When did the Church officially take on the doctrine of original sin?

I know Augustine developed it, did he more or less invent it ? Someone I know claimed that out of that doctrine Calvinism sprung up.

Any thoughts are appreciated.


Hi, Ambrose!
Here’s a link that can help:

Original sin in tradition (newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm#IV)

Original sin - an essential truth of the faith (vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p7.htm)

…from what I gathered it was held as dogma during/after the 4th century–though Scriptures clearly state that because of Adam all men have sinned (are born with sin, ergo, Original Sin).

Maran atha!


Thanks for the clarification !

Seems to be a little like the doctrine of transubstantiation, we’ve known from the beginning based on scripture that there is a change in the bread and wine, but through the doctrine that Aquinas penned we have more or better clarification.


Well, there’s a bit of a problem with that statement. The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis is of course Jewish Scripture, and Jews do not believe in original sin. That concept originated with Christianity - it has no roots before then.

I think it arose from Romans 5.

However, original sin (the idea that we are all born with inherent sin as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin) must be distinguished from the Calvinistic idea of “total depravity”, which is quite another kettle of fish. :wink:

I believe that Romans 5:12 is the passage cited most often about Original Sin. I find it interesting as I have tried studying this topic myself (but find Original Sin very confusing) that many state that the Doctrine of Original Sin was based on a faulty Latin translation of the verse. I have seen this in various sources, but Anglican JND Kelly in his book Early Christian Doctrines states:

Ambrosiaster’s teaching is particularly noteworthy because it relies on an exegesis of Rom 5:12 which, though mistaken and based on a false reading, was to become the pivot of the doctrine of original sin. In the Greek St. Paul’s text runs ‘…so death passed to all men inasmuch as all sinned’; but the Old Latin version which Ambrosiaster used had the faulty translation ‘…in whom (in quo) all sinned’. Hence we find him commenting, ‘”In whom”, that is, in Adam, “all sinned.”
It is therefore plain that all men sinned in Adam as in a lump (quasi in massa). For Adam himself was corrupted by sin, and all whom he begat were born under sin.

Pg. 354 - archive.org/stream/pdfy-CY7YNVnvFwggDjnT/103911481-J-N-D-Kelly-Early-Christian-Doctrines#page/n365/mode/2up

So Augustine has no doubt of the reality of original sin. Genesis apart, he finds Scriptural proof of it in Ps. 51, Job, and Eph. 2,3, but above all in Rom. 5:12 (where , like Ambrosiaster, he reads, ‘in whom’) and John 3:3-5.

Pg. 363 - archive.org/stream/pdfy-CY7YNVnvFwggDjnT/103911481-J-N-D-Kelly-Early-Christian-Doctrines#page/n375/mode/2up

A few common translations of Romans 5:12
New International Version
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

New American Standard Bible
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

Douay-Rheims Bible
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.

Later in JND Kelly’s book he writes about the Council of Carthage in 418:

The main points insisted upon were (a) that death was not an evil necessarily attaching to human nature, but was a penalty opposed on it in view of Adam’s sin; (b)that original sin inherited from Adam is present in every man, and even newly born children need baptism if they are to be cleansed from this taint of sin; and © that grace is not simply given us so that we can do more easily what we can in any case do by our own free will, but is absolutely indispensable since the Lord said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’.

Pg. 369 - archive.org/stream/pdfy-CY7YNVnvFwggDjnT/103911481-J-N-D-Kelly-Early-Christian-Doctrines#page/n381/mode/2up
I believe this council is where Original Sin became official and what the OP is inquiring about. If I am wrong about this being the official start, hopefully someone will correct me.

Earlier in this book JND Kelly writes about the disagreements over the earlier centuries about the nature of original sin and the development among various theologians.

I have read a little bit of the writings of the early centuries. I know of 2 pre-original sin teachings:
Origen in his Homilies on Luke – Homily 14 (pp. 56-61) states that all men are born with stain, even Jesus. He bases this on the fact that the offering in Luke 2:22-24 made by Mary after Jesus was born meant that there was something sinful occurred by giving birth, and his mistaking Jesus for Joshua in Zechariah 3:3.

Ambrose writes of Hereditary Sin in his On the Mysteries where he explains that baptism removes personal sins and foot washing removes hereditary sins:
“32. Peter was clean, but he must wash his feet, for he had sin by succession from the first man, when the serpent overthrew him and persuaded him to sin. His feet were therefore washed, that hereditary sins might be done away, for our own sins are remitted through baptism.”

I am hoping to continue to learn and understand this topic more. It sees quite complex.

The Church is organic… and as Jesus stated the Holy Spirit would come to Reveal (unfold) the fullness of Truth… as the Church grew/expanded more structure came about (both as Doctrine and as Answers to heresies and ignorance of the Word).

Maran atha!


…but it is not my error, less you consider that St. Paul was wrong in his Teachings.

When you read the New Testament you must agree that it is the Word of God or you are not a Christian. Judaism, by default, rejects the New Testament as the Inspired Word of God; consequently, its understanding/exegesis of the Old Testament cannot lead it but to conclude an exclusion of Christ and Christianity–it must, as those others who reject Christ’s Divinity, not accept the Word of God when it points to He in Whom the Gentiles would place their Hope (Salvation).

Maran atha!


Susanlo pointed out that the Councils of Orange stated that original sin was a doctrine, and councils are a great place to go to when you’re looking at the development of doctrine.

Since you asked about Church Fathers from before St. Augustine, here’s a list of pre-Augustine Church Fathers who taught original sin (with quotes):

Eastern Fathers who Taught Original Sin Before Augustine (And Western Ones)

Let me know if that helps. God bless!

Are you sure about this exegesis?

I’m no Latin scholar, but as I look at the verse in question (“ita in omnes homines mors pertransiit in quo omnes peccaverunt”), I notice that the “quo” in the prepositional phrase “in quo” is the ablative case form of “quis”. That means that “quo” could refer to a masculine, feminine, or neuter singular referent. The natural referent, it would seem, is “mors” (death); as a feminine singular noun, it would take “quo” as the appropriate ablative case form. So, the translation might not be “in [Adam] all have sinned”, but rather “in [death] all have sinned.”

In other words, no faulty exegesis here, based on an analysis that presupposes an error in the Latin. :shrug:

The Israelites were fully aware of their fallen nature, and always referred to God as their Savior.

Psalm 51 re-iterates this old concept. Although it was not a full blown doctrine as we have it now, it was latent in the OT and explicitly revealed in the New.

The New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New.

I am not sure. I don’t know Latin. I just know what I read by theologians.

I am not an expert on Judaism, but I know that the Jewish and Muslim faiths do not believe in “Original Sin.”

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

Many Christians today, particularly members of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches, subscribe to this belief. They maintain that the sin of Adam was transferred to all future generations, tainting even the unborn. Substantiation for this view is found in the New Testament (Romans 5:12) where Paul says, “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. By one man’s disobediance many were made sinners.”

Christianity believes that only through the acceptance of Jesus that the “grace” of G-d can return to man. A Christian need only believe in Jesus to be saved; nothing else is required of her.

The doctrine of original sin is totally unacceptable to Jews (as it is to Christian sects such as Baptists and Assemblies of G-d). Jews believe that man enters the world free of sin, with a soul that is pure and innocent and untainted. While there were some Jewish teachers in Talmudic times who believed that death was a punishment brought upon mankind on account of Adam’s sin, the dominant view by far was that man sins because he is not a perfect being, and not, as Christianity teaches, because he is inherently sinful.


This is part on an explanation by a Rabbi on Psalm 51:7.

The verse is written as a clarification of why each individual must be prepared to change the manner in which they have lived. As such, there are two primary ways to understand this verse: A) A parent passes their spiritual stature on to their children, much the same way they pass their genetic make-up on. As such, all human beings have an innate spiritual gene pool that carries the iniquities of their parents. That is, they are created with sin (the letter used to indicate ‘in’ can also mean ‘with’), meaning a proclivity towards sin. B) Alternatively, man is created with two distinct parts, soul and body. Each has natural tendencies towards opposite pursuits. The soul tends towards spiritual endeavors and anything that will bring it closer to God. The body, being purely physical, has desires and tendencies to purely physical pursuits.


The doctrine of the redemption – central to Christianity and present since the time of the New Testament – hinges upon a sinful condition present in humanity.

True, but that leaves open the question of exactly when we attain that ‘sinful condition’.

It also raises questions like ‘do all have this condition?’, ‘do all require Jesus to remove that condition?’ (Pelagius answered ‘no’. Augustine’s response to Pelagius was “yes – original sin places all of us in that condition, necessitating the grace Jesus offers.”)

Paul seemed to have the answer before either one of those two.

“For all fall short…”

“Through one man all became sinners…”

As the Prologue to the Catechism states the Good News is the treasure received from the Apostles and has been faithfully guarded by their successors. This is because the Apostles learned everything directly from Jesus (Jn 15:15) or from the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13). This Good News is the Catholic Faith which we are called to hand on by professing it, living it in fraternal sharing and by liturgical celebration and prayer. So from Pentecost Sunday the Apostles knew, preached and lived the Catholic Faith; this is known as Tradition since this part of the Good News is transmitted by non-written means, it is the oral word of God. If they had not known it or been prepared to disseminate, live and celebrate it liturgically Jesus would not have commanded them on Ascension Thursday to go out and preach this Good News of the Catholic Faith to all creation.
So the Church officially transmitted the doctrine of original sin through the Apostolic preaching. This is a basic doctrine and is necessary to be understood prior to making an informed decision of repentance and conversion to the Catholic Faith or rejection of it. Years later the Holy Spirit moved the Apostles and others to put the message of salvation in writing, in narrative form. Scripture is the written word of God and therefore distinct from the oral word of God (Sacred Tradition) though both are closely bound and communicate with each other. Since they are distinct and have different purposes there is no requirement that support or evidence for every Catholic doctrine and practice be found either implicitly or explicitly in Scripture. The Apostolic and Church Fathers also wrote and commented on some points of Sacred Tradition which they had learned from the Magisterium. These writings and Scripture are not the source of Sacred Tradition but nourish and support it. Without Scripture and writings of the Fathers we would still have the Catholic Faith as it is transmitted by the Magisterium as noted above.

…I think that the problem lies in wanting to understand what our preconceptions have already determined:

22 And as in Adam all die, (1 Corinthians 15:22a)

12 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.

14 But death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over them also who have not sinned after the similitude of the transgression of Adam…

15 …For if by the offence of one, many died;

16 …For judgment indeed was by one unto condemnation;

17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned through one;

18 Therefore, as by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation;

19 For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; (Romans 5:12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19)

…granted, the term “Original Sin” does not appear but can Believers actually contest St. Paul’s deliberations? In Adam all men sinned; because of Adam’s sin death entered into the existence of man; Adam’s sin generated the death in which many have died (those who were not Baptized).

Maran atha!


Normally until a teaching is attacked or threatened the Church does not need to define it. The doctrine on Original Sin came into question in the 400’s by Pelagius. The Pelagian heresy in essence states we are born “good” and that we can go heaven without being born from above by the waters of baptism as Jesus stated in John’s gospel.

The Church then in the 5th century to prevent the faithful from being led astray by Pelagius set out to clearly define what is meant by the teaching on original sin.

Hi, J!
I fully concur!

Maran atha!


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