Original Sin, St Augustine and St Paul

I know I keep posting a lot about my university goings-on recently, but I need some forum to discuss this, since these things are rather worrying to me.

Our Dogmatics professor continued his lecture on the Major Eras of Theological History today, focussing on Saint Augustine and his influence on the Western Church. Original Sin was a particularly important topic.

Essentially, he was saying that there was no teaching on Original Sin before Saint Augustine, and he introduced it in relation to the teaching on Grace. The professor said that the most quoted verse for the doctrine was Romans 5:12, which reads “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” According to him, this verse has been proved a mistranslation since the 1400s since we have “critical” (whatever that might mean) translations of the Bible, and the verse should actually read something like “because all have sinned like him” rather than “in him”.

I asked the professor if he was really saying that Saint Augustine essentially invented Original Sin, which he answered by saying something like “The Eastern Churches to this day have no theology of Original Sin. Only since Augustine do we have it in the Western Church.” Asking how, then, he explains the Nicene Creed’s line confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum and Infant Baptism, he said: “Well, from the beginning we have practices that didn’t have some theological reflection, like intercessory prayer at Mass. People just did it, without thinking about how God could act in time when He knew everything from Eternity. Same with Infant Baptism: It was a practice that was done not because it forgave Original Sin, but really only because the parents were converts and they wanted to bring their children along. Origen wrote explicitly against Infant Baptism.”

So, essentially the point is: Infants were baptised in the Early Church, but not because they should be cleansed of Original Sin, merely because it was a time when lots of converts brought their families and their “whole house” along with them.

I find these statements rather worrying. It sounds like Augustine invented Original Sin. If he did, that would bring down my entire belief in Catholicism. If Original Sin falls, so does Baptism, the Immaculate Conception and Infallibility both of the Church and the Pope.

Can someone clear this all up? Are there Fathers who talk about Original Sin before Augustine? Does he himself say he didn’t invent it? What about the translation of Romans 5:12?

Thanks. :slight_smile:

So, he claims that just because (sic) there are no extant writing about original sin before Augustine that means there never was any. And that St. Augustine felt free to invent new doctrine ???


“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . . [But] a viper of the [Gnostic] Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism—which is quite in accordance with nature, for vipers and.asps . . . themselves generally do live in arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes after the example of our [Great] Fish, Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water. So that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes—by taking them away from the water!” (*Baptism *1 [A.D. 203]).

“Without baptism, salvation is attainable by none” (ibid., 12).

“[P]erhaps someone will ask, ‘What does it conduce unto piety to be baptized?’ In the first place, that you may do what has seemed good to God; in the next place, being born again by water unto God so that you change your first birth, which was from concupiscence, and are able to attain salvation, which would otherwise be impossible. For thus the [prophet] has sworn to us: ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you are born again with living water, into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ Therefore, fly to the water, for this alone can extinguish the fire. He who will not come to the water still carries around with him the spirit of insanity for the sake of which he will not come to the living water for his own salvation” (Homilies11:26 [A.D. 217]).


“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (*Against Heresies *2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

“‘…‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment34 [A.D. 190]).

"Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (*Homilies on Leviticus *8:3 [A.D. 248]).

“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (*Commentaries on Romans *5:9 [A.D. 248]).


**Romans 6:23,
“The wages of sin is death”, cf. Genesis 3:16-19. We are all separated from God and we lack the sanctifying grace that we need in order to live in heaven.

**Ephesians 2:3
“Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” RSV

**1 Corinthians 15:21-22
“Death came through a human being … in Adam all die…”
(cf. Psalm 51:7, 58:4, Wisdom 2:24) **
**All of us, including infants, need to be saved by Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.

**John 14:6
“…No one come to the Father except through me.”

**Romans 5:17-19
“…Just as through one transgression condemnation (sin) came upon all… Just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.” **
**After explaining that we must get out of Adam’s family and into Christ’s family, St. Paul explains how this is done.

**Romans 6:4
“…We who were baptized into Christ Jesus…”
(Note: St. Paul doesn’t say “all you have to do is accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.” - a phrase that is not found anywhere in the Bible.)


Wow, that is a lot. I remember the professor saying that while the Fathers believed that Baptism forgave personal sin, Original Sin was not thought of at the time. He also says that Origen (or was it Tertullian? I always get them mixed up) wrote against Infant Baptism precisely because babies had no personal sin.

In my humble opinion, the way to handle your OP, is to start with Chapter 14, Gospel of John, which explains the protocol of the visible Catholic Church on Earth. Please let me know your thoughts, so that we can continue the discussion. :slight_smile:

Hope this helps!

From New Advent:Catholic Encyclopedia

These Protestant writers lay much stress on the last words of the twelfth verse. We know that several of the Latin Fathers understood the words “in whom all have sinned”, to mean, all have sinned in Adam. This interpretation would be an extra proof of the thesis of original sin, but it is not necessary. Modern exegesis, as well as the Greek Fathers, prefer to translate “and so death passed upon all men because all have sinned”. We accept this second translation which shows us death as an effect of sin. But of what sin? “The personal sins of each one”, answer our adversaries, “this is the natural sense of the words ‘all have sinned.’” It would be the natural sense if the context was not absolutely opposed to it. The words “all have sinned” of the twelfth verse, which are obscure on account of their brevity, are thus developed in the nineteenth verse: “for as by the disobedience of one man many were made sinners.” There is no question here of personal sins, differing in species and number, committed by each one during his life, but of one first sin which was enough to transmit equally to all men a state of sin and the title of sinners. Similarly in the twelfth verse the words “all have sinned” must mean, “all have participated in the sin of Adam”, “all have contracted its stain”.** This interpretation too removes the seeming contradiction between the twelfth verse, “all have sinned”, and the fourteenth, “who have not sinned”, for in the former there is question of original sin, in the latter of personal sin. Those who say that in both cases there is question of personal sin are unable to reconcile these two verses.**

I am so glad that you are thinking critically and not just accepting the word of your professors. Discomfort is a good thing when it brings about true knowledge. :thumbsup:

I don’t know if this will help. But right now I am in the middle of reading “The History of Infant Baptism” by William Wall (1705) This Anglican Divine wrote this book as a collection of all that the early Church Fathers (first 4 centuries) had to say regarding Infant Baptism, which unavoidably includes Original Sin. It’s a fantastic book to refute such arguments as your professors with the ACTUAL WORDS of the Early Church Fathers, BOTH EASTERN AND WESTERN. John Henry Newman considered it the best work ever written in defense of Infant Baptism.

Your professors arguments are very weak and misguided if not entirely spurious.

Wall proves that original sin (though not called that) was believed in Judaism going back to the Psalms of David and the Book of Job. That the Eastern Church has always held the necessity of Infant Baptism (proved by Eastern Church Fathers) even though they didn’t use the words Original Sin, they understood St. Paul’s words to that effect. That the entire Catholic Church, both Eastern and Western, has Universally baptized infants, since the time of the Apostles for this reason.

It is also important to understand the seriousness of St. Augustine’s battle with Pelagianism (which is why people like your professor wrongly believe that St. Augustine “invented” original sin.)

Regarding Origen (a very shaky source indeed) DID believe in Infant Baptism, but in his weird theology, thought the infant’s sins were comitted in a former life in eternity! Origen held that souls were created at the beginning of time, and lived in eternity until they were born in human bodies.

What is ESPECIALLY helpful about William Wall’s book, is that he addresses the VERY quotes that antipoedobaptists (his word for those who are against Infant baptism) like to use in their arguments from the Church Fathers against infant baptism. Even though Wm. Wall was an Anglican, he was arguing with the Fundamentalist/Protestant/Dissenters of England, who are still with us today in the form of “evangelical/born-agains.”

Wall’s book is a slam dunk in PROVING the APOSTOLIC practice of Infant Baptism. Your professor’s remark that they “just did it in ignorance” is ridiculous.

Wall also proves how MANY places in the Bible ACTUALLY speak of infant baptism, but because of poor translations, and their customary usage of euphemisms for baptism, we have entirely lost sight of it. E.g. how we might use christening or baptism interchangeably, they used sanctified, made holy, illumined, washed, and other words to that effect, which in their time imported baptism, and no other meaning (INCLUDING THE OLD TESTAMENT!)

You don’t say whether your professor of dogmatic theology is an obedient Catholic or not, but if he is a generalist or non-denominational, then it is easy to see how he would arrive at these false conclusions. Also if he is teaching theology of various religions (a generalist) it is easy to see how he could be wanting in the depth of knowledge required to speak truly of Catholic theology and practice. If that is the case, let this be a lesson to you on how shallow a teacher’s knowledge can be on certain subjects. Whatever you do, keep your Faith in the Catholic Church, and all she teaches.

It helped, thank you! :slight_smile: Yes, indeed. I have only just started studies, and thus I may be getting the wrong end of the stick when some professors say certain things, but I would rather be safe than sorry. I believe it is due to my being a convert that I pick up on such things quickly, which might already be confusing wording of a phrase. That’s not to denigrate cradle Catholics, don’t get me wrong! :slight_smile:

Thanks for mentioning the book, Father (?) ! :slight_smile: Indeed, it was in the context of Pelagianism that he made those remarks. He also stated that the Greek part of the Church to this day doesn’t really have an interest in or theology of Original Sin in the way Augustine had.

It would have been Tertullian, then. As I said, I keep confusing the two for some reason.

He is a Catholic, teaching at a Jesuit-run seminary (to which I go as a lay student) with a doctorate and habilitation and a quite impressive CV, at least to my eyes…

See above.

Oh, I will, but I don’t like to leave legitimate questions unanswered, because over time they eat away at one’s faith. Thanks! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the reference. Maybe someone will take the time to pull out some choice quotes.

Below are from other websites.

The history of infant baptism In two parts.
The First, Being an Impartial Collection of all such Passages in the Writers of the four first Centuries as do make For, or Against it.
The Second, Containing several Things that do help to illustrate the said History. By W. Wall, Vicar of Shoreham in Kent.

**Full text of “The history of infant baptism : together with Mr. Gale’s Reflections, and Dr. Wall’s Defence” **


The History of Infant-Baptism

Volume 1 of 4

The History of Infant-Baptism: Together With M…

Volume 1 of 2

The History of Infant Baptism

Together With Mr. Gale’s Reflections, and Dr. Wall’s Defence, Vol. 3 of 4


The History of Infant-Baptism, Vol. 4 of 4

[PDF]The History of Infant-baptism. in Two Pa (Paperback) pdf http://forums.catholic.com/symres:sb_unknownannotation.png

Köp This is the Country (9780340822166) av William WallBokus.com. Avancerad … A Defence Of The History Of Infant-Baptism Against T … and the author of … History of Infant Baptism (& Debate) (1705, 1711, 1720] 1889, 4 volumes).

From another website:

William Wall, noted Anglican scholar, in his celebrated volume, The History of Infant Baptism (published in 1705), wrote: All the ancient Christians (without the exception of one man) do understand that the rule of our Saviour (John iii.5): “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man [it is in the original ean me tis, ‘except a person,’ or ‘except one’] be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” of baptism. I had occasion in the first part [Vol. 1] to bring a great many instances of their sayings: where all that mention that text from Justin Martyr down to St. Austin do so apply it: and many more might be brought. Neither did I ever see it otherwise applied in any ancient writer. I believe Calvin was the first that ever denied this place to mean baptism. He gives it another interpretation which he confesses to be new (Wall n.d., 95-96; emphasis added).

From the Miserere Psalm- “Indeed, in guilt was I born, and in sin my mother conceived me.”

If that’s not definitive proof of Original Sin (besides the fact that it is what we, as Catholics, believe in and is simply the truth), then I don’t know what is! Why don’t you see what your professor says about that quote from God’s own Word in the Bible?

May God bless you all! :slight_smile:


“… by means of His passion. For doing away with [the effects of] that disobedience of man which had taken place at the beginning by the occasion of a tree, “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;” rectifying that disobedience which had occurred by reason of a tree, through that obedience which was [wrought out] upon the tree [of the cross]. Now He would not have come to do away, by means of that same [image], the disobedience which had been incurred towards our Maker if He proclaimed another Father. But inasmuch as it was by these things that we disobeyed God, and did not give credit to His word, so was it also by these same that He brought in obedience and consent as respects His Word; by which things He clearly shows forth God Himself, whom indeed we had offended in the first Adam, when he did not perform His commandment. In the second Adam, however, we are reconciled, being made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to none other but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning.”
Irenaeus,Against Heresies,V:16:3(A.D. 180),in ANF,I:544

"Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame. "
Tertullian,On the Soul,40(A.D. 208),in ANF,III:220

“Everyone in the world falls prostrate under sin. And it is the Lord who sets up those who are cast down and who sustains all who are falling**. In Adam all die**, and thus the world prostrate and requires to be set up again, so that Christ all may be made to live.”
**Origen,**Homilies on Jeremias,8:1(post A.D. 244),in JUR,I:205

“If, in the case of the worst sinners and of those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from Baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been BORN, *has done no sin [committed no personal sin], except that, born of the flesh according to Adam. He has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another.*” Cyprian,Epistle to Fidus,68[64]:5(c A.D. 250),in ANF,V:354


file:///C:\Users\John7\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtmlclip1%between%1\clip_image001.gif"For He came to save all through means of Himself–all, I say, who through Him are born again to God–infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men."
Irenaeus, Against Heresies,2,22:4 (A.D. 180),in ANF,I:391


Yes to both questions. In his book “Against Julian,” St. Augustine answers the charge that he “invented” original sin by proving it from the Fathers. I’ve gone through and compiled some of his quotes. There are more in the original. Another resource to look up early references to original sin is Jurgens’ book “Faith of the Early Fathers.”

— 100 - 200 A.D. —

St. Irenaeus - “Men cannot be saved in any other way from the ancient wound of the Serpent except by believing in Him who according to the likeness of sinful flesh was lifted up from the earth on the tree of testimony and drew all things to Himself and gave life to the dead." (Against Heresies Book 4 Chapter 2 Paragraph 8)

And: “Just as the human race was bound to death by a virgin it is released through a virgin, the obedience of a virgin evenly counterbalancing the disobedience of a virgin. For the sin of the first-formed was wiped out by the chastisement of the First-born, the wisdom of the Serpent was conquered by the simplicity of the dove, and we were released from the chains by which we were bound to death.” (Against Heresies Book 5 Chapter 19)

— 200 - 300 A.D. —

St. Cyprian - “[Since] nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace, how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins—that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another.” (Letter 58, To Fidus)

— 300 - 400 A.D. —

St. Hilary of Poiters - “[David] does not think he lives in this life, for he had said: ‘Behold I have been conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me.’ He knows that he was born of sinful origin and under the law of sin.” (Exposition of Psalm 118)

St. Ambrose of Milan - “Before we are born we are stained by contagion, and before seeing the light we receive the injury of our very origin, we are conceived in iniquity. [Scripture] does not say whether that of our parents or our own. [But] in sins his mother gives birth to each one. Nor does [Scripture] state here whether the mother gives birth in her own sins or whether there are already some sins in the one being born. But, consider whether both are not to be understood. The conception is not without iniquity, since the parents are not without sin, and if not even a child of one day is without sin, so much more are those days of the maternal conception not without sin. Thus, we are conceived in the sin of our parents and are born in their iniquities. But birth itself also has its own contagions, and the nature itself has not merely one contagion.” (Defense of the Prophet David 11)

St. Gregory Nazianzen (Eastern Father) - “Let the word of Christ persuade you of this, also, as He says that no one can enter into the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again of water and the Spirit. Through Him the stains of the first birth are cleansed away, through which we are conceived in iniquity and in sins have our mothers brought us forth.” (Oratio in natalem Christi.)

St. Basil of Caesarea (Eastern Father) - “Fasting was established in paradise by law. For Adam received the first commandment: ‘From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you must not eat.’ But, ‘you must not eat’ means fasting, and the beginning of the Law. If Eve had fasted from the tree, we should not need [forgiveness]. For it is not the healthy who need a physician, but they who are sick. We have fallen ill through sin; we are healed by penance. But penance without fasting is vain. The accursed earth shall bring forth thorns and thistles for thee. Are you not ordained for sorrow and not for delights? … Because we did not fast we fell from paradise. Let us fast, therefore, that we may return to it.’ ” (Sermon 1)

Augustine comments: “[H]ear that we should not need this fast if man had not transgressed the law of fasting in the happiness of paradise, and [do not] deny that other men are born subject to the sin of those men. [H]ear what he adds: ‘Nor it is not the healthy who need a physician,’ and [do not] deny that we have lost by the sin of those men the health in which we were created. [T]he sentence pronounced against the first man… ‘The earth shall bring forth thorns and thistles for thee,’ applies to us also, [therefore do not] deny that they are subject to the sin whom you perceive to be subject to the same sentence.”

St. John Chrysostom (Eastern Father) - “When Adam sinned that great sin, and condemned all the human race in common, he paid the penalties in grief.” (Letter to Olympia) And: “Christ wept because mortality had transgressed to the point that, cast out from eternity, it loved the world of the dead. Christ wept because the Devil made mortal those who could have been immortal.” (Homily on the Resurrection of Lazarus) And: “It is clear that it is not the sin which comes from transgression of the law, but that sin which comes from the disobedience of Adam, which has defiled all.”

Augustine says: “We have fourteen other Eastern bishops Eulogius, John, Ammonianus, Porphyry, Eutonius, Porphyry, Fidus, Zoninus, Zoboennus, Nymphidius, Chromatius, Jovinus, Eleutherius, Clematius whom we have found together in one place and can introduce into this assembly, the very ones who sat as judges over Pelagius.” He says this because they “condemned those who say that the sin of Adam harmed him alone and not the human race; and that new-born infants are in that state in which Adam was before he sinned; and that infants even if they are not baptized have eternal life.”


Excellent work! (and thanks for the link–looks like it will make for a very interesting read).


," St. Augustine answers the charge that he “invented” original sin by proving it from the Fathers. I’ve gone through and compiled some of his quotes. There are more in the original. Another resource to look up early references to original sin is Jurgens’ book “Faith of the Early Fathers.”:thumbsup:

Excellent work! (and thanks for the link–looks like it will make for a very interesting read).

No problem. I just compiled all those quotes, plus some other ones, into one thread which you can link to or cite quotes from to prove that the pre-Augustine Church Fathers of both East and West all taught the doctrine of original sin:


Check it out and let me know what you think.

The whole “original sin is based on a mistranslation of Romans 5:12” is a total canard even though it is commonly repeated. Even if it were a mistranslation, the Latin text obviously conveys the sense of the passage. These Pelagians would have Paul saying “death passed upon all men because all sinned.” But this is absurd! Death passed on infants too who commit no personal sin. Thus Paul says, in that same passage, Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (Rom. 5:14). They would have him saying that people only die because they sin and then later say that people die even though they never sinned. According to their view, Paul cannot go more than two verses without contradicting himself.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.