Karl Barth's historical-critical exegesis of Romans 5:12-21 in Christ and Adam.


Access rights

No access - Contact librarywebmaster@baylor.edu

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Karl Barth’s scriptural interpretation has often been criticized by biblical specialists as theologically-driven eisegesis. This is particularly true of the exposition of Rom 5:12–21 that Barth published in 1952 as Christ and Adam according to Romans 5: A Contribution to the Question of Man and Humanity. The project undertaken here attempts to show that the overwhelmingly negative reception of Christ and Adam among professional New Testament scholars is undeserved. Far from being determined by any tendency on Barth’s part to impose his own theology on the text, the anthropological thesis of Christ and Adam that “Jesus Christ is the secret and truth of . . . human nature” is grounded in responsible historical-critical exegesis of Romans 5. Following a description in Chapter One of Barth’s view of the role of historical criticism in the interpretive process, Chapter Two prepares the way for the remainder of the study by offering an exposition of Christ and Adam that focuses on the exegetical decisions that it reflects concerning Rom 5:12–21. Chapter Three surveys critical objections to these decisions and collates them into six categories: (1) the function of v. 12; (2) Paul’s Adam-Christ typology in vv. 12–19; (3) the role of the law in vv. 13–14, 20; (4) the meaning of πολλῷ μᾶλλον in vv. 15, 17; (5) Paul’s use of ΔΙΚ-terminology in vv. 16–19, 21; and (6) the question of universal salvation in vv. 18–19. Chapter Four evaluates these objections and concludes that, although most of them are either unjustified or justified only in part, those which pertain to category (5) are fully justified and threaten to invalidate the thesis of Christ and Adam. Chapter Five demonstrates that they do not actually succeed in doing this by providing a modest revision of Barth’s exegesis of Romans 5 that confirms his anthropological conclusion in Christ and Adam while avoiding the book’s historical-critical deficiencies. Chapter Six concludes the dissertation by demonstrating the relevance of Christ and Adam to contemporary Romans studies and suggesting a number of potentially-fruitful avenues for future study of Barth’s exegetical practice.



Karl Barth. Romans 5. Historical criticism. Exegesis. Christ and Adam. Anthropology. Hermeneutics.