Sunday, May 19, 2024
HomeEditor PicksWhat Is Original Sin In The Bible

What Is Original Sin In The Bible

The Traditional Story Of Original Sin

3 Minute Theology 3.1: What is Original Sin?

The story behind original sin is told in the Old Testament book of Genesis:

God originally made a perfect world. He created Adam and puthim to live in the Garden of Eden – a blissful place wherehe had nothing to do but take care of the garden.

God told Adam that he could do anything he wanted, except eatthe fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Later, God created Eve to be Adam’s wife. Eve was tricked bythe serpent into eating the fruit of the tree of theknowledge of life and death. She gave some of the fruit toAdam and he ate it too.

Adam and Eve realised that they were naked and hid in shame.When God next visited the Garden he realised that they haddisobeyed him.

God banished them from the Garden of Eden into the harshworld outside.

God also banned them from eating the fruit of the tree oflife, and so death entered the world.

Transmission Of Original Sin

How does original sin get from Adam to 21st century humanbeings?

One rather difficult explanation says that the whole humanrace was somehow contained in Adam and so when Adam fell,they fell too.

The other explanation, expanded below, is that all humanbeings are descendants of Adam and Eve.

Modern Catholic teaching is less clear about the mechanism oftransmission and refers to it as a mystery.

Born Into A Sinful World

No, we werent born with the stain of Adams sin on our soul or conscience. But we were born into a world that has followed the same basic path that Adam chose in the Gardena world that chooses to live its own way apart from God, that embraces sin in its many forms, and that continues to be under the sway of that deceptive serpent .

But the good news is that we can choose to come out of this world by repenting of our sins and being forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ . Taking that step can lead you off the wide, sinful path blazed by Adam and onto the narrow, righteous path blazed by Jesus Christ.

To learn how you can repent of your personal sins and pursue the way of life Adam rejected, read our articles on How to Repent and What Is Conversion?

Read Also: 365 Fear Not Bible Verses

Likewise Adam Is Not Blamed For The Flood

God wipes out all life in a flood because of the complete and thorough mess humans have made of it all. But look at Genesis 6:6-7. There we see that this escalation of sinfulness, which has now reached its boiling point, seems to take God by surprise.

He doesnt say, Well, of course, we all saw this coming, what with Adams disobedience in the Garden and all. I just wanted it to get really bad before I acted. Rather, God is grieved and sorry about how out of hand all this has gotten.

Bottom line, there is ample time in the OT to say what so many people think the Bible says but in fact never does.

I know how some will respond to all this:

But what about Paul!? Fair enough, in Romans 5:12-21 Paul does mention Adams disobedience as having a universal effectbut that effect is death not inherited sinfulness. And even if Paul sees Adam as the cause of human misery and alienation from God , we still need to grapple with why the Old Testament doesnt see it that way. Paul, regardless of how he is interpreted, doesnt make 1-5 above go away.

Others will respond: But if Adam isnt the cause of it all, we no longer have a good explanation for why people are so messed up? Agreed, but that doesnt mean we would settle for a bad answer just so we can have one. The fact that questions arise that muddle our theology doesnt make the Old Testament magically fall into line.

Original Sin In Brief

Is the " original sin"  doctrine biblical?

The key to understanding the doctrine of original sin lies in a truth that rubs against the individualistic grain of many AmericansÂcorporate solidarity. Mankind is not a collection of individuals but an organic unity, one race, one family . The principle of corporate solidarity manifests itself in God’s covenantal dealings with man, whether in the covenant of works between God and Adam or the covenant of redemption between God and Christ and its consequential covenant of grace. The apostle Paul highlights both the corporate and covenantal solidarity that mankind knows through the two federal heads of the first and last Adams. In a word, all of history can be summarized as the consequences of the representative disobedience and obedience of the two Adams. Paul is crystal clear in this regard despite the claims of some that he does not have in mind the manner by which people become sinners.

Don’t Miss: Historical Order Of The Bible

Greek Fathers Before Augustine

Justin Martyr, a 2nd-century Christian apologist and philosopher, was the first Christian author to discuss the story of Adam’s fall after Paul. In Justin’s writings, there is no conception of original sin and the fault of sin lies at the hands of the individual who committed it. In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin wrote “The Christ has suffered to be crucified for the race of men who, since Adam, were fallen to the power of death and were in the error of the serpent, each man committing evil by his own fault” and “Men … were created like God, free from pain and death, provided they obeyed His precepts and were deemed worthy by Him to be called His sons, and yet, like Adam and Eve, brought death upon themselves” .Irenaeus was an early father appealed to by on the doctrine of original sin, although he did not believe that Adam’s sin was as severe as later tradition would hold and he was not wholly clear about its consequences. One recurring theme in Irenaeus is his view that Adam, in his transgression, is essentially a child who merely partook of the tree ahead of his time.

In Catholic Faith And Theology

The term original sin designates a number of things. One is a condition of guilt, weakness, or debility found in human beings historically , prior to their own free option for good or evil . This is a state of being rather than a human act or its consequence. The other meaning has to deal with the origin of that state: its cause or source . In what follows, both meanings will be treated from a dogmatic and from a strictly theological point of view.

Dogmatic: Sin of Adam. It is first of all imperative to understand the motivation behind the Church’s concern with this issue. The Church saw it closely connected with something very central to the Christian’s profession of faith: that the Father has sent His Son Jesus as Savior. This was present in the earliest apostolic preaching and creeds . Similarities notwithstanding, it was not just another human confrontation with the problem of evil or a purely philosophical stand relative to the same issue. Faith in Jesus as redeemer implied that God had offered a solution of His own. If man was in a state of real need, it was one his Creator took into account and sought to remedy. To the adults who heard Peter on Pentecost, the need of salvation was not one that required a great deal of elaboration.

Monogenisrn. Even though it is treated in a separate encyclopedia article, mention must be made of monogenism in this context. In Hurnani gertefts Pills XII. warned:

[c. j. peter/

Also Check: What Is The Order Of The Bible

What Is Actual Sin According To The Ccc

Sin in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods…. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”

Purpose Of The Theory

What is Original Sin?
  • to explain the almost irresistible pressure to behavebadly that troubles even the most saintly people
  • to justify the need to baptise babies as soon aspossible after birth
  • to demonstrate that human beings are totally reliant onGod’s grace and all-powerful goodness
  • to defeat the ideas of Pelagius, an Englishtheologian

You May Like: Inerrant And Infallible

Are All Guilty Of Sin

Babies have not had a chance to know the law, have a knowledge of sin, nor have they even had a chance to break the law. Especially having not yet come to an understanding of right and wrong.

If sin is the breaking of the law and babies have not broken the law then how can they be guilty of breaking the law? The only way to reconcile this is by saying that not all humans are guilty of sin. Humans are guilty of sin when THEY PERSONALLY commit a sin.

The Enigma Of Sins Origin

In answering questions as to the origin of sin, while we can affirm many important truths, we nonetheless stand before what Herman Bavinck called the greatest enigma of life and the heaviest cross for the intellect to bear.7 When considered as an explanation for the world as we know it, sin makes perfect sense: indeed, without a doctrine of the fall of mankind, the history of the world is incomprehensible. Yet, considering the biblical data about sin itself, when we ask how beings created as wholly good by Godsuch as the angel Satan and the man Adamcould will to sin, all answers escape us. Attempts to rationalize the origin of sin run aground against the essential irrationality of the creature rebelling against the Creator. This irrationality afflicts not merely the originating sins of ancient history but also every sin that we commit today. When the Christian bitterly asks, Why did I sin? there are descriptionsbecause of temptation, because of remaining indwelling sin, etc.but there are no true explanations for the origin of any sin.


A Faith to Live By: Understanding Christian DoctrineReformed DogmaticsThe Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary

Further Reading

Also Check: What Does The Bible Say About Loneliness

It’s Not Literally True

Science shows that the Biblical creation story is notliterally true, and demonstrates that Adam and Eve and theGarden of Eden are myths and not historical figures.

This destroys the idea of original sin as being caused by themisbehaviour of the first man and woman, and the idea ofinheriting guilt or punishment for that misbehaviour.

Most modern theologians don’t think this a good reason toabandon the doctrine of the fall. They believe that althoughthe story is not historically true, it does containimportant truths about the state of humanity.

Original Sin In Eastern Christianity

The Original Sin  THE MESSAGE

Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism, which together make up Eastern Christianity, acknowledge that Adam and Eve‘s sin introduced ancestral sin into the human race and affected the subsequent spiritual environment for mankind. However, these groups did not accept ‘s notion of original sin and the hereditary guilt attached to it. Thus, the act of Adam is not the responsibility of all humanity, even though the consequences of that act changed the spiritual and physical reality of this present age of the cosmos. Nevertheless, Orthodoxy does admit that Adam’s descendants were punished with death and the curses given by God in the Garden of Eden as a result of the first sin.

The Eastern view may thus be said to be somewhat less pessimistic than the Augustinian doctrine. Saint Gregory Palamas taught that man’s image is “tarnished and disfigured” as a consequence of Adam’s disobedience, but stopped short of the “total depravity” of the Augustinian view. Whereas Augustine stressed that free will cannot influence salvation, which is determined only by God’s grace, the Eastern view allows for the possibility of that humans can be divinized through a combination of God’s grace and human efforts.

Also Check: Rhema Bible Correspondence School

Secular Ideas Of Original Sin

Modern thinkers don’t think the doctrine of original sin isliterally true, but they do think it contains real truthsabout the human condition:

  • The world is not as good as we want it to be
  • We are not as good as we want to be
  • Individual behaviour is greatly influenced by thingsoutside the individual’s control
  • Many of these are historical things:
  • events in the individual’s past
  • events in the past of the individual’sfamily
  • customs that their culture has built up throughhistory
  • These things affect humanity as a group as well asindividuals
  • Why People Believe The Doctrine Of Original Sin

    Romans 5:12-14 Paul says that sin entered the world because of Adam, death entered the world because of sin, and all men die because they are all sinners. I have covered chapter 5 of Romans verse by verse for a more detailed explaination which you can see by clicking this link.

    Romans 5:12-14

    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: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adams transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

    If we are going to understand how Romans 5 and Ezekiel 18 do not contradict each other we will have to ask some questions.

    What is a sin?

    1 John 3:4

    4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

    Romans 3:19-20

    19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for .

    Lets break this down. The law brings us the knowledge of sin . We know right and wrong because we have the law. The Bible also records in another place that even without the 10 commandments we still have the law written in our hearts. Thats why we have a conscience.

    Romans 7:9

    Recommended Reading: Is The Bible Infallible And Inerrant

    Original Sin And The Gospel

    Original Sin provides the basis for a true understanding of ourselves as fallen humans. This knowledge is essential for those who would be saved through the gospel of Jesus Christ. James Boice explains: Without a knowledge of our unfaithfulness and rebellion we will never come to know God as the God of truth and grace.8 Original Sin teaches us to despair of all hope in ourselves or any other natural source, relying instead entirely on Gods supernatural grace in the gospel. For although dead men are unable of themselves to rise from the grave of their fallen life, God is able by his grace to make us alive together with Christ . The truth of Original Sin shows us that our salvation must be by the grace of God alone, so that the glory also belongs only to him. Moreover, knowing that the case of every sinner is hopeless apart from Gods saving grace, wise ministers set forth the gospel as proclaimed in Gods Word, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . To appreciate Original Sin is to base our evangelism and preaching entirely on Gods Word, which in the power of the Holy Spirit is able to convey life to the dead. For, in the words of 1 Peter 1:23: You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.


    Reformed DogmaticsReformed DogmaticsThe Imputation of Adams SinReformed DogmaticsSystematic TheologyA New Systematic Theology of the Christian FaithSystematic Theology

    Inherited Sinfulness Is Not One Of The Curses On Adam

    What Is Original Sin?

    Adam is introduced in Genesis 2, and for one chapter seems to hold it together. But then in chapter 3, Eve is outcrafted by the talking serpent, takes a bite of the forbidden fruit, and then hands it to Adam, who does likewise.

    All three parties are cursed by God for this act of disobedience, and those curses have lasting consequences for the human drama. Fair enough, but note the consequences for Adam: from now growing food will be hard work, and death will be a fact of life.

    Note what is not said: And a third thing, Adam. From now on all humanity will be stained by your act of disobedience, born in a hopeless and helpless state of sin, objects of my displeasure and wrath. If Genesis did say that, it would clear up a lot. But it doesnt.

    Recommended Reading: Does The Bible Say Fear Not 365 Times

    Are Babies Born In Original Sin

    Original sin is the idea that all human beings are born in a state of sin. As shocking as it may sound, this theory was not introduced until centuries after Jesus death and resurrection. The concept can be traced back to Augustine in the fourth century CE, but its roots lie even further back:

    The term original sin does not appear in the Bible, although it has been used since ancient times by Christians to describe what happened when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge . In this story, God told Adam and Eve that if they ate from the tree they would die , but they did not believe him . When they did eat from it, their eyes were opened and they realized that they were nakedand ashamed at being nakedso God made them clothes out of animal skins . From then on humans would always know that there was evil in their hearts because we inherited these feelings from our first parents!

    Original Sin In The Bible

    Scripture says that we are born sinners and that we are by nature sinners.

    Psalm 51:5 says that we all come into the world as sinners: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

    Ephesians 2:2 declares that all people who are not in Christ are sons of disobedience.

    Ephesians 2:3 also establishes this, stating that we are all by nature children of wrath. If we are all by nature children of wrath, it can only be because we are all by nature sinners for God does not direct His wrath towards those who are not guilty. God did not create the human race sinful, but upright. But we fell into sin and became sinful due to the sin of Adam.

    There are also verses which state that we are all sinful from the time that we are born.

    Proverbs 22:15 says Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.

    Genesis 8:21 declares, the intent of mans heart is evil from his youth. Jonathan Edwards, in his classic work The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, remarks that on this verse: The word translated youth, signifies the whole of the former part of the age of man, which commences from the beginning of life. The word in its origin has reference to the birth or beginning of existence… so that the word here translated youth comprehends not only what we in English most commonly call the time of youth, but also childhood and infancy.

    Also Check: What Does Inerrant Mean


    Most Popular