The words in Rom 5,12-21 raise the following questions: Did sin come into the world only through one man? Is only the suffering of Jesus Christ relevant for the salvation of all mankind? The traditional view of original sin does not agree with the present exegesis. A couple - not a single man - did sin in Gen 3. The primeval story describes a growth of guilt, which is not inheritable from one generation to another (Ezek 18). A 'social sin' does not contradict today's experience. The Old Testament knows atonement of one's own sins by 'steadfast love' (Prov 16,6), by confession of sin (2 Sam 12,13) and by offering animals (cf. Lev 17,11). The guilt of another person can be atoned by repaying good for evil (1 Sam 24,18), by intercession (Exod 32,11-14), and by the righteousness of a small minority (Gen 18,23-32). Especially important for understanding Jesus Christ is the suffering servant, who 'was wounded for our transgressions' (Isa 53,5). St. Paul knows that his own suffering is relevant for himself (Rom 8,17; 2 Cor 4,10f.; Phil 3,10), as for others (Eph 3,13; Col 1,24; 2 Tim 2,8-10). There exists also a 'social dimension' for atonement.
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