Dr. Pappas, A friend tells me that Romans 5:13 says that before the ten commandments sin was not
imputed to mankind. I do not see the definite article with the law, what is going on with this
You are right, Romans 5:13 does not have a definite article with nomos - law. Since there is no definite article, it should be translated a law, that is, Paul is talking in general. This is a general principle - without a written law one cannot (in a true legal sense) have the transgression held against another. The word for imputation is ellogeo (a compound of the prep. to, in, by and lego, to say) and means to reckon in, put on one's account. The picture is that of a court room where one's actions are measured up against that which is written in words.
This could be translated something like "for until (up to the point that) law (was written down), sin was in [the] world, but it is not being charged to one's account when there is no law." The great grammarian Linski translates: For until law sin was in the world although sin is not charged up while there is no law.
The reason you see the definite article in most translations is due to context. The translation is from Greek (which does not need an acticle), to English which needs an article to make it clear (e.g., [the] world). Because the context suggests that the law is the law given to Moses, the definite article is usually added. Note however, that the idea is parenthetical and when Paul takes up the idea of law in verse 20, his says that once the law entered into the equation, mankind had no excuse (it was no longer word of mouth - it was written down!) and required grace upon grace. Again, the idea of the law comes back to Paul's discussion in chapter 7 as he addresses "those who know the law," saying "the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives. This is again a general principle, there is no definite article used.
This brings us to the topic of the doctrine of imputation as it has two aspects. Imputation may be either real or judicial. A real imputation is reckoned to one when it is his own sin. A judicial imputation is one reckoned to one that is not his own.
There are three imputations described in Scriupture. 1. Adam's sin is imputed to the human race. This is Paul's argument in Romans 5:12-21. Verse 12 says that death as a pentalty has come upon all men in that all have sinned. That is, all men sinned when Adam sinned in the garden. This is what is in view in verse 13, Adam's sin was imputed to all mankind, it was Adam's sin that was reckoned to all mankind so all men die. It was not that any are righteous by themselves and do not sin, but rather, if one lives by the law, and claims not to sin, he is a liar and will die in his sin, for all have sinned and falled short of the glory of God.
Dr. Chafer writes, "That this evil may not be deemed personal sins, the Apostle points out how all died in the period between Adam and Moses, or before the Mosaic Law was given (which law first gave to sin the heinous character of transgression), and likewise how all irresponsible persons such as infants and imbeciles died although they have never sinned willfully, as in the case of Adam's transgression. Since God reckons each member of the race to have sinned in Adam's sin, this becomes the one case of real imputation, that is, a reckoning to each person that which is antecedently his own."
The other two imputations in Scripture are: 2. The sin of the human race is imputed to Christ. This is judicial imputation since sin was never antecedently Christ's, but nevertheless, Christ bore our sins (Isa. 53:5-6, 11; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).
3. The righteousness of God is imputed to believers. This is the believer's standing before God. We are seen righteous before God, because Christ paid the price on the cross (Rom. 1:17; 3:22; 10:3; Phil. 3:9).
Hope that helps.
Dr. John Pappas