Original sin and Adam

What exactly do we inherit from Adam? Is it the guilt of his sin, or simply a propensity to sin ourselves? Or is it both? Your help in clarifying this would be much appreciated. I’m sure it’s been likely asked before, so i thank you for your patience with me.

From the Catechism:

The consequences of Adam’s sin for humanity

**402 **All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” [sup]289[/sup] The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”[sup]290[/sup]

**403 **Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul”.[sup]291[/sup] Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.[sup]292[/sup]

404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”. [sup]293[/sup] By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. [sup]294[/sup] 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, [sup]295[/sup] 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: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

**406 **The Church’s teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine’s reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God’s grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam’s fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529) [sup]296[/sup] and at the Council of Trent (1546). [sup]297[/sup]

289 Rom 5:12,19.
290 Rom 5:18.
291 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1512.
292 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1514.
293 St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo 4,1.
294 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1511-1512
295 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513.
296 DS 371-372.
297 Cf. DS 1510-1516.

Excellent, thank you, that’s very helpful.

You quoted, “All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.””

Interesting quote, I would say that it is something worth pondering.

Actually, it’s more like what we don’t inherit because he lost it through Original Sin.
We don’t get that level of sanctity that Adam and Eve were given. We don’t get that integrity that they had so they would not so easily fall into sin. They would not die.

All of these things were lost to us through the fall so we suffer from concupiscence that they didn’t have, etc.

Scot McKnight has a blog post on this topic:


I especially like the following paragraph which is also relevant to this thread; italics are as in the original:

For some Jewish writers of that time, Adam comes off more positively than for others, but in each, Adam is not just the first human being but also the archetypal first sinner whose sin had an impact on those who followed him. In no instances is Adam simply the first human being in a long chain of history; Adam is always the archetype of humans in general or of Israel in particular. How did these authors learn to read Adam as an archetype and come to know these things? Not by historical investigation as we do it, not by scientific inquiry as we do it but, put plainly and simply: they knew Adam as the literary Adam found in their sacred book, the Torah, in Genesis. The archetypal Adam, then, came to them by learning to read about the literary Adam—and sometimes they saw him as biographical and historical and at other times in less than biographical and historical terms. We are too precise if we think they always thought in historical terms just as we are too precise if we think they always thought in archetypal terms.

May I respectfully point out that the Catholic teaching is that Adam is the real actual first blood and guts, skin and bones, fully-complete human on planet earth. He is not a representative; he is himself. However, I can read into Adam all kinds of stuff after I pinch him to see if he is real. :wink:

My apology for not reading the entire link. I got so far and decided to leave some differences rest in peace.

Its a debated point, but mainstream view is their body’s would have aged and worn out and probably they would have “died.”

No exactly “died” … that is the separation of body and soul.
They would rather have been “Assumed” into heaven (without body and soul being separated) according to the leading Doctors.

Yes, their bodies aged and wore out according to these Doctors of the Church, that is natural even in Eden.

However by eating from the Tree of Life their bodies would have been healed from the effects of aging.

Whether it would have been a sin not to so eat (and hence to hasten their “Assumptions”) is harder to discern.

This is a very general observation based on the fact that I learned Catholic doctrines regarding human origin, human nature, Original Sin, and the Divinity of Jesus Christ, mostly in grade school without reading the first three chapters of Genesis. Thus, when I first landed on CAF, and posters were talking about the Tree of Life, I had no clue about that tree. :blush:

Between then and now, apparently the Tree of Life lost its popularity. Currently, all of a sudden, that Tree seems to have replaced the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Why, I ask myself. What book or article has spawned the revival of the Tree of Life? Or maybe there is some kind of a deeper story regarding the symbolism in those amazing first three chapters of Genesis. I am very curious.


From catholic.com/magazine/articles/before-sin

The Two Trees

The recreation of the world is a long way off when Adam and Eve trudge sadly out of the Garden, but already, in the final lines of Genesis 3, salvation is being prepared. There are two trees growing in Eden: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Adam and Eve eat from the first, but are prevented from eating from the second.

It is interesting to note that there is no tree of death or tree of evil within the garden, only the tree of the possibility of evil. When Adam and Eve eat they interiorize that potential and make it real. This creates a new relationship between man and Creation. Suddenly, all of the things that were “good” in the beginning have potential for evil. That makes the image of a tree particularly apt because of the countless branches of knowledge which in our fallen condition represent a genuine danger:

Spiritual knowledge may now be used for sorcery.
Scientific knowledge may be used to exploit and destroy.
Moral knowledge may be used to censure and condemn.
Aesthetic knowledge may be used to make evil look attractive.

Every field of human endeavor is poisoned because humanity now knows not only how to use knowledge for the greater glory of God, but also how to use it in disordered and damaging ways.

The second tree is the antidote to this problem, but it is also dangerous. When God banishes Adam and Eve from the garden and the tree of life, bodily immortality is no longer possible. It was an act of mercy that he did so. Those who choose to love and serve God could hardly find endless life in a valley of sorrows desirable; those who reject God must not be allowed to grow in their evil indefinitely or to continually inflict harm on others without ever being subjected to justice. God posts at Eden’s gates “the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way” (Gn 3:24). Eden is permanently closed to man. At the same time, however, the tree of life is being prepared and the fruit of salvation is ripening in its branches, for its hour has not yet come.

It is not by accident that the tree of life appears constantly in world mythology. The tree spreads out her branches across the galaxies, and stars spin like apples from her boughs. All life, all Creation, springs from the root of this tree, and its sap is the water of life. The tree is an image of the entire created order, a single, unified organism in which all things are reconciled and made one.

It is, of course, the cross, and its fruit is Christ crucified. We eat of its fruit each time we participate in the mystery of the Eucharist. It is the pillar on which the world is made, the source of all life, ordained from the beginning, the sacrifice which God had prepared to redeem and renew his Creation.

We inherit a disorder, an injustice: man is not meant to be separated from-out of communion with- God, which is how we’re born, without knowledge of God, which is why we need to be “born again”, which begins with faith, our first response to grace, formalized in the sacrament of Baptism, which establishes-or re-establishes- relationship with the Father whose knowledge we’re then to continue to grow in. We’re born “turned away” from God. so to speak, still preferring ourselves to Him, as the catechism teaches was Adam & Eve’s preference. To the extent we still sin, that we’re still willing to look away or stay apart from Him, we’re actually still expressing our doubt, our unbelief, let alone our lack of love for God and neighbor, love being the true measure of man’s justice.

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