Did original sin actually happen?

I was watching a segment of The Cosmic Skeptic where he pointed out that if the Genesis story is not an actual description of history but should rather be interpreted as a theological text on the relationship bewteen God and man then how can there be original sin? After all, it is founded on the idea that an actual representative of humanity named Adam actually and actively disobeyed God by eating of the forbiden tree. But if there was no Adam, as evolution suggests, then there can’t have been the elements necessary for this story to take place. Further, if it didn’t actually happen, then why are we being punished? Punishment can only come from an actual act done. But if the Genesis story didn’t happen, then what of sin? Any thoughts on this take?

my understanding is that the story isnt about the original adam and eve because then you are limiting it by time which is not Gods time. I think of it this way…we see in Adam and Eve each of us individually here with all that we need dwelling in the garden of eden and God says obey. The tree we are told not touch is the choice of disobedience and when we are not obeying God we are no longer in the garden of Eden. So beautiful the way the story of adam and eve distinguishes their shame for the first time their shame comes over them and they hide from God. Its about us. Our first seperation from innocence and willful sin.

God had already established time during the creation. 1st day, 2nd day, etc. i believe the story to be literal.


named Adam


actually and actively disobeyed God


by eating of the forbiden tree.


The story is historical but also veiled in symbolic storytelling.

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Also, you may wish to look up an article called Science, Theology, and Monogenesis by Kenneth Kemp. We can’t know if it’s THE resolution to the question (and the dominant theory in science is a polygenesis model, contrary to what was stated above), but I think it’s an interesting take on how we can approach the issue, and it offers one possible synthesis.

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The main point, adamantly maintained by the church, is that a man and a woman, ancestors of all living humans, committed the first sin, an act of disobedience against God. By that act they rejected God’s authority and therefore his godhood. And since then man has been his own “god” for all practical purposes, not knowing God in any kind of immediate manner and that’s the world we’re born into. But this is a disordered state of being according to the church and that disassociated state is known as “original sin”.

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Yes that’s why we have baptism.


I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the first man, Adam, was created by God, directly and immediately as an adult male human being, and Eve was taken from his side. And that this couple committed the first sin as described in Sacred Scripture.

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G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” – Orthodoxy

(He wrote that years before his conversion to Catholicism.)

Pope St. Pius X issued Pascendi and Lamentabili sane condemning the errors of Modernism

And Pope Pius XII issued Humani generis which condemned among other things the denial of the existence of Adam and Eve and original sin.

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Did original sin actually happen?

The most convincing argument I’ve heard for the reality of original sin goes like this:
Think about a newborn baby, pulled right from the mother’s womb.
If there were no original sin, then this would truly be a perfect individual. Innocent, undefiled.
And this child would have no need whatsoever for Christ, the Savior. Right?
Oh, how sad that would be – if it were true…

(Merriam-Webster) punish, verb

1a to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation

(Merriam-Webster) penalty, noun

3a disadvantage, loss, or hardship due to some action


397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart …

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. …

400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: …

404 … It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” - a state and not an act.

405 Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted …

The Cosmic Skeptic needs to do his homework, I’m afraid (at least with respect to what the Catholic Church teaches). It’s possible that he’s reacting to things that non-Catholic Christian denominations teach.

The Catholic Church teaches that there were two first truly-human persons. (A human person has a human body and an immortal human soul.) Notice that if there were ancestors to those two first human persons, with human bodies but not human souls, then these ancestors wouldn’t have been “truly human.”

So, what the Bible teaches in Genesis 3 – and the Catholic Church asserts that it’s a figurative narrative – is that these first two truly human persons sinned against God. They offer an allegory for that sin – “they ate from a tree that had been prohibited to them by God”. The point of the story is that our first truly human parents actually sinned, and the consequences that occurred.

Were those two literally named ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’? Well… let’s start with ‘Eve’. If you look at the Greek text, she doesn’t have the name Eve at the start of Genesis. Her name is Zoë, which means – as the narrative tells us – “mother of all living [human persons]”. (It’s only later that the Greek text starts calling her “Eva”.) What about ‘Adam’? Well… his name means “from the red dirt”. His name is a description, too! He was created from existing elements on earth, into which God breathed an immortal soul!

So… is the truth of the story dependent on their names? Of course not!

Evolution – and science, in general – cannot make this claim. After all, they can’t say a cotton-pickin’ thing about “the first ensouled human persons”. They can talk about empirical dynamics – populations of hominins, and such – but they are incapable of discussing the soul, which is what’s in play here.

Two thoughts:

  • we’re not being ‘punished’. But, actions have consequences, and often, the actions of the parents have consequences upon their descendants. That’s the dynamic in play here.
  • It really did “actually happen”. It’s just that the narrative describing it is figurative. Think about the musical “Hamilton”. Did the events portrayed in the musical happen in the exact way they portrayed them…? With hip-hop music, dance, and lyrics? Of course not! But… does that mean that the events portrayed in the musical didn’t happen at all? Of course not! They actually happened, even if the musical isn’t attempting to portray them in a slavishly literalistic fashion!

The bible makes claim to two beginnings that people rose from - Adam as the first but also Noah - apparently everyone died in the flood with only Noah and his family surviving - it you take the bible literally you have to believe this - so we are all descendants of Noah.

That’s the whole point, though. Does the Catholic Church require that you take the entirety of the Bible in a strictly literalistically way? The answer is “no; you do not.”

Are we spiritual descendants of Noah? In a way… yes. Yet, what is the flood epic trying to teach us? I would encourage you to read beyond the “rainbow” verses in order to learn what the story is trying to teach you.

But, if we take the Gensis story as a story that actually took place in history, wouldn’t that mean we’d have to take the rest of the Gensis stories as taking place in real history too?

And some of these stories are told literally (in the form of historical narrative) and others are told figuratively (in the form of allegorical narrative). All the events “actually took place”, but the narratives which describe them are told in the form of varying genres of literature.

I think you’re asking “if there’s one literal historical narrative in a work of literature, do all the narratives in that work have to be interpreted as if they’re literal historical narratives, too?”. The answer to that question is “no”. (Look at any Gospel, as your counter-example: it’s historical narrative, but Jesus tells stories – parables – as teaching tools.)

Perhaps you’re asking something different, though?

Kind of. I get what you’re saying; as Bishop Barron likes putting it, the Bible is a library, not a book, so of course theres going to be a variety of literature styles and genres within it in order to convey the relationship between God and man. But I generally assume that each book is itself a genre. So the gospel is a historical text, psalms is of course poetic, and Gensis, I’ve been told, should generally be seen as an archtypal myth. If that be so, the elements of one tale within Gensis I’d assume would carry onto all the stories within it. Especially since they build directly ontop of each other narratively (for example, Noah was said to be of the time of Adam, yet the beginner of the new age). So for the fall of man to be literally I’d assume would give pass for the other genesis stories to be taken literal, including tbe flood.

I’ve always understood it that Genesis can be divided into two – he “prehistory” part and the “patriarchs” part. We’d see the former as more likely ‘figurative’ and the latter ‘historical’.

See: Humanae Generis.

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