Original sin

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The term Original Sin (or first sin) is used among all Christian groups to define the doctrine surrounding Romans 5:12-21 and 1 corinthians 15:22, in which Adam is identified as the man whom through death came into the world. How this is interpreted is a fundamental difference between the Eastern Orthodox church and the Western Church. In the Orthodox church the term Ancestral Sin (Gr. προπατορικό αμάρτημα) is preferred and is used to define the doctrine of man's "inclanation towards sin, a heritage from the sin of our progenitors" and that this is removed through baptism. St. Gregory Palamas taight that man's image was tarnished, disfigured, as a consequence of Adam's disobedience.


In the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, Adam and Eve committed a sin. The Orthodox teach that everyone bears the consequences of this original act, the foremost of this is physical death in this world), however, only Adam and Eve are guilty of the original act (see Book of Ezekiel Chapter 18). The consequences and penalties of this act are transferred by means of natural heredity to the entire human race. Since every human is a descendant of Adam then 'no one is free from the implications of this sin' (which is human death) and that the only way to be freed from this is through baptism.

In contrast to Jewish exegesis of Genesis, Christianity has a Christological reading. We understand the depth of the Fall in the light of redemption. It is in the contrast of the old and new Adams that we understand what the significance of original sin has been.

Mortality is certainly a result of the Fall, but along with this also what is termed "concupiscence" in Augustine's writings -- this is the "evil impulse" of Judaism, and in Orthodoxy, we might say this is our "disordered passion" -- it isn't only that we are born in death, or in a state of distance from God, but also that we are born with disordered passion within us.

Orthodoxy would not describe the human state as one of "total depravity" (see Cyril Lucaris however). One writer has said that "if Latin babies are born blind, and Pelagian babies are born with 20/20 vision, then Greek babies are born in need of spectacles" (ref?).

Roman Catholicism teaches that everyone bears not only the consequence, but also the guilt, of that sin. This difference between the two Churches in their understanding of the original sin was one of the doctrinal reasons that led the Catholic Church to devise their dogma of the 'Immaculate Conception' in the 19th century, a dogma that is completely rejected by the Orthodox Church.</strike>(If this is historic RC teaching, it needs to be documented -- quotes from Romanides are not sufficient here. Certainly it is not the teaching today, see the CCC. Modern Orthodox polemics can be traced back to Fr. John Meyendorff (?)... earlier explanations tended to have a scholastic tone, both in Russia and in Greece)

For decades, at least, Orthodox teaching has often been contrasted to traditional Roman Catholic teaching on original sin.

Modern Roman Catholic teaching is best explicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which includes this sentence: ""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" (§405).

The Roman Catholic Church has defined its teaching of original sin in multiple councils. The first of these was a Council of Orange in 529, which expanded upon the teachings of Augustine of Hippo, whose interpretation of "all dying in Adam"

Sources and further reading

From Ephrem Hugh Bensusan's Razilaženje

See also