This paper is an attempt to follow up and expand on the following statement which I made in an earlier paper published in SJT:
The Christian doctrine of original sin has no place within a rabbinic system which avoids the crucial difficulty in Christian theodicy — that of the creation of evil ex nihilo at the time of the Fall.
In developing this statement I would like to sound a warning note to NT and patristic scholars who utilise rabbinic sources as background material for the study of early Christianity. It is often assumed that rabbinic texts, along with the literary remains of the other sorts of Judaism in existence in the first century A.D., can be used as a mine of material for illustrating the sort of beliefs with which the early Christians started out and against which they subsequently reacted. Thus, for example, to approach closer to the title of this paper, in considering the famous Pauline passage on the Fall (Rom. 5.12–21), it is customary for NT scholars to marshall all the evidence from the OT, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and rabbinic Judaism to try and explain the origin of the Christian doctrine of the Fall and Original Sin. But all too often the rabbinic evidence is used rather indiscriminately without regard to the date of its origin or to the possibility that rabbinic views on these matters may have changed in the course of the centuries during which the Talmudic literature was evolving.