants. 7 But before that, God had made this covenant with our father, Adam, in the same terms, before he came out of the garden, when he was by the tree where Eve took of the fruit and gave it to him to eat.


 I’m also not sure I have seen where Gentiles were ever associated as being under Law from God as was Adam and Israel (however I’m open to correction). We see this emphasis early in the Genesis story line where those immediate offspring of Adam in the covenant lineage are the first to call on the Name of God (YHWH) that is exclusive to Israel.  The author is trying to tell us something early here that is important to grasp concerning the continual covenant nature of those in Adam.


Gen 4: 26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enosh. Then began men (eesh)  to call upon the name of Jehovah.


The issue that I have pointed out in my intro was that we almost always overlook Rom 5:13 which clearly illustrates that before Adam was given a “law/commandment” that sin was very much part of the “world”. 


Rom 5:13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.



Comment by Norm on January 4, 2012 at 2:49pm

Sin did not begin with Adam but was associated and part of the natural mortal world from which he was drawn. Yet in the purity of the Garden scene into which Adam was placed before the “law” there was no accounting of “sin” against him.  Sin is part and parcel of the darkness and chaos of the world outside of Garden existence with God.  Thus the reason there was a need to bring us back into the Garden just as “The Book of Adam and Eve” describes.


Chp 14: 2 But God the Lord said to Adam, "Indeed I say to you, this darkness will pass from you, every day I have determined for you, until the fulfillment of My covenant; when I will save you and bring you back again into the garden, into the house of light you long for, in which there is no darkness*. I will bring you to it -- in the kingdom of heaven."


When we look at Rom 5:14 we see that even for those in Covenant with God from Adam to Moses (see Heb 11) such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Jacob there was still the legality of Adam’s covenant Death hanging over their head even though they had not been yet given a commandment or law such as Adam or Moses issued to the covenant people.


Rom 5:14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.


People often jump to the conclusion that Paul is speaking of “all” biological mankind in these statements but Paul’s discussion in Romans is always wrapped up in the Covenant people of God otherwise we end up with Paul espousing Universalism with some of the inclusive language he uses.  In fact Paul limits the discussion later in Romans 5 by defining the context of those in Adam and in Christ as “the many” instead of everyone at large.


Comment by Norm on January 4, 2012 at 2:51pm

Sam you stated … “The Law of Moses was "added" to "the Sin" of Adam in order to highlight the universal application: "all men are under sin alike."  All men are not "under the Law of Moses", but all men are "under" the Law of the Garden, which Adam "transgressed". 


Sam that appears to be a fair point: but as I have presented above the covenant nature of the scriptures dealing with faithful men to God defines the parameters of who is under consideration and it is covenantal and corporately inclusive.   Also as I have stated previously “sin” is already assumed to be part of the natural order of the world for humankind dwelling in “darkness”.  Those in Adam were lingering on the edge of “darkness” of humanity because of their proclivity for following Satan the deceiver that encourages them to remain in “death’s” grip.  Their “Sin” that Paul is highlighting is specific to the Law alone yet puts them on the precipice of God’s people and essentially says because of their lust of the flesh toward the Law renders them not much better than the pagan who exists in “darkness”.  This has to be rectified for believers, thus the need in Gen 3:15 for the PROTEVANGELIUM of crushing the deceivers head and bringing Eve’s promise of being the mother of all the living to messianic completion. 


Now I will give you this that if one continues to follow the way of Adams and Moses Law instead of the Law of Christ then essentially one is technically not following the Gospel  as it is no Gospel at all. Yet the point of Judgment on the Law is to illustrate through no uncertain terms that eternally there is no recourse through Adam and Moses Law of knowing God.  God has rid the world of that covenant option for humanity, yet it does not mean that one can’t still attempt to walk in that mortal “type” or manner.  Yet it is unmistakably clear that if one does they render themselves back into outer darkness with the Jews that rejected Christ and like Cain are without God’s presence and their works will be futile.  Just because the old covenant has been destroyed does not mean that people don’t still strive to live that manner of life.  However the story of the bible and the NT is that they are no better off than the pagan s who knows not God in doing so.


Gal 3: 10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.


So bottom line is that I don’t believe just because Adam died that our sin nature is done away with, no I believe that we are just as susceptible to sin as ever even before Adam ever partook of the tree of Good and Evil thus trying to emulate God and replace him.  That was “the sin” of Adam and the Law.


However; when one enters Garden life now through Christ instead of through Adam/law one’s sins are not held against them.  Sin is still out there for sure among those outside of covenant.


Comment by samuel m. frost on January 4, 2012 at 8:42pm

Norm, appreciate the post, but unfortunately, you and I are talking past each other in that our paradigms are exclusive of each other.  I operate from the understanding that Adam was the first created man.  Every man, woman and child I see today came directly from that first pair.  The overwhelming consensus of 2ndT Judaism supports this reading.  The anthropoligical ramifications of this founded Western Christianity and civilization.  It was entirely unique.  But, be that as it may, we are simply talking past each other.  However, there are some agreements between us, as it appears, even though our conclusions may agree....we got there differently. 

Oh , and I agree that Hosea 6 is "like Adam" (that's in my Dissertation), as well as Job 31.33 mentioned "like Adam".  There are parallels between Job and the fall of Adam (job is "hedged", satan is permitted, job is tempted, his sin is revealed: "surely I spoke of things I know not of..." and atonement is made and God increases and multiplies him. 

Comment by Norm on January 4, 2012 at 10:24pm


Yes we are likely talking past each other but I agree we also have some commonalities and conclusions. We should stop there perhaps! ;-)

However I disagree that 2ndT Judaism supports a literal reading of Adam and Eve since much of the genre is not historical narrative but is more often akin to an apocolyptic type. Weve been down this road before but one could claim that Ezekiel could be read literaly in some sections. One simply must train themsleves to discern Hebrew literature, perhaps as Philo of Alexandria suggest.

Thanks for the comments


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