Thursday, July 3, 2008

Well, now, isn't that INTERESTING!

In working on one of the upcoming posts in the series, “Why Did Jesus Die?” I was starting to write something about the death penalty for sin prescribed by the Law [of Moses] when suddenly, I realized I didn’t know where to find this in Scripture.

Guess what? It doesn't appear to be there. Or if it is, I can't find it. Can you?

The Law prescribes death as the penalty for certain, particular sins, yes, but not for every sin. Also, for rejecting the Lord and His Law altogether there are abundant threats and curses, ranging from incurable itches to being taken into slavery but no one will even buy you. Several of these horrible fates will end in death. But these are for the nation, should it abandon God’s Law. It’s not for people who try and fail.

Moreover, those things which the Israelites could only understand as curses we, after the coming of Christ and “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5) ought to understand as warnings. For we know that whoever rejects or abandons God removes himself from any special protection of God, inviting disaster, and also that God chastises whom He loves.

In short, so far as I can discover, there just is no death penalty for each and every sin anybody ever commits!

At least, there’s no legal death penalty for any and all sin. That’s only important when theologizing. Practically speaking, there may as well be, because any and all sin separates us from God Who Is our only Life, meaning sin already is death.

.

20 comments:

JTKlopcic said...

In short, so far as I can discover, there just is no death penalty for each and every sin anybody ever commits!

...unless you happen to be a young bull or ram without blemish!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Good!

See the next post in the "Why Did Jesus Die?" series, tomorrow.

:-)

Chris Jones said...

Anastasia,

I think the death penalty for sin prescribed by the Law is here:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen 2.16-17)

Remember that "the Law of Moses" is not just the Ten Commandments and the other specific legislation in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, etc. The "Law of Moses" (the Torah) is all five books of the Pentateuch, including Genesis.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

We've been taught, and/or we've just assumed, that those sacrificial animals were killed for punishment. In fact, as I'll try to explain tomrrow, it was for a different reason. (Okay, okay, try telling that to the young ram or bull!)

The only animal I can think of that was in fact associated with punishment was the scapegoat. I think I need to include a post on that...

Point to ponder: the scapegoat was sent away alive into the wilderness.

JTKlopcic said...

Which then brings up the question: Is "thou shalt surely die" a disciplinary sentence or a warning of a logical consequence?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

St. Gregory Palamas, Physical, Theological, Moral, and Practical Chapters 150 (PG 1157- 1160):


[God] did not say to Adam: “return to whence you were taken”; but He said to him: “Earth you are and unto the earth you shall return.... “He did not say:” in the day you shall eat of it, die!” but, ”in the day you shall eat of it, you shall surely die.” Nor did He afterwards say:” return now unto the earth”, but He said, "you shall return," in this manner forewarning, justly permitting and not obstructing what shall come to pass. We see that death did not come at the behest of God but as a consequence of Adam’s severing his relations with the source of Life, by his disobedience; and God in His kindness did only warn him of it.

orrologion said...

I believe death was seen as a blessing protecting humanity from experiencing fallenness and sin eternally - the same reason Adam and Eve were kicked out the Garden where they had access to the Tree of Life. It wasn't a punishment, spiritual and then physical death was the thing that would and did happen if Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate of the tree (broke the fast). No one had to pay the 'debt' of death, it simply (for the God-man) had to be destroyed.

orrologion said...

I'll try and remember and look up some other patristic commentary in the ACCS volume on Genesis 2.16-17.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I'll try and remember and look up some other patristic commentary in the ACCS volume on Genesis 2.16-17

Oh, please do -- and what is ACCS? Sounds like a I may need a copy!

orrologion said...

ACCS is the Ancient Christian Commentaries on Scripture Series edited by Thomas Oden. The volume covering the first half of Genesis was edited by Fr. Andrew Louth. The notes tend to be spotty in many of the volumes (axes to grind), but the selections are an interesting cross-section of what writers of the patristic era thought. The series includes selections from the orthodox or 'acceptable' sections of otherwise heretical writers, e.g., Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Pelagius, etc.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Heh! I nailed it for the "A" for "Ancient", anyway. Figures. We're Orthodox.

Thanks. I'm going to get myself one of those.

Lucian said...

For we know that whoever rejects or abandons God removes himself from any special protection of God, inviting disaster, and also that God chastises whom He loves.

That's precisely what I was trying to get through to Father Weedon. (in my rather very mischievous manner). >:)

William Weedon said...

FWIW: The letter kills. So says St. Paul in 2 Cor. 3:6. St. John Chrysostom points out from the context here he means the ten commandments, the "letters on stone" of the next verse. It can even be called "the ministry of death" (vs. 7).

Consider also Romans 7:10 - the very commandment that promised to be life proved to be death to me!

And lastly, most mysteriously, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Heb 9:22

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I expect Pr. Weedon already knows it, though.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Naw, it won't wash. You're quoting Romans 7:10 out of context. In context, St. Paul makes it crystal clear that it isn't the Law that kills, it's sin:


10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
Law Cannot Save from Sin
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good.

As for the 2 Corinthians passage, St. John Chrysostom says that St. Paul "does not say these things absolutely." He goes on to speak of the death penalty only for specific sins, such as murder and violating the Sabbath. And he says the verse is directed against those who pride themselves upon keeping the letter of the law. That kills because it keeps us slaves and it is a reversion from life lived by the Holy Spirit to live lived by the text.

There's still nothing that says the Law prescribes death for all sin. At least, not so far.

Oh, and the verse from Hebrews is not mysterious. I'm going to talk about it in my post tomorrow.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But even if these passage you cited, William, meant that the death is the *effect* of the Law (instead of sin), that's not what we're looking for. We're looking for the Law *prescribing* death for any and all infractions.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

It's kind of a moot point, in practical terms (although highly important theologically). That's because we Christians all acknowledge that death is what we *deserve*, even if it isn't prescribed by the Law.

Furthermore, of the specific sins for which death IS mandated, we've probably committed at least one of them, more likely all, at least on our hearts.

William Weedon said...

I think your last comments are right on. It's a moot point. Death is. And not just death as the falling to pieces of the body. But the death that truly came to them the day they disobeyed and ate of the forbidden fruit. We've been in double death ever sense: a death that is a separation from the God of life and a death of the body that is the catching up in the flesh with what is the reality of the spirit. And this first death may be designated "wrath." And it from this that our Lord seeks to deliver us, and if we are in Him, we are delivered from it. Outside of Him, it abides.

Lucian said...

I expect Pr. Weedon already knows it, though.

I myself knew many, many things without being fully aware of them.

orrologion said...

The patristic references I mentioned can be found here:

http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2008/07/on-genesis-216-17-specifically-in-day.html

I would also mention to those interested further in what exactly 'happened' in the Garden to take a gander at two books by St. Herman of Alaska Monastery that deal with the nature of death, the prelapsarian state and the consequences of Adam and Eve's disobedience (for obvious reasons given the nature of the general topic): Genesis, Creation and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision by Fr. Seraphim Rose and The First-Created Man by St. Symeon the New Theologian.