Augustine's mistake about original sin

Scot McKnight writes:

Behind the Reformation is Augustine; behind much of modern evangelicalism, especially in the Reformed circles today, is the Reformation. Therefore, at the bottom of the evangelical movement in the Reformed circles is Augustine and his anthropology.

And behind Augustine’s anthropology (understanding of humanity), which is outlined in Scot’s post, is a simple misunderstanding of one word in the Bible, a preposition consisting of just two letters. Scot is writing about the New Perspective on Paul, an interesting issue. But my point here is not about that, but about how a misleading Bible translation has led Christian theology seriously astray for 1600 years.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a great thinker and church leader. As a young man he had left his Christian background and become a Manichaean, a follower of an anti-Christian dualistic religion; eventually he came back to the Christian faith. But he was not a great linguist. He could speak and understand well only his native Latin, not Greek. And so for his understanding of the Bible he had to rely on translations into Latin.

Doug Chaplin has recently explained how in Romans 5:12

Augustine took Paul’s phrase “ἐφ᾽ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον” following the Vulgate “in quo omnes peccaverunt” to be “in whom [Adam] all sinned”.

(The Greek can be transliterated ef’ ho pantes hemarton.) Well, Augustine didn’t actually use the Vulgate, which was being translated during his lifetime, but the sometimes not very accurate Old Latin translations. But his Latin version seems to have been similar to the Vulgate here. Doug continues:

the Augustinian interpretation of Paul’s “ἐφ᾽ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον” as meaning “in whom all sinned” makes it the most disastrous preposition in history. All modern translations agree that its proper meaning is “because.”

More precisely, “the most disastrous preposition” is ἐφ᾽ ef’, a contracted form of epi meaning “on”. The Greek phrase ἐφ᾽ ᾧ ef’ ho literally means “on which”, or possibly “on whom”, but is commonly used to mean “because”, or perhaps “in that”. The problem is that the Latin rendering of ἐφ᾽ ᾧ, in quo, is ambiguous between “in which” and “in whom” (I’m not sure if it can also mean simply “because” or “in that”), and Augustine understood it as meaning “in whom”, i.e. “in Adam”.

So, according to Augustine all sinned “in Adam”, which he understood as meaning that because Adam sinned every other human being, each of his descendants, is counted as a sinner. This is his doctrine of “original sin”, that every human is born a sinner and deserves death because of it. He may have taken up this idea because it agreed with his former Manichaean theology. This teaching is fundamental to most Protestant as well as Roman Catholic teaching today. For example, it underlies the Protestant (not just Calvinist) teaching of total depravity, that the unsaved person can do nothing good, a teaching for which there is little biblical basis apart from Augustine’s misunderstanding which was followed by Calvin.

Augustine was indeed right to oppose the teaching (or alleged teaching) of the British or Irish teacher Pelagius, that humans are intrinsically good and can make themselves acceptable to God by good works. But Augustine’s view of the matter takes things too far in the opposite direction, further than can be justified by the biblical text.

For the far more likely meaning of the Greek text of Romans 5:12 is that all are counted as sinners because each person individually has sinned. On this view there is perhaps some kind of tendency to sin passed down from Adam to others, but there is no actual guilt. This is consistent with the Old Testament teaching of Ezekiel in which

The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.

Ezekiel 18:20 (TNIV)

Of course this verse also undermines the theory of penal substitutionary atonement. This post is not about that, but there is certainly a close link between the Augustinian doctrine of original sin and the various ideas of the atonement. A corrected anthropology without Augustine’s kind of original sin is likely to require a corrected understanding of the atonement.

But my real point here is the need to be very careful before basing any kind of doctrine on a translation of the Bible. It is almost impossible for a translation to be precise and unambiguous in its rendering of little words like prepositions. Augustine’s Latin translation was not really inaccurate, it was just excessively literal and introduced an ambiguity which wasn’t in the original, like many translations into English and other languages today. Sadly, too many exegetes and preachers today base their teaching on similar misunderstandings of inadequate translations, and don’t bother to learn the original languages. Not many of their mistakes will still be remembered 1600 years later, but there are serious consequences for leading just one person astray by wrong teaching.

100 thoughts on “Augustine's mistake about original sin

  1. Thanks for this extended reflection. You’re right to correct me on calling Augustine’s Bible the Vulgate rather than the Old Latin – I guess I was being careless rather in the way LXX covers a multitude of sins, or at least versions!

  2. A couple of comments…

    Concerning Ezekiel 18.20: This refers to something akin to a ‘death penalty’ sentencing in the natural realm rather than a judicial judgment from God at the Final Judgment.

    Concerning ‘original sin’: I understand where you are coming from on this. But I must ask a similar question posed by Sproul: If ‘original sin’ is not a reality, where is the ‘group of people’ that aren’t sinners? That is, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. If people are sinners by nature, why do they sin? And if they aren’t, wouldn’t there be a community, town, city, county, state, country, continent where such people reside? And what does this say about the Satisfaction of Jesus? What does this mean for the Passion? What does church history teach us about this subject?

    Lastly, concerning doctrine based on translations: Don’t we do that all the time? That is, since we don’t have the original manuscripts we are just supposing that the copies we have are correct. Even if the majority states it one way, the original texts may have it differently. How do we know this?

    Peace be with you.

    + OD

    • Your statement “I must ask a similar question posed by Sproul: If ‘original sin’ is not a reality, where is the ‘group of people’ that aren’t sinners?” Your question presupposes that the only doctrine that can explain sin in the world is the doctrine articulated by Augustine. Actually people don’t generally ask the question, What did people believe about the fall of Adam and Eve before Augustine misinterpreted Romans 5:12.
      The first observation I would make is that the church fathers did not believe that we were guilty for Adams sin. Augustine interpreted Romans 5:12 to mean that we all sinned “IN” Adam. That is we were there in Adams loins and participated with him in his sin. Therefor Adams guilt is passed down to all his posterity. All the Roman Catholic and Protestant creeds and confessions reflect this theology.
      If you read Romans 5:13 you will start to understand why the Greek church fathers rejected Augustine’s interpretation of vs 12. Vs 13 in Romans 5 says that all the men who lived from Adam to Moses were sinners but their sin was not imputed or reckoned to them because the Torah had not been given. There was no imputed guilt or culpability even though sin was in the world. That means that Adams sin was not reckoned to him either. So if Adams sin was not reckoned as guilt how can Adam’s sin be imputed to us? If you read on to vs 14 in Romans 5 it says that all these men who lived from Adam to Moses suffered under the “reign of death”. This reign of death is what Adam brought into the world. All of creation was put under the slavery and bondage of death. This is why you find the early church fathers talking about Adam imputing to us a mortal nature not a sinful nature. What people call the sinful nature is just the byproduct of death. The curse of death has made us weak and subject to our passions and lust. This is why you have Paul the Apostle in 1 Cor 15:56 saying that the “sting of death is sin”. and in Romans 5:21 “sin reigned in death” and then in Romans 7:24 after Paul describes his struggle with sin he says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
      The alternative view of Augustine is that sin comes from death. Sin has two dimensions to it. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death” The early church believed that this scripture was primarily true for Adam. Adams sin was different in that his sin brought the curse of death into creation. Our sin does not bring death into creation. Death is already here when we are born. The first thing we learn when we become aware of the world from infancy is that we can die. Because we are under this curse that Adam brought into creation we will all sin. All have sinned and come short of God’s glory. When we sin we recapitulate the original covenant with death that Adam established as a principle of creation. The behavior we associate with the sinful nature is flowing from the “reign of death” we are under.
      This was the view prior to Augustine and this view is still the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church. All churches that have their origins in the Latin west ascribe to Augustine’s faulty interpretation of Romans 5:12. This is why it is such a big mistake. It effects many other doctrines in the Bible. It has a huge effect on your anthropology. It has a huge effect on your view of redemption and what the cross of Christ actually means.
      I was a Protestant for many years and listened to all the talking heads who propagated the Augustinian view of Original Sin. I have never heard a Protestant theologian deal with vs 13 and 14 in Romans 5 as it relates to Augustine’s interpretation of Romans 5:12. RC Sproul in a conference I was at completely ignored these verses and passed by them with no introspection.or insight. He just parroted the traditional view of Original Sin and this is why your Tradition matters.
      I am of thee view that very few western Christians know anything about the alternative to this Augustinian choke hold on their thinking. The Eastern Orthodox view makes a lot more sense.
      If you want to take some time to lean a different matrix then you can look up the Cathedral School on UTube and go through the more than 70 lectures that death with all the doctrines that flow from the faulty doctrine of Original Sin. You will find this school at this link:

      • Brother Randy, your words are very much appreciated, for I, too, am of the same persuasion as you are. Although I am not eastern orthodox, I came to the same conclusion through reading the Bible in light of what is nominally called New School, New Light, New England theology, as prompted in the late 1800\’s by such evangelists as Charles Finney. I am totally amazed how the western church has been so blinded by the Anselm/Augustin/Calvin dogma. This dogma has turned the Bible and it\’s reconciliatory message completely upside down and has served, not to liberate the sinner, but to further enslave them; a spell not soon broken. Thank you for this much needed insight.

    • What human kind inherited was not a sin nature but death. And that group encompasses the entire human race. Last I checked every one dies.

      What we call sin is but the stench of death. Christ came to defeat death and did so victoriously.

      It’s when you buy into the total depravity trap that you get easily led astray.

  3. Peter, you don’t actually say that every modern Protestant proponent of original sin takes the Augustinian intepretation on this passage, but I think someone could come away from this post thinking that Augustine made this big mistake, which infected all thought down to Protestant exegetes of this passage today, all of whom exegete the verse the way Augustine wrongly did. I want to make it clear that this is not the case. Most scholars today, including Protestant proponents of original sin, do not take the verse in question the way Augustine did but rather translate it “because of”, and most modern translations follow suit.

    Douglas Moo’s Romans commentary has an excellent discussion of this issue. He explains where Augustine’s reasoning goes wrong but also argues based on tensions within the passage why the best way to take the passage as a whole is that Paul nonetheless has a working assumption of something like original sin. Because Paul seems to move from corporate death inherited from Adam to an individual explanation of the corporate death, what is actually being inherited from Adam? It’s not the death, since that comes from individual sin. But it’s not the sin in terms of our actually actions, because we commit our sins, not Adam. So there must be a sin nature that we inherit from him, which explains why we all do sin (and inevitably so) and thus explains why all will receive the death sentence without redemption (even if it’s individual sins that ground that death sentence in another sense).

    Whether you accept that reasoning or not, I hope it’s clear that undermining one argument for original sin does not refute the view unless that one argument is the only support for original sin. Since it is not, simply disagreeing with Augustine’s exegesis doesn’t provide a sufficient argument for dismissing original sin as a doctrine.

  4. Interesting post and certainly your remark about translation is important.

    ‘Do you believe in original sin?’ seemed to be a favourite question when candidating for the ministry. My answer always was ‘I believe that every person sins and I believe that we are all sinners. I also believe that every person has the capacity for doing good. I don’t believe in Augustine’s version of original sin.’ This was always accepted as an answer.

  5. “it underlies the Protestant (not just Calvinist) teaching of total depravity, that the unsaved person can do nothing good, a teaching for which there is little biblical basis apart from Augustine’s misunderstanding which was followed by Calvin.”

    Actually it doesn’t.

    I’ve never heard this specific argument used at any time by any major Calvinistic theologian.

    There are passages that are much clearer that speak of the inability of man to please God by themselves (and if we are not pleasing God, I mean that we are sinning).

    Interesting note on translation issues though – it is interesting to see how translations have effected people’s theology.

  6. Odysseus, I did not deny that people are sinners by nature in that they are born with an inherent tendency to sin. What I am more sceptical about, primarily from the absence of biblical evidence, is that they are actually guilty of having sinned before birth. But I am concerned about the implications of you basing your theology on experience when there is no clear biblical basis.

    Jeremy, I accept that modern scholars do not understand this verse in the same way as Augustine did. But I submit that they more or less follow Augustine’s theology here because they follow Catholic and/or Reformation tradition, and read Augustine’s position back into other Scripture passages. I have no serious problem with Moo’s conclusions that we inherit a sinful nature or tendency from Adam (although one wonders how Jesus managed not to although he is fully human), but this is not Augustine’s position. My point is to reject Augustine’s teaching that we are born guilty, for I see no other biblical support for that position.

    Pam, I agree with you, although I might want to discuss the details of “every person has the capacity for doing good”.

    Nathan, I would be interested to know what passages you are talking about. But I see a flaw in your logic. You presumably agree with me that no human good works are acceptable enough to God to atone for that person’s sin. But does that mean that those works are not good but sin? No, it doesn’t. It is also highly offensive to claim that when an unbeliever does the works which God tells us to do, such as feeding the poor, they are sinning in doing that. Yes, their motives are impure and so sinful (aren’t everyone’s motives?) Yes, they are sinning by not believing. But their good works are not in themselves sin. Indeed they must be pleasing to God, although they do not atone for sin. Actually you might consider Acts 10:31, an angel telling the still unbelieving Cornelius that God is pleased with his gifts to the poor.

  7. no human good works are acceptable enough to God to atone for that person’s sin. But does that mean that those works are not good but sin? No, it doesn’t.

    What I mean by ‘capacity to do good’ is related to what you say above.

  8. It is also highly offensive to claim that when an unbeliever does the works which God tells us to do, such as feeding the poor, they are sinning in doing that. Yes, their motives are impure and so sinful (aren’t everyone’s motives?) Yes, they are sinning by not believing.

    Conservative Lutheranism calls good works done by an unbeliever ‘works of civic righteousness’ and holds that such works are acts of sinning in themeselves. No idea if this is a Calvinist concept or if the same terms is used if it is. I deny this doctrine.

  9. Peter, just as a matte rof interest the point of view you are expressing here seems very close to the most common Anabaptist view.

  10. ‘works of civic righteousness’ sounds like a good name for such thing, but the implication, and a correct one, is that the are righteousness, not sin.

    Perhaps my point would be clearer is I put it in terms of merit. As Doug points out, mediaeval western theology was based on the idea that humans needed to accumulate enough merit through good works to outweigh their sins on the day of judgment, so they could be saved. Reformation theology denied that good works had any merit that could outweigh sin, but taught that the death of Christ had infinite merit which could outweigh any individual’s sin if applied by faith. Within this model of merit, I would agree. I am certainly not claiming any merit of this kind in good works done by unbelievers. But I am also saying that they are not in themselves sinful. That is, they are neither positive nor negative on the merit scale. And basically they are that because the whole concept of merit as a measurable quantity which can outweigh a measurable quantity of sin is seriously flawed. It is a model of salvation which is helpful in understanding historical theology, and some current popular theology, but not very much so in understanding the true biblical teaching.

  11. Peter, in addition to refusing to base doctrine on translations might it be a wise idea to avoid basing it on one preposition.

    Seems to me there is an argument for a holistic approach to Scripture in this example.

  12. Pam, I can agree with you that “every person has the capacity for doing good” as long as you don’t claim that that good has merit or helps towards their salvation. See my previous comment.

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  14. Pam, I can agree with you that “every person has the capacity for doing good” as long as you don’t claim that that good has merit or helps towards their salvation. See my previous comment.

    We’re saying exactly the same thing.

    Similar to what you said, I think it’s the height of arrogance to say that an unbeliever’s morally good action is not morally good at all but is, in fact, a sinful action.

  15. might it be a wise idea to avoid basing [doctrine] on one preposition

    Indeed, John. Or for that matter any one word or one verse taken out of the context of the whole of Scripture. Unfortunately far too many “exegetes” (and I’m sure I am sometimes guilty of this also) decide first what they think ought to be true and then mine the Bible for out of context nuggets which confirm their presuppositions. Augustine wasn’t the first to do this (Galatians 3:16 would be very dubious exegesis, but we can trust Paul as an inspired biblical author), and certainly not the last.

  16. Peter, as I see it, saying that the doctrine of total depravity means “that the unsaved person can do nothing good”, is as common as it is erroneous. I’ve never heard the doctrine expounded in that way (at least not by anyone who claims to believe it).

    In my experience, it is typically taken to mean that human “depravity” is “total” in the sense that it extends to every area of our being, with none left unaffected by sin (or the sinful nature), whether our morals, will, intellect, emotions, or whatever. (As against others who might agree that humans are morally “depraved”, but insist that their ability to reason, for example, is unaffected by sin.) Nor should it be taken to mean that all human beings are as “depraved” as they could be, or that all are to the same extent. It is not that human beings can’t do anything good, but rather that any good we do is typically (usually? always?) “tainted” in some way (for example by dubious or mixed motives, such as selfishness, pride, or the belief that doing good will earn God’s favour).

    I also note that, just a little further on, Paul says of Adam, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man [=human being] the many were made sinners …” (Rom 5:19a, TNIV = NIV

    It’s the old chicken and egg question: are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we’re sinners? I suspect the answer is “both”.

  17. John, thanks for the reminder that total depravity does not necessarily mean “that the unsaved person can do nothing good”. However, there certainly are those who teach that the unsaved person can do nothing good. This is the implication of what Nathan wrote above as well as of the Lutheran doctrine Pam noted. It is also implied by your suggestion that any good we do may always be tainted. I agree that there is more than this to the doctrine of total depravity.

    As far as I am concerned it is meaningless, or else unjust, to say that someone is a sinner if they don’t sin. In Romans 5:19 “were made sinners” means that they started to sin. For here we have another possible misunderstanding of Greek: the Greek passive verb katestathesan (from kathistemi) does not necessarily have passive force “were made” rather than reflexive force “made themselves”, so the safest translation is simply “became”.

  18. Well, Pam, it seems from a comment of yours that I found elsewhere that “your lot” believe in “works of civic righteousness” that are “as sinful as “bad work””. I note also that among The Beliefs and Teachings of The Lutheran Churches Of Calvary Grace (is this your “very fringe” lot?) are:

    Although unbelievers may do much that appears to be good and upright, these works are not good in God’s sight, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). While we identify the value of such works for humanity, we know that unbelievers cannot complete their responsibility to God through works of civic righteousness.

    Well, I accept the last part in that unbelievers cannot be saved by such works, and in that sense we cannot please God by doing them apart from faith. But that is not the same thing as saying that these works are “not good in God’s sight”, which is not the teaching of Hebrews.

    Anyway, for John’s benefit, this is certainly one group, however “fringe”, which does teach this doctrine.

  19. Can I just note for accuracy that I don’t think that any mainstream Lutheran denomination believes in the ‘works of civic righteousness’ concept and I’m not sure that it’s classic Lutheran. We’re talking very fringe here.

  20. Anyway, for John’s benefit, this is certainly one group, however “fringe”, which does teach this doctrine.

    I agree. Perhaps I’m being too pedantic. I’ve studied catholic and Arminian theology as an adult. I’ve not studied Lutheran theology as an adult, this is stuff from school (I actually went to a Lutheran school). So I feel a lot more confident about my knowledge of catholic and Arminian theology. That’s all I’m saying.

  21. Peter, perhaps we should distinguish between original sin and original guilt. What you seem opposed to is original guilt, not original sin. If you’re ok with Moo’s position, which he considers original sin, but you’re not ok with Augustine’s, which is that we’re born actually guilty, then that might be an easy way to characterize it.

  22. Jeremy, you may be right that that would be a helpful distinction. Unfortunately it is not one which is generally made, for Augustine’s teaching is generally understood as one of the various positions on original sin. Anyway, I’m not at all sure that “original sin” is an appropriate label for Moo’s position; “original tendency to sin” or something of the sort.

    To go back to the previous issue, I found the following from John Piper, who is hardly a fringe figure:

    Man’s depravity is total in at least four senses.

    (1) Our rebellion against God is total. …

    (2) In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.

    In Romans 14:23 Paul says, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” Therefore, if all men are in total rebellion, everything they do is the product of rebellion and cannot be an honor to God, but only part of their sinful rebellion. …

    Thus man does many things which he can only do because he is created in the image of God and which in the service of God could be praised. But in the service of man’s self-justifying rebellion, these very things are sinful. …

    NOTE: We recognize that the word “good” has a broad range of meanings. We will have to use it in a restricted sense to refer to many actions of fallen people which in relation are in fact not good.

    For example we will have to say that it is good that most unbelievers do not kill and that some unbelievers perform acts of benevolence. What we mean when we call such actions good is that they more or less conform to the external pattern of life that God has commanded in Scripture.

    However, such outward conformity to the revealed will of God is not righteousness in relation to God. … Therefore even these “good” acts are part of our rebellion and are not “good” in the sense that really counts in the end — in relation to God.

    In other words, the well known figure John Piper teaches that the best works of unbelievers (I assume he includes women as “men”) are sin, although with some significant qualifications.

  23. Peter, as regards v19, even if “became” is a better rendering, isn’t Paul still “blaming” Adam, in some sense, even if only for setting a bad example?

    Anyway, for John’s benefit, this is certainly one group, however “fringe”, which does teach this doctrine

    I assume this is directed my way (John’s such a common name, I’m afraid), but I’m not really surprised by what you quote. One problem with “named” doctrines is not everyone understands the doctrine in the same way, and people end up talking at cross-purposes. The explanation I gave is what I have always regarded as the “classic” formulation held by people who believe the doctrine. But I’m aware that other people (you quote an example) just seem to take the words “total depravity” and ask, “Now what might this term mean?” – as if the doctrine was fully contained in its “title”. Such an approach is not particularly helpful, to say the least.

    As regards whether we (whether believer or unbeliever) can do anything entirely “good” (i.e. “untainted”), I’m not sure. But I am sure that passages such as Hebrews 11:6 (“without faith it is impossible to please God”) aren’t addressing this question at all. [The same applies to Rom 14:23 (“Whatever is not from faith is sin”), as the earlier part of the verse (“those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith”, TNIV) clearly shows that Paul is talking about doing things we *believe* to be *wrong*, but other people say are OK.]

    I’m also sure there’s a big difference between insisting that nothing a person can “do” will earn God’s favour, and suggesting that God regards everything people do as equally obnoxious. When it comes to right and wrong, good and bad, I suspect God *does* have a scale, and regards some things as more “right” or “wrong”, better or worse, than others.

    While it’s important for us to question our motives, and be aware that they are frequently far from pure, we should never let this stop us doing something that is clearly right, especially if it is beneficial to others. If we waited until we were sure our motives were pure, we’d probably never do anything (and that certainly wouldn’t please God). In my view, “theology” that gets in the way of doing what is right is clearly wrong. (That came over clearly from my reading yesterday about “doing good” on the Sabbath, see Matt 12:11).

  24. John Radcliffe, I have no problem with the idea of Adam setting a bad example for succeeding generations.

    And yes, it was for your benefit that I wrote before, because you had written

    saying that the doctrine of total depravity means “that the unsaved person can do nothing good”, is as common as it is erroneous. I’ve never heard the doctrine expounded in that way (at least not by anyone who claims to believe it).

    I agree with you that Hebrews 11:6 and Romans 14:23 are not saying that unbelievers’ good works are sins, and indeed that this is not a correct teaching. My point is simply that an important contemporary teacher like John Piper teaches this offensive doctrine, and labels it “total depravity”.

  25. Peter, I wasn’t trying to be deliberately obtuse. I had assumed you were referring to me, but noting another John had commented did leave some residual doubt.

    This thread illustrates why there is now little point in saying that you hold a particular doctrinal position, as there is a good chance that the person you are talking to, or someone else listening to (or reading) the “conversation”, will understand you to be signing up to something entirely different. It also illustrates again the danger of people “developing” concepts on the basis of a misunderstanding of what the doctrine, and certainly the underlying scripture, is actually saying.

    Perhaps the problem is “second-hand” or derivative theology, where people are content to rework or re-express existing theologies, rather than rely on “original research” (by which I mean, the writer’s own experience of what God is saying in Scripture). In my view it is far better to derive your theology directly from Scripture (and then test your understanding against other people’s “findings”), rather than take it second-hand (even if you then attempt to test it against Scripture).

    While I have learnt much in the relatively short time I’ve been visiting “Biblical / Christian sites” (for want of a better term) on-line, some of what I’ve learned causes me concern, as I see the directions that some trends in “theology” (again, for want of a better term) are taking their exponents. Typically, it is all done in the name of a new pseudo-orthodoxy (although it is claimed to be historic Christian orthodoxy), as people continually come up with new shibboleths to test other people’s supposed “orthodoxy”.

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  27. Peter, I actually agree with that Piper quote, but I’m not sure how it’s even the same issue. You can accept what he says without accepting the Augustinian position that you’re resisting.

    Piper is saying that everything we do is infected by sinful tendencies. That’s not the same thing as saying that we are guilty without actually doing anything sinful (Augustine’s position). It’s saying that everything we do is sinful to at least some degree. You may disagree with both views, but Piper’s view expressed in that quote isn’t the same view as the Augustinian one we were talking about.

  28. Yes, Jeremy, there are two different issues here, as I stated in the original post when I stated that Augustine’s “underlies the Protestant (not just Calvinist) teaching of total depravity, that the unsaved person can do nothing good”. One thing can underlie another only if they have separate haecceity (to use your current favourite word, hopefully accurately).

  29. Peter,

    Thanks for your post. It clears up some things for me on Paul’s view of Adam.

    Where many people believe in Total Depravity and the inability of the sinner to please God, I believe in Moral Ability or at least Gracious Ability.

    Everywhere throughout scriptures, sinners are commanded to repent. I believe that if God tells you to repent, then you certainly must have the ability.

    Saying that we don’t possess the ability to please God and do what he commands is grand blashphemy and charges God with being unjust because he commands us to do something that we cannot possibly do. For instance, it would be unjust if God commanded us to fly like a bird, because we have a natural inability to fly.

    But when God commands us to repent; be converted; give our heart to him, and love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves this is something that we can do. And when we don’t do it, it’s because we choose not to do it. Which is why sinners are wicked and rebellious, because they willfully choose to ignore the goodness and grace of the benevolent and holy God.

    This is not to say that we can repent by ourselves or please God without the influence of the Holy Spirit, who leads us. However, we will never be able to blame God for our sin and rebelliousness. We can intuit that God will certainly be faithful and do his part in helping us please him. So sin is utterly sinful, because the sinner openly resists God’s grace.

    I agree with you that there is some inherited tendency to sin that is passed on. I believe our sensibility is more susceptable to the pleasures of sin than it might have been had sin not entered mankind.

    However, our will is completely intact, and that at any time we can choose to love God fully, or we can choose to serve ourselves.


    John Wheeler

  30. John, I more or less agree with you. If God commands us to do something, he expects us to be able to. But then I don’t think he does command unbelievers to love. He commands them to repent and believe, which they can do with his help. Then he commands them as Christians to love God and their neighbours, and by the help of the Holy Spirit now dwelling in them they can do so.

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  34. I agree that original sin is false along with Calvinism. Ezekiel 18 makes this abundantly clear. Also consider, 2 Peter 3:9 that God does not wish any to perish but that all should come to repentance. I always thought that predestination was a group of people “Christians” who heard and obeyed the Gospel that is for all (Romans 1:16, 10:17) and were saved. This group “Christians” is a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession (see 1 Peter 2:9). Also, many verses can be listed to show that God is not partial.

  35. I have found the discussions on original sin very useful in clarifying my thoughts somewhat. I have also found the writings of C L Parker very useful in understanding that what we inherit from Adam is a body – the flesh – and that sin is simply bodily instincts and tendencies, originally not bad, but God given, that have become sinful because we selfishly indulge in them beyond the boundaries God created them for. C L Parker’s writing on this can be found at:

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  37. I’ve always had an issue with “original sin.” I’ve never quite understood how it could be “real,” if you will. Just didn’t seem right…didn’t seem “fair” in a way. I appreciate this post…sheds a whole lot of light on the issue. You said something else though that I was curious about…

    “Of course this verse also undermines the theory of penal substitutionary atonement.”

    How is this? Perhaps I just don’t understand enough about what “penal substitutionary atonement” means…

  38. So I just figured it out….I didn’t realize that “penal substitutionary atonement” and “substitutionary atonement” were different things.

  39. Thank you, Rhea. Substitutionary atonement does not have to be penal, there are various nuanced versions of the teaching. As far as I am concerned, what distinguishes correct and incorrect ones is not so much whether they are “penal” as whether they imply that an innocent person, Jesus, was punished by a third party for sins which he did not commit. In the correct version, Jesus voluntarily took on himself the punishment and death which was due to us. Well, that is a quick summary of a complex issue which I don’t want to get into in a comment thread.

  40. I would interpret the verse as being that Adam’s fall into sin gave mankind the knowledge of sin (which I believe was very real) and thus we now have it imprinted into our nature. Our fallen nature is merely an inclination to sin, and our nature cannot change without God’s divine intervention.
    That is why Christ’s work on the cross can be seen as a new creation, that he works in all of us to create a new nature in us, one that is holy, pure and justified before God. Christ’s death on the cross heralded the death of our old nature, his resurrection enabled our new nature to conquer death.
    I guess I don’t really have a problem with penal substitution, I just find it a bit boring! I think that there’s a lot more to the gospel than that. And the thing i struggle with is the inconsistency of a God who wills to save everyone, yet does not. I can only presume that they must cling to their old nature, bringing themselves down with it.

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  42. ἐπί with a dative of place can mean ‘upon’, but I think if Paul’s using ᾧ as a dative of cause, then this is ‘by whom’ or ‘for whom’ or ‘on whose account’ πάντες ἥμαρτον.

  43. Thank you, Josh. Yes, the phrase could mean “on account of whom”, referring back to the most recent masculine noun – but actually that is not Adam as both ho kosmos and ho thanatos (twice) come closer. But I think that as there is no clear close antecedent more likely this is a neuter pronoun with a general antecedent. And the modern commentaries agree with me.

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  45. Adam and Eve inherited no sin nature, they had no sin in their blood, they had no sin in their flesh. SO, why did 2 innocent people sin. CHOICE. God gave them a conscience meaning with knowledge. When they exercised it, apart from Gods will they sinned. NO one need a prior NATURE of sinning to SIN. Adam had a Human Nature and he was a partaker of the Divine Nature. IDENTICAL to the LAST ADAM< fully man, who is Jesus. Neither had SIN natures, their FATHER Is GOD. This incrediable foolishness of religion and Original sin, Sin natures passed down, inherited sin, Came from Carnal mens minds. TRYING to reconcille the word, thru HUMAN reasoning. SIN is a moral choice. IN time, WE go ASTRAY, not Created Astray, WHEN we, NOT when ADAM, chose to sin. Just as we arent saved in groups, we are saved by a personal relationship With Christ, we didnt have CORPORATE condemnation in ADAM. Each man makes that person choice to go astray, leave GOD and make their own choices. WHEN we do, apart from the will of GOD< its called sin. Im sick to death of religion, and human reasoning.

  46. Thank you, Bev. I think I agree with you, apart from the last sentence. But this still leaves some questions unanswered, such as, why did only one man in all history choose not to sin? I won’t attempt to use human reasoning to find an answer.

  47. I agree with this post, implicitly, that Rom 5 speaks more about the scope of sin than how it is actually transmitted. But there must have been some kind of corporate “condemnation” because no one barring Jesus (past, present or future) is exempt from the gospel.

    I am dubious that we are born with a disposition to sin, which is what some here have said. There is very little semantic distinction between being born with sin and being born with such tendency. It is probably more accurate that one inevitably develops a disposition to sin because of our environment (physical and spiritual) so that it is impossible to remain sinless. That is, we are born into an environment that is conducive to sin. (This might be what King David meant by “in sin did my mother conceive me”, as opposed to “with sin…” Alternatively, David could have been speaking rhetorically, which is probably more likely.) Anyway, this was a good post about the confusion with prepositions.

  48. Robert, I’m not sure that sin is just a matter of picking things up from the environment. It wasn’t Jesus’ environment that made him unique. But I wouldn’t like to say exactly what this is a matter of.

    Also I would warn you against repeating Augustine’s mistake in trying to derive theology from a preposition, in Psalm 51:5, especially as I’m not sure if the original Hebrew would have distinguished “with” and “in” in this context.

  49. Well, we know God doesn’t create ‘junk’. He creates mankind in his image. And if it’s impossible to inherit a spiritual condition then who is to blame? To point the finger at some abstract tendency to sin is just the Adam and Eve syndrome. It does *not* explain why sin occurred in the first place. And it’s probably best to leave Jesus out of the discussion because he was born of the Holy Spirit – the fact that he has a body has no implications for his sinless nature.

  50. Robert, we can’t leave Jesus out. He wasn’t a spiritual being with a body, he was fully human, as well as fully divine. Yet for some reason he didn’t go in the direction that every other human has gone in. Yes, the work of the Holy Spirit in him. But does that mean that the rest of us can blame our environment, rather than our wrong choices? I don’t think so.

  51. Who is playing the blame game? Everyone is responsible and accountable. To blame the environment is no different to blaming some inner tendency. The fact that the world we live in is conducive to sin is my way of understanding that our coporate identity in Adam is assured. Yes, Jesus (God) had a body – that where the similarity ends.

  52. Robert, I think we can agree on “the world we live in is conducive to sin”. But concerning Jesus, you do realise that the position you are taking is not orthodox Trinitarian Christianity, don’t you? It sounds like a variety of docetism. Do you follow the teaching of some specific unorthodox Christian group?

  53. This is rather amusing for two reasons. First, the Augustian position is the orthoodox position, which is what this post challenges. Second, when one makes reference to a *living* body it is quite clear to me that such a body is also fully functional and experiences the ups and downs of life. I must have forgotten I was conversing with someone with a higher degree who also blogs.

  54. Robert, the Augustinian position on original sin, while certainly dominant in the Roman Catholic church, has not I think been formally adopted by that church. It has never been accepted by the Eastern Orthodox, or by any kind of General Council. So it cannot be called “the orthoodox position”.

    But that wasn’t my point. You wrote “Yes, Jesus (God) had a body – that where the similarity [to the rest of us? to Adam?] ends.” That is the statement which is formally heretical, because it contradicts the Chalcedonian definition in denying that Jesus is

    perfect in manhood; … truly man, … consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin … to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence …

    This clearly rules out your position that Jesus was just God with a human body and no further similarity to us. It makes it clear that he also had a human soul and spirit. As Hebrews 4:15 (NIV) makes clear,

    we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

    This is a central part of my faith.

  55. Very interesting. And can you specify when the Word (made flesh) commenced and ceased to have this human soul and spirit you speak of?

  56. Another good question, Robert. But I wouldn’t suggest that the answer to your previous question is a touchstone of orthodoxy, as the answer is not clear from the Chalcedonian Definition.

  57. You would think in this day and age you can find the answer if you tried to google it. I tried, but the Chalcedonian Definition does not bear scrutiny. I have to say, I have little regard for doctrines contrived by ad hoc committees and the like. And I can agree with every statement of Scripture without agreeing to another’s interpretation of it.

  58. Robert, you need a bit more than Google to learn properly about the detailed theology of the Trinity. I have an MA in theology but am very aware that my understanding is incomplete. I would suggest finding a monograph on the Trinity, but I don’t know what to suggest which covers all the ground in detail.

  59. This one mat be difficult to track down but one book worth a look is :
    The Three in One
    Stuart Olyott
    Evangelical Press (mine is a 1989 reprint)
    ISBN 0 85234 138 5

    Ages since I read it and I would not pretend I followed it all whever that was – I might well have more luck now! I admit I find it difficult to be excited by the East v West debate on the “procession of the Holy Spirit”.

  60. Colin, thanks for the recommendation, presumably for Robert. I haven’t read it myself but it looks like a suitable introduction.

    Robert, you can find it for sale at AbeBooks, including one copy already in Australia. (Colin, all it took to find that was to paste the ISBN into Google!)

  61. I think the whole translation issue is totally blown out of proportion here. Even if the text does not say “in Adam all sinned”, there is a precedent for such an interpretation set elsewhere. For example, 1 Corinthians 15:22 says “in Adam all die,” etc. St. Augustine is not to take the blame here, as he is following Ambrosiaster’s Commentary on Romans 5:12. The “in Adam” terminology is used elsewhere, and Augustine could reasonably have assumed that the text was correctly translated here. It is highly unlikely that Augustine had his own personal Greek Bible handy, so we can’t expect him to verify every Latin verse by checking with the Greek version. Moreover, the doctrine of “inherited guilt” was not based on this single verse alone. There were other writers prior to Augustine that had similar views on “original sin”, and there were many philosophical arguments; e.g. infants are baptized even though they have not sinned, which means that they are baptized in order to wash away Adam’s sin (Cyprian); death is a punishment for sin and even infants die, therefore infants must be guilty of sin (Origen?). The doctrine of inherited guilt didn’t start with Augustine, and it would have become just as widespread even without the Latin mistranslation. The concept of inherited guilt is a moot point anyways, as even the Roman Catholic Church rejects it now (of course, they ought to reexamine their doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, because it doesn’t make sense without inherited guilt). Practically no one believes in inherited guilt anymore.
    Moreover, this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. Augustine’s theology has caused schism after schism, and the idea of “inherited guilt” has never been the central issue. For example, the East-West Schism was over the issue of whether God is “absolutely simple” and his essence is identical to his energies (as Augustine says) or whether his energies and his essence are distinct (as the vast majority of the Eastern Church Fathers taught). Another issue in the East-West Schism was over the “filioque”, another Augustinian doctrine. During the Reformation, you had Cornelius Jansen and John Calvin, among others, who held to the hyper-Augustinian position that God predetermines everything. This led to further schisms. The Reformed Protestants broke up into Arminians and Calvinists, and the Lutheran’s thought that Calvinists went too far. Augustine’s teachings caused all kinds of schisms, but I don’t see anywhere that the idea of “inherited guilt” was an important factor in regards to schisms. If you really want to criticize Augustine, you ought to be looking at “absolute simplicity,” the “filioque,” and the things that logically follow, e.g. Calvinistic-style determinism, Sabellianism, etc. It is not the mistranslation that needs to be criticized, but Augustine’s entire humanistic approach to theology.

  62. W.J., thank you for those interesting observations. I quite agree that there are many other teachings of Augustine which have serious schisms. I doubt if any of them are completely novel to him, but he is the one who put them all together into a coherent but troublesome whole.

    I would agree with the latter part of “It is not the mistranslation that needs to be criticized, but Augustine’s entire humanistic approach to theology”, but as a former Bible translator I am also concerned about the mistranslation, and its effect in at least helping to support and encourage Augustine’s misguided theology.

    I am surprised by your claim that “Practically no one believes in inherited guilt anymore.” From my experience and reading this is the general understanding among so-called Reformed Calvinists, the circles which Scot McKnight was addressing in the post I quoted at the start of my post. For example, in my post The root of John Piper’s wrong theology I quoted Piper as writing

    Adam acted sinfully, and because we were connected to him, we were condemned in him.

    Here is one of today’s most influential Christian teachers explicitly teaching original guilt, just like Augustine taught it. Piper may not explicitly link this to inheritance in the way that some have done in the past. But the core of this false doctrine, that people are born guilty because of Adam’s sin, is by no means dead and buried.

  63. @ Peter Kirk:
    Well, I guess that it might be somewhat relevent if Piper holds to it. I wasn’t aware of him holding that position, but then again I’ve only read one book by Piper and don’t plan on reading anything else of his.
    I think that Piper would have a hard time getting anyone to follow him on the “inherited guilt” thing. I’ve read a lot by both Cornelius van Til and C. S. Lewis, and I don’t remember either of them teaching inherited guilt anywhere. Nor have I ran accross it in Francis Schaeffer. And Van Til and Lewis are the quintessential Augustinians in my opinion. The big names aren’t teaching it, and I’m not aware of any churches that hold it as official dogma anymore.
    A comment, slightly off topic: you don’t have to believe in inherited guilt in order to believe that a new born baby is guilty of sin. For example, Paul Washer gave a sermon once where he talked about a baby throwing a fit; and he says that if the baby had the ability, it would strike someone down in anger. So, basically, it’s possible that “total depravity” would lead to the same conclusion, even without the notion of “inherited guilt”; because a totally depraved infant might commit sins of thought, i.e. the baby might have the intention to sin even though it lacks the strength. And the thought itself is a sin. This notion of total depravity is a grave error, and more common.

  64. W.J., I guess that all depends on who you consider the “big names” of today to be. Among conservative evangelicals, who make up a high proportion of Christians in the USA, it is hard to get bigger than John Piper. This is the relevant part of the Affirmation of Faith of his Desiring God organization:

    5.2 We believe that, as the head of the human race, Adam’s fall became the fall of all his posterity, in such a way that corruption, guilt, death, and condemnation belong properly to every person. All persons are thus corrupt by nature, enslaved to sin, and morally unable to delight in God and overcome their own proud preference for the fleeting pleasures of self-rule.

    This certainly seems to imply that human guilt precedes the sin of the individual, i.e. original guilt. And while this is not the formal dogma of a church, it is the official position of a highly influential movement.

    This statement also seems to imply that Jesus Christ is either “corrupt by nature” etc or not human, indeed not even a person. As such it contradicts sections 6.1 and 6.2 of the same Affirmation of Faith. But then logical consistency never was John Piper’s strong point.

  65. It seems to me that Mr. Piper was quite astute when it came to the wording of his statement of faith. The quotation makes no explicit mention of “being born a sinner” or “inherited sin” or anything to that effect, really. I’m not defending his other beliefs, but when he says “all persons” he could in fact be making a generic statement to cover the inevitable implications for unregenerate mankind. The statement makes a generalization about mankind, not a specific statement about babies or those in the womb. And I see no conflict between this statement and the nature of Christ. It makes no mention of when or how sin is transmitted. Rather, it expresses an observation about man whose primary instinct is to protect and honor himself. This I can agree with.

    If there is anything I don’t like about the statement, it is that it seems to paint man as a creature who can do nothing but hold his fist up to God in perpetual opposition. Then somehow, God has to manipulate something in his heart in order to win him over. That’s the basis of Calvinism I guess.

  66. Robert, I’m sure that statement was crafted very carefully. But it did omit the usual “apart from Jesus” qualification, which to me is a symptom that the humanity of Jesus is not being taken seriously enough. Yes, this is what modern Calvinism is all about.

  67. Well, Calvinists have often been accused of being crypto-Nestorian. Calvinists just cannot reconcile the “totally depraved” humanity with the “perfect man” Jesus Christ. Are the God and the Man really united in Christ? Calvin’s view often came closer to Nestroianism than to Chalcedonianism. The Lutherans assert that the “bread and wine remain in the sacrament” but “Christ gives His body and blood in, with, and under the consecrated bread and wine.” (Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, Question 290-291) In other words, the earthly element (the bread) is not united to the divine element (the body of Christ) in the sacrament. They dwell in the same place, yet remain absolutely separated. There is no real union or “communication of properties.” This is Eucharistic Nestorianism. John Calvin also regarded it as a “perverse error” to claim “that Christ is annexed to the element of bread.” He says that “we are not to dream of such a presence of Christ in the sacrament as the artificers of the Romish court have imagined, as if the body of Christ, locally present, were to be taken into the hand.” Calvin differs from Luther insofar as he does not believe that it is possible for the human body of Christ to be in multiple places at once. The body of Christ is locally present in heaven; therefore, it cannot be present in the sacrament. (Cf. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.17.12-19) The human nature simply did not partake of the divine nature. The ability to be in multiple places at once is a characteristic of the divine nature (not the human), so that Christ’s body can only be locally present in heaven. It cannot be locally present anywhere else. There was no communication of properties between the divine and human natures in the incarnation. This is Nestorianism proper. Since human nature is totally depraved and God is absolutely good, Calvin cannot let the one participate in the other; there can be no real “communication of properties.”
    Calvinism does have many Christological problems….but, then again, all Western Christian denomination are riddled with hosts of philosophical problems. Believe it or not, Calvinism is one of the more consistent forms of Western Christianity.

  68. W.J., that’s interesting, although getting a bit off topic. Yes, I accept that Calvinism can be consistent, but to be consistent it has to go against the Bible which it claims to be based on. Surely on the basis of what you write the Roman Catholic doctrine of the mass is eucharistic docetism, with the elements only appearing to be bread and wine but actually being divine?

  69. @ Peter Kirk:
    Actually, that is precisely my view. I have actually used the term “Eucharistic Docetism” to describe Roman Catholicism. I know that was a long-winded and round about way of getting to the point, but I was really just agreeing that Calvinists don’t take the humanity of Christ seriously enough, as you said (hence my Calvinism=Nestorianism comment).
    As far as Calvinism “going against the Bible,” I don’t think that’s quite fair. If you ever read Calvin, Van Til, Warfield, or even Charles Spurgeon, they have all kinds of biblical support for their views. It’s really a matter of how you interpret the Bible, and you can’t really refute their position if you stick to just the Bible. You can put up your verse and your interpretation against their verses and their interpretations, but then it just comes down to you vs. them. At some point, you have to bring in tradition (early Christian interpretations of scripture) and logic.

  70. W.J., that’s really my point. Calvinists support their position with proof texts from the Bible, but a contrary position on many major issues can easily be proved by the same proof texting method – e.g. against their doctrine of election one need only quote John 3:16. Of course they have their answers to this, such as claiming that “world” in this verse means the exact opposite of what it mostly means in the rest of John’s gospel. But they reject any special pleading made about their key verses.

    Now I can accept that nothing can be proved one way or the other by proof texting with little regard for context – which is of course what Augustine did with Romans 5:12 and other Bible passages, to bring this back on track. But if we look at the broader sweep of Scripture, at the story of a loving God reaching out to bring a lost people back to himself (yes, a gross oversimplification, of course), that doesn’t seem consistent with Calvinism or with Augustine’s theology.

  71. An authoritarian and hateful God can be read into the Bible just as easily. We are still talking about the God who “hardened Pharoah’s heart” and then caused him to fall into destruction because of that hard heart; and we are talking about the same God that ordered the Israelites to slay the men, women, AND INFANT children among the Amalekites. (Cf. Exodus 9 & 1 Samuel 15) “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”(Hebrews 10:31) The Bible depicts God as a being who casts men into an eternal fire to burn and suffer for all eternity. (Luke 16) The God of the Bible says that if you look at women and masturbate, then you should pluck out your eye and cut off your hand; otherwise he will burn you in hell for all eternity. (Matthew 5:29-30) We are talking about the same God who killed Uzzah for steadying the Ark of the Covenant when the Oxen stumbled. (2 Samuel 6:6-7) This is the same God who throws everyone who does not believe in Him into hell forever. (Mark 16:16) This doesn’t seem like it is so obviously the “story of a loving God,” like you make it out to be. Upon Protestant principles, following Sola Scriptura, I don’t see how you could not come out with a Calvinistic view of God. The biblical God seems to be awefully angry and vengeful, like Calvinists paint him.
    Now, I’m not a Protestant, so I have no problem with saying that these verses should be interpreted allegorically or metaphorically. But there is nothing in the text that even suggests that they should not be taken literally. Nevertheless, if we take it literally it’s impossible to reconcile our notion of love with the “loving” God depicted in Scripture. We must either exalt our reason above the text as such, forcing it to say what makes sense to us, or we can go the fideist route and believe like Calvinists do…i.e. we can say that God is both loving and a cruel, vengeful, genocidal maniac that tortures eternally all those who refuse to believe in Him. I think if the Protestant principles were right, then Calvinism would be the only justifiable position to hold.
    (However, I don’t think the Protestant principles are right; therefore I reject Calvinism.) And I think there is a lot in Calvinism that is infinitely more valuable that anything in any of the Arminian writers (to include C. S. Lewis, who is my favorite writer). Calvinism is particularly strong in the areas of epistmology and apologetic methodology, where Arminians are weak. Moreover, the Reformed Protestant tradition has been stronger on economics/politics at times, advocating biblical agrarianism and communalism. Arminians, in general, tend to ignore the agrarian/communalist parts of Scripture. I’m just saying, Calvinists may be wrong on grace/free will, but they are right in a lot of areas where Arminians are usually wrong. That’s one of the things I liked about Francis Schaeffer; he took the good from Calvinism and the good from Arminianism and threw out a lot of the bad parts.
    I’ve put my two cents in, and I know I’ve gotten off topic, so I’ll try to let this be my last comment.

  72. W.J., I accept that if the Bible is read given equal weight to all parts of it, the picture that emerges, although inconsistent and confusing, would tend to suggest “An authoritarian and hateful God”. But I think you get a different picture if you give priority to the teaching of Jesus, and to the New Testament as a whole, and read the Old Testament from that perspective. It is perhaps the fundamental error of Calvinism that it treats the Old Testament on the same level as the New. But of course even the New Testament doesn’t give a simple consistent picture of a loving God.

  73. Interesting how you refer to every interpretation under the sun, except that of G-d’s and Jesus’ own people, the Jews, who speak G-d’s own language. Hebrew.

  74. Personally, I will look at Jewish sources like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, and Philo. However, we cannot look to the modern “Jews” as being authoritative in their interpretations. Talmudic Judaism is heretical and it is inherently anti-Christian. The proto-Talmudists (called Pharisees in the New Testament) were the primary opponents of Christ and St. Paul. This Talmudic Judaism is essentially a racist religion. They believed that to be a Jew was to be righteous and to be a non-Jew was to be evil. Therefore, they thought you had to be a Jew and follow all of the Jewish laws (circumcision, kosher diet, etc.) in order to be righteous. The gentiles were all evil by default, simply because they did not know the Jewish law and therefore could not follow it. To them, you had to become a Jew to be “justified” (justificatio=”to make righteous). Christ and St. Paul argued, on the other hand, that justification was on the basis of faith; not on the basis of Jewishness. So St. Paul would say, “We are justified by faith [alone] without works of the [Jewish] law,” and therefore, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile; for all are one in Christ Jesus. N. T. Wright has a book called “Justification” and Paul Nadim Tarazi has a “Commentary on Galations.” Both of them explain the New Testament in the light of 1st century Judaic thought.
    The idea that Hebrew is “God’s own language” is kind of absurd. Hebrew developed out of other middle eastern languages, and it was in use before God ever revealed himself to the Hebrew people. God only communicated to the Jews in Hebrew because they spoke Hebrew. There’s nothing particularly special about the language.
    Moreover, modern Hebrew is very different from Old Testament Hebrew…there are many Hebrew words used in the Old Testament that are no longer in use and that no one knows the meaning of…we can only assume that these words mean such-and-such based on looking at old translations like the Septuagint and the Vulgate. Moreover, we know that the Hebrew Masoretic text that exists today is very corrupt. There are many texts that are different from the ancient manuscripts that are preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Moreoever, Christ and the apostles always quote the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew, even thought the texts are very different. Most of the Old Testament quotations by Christ and the apostles in the New Testament cannot even be found in the Hebrew text, nor can they be found in the King James Version of the Old Testament…they can only be found in the Greek Septuagint. Even some of the key texts, like “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” are not actually in the Hebrew (if we trust the Jews to be honest about how to translate their language): this particular reading is from the Greek Septuagint, yet the apostles make it central to their argument for the virgin birth and for their argument that Jesus was the messiah.
    Additionally, there are many differences between 1st century Jewish culture and modern Talmudic Judaism. For example, Judaism was an agrarian religion back then, now it is predominantly urbanist and anti-agrarian. This alone changes there interpretation of things. Ellen F. Davis had a book “Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture”: it is very important in this regard. I think the agrarian mindset is probably one of the most important things to consider when studying the Old Testament, but few people do consider it. It is far more important than looking at what modern “Jews” believe.

  75. W.J., surely Talmudic Judaism allowed Gentiles to become proselytes and thereby full members of the Jewish people – whereas those who abandoned their religion were no longer considered Jews. So it was not a racist religion.

    Itimagnark, I’m not sure what interpretations you are referring to. The post was about misunderstanding of a Greek text and a Latin translation of it, so not directly relevant to Hebrew. But if you have any insights about this issue from a Jewish perspective, please share them with us.

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  78. u asked why did one man in human history chose not to sin, for he chose to stay in the perfect will of the Father. He didnt doubt what the Father told him, he said, I only do what the Father shows me. He trusted God. He walked in the Spirit and not in the flesh. While the ist adam, did not trust what God said to be truth, and disobeyed him. Same thing we do. We doubt God, then go our own way, and disobey him. Jesus never doubted the Father, and that is the lesson we are to learn. Walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. God makes no mistakes, and he never leads us astray.

  79. The Ist Adam, was from the earth below, all he gave man were physical things, not Spiritual things. All of the curses put upon man, because of Adams sin, were Physical not Spiritual. Augustine and Christendom, cant distinguish Spiritual from Physical. the IST Adam, brought the curse upon the BODY, which was physical death. He had nothing to do with our Spirit or Soul. THe Last Adam, Jesus, is a QUICKENING Spirit. He rebirths us Spiritually. Takes us back to the way we are born, with human natures and partaker of the Divine. Same Natures he had as man. Those teaching the Ist Adam, was the federal head for all mankind Spiritually, do not understand who the ist Adam was. Sin and sin natures are not diseases, they can not be transferred. The SOUL< that sins, shall surely die. ADAM died Spiritually to GOD< when HE< sinned, his soul, his mind will and emotions, were then cut off from Gods. He wasnt dead, just not in the perfect will of God. HE could not sin for anyone but Adam. Sin or sin natures being transferred is Gnosticism, not Christianity. Gnostics teach sin is in material. Sin is a moral choice, we make ourself, and we are only held accountable for the choices we make, not for any other sinner.

  80. Sin is a separation from God. Sin is the source of death. Sin is not part of nature but creation of man. When God created man, created man in god’s image with all goodness. Eve choose something seems to good, was not good to her. “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil could not have been evil, for it was created by God, and everything God created was necessarily good.”
    Mar Gregorios vehemently opposed the Augustine category of understanding man, creation and sin. He refutes and says “evil springs from human freedom, that God did not make man to do evil. But man did it of his own free will”. Evil has no substance it is lack of good that it shadow. He says , by the fall of man caused error in the image of God in human. That made the matter, fleshy a tendency to fall short of divine. So the image is defaced. Even it a new status has been achieved with the incarnation. “It is still the fallen creation at the heart of which there is the corrosive presence of evil and non-being. But at the heart of the same fallen creation there is also the Son of God who became a part of that creation and is destined to reconstitute that creation in himself”. The man who fight against evil is the new man, the humanity in which Jesus Christ has became incarnate. This is the humanity which is united with God himself in Christ. Incarnation was the climax of this revelation. Mar Gregorios insists that incarnation itself was an act of free grace. Incarnation itself is possible because there is a proportionality between God and man; in the very creation itself incarnation complete it. In Jesus christ the image was undistorted mirror of the Archetype. “By faith and Baptism we ourselves are united to this original image and partners in his resurrection life. The Eucharist as the body of Christ gradually transmates us in to itself. This continual deification as it advances in self discipline, prayer and acts of love towards fellowman, make as also transparent to deity.” So we can understand that in the eastern tradition man is not considered absolutely evil, unable to attain salvation human in fact belongs to both the world (earth and heaven) the possibility of that has been inherited through the incarnation of Christ human can achieve this privilege through his / her participation in the incarnated Christ through Sacrament.
    Paulos Mar Gregorios says that Augustine is too much influence by Manichanism and Neoplatonism which taught that matter is essentially evil. But by this influence Augustine developed a dualism between body and matter and so his teaching on sacrament was based on the thought that the creation is inferior. Hence Augustine’s teaching on sacrament lose the intergration of humanity. Will of God matter is created and it is God’s energy and power. Therefore matter is not evil in itself and the ultimate aim of creation is to become like the creator.

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  82. I can only see one way that Adam’s sin resulted in all men to die spiritually. Let us begin by looking at this verse:

    “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” (Ro.5:12).

    From this we can understand the following: (1) Sin entered the world when Adam sinned and that sin brought about spiritual death. (2) Adam’s sin was somehow responsible for bringing spiritual death to all men. (3) This death came to all men because all have sinned.

    What this verse does not tell us is exactly “how” Adam was responsible for bring death to all men. However, the verse which follows was written in order to explain how that came about:

    “…even as by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death; and thus death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: for until law sin was in the world; but sin is not put to account when there is no law” (Ro.5:12-13; DBY).

    These verses are speaking of “law” in a “universal” sense because the “deaths” being considered are also “universal” in nature: “death passed to all men.” The only universal law that has been in effect since Adam is the law which is written in the heart of all men, the same law of which the “conscience” bears witness:

    “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness” (Ro.2:14-15).

    When Adam ate of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” he had the knowledge of the law written in his heart and his “conscience” bore witness to that law. His very nature had changed. The Lord said: “Behold,the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil ” (Gen.3:22). Man now had a “conscience” of the law written in his heart.

    All of Adam’s descendants would thereafter be born in Adam’s likeness and image, also having a “conscience”, or an inborn knowledge of God’s law:

    “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth” (Gen.5:3).

    So Adam was responsible for death coming unto all men because he was responsible for bringing “law” unto all men. When all men after Adam sinned against the law written in their hearts they died spiritually–“and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

    If Adam would have obeyed the Lord then he would have remained in a state of “innocence” and “law” would not have come upon his descendants: “when there is no law, sin is not imputed.” This princle is illustrated in the following verse:

    “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas.4:17).

    God will not impute sin into a person’s account unless that person first knows the difference between what is good and what is not.

    Therefore we can understand that if sin is not imputed into anyone’s account then there would be no spiritual death.

    You can read more about this on my website.

  83. Although “Behind the Reformation is Augustine…,” behind Luther’s interpretation of Romans is not the translation of “ef” familiar to Augustine.

    Luther’s translation is: “dieweil sie alle gesuendiget haben”; i.e., Luther translated “ef” as “because,” just as in the NRSV: “because all have sinned.”

    • Mark, thank you for your comment. I’m sorry that I was slow finding and approving it. I would suggest that Luther was too good a Bible translator to allow his translation of this verse to be affected by his theology. But then, he was certainly not one of the main Reformation proponents of this doctrine.

  84. 1]. Sin was in creation before Adam and Eve, from the moment of Lucifer’s revolt. Ergo, Adam didn’t bring sin in it.

    2]. Had they not eaten of the forbidden, they would have eventually eaten of . I tree of life. Adam’s sin brought in death.

    3]. There’s a self-evident reason that the Early Church celebrated Easter every Lord’s Day long before the Friday Fast or the Holy nativity

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