Apostle Paul's Missionary Journey
The great Hellenist the Apostle Paul

Original Sin, an Overview

by Lewis Loflin

The words "Original Sin" don't exist in the Bible or Jewish writings. The "fall" of Adam was an interpretation formed sometime after the Exile and return of the Jews to Judea. This is the heart of Christian theology as taught by Paul. Jesus was some kind of human/deity sacrifice to make up for the alleged "sin" of Adam where mankind became mortal as punishment for Adam. Quoting Paul,

Rom. 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"

Rom. 5:19, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners"

1 Cor. 15:22 "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

No amount of hype or theological double-talk changes the fact this whole concept is immoral and unjust. Punishing millions of people for the acts of one is irrational. The concept of Original Sin is unsupported in the Jewish scriptures:

Deut. 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."

2 Kings 14:6, 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."

Ezek. 18:20 "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."

Ezek.33:20, "Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways."

Jer. 31:29-30 In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge."

Christians claim there can be no way to escape the taint of Adam other than by Jesus:

Rom. 3:10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." (Also see 1 John 1:8 and 10, Rom. 3:12, 5:12)

But it seems Paul and John forgot to read their Bible again:

Gen. 7:1 "And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation."

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

Job 1:8 "...my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" (Job 2:3)

Luke 1:5-6 "In the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abia: and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.(RSV)


The obvious answer is we were mortal to begin with and the Adam story is not literal history. Even the Bible proves the concept false and the invention of mainly Paul. The individual is responsible only for their conduct, not that of others and certainly not Adam according to the Old Testament.

Christians can't even agree on the subject and their interpretation (in particular Augustine) flatly contradicts the Old Testament. There was no Devil as such in Judaism prior to the Captivity and Satan later became identified with the Zoroastrian Devil and the Serpent in the Garden. Satan was under Judaism a servant of God. The whole idea is just nonsense and has no Biblical support outside Paul, a man that never even met Jesus.

More on this subject:

Judaism's Rejection Of Original Sin

Saint Augustine (354-430) was the first theologian to teach that man is born into this world in a state of sin. The basis of his belief is from the Bible (Genesis 3:17-19) where Adam is described as having disobeyed G-d by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. This, the first sin of man, became known as original sin.

Many Christians maintain that the sin of Adam was transferred to all future generations, tainting even the unborn. This view is found in the New Testament (Romans 5:12) where Paul says, "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. By one man's disobedience many were made sinners." Paul (thus Christianity) claims that only through the acceptance of Jesus that the "grace" of God can return to man. A Christian need only believe in Jesus to be saved; nothing else is required of her.

Judaism is emphatic that a person is born innocent - not evil, not good either, but innocent. Jews believe that man enters the world free of sin, with a soul that is pure and innocent and untainted. We are given a clean slate. But we are not born into an innocent world. The world we are born into is one of challenge, difficulty, pain and evil.

But all these are merely means to an end: it is through facing challenges that we grow as human beings, through going through difficulty we bring out deeper resources from within, through pain we become stronger and by combating evil we create a world of good.

In the beginning Adam and Eve were pure beings who entered a perfect world. There was no pain, death, etc. in their world. The "knowledge of good and evil" was a tree that they were told to stay away from in order to maintain this perfect world. "On the day you eat from the tree you will become mortal" (Not just die as the KJV says.)

God is gave us a choice to either remain perfect in a perfect (spiritual) world, or we can ingest the knowledge of good and evil and become imperfect, mortal. God created us with a purpose. But what purpose could there be in remaining perfect? Why be just another animal in zoo? Mortality was isn't punishment, but only natural consequence.

To quote, "So too the other "curses" - pain in childbirth and difficulty in making a living are the natural consequences of Eve's choice, because from now on, all achievement has to be earned, which means that nothing can be "born" without hardship.

As descendants of Adam and Eve we have inherited this path - the path of facing challenges, fighting evil and trying to bring the world back to its previous perfection."

To summarize:
1) The "sin" of Adam and Eve was in fact a conscious choice, a necessary step in the development of humanity's purpose. It was the introduction of imperfection into creation - something only humans can do.
2) We are not born evil, but we are born in a world of apparent evil and hidden goodness. Our mission is to reveal that goodness.

Thus the doctrine of original sin is totally unacceptable to Jews. While there were some Jewish teachers in Talmudic times who believed that death was a punishment brought upon mankind on account of Adam's sin, the dominant view by far was that man sins because he is not a perfect being, and not, as Christianity teaches, because he is inherently sinful.

Source: Kolatch, Alfred J. The Jewish Book of Why/The Second Jewish Book of Why. NY: Jonathan David Publishers, 1989 and Rabbi Moss at About.com.

This from the Encarta Multimedia Encyclopedia on Original Sin,

Original Sin, in Christian theology, the universal sinfulness of the human race, traditionally ascribed to the first sin committed by Adam. Theologians advocating original sin argue that the concept is strongly implied by the apostle Paul, the apostle John, and even by Jesus himself. Late Jewish apocalyptic writings attribute the world's corruption to a prehistoric fall of Satan, the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the resulting disorder, disobedience, and pain of human history.

Saint Augustine appealed to the Pauline-apocalyptic understanding of the forgiveness of sin, but he also included the notion that sin is transmitted from generation to generation by the act of procreation. He took this idea from 2nd-century theologian Tertullian, who actually coined the phrase original sin.

Medieval theologians retained the idea of original sin, and it was asserted by 16th-century Protestant reformers, primarily Martin Luther and John Calvin. Liberal Protestant theologians later developed an optimistic view of human nature incompatible with the idea of original sin.

Many Christian theologians regard the Garden of Eden story in Genesis as describing the first sin, and the consequent "ruin" or, the "Fall" of man. The doctrine of original sin attempts to explain how that sin affects humanity today.

Adam and Eve disobeyed the command of God, "Of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." (Genesis 2:17).

Eve was tempted by a serpent to eat the fruit of the tree ("you will not die, you will be just like God"). After she did, she convinced Adam to eat of it as well. Adam and Eve then made aprons of fig leaves to cover their lower parts. After this God expelled them from the Garden of Eden.

In some traditions, the covering of the lower parts means they became aware of their nudity for the first time, and hid from each other in shame.

According to many Jewish and Christian interpretations of this story, the consequence of this action was to both make man mortal, and also aware of the consequences of his/her actions (i.e. humanity gained free will).

Other interpretations exist as well. In Orthodox Christianity, this was an exercise of a free will that already existed, which also made man mortal. In Calvinism, Man has freely chosen his own ruin, by neglecting the gifts he was given by means of which he would have remained in close communion with God (which is life), by failing to trust in the faithfulness of God, and exchanged all that belonged to him and his posterity for an equality with God that can never be his.

Some Christian interpreters include the judgments of God in Genesis 3, in their explanation of the hopelessness into which creation had been brought through Adam's disobedience. Others view these judgments as the beginning of the history of the redemption from sin.

It is of particular concern to these latter interpreters to emphasize that the serpent is cursed, as is the ground on account of man, but the woman and the man are given promises and blessings which however mixed with mystery and misery because of sin, and however limited by the tyranny of death, are the basis of hope and of justice in the earth.

Original sin in The New Testament

The concept of original sin underwent development by Paul, in Romans and First Corinthians, in the New Testament. Paul placed special emphasis on this by stressing that belief in Jesus would allow Christians to overcome death, by earning salvation in the hereafter.

The New Testament teaches that rejection of Jesus as the path to salvation must be viewed as willful disobedience, and a rebellion against God. This choice then compels a just God to enforce that person's separation from Him, causing such a person to be sentenced to Hell, or in Roman Catholicism, Purgatory. Only belief in Jesus, as a savior and son of God, could rescue a person from this fate.

Although the character Satan does not appear as such in the Biblical text, by the time that the New Testament was canonized, the serpent mentioned in Genesis became identified with Satan; this identification is so strong that many believers interpret the Biblical story as Eve being tempted by Satan.

Augustine's modern Western formulation of original sin

Under Augustine the common and modern-day Western understanding of Original sin was formulated; he taught that the taint of Adam's original sin was inherited by all people at birth, and that nothing a person does in their life can get rid of this taint. This doctrine took on special prominence in Catholic Christianity and in many Protestant Christian denominations.

In most branches of Christianity, the doctrine of Original sin states that all humans have inherited the guilt of sin from Adam and Eve; this state of sin exists in all people from the moment of their conception. According to this doctrine, all people are born sinners and die sinners; all people are 'lost' eternally, and are in need of Divine salvation.

The only way people can be justified in God's eyes and reconciled with God is by humbly asking for forgiveness, believing that His son Jesus Christ, through his death and crucifixion, took on himself the due punishment for our sins and trespasses (atonement), and depending upon God's grace to perfect their faith in God by increasing their love for God, which fulfills obedience.

The ultimate punishment for the original sin was expulsion from the presence of God and subjection to physical and spiritual death; the ultimate goal and blessing of reconciliation is the restoration of the original relationship man had with God; this includes eternal life. This idea of inherited guilt is not always followed with literal strictness. Various traditions in the West diverge from one another in terms of what, exactly, is meant by inherited guilt.

Most agree that mankind after the fall has inherited the circumstances of ruin, misery, futility, and inability to repair his condition; but they may disagree concerning the sense, or the extent to which man's nature itself is "ruined". Some hold to a doctrine called total depravity; others are repulsed by this term and the doctrine associated with it.

The debate also raises the question of whether Jesus Himself had Original Sin. Some theologians hold that Original Sin is passed to offspring through the father, making the son of God the Father free of Original Sin.

Christians have different views on the way to receive salvation from original sin. On one end of the spectrum are those such as Calvinists who believe that each particular person who puts faith in Christ is predestined from the foundation of the world to live in the light of God's love, but those who do not trust in Christ will remain in darkness and the guilt of sin.

On the other end are those such as universalist's that believe that every person ever born will ultimately be justified, restored and saved. Between those two poles are those that emphasize man's ability to choose life with God or separation from God; people remain dependent on God's grace and mercy, but also have a part to play in achieving their own salvation.

Original Sin as understood by Orthodox Christianity

Augustine wrote in Latin in the fourth century, but his writings were not translated into Greek until the fourteenth century. Consequently, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity never held that guilt is inherited, and began repudiating this idea once they learned of it.

They teach that we inherit a corrupted or damaged human nature in which the tendency to do bad is greater, but that each person is only guilty of their own sins. By participating in the life of the church, each person's human nature is healed and it becomes easier to do good; at the same time, the Christian becomes more acutely aware of his or her shortcomings.

Eastern Orthodox theologians believe that Adam and Eve began to choose separation from God when they chose independence and took fruit for themselves, rather than allow God to continue to feed them and remain dependent on Him. The expulsion from the Garden was not a legal consequence, but to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life and immortalizing their sin. As Christians partake of the Eucharist and eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, they return to dependence on God and experience a gradual healing of the relationship between God and humanity. The ultimate goal is theosis or divinization, an even closer union with God and closer likeness to God than existed in the Garden of Eden.

Also see Pelagius Why was Right