Lübeck's Dance of Death

The Original Sin

Good news: There is no "Original Sin".

Cimetière des Innocents, click for details.
Cimetière des Innocents

The text in Lübeck's / Tallinn's dance of death starts with "Oh, rational creature". The oldest known dance of death, i.e. the danse macabre in Cimetière des Innocents in Paris, starts in exactly the same way: "O creature roysonnable, Qui desires vie eternelle.".

The dance of death in London began with "0 creatures ȝe that ben resonable, The life desiringe whiche is eternal". Why is it so pertinent to point out that Man is a rational creature - and what has this got to do with eternal life?

This is the central Christian dogma - known as The Original Sin: The fact that we're rational creatures is also the reason that we're going to die. Adam and Eve were immortal until they ate from the tree of knowledge and were expelled from Paradise.

The title page of Dodendantz from 1520 explains this in straightforward terms:

God vorboth Adam in deme paradyse:
Eth nicht van desser frucht, de ick dy wyse,  
Deystu hir entyegen, so mostu sterven.
Nicht du alleyne, men ock al dyne erven
Adam brack dat gheboth ane noth.
Alsus quam an uns de naturlike doth,


God forbade Adam in Paradise:
Do not eat from this fruit that I show you.
If you do against this, then you must die
Not you alone, but also all your heirs.
Adam broke the ban without coercion.
Thus came over us the natural death

Des Dodes Dantz from 1489 has a similar introduction:

Al, dat geboren wert, kumt in de nôt,
Dat it môt liden den bitteren dôt.
Adam heft uns gebracht bi dit ungemak,
Do he in dem paradise mit Even Godes gebot brak.


All that is born comes into the distress
that it must suffer the bitter death.
Adam has brought [it to] us by the misdeed,
when he in Paradise with Eve broke God's command.

In short: All must die because of Adam's "crime". Nathanael Schlott expresses the same idea in his "new" text from 1701, when he lets Death speak to the merchant:

Denk an den Banquerot, den Adam längst gemacht,
Der setzet dich in Schuld, und hat mich hergebracht.


Consider the bankruptcy that Adam made long ago,
It puts you in debt and has brought me here.

St. Paul the Apostle

Holbein, the expulsion. Death is waiting outside, playing the guitar.
Holbein's Imagines Mortis: The Expulsion
Emmetten, click to see the entire dance.

So billions of people have to die and burn forever in Hell because of one lousy apple whose mortal taste Brought Death into the World, and all our woe (yes, that was Milton).

Does it sound stupid? Then you may rest assured that neither God nor Christ ever uttered such nonsense. The original sin was invented by Paul the apostle in his epistles e.g. Romans 5,12: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" or 1st Cor. 15,22: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive".

Exactly how Paul came to be an apostle is less than clear, since he never met Jesus in person. Paul started his career persecuting and jailing Christians: "For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it"(Galatians 1,13). Then he "saw the light", repented, and started working just as zealously for Christianity as he had just tried to destroy it.

There are those who claim that Paul didn't really convert to Christianity, but rather that he converted Christianity itself, since the Gospel he taught had little to do with the teachings of Christ and the congregation in Jerusalem.

Let us take a closer look at Paul's claims:

The Original Sin in The Old Testament

Lucerne's dance of death starts with the expulsion. Notice the apple in Eve's hand.
Lucerne's dance of death

God never threatened to kill Adam's heirs. On the contrary He said (Genesis 2,17) to Adam: " [...] for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die". So Adam was supposed to die the same day - before he had a chance to beget any heirs. The threat was only meant for Adam and it was an empty threat since we read in Gen. 5,3-5, that Adam lived another 930 years(1).

Jost Amman, the tree of knowledge is Death.
Ammans death tree

There's no support for Paul's claim that Adam and Eve once were immortal. On the contrary, they were expelled from Paradise to prevent them from becoming immortal: "[...] and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, [...]" (Genesis 3,22-23).

God never mentioned the apple business again and any unsettled score that He might have had with Adam's offspring was cancelled by Himself after the Flood when He spake to Noah, saying: "And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;" (Genesis 9,9).

If we are to believe in the Original Sin, then we must also believe that God is a hypocrite who promises never to kill humans by water, "And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth" (Genesis 9,11), while knowing to Himself that every human alive will be consumed by eternal fire.

Speaking of Noa: How can Paul claim that all Adam's offspring are sinfull, when we are also Noah's offspring and "[...]Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God" (Genesis 6,9).

God and The Original Sin

Spreuerbrücke, the expulsion. Death leads the procession and plays the xylophone.
Spreuerbrücke, the expulsion

So what is God's opinion on The Original Sin? Let's look at Deuteronomy 24,16: "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin."

That command is hard to misunderstand, and it was obeyed in the olden days: "But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin." (2. Kings 14,16), "But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin" (2. Chronicles 25,4) and "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezekiel 18,20).

Christ and The Original Sin

For heaven's sake, madam, don't do it, DON'T DO IT !!!
© Hans Quist.
Hans Quist

According to Paul, Christ died on the cross in order to atone our "Original Sin" and redeem our souls. This is odd since Christ himself never mentioned the Original Sin. The closest he ever got was, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. [...] And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?" (Matthew 15,11-17).

True, in the above quote Jesus was taking about food laws, and yet, if he knew that the entire mankind was "defiled" by an apple that had "entered in at the mouth" this would have been a great opportunity for Him to expound on the Original Sin.

External links

This chapter was originally inspired by chapter 17 of Joseph Wheless' book "Is it God's Word's?". The book is available several places on the Internet e.g. Infidels.

Further information:

Footnotes: (1)

930 years might have been the "same day" for God since we read in Psalms 90:4 and 2nd Peter 3:8, "[...] that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day".

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