reward of sin is death? That’s hard.
negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas.
we say that we have no sin,
We deceive ourselves,
and there’s no truth in us.
Why then belike
we must sin,
And so consequently die.
we must die an everlasting death.
call you this? Che sarà, sarà:
What will be,
shall be! Divinity, adieu!
And necromantic books are heavenly!
Faustus speaks these lines near the
end of his opening soliloquy. In this speech, he considers various
fields of study one by one, beginning with logic and proceeding
through medicine and law. Seeking the highest form of knowledge,
he arrives at theology and opens the Bible to the New Testament,
where he quotes from Romans and the first book of John. He reads
that “[t]he reward of sin is death,” and that “[i]f we say we that
we have no sin, / We deceive ourselves, and there’s no truth in
us.” The logic of these quotations—everyone sins, and sin leads
to death—makes it seem as though Christianity can promise only death,
which leads Faustus to give in to the fatalistic “What will be,
shall be! Divinity, adieu!” However, Faustus neglects to read the
very next line in John, which states, “If we confess our sins, [God]
is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
By ignoring this passage, Faustus ignores the possibility of redemption,
just as he ignores it throughout the play. Faustus has blind spots;
he sees what he wants to see rather than what is really there. This
blindness is apparent in the very next line of his speech: having
turned his back on heaven, he pretends that “[t]hese metaphysics
of magicians, / And necromantic books are heavenly.” He thus inverts
the cosmos, making black magic “heavenly” and religion the source
of “everlasting death.”