View RSS Feed


Part I: Is there an Age of Accountability in the Bible

Rate this Entry
Several years ago, I was listening to a sermon given by a highly respected pastor and theologian. He briefly touched on a subject that I hadn’t thought much about before; a subject on which he claimed the Bible was silent. The subject he referred to is whether or not there is an age of accountability (AoA). It was his opinion that this age could vary greatly and he was convinced that his son had been saved at five years old. I could tell, by the emotion in his voice, that this was a dear memory and one he treasured. He spoke with tenderness about the amazing wisdom his son possessed at such a young age and how this little boy had been able to accurately explain and comprehend the plan of salvation. It did seem impressive, but was it true?

From my past experience in studying the Bible, I found it hard to believe that God would not have had something to say about such an important topic. Countless times before, while reading the Bible, I had come across obscure passages that dealt with almost every imaginable question. Could it really be that the Bible left out something as important as when God holds a person accountable for their sin? I couldn’t recall anything that spoke to the issue, but that didn’t convince me that it wasn’t there, hidden among the 31,000+ verses in the Bible.

Some years later, while doing a chronological reading of the Bible, I came across Deuteronomy 1:39 which states, ‘Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” I almost glossed over it, but I had just read Num 14:29, “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.”

Had I just read what I thought I had? The Bible was saying that God considered these little ones to have no knowledge of good and evil and that these “children” were under the age of twenty. Now I was really curious. What else did the Bible have to say about the age of twenty? Could I have stumbled onto something? I went and immediately fired up my Bible software and did a search. There were thirty verses in the NKJ that specifically used the phrase “twenty years old.”

I poured over the results and found that this was an important age for the Israelites. At this age they were not only considered old enough to serve in the army, but they were to be counted in the census. More importantly and dealing directly with the issue of AoA, this was when they had to make atonement for their own sin.

Exodus 30:13-15 “This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the LORD. Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.”

Clearly I was on to something, but I wanted to see what other people thought. I took the idea to my husband and presented him with all the biblical evidence I had gathered. At first he was very doubtful, but as he began to go over the verses himself, he too, began to feel that this was important. From there, we began discussing, researching and debating the theory with others. It seemed to us, that God had indeed declared an AoA, and it appeared that this age was much older than anything we would have expected.


  1. freelight's Avatar
    Hi prisca,

    I had noted some others musing over this in a thread. Maybe splitting hairs,...but that does seem a high age of accountability. LDS baptize their kids at age 8, so that's an 'age of accountability' least at that stage, 'some accounatablility'. At age 20,...I assume one is fairly matured, so you could be onto something. Have you checked orthodox Jewish teachings/customs on this age? - their teachings?


  2. Prisca's Avatar
    Our wise and merciful God does not hold us accountable unless we are physically able to comprehend the eternal consequences of sin and death. I find it fascinating that, once again, the Bible is backed up by scientific research. While Orthodox Jews may not fully appreciate the significance of their tradition, they have begun to reinstate this teaching. There is a renewed interest in the Holy Half Shekal and Jews are now able to purchase them. I know there is much more to examine on AoA, and I'm hoping to explore this topic with further research. Thanks for your interest!


Total Trackbacks 0
Trackback URL:
About us
Since 1997 TheologyOnline (TOL) has been one of the most popular theology forums on the internet. On TOL we encourage spirited conversation about religion, politics, and just about everything else.

follow us