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It has been said by some that Augustine was the first to teach Original Sin,

"It was Augustine (354-430 A.D.) who first promoted the idea that; "the fallen nature of Adam was transmitted biologically through sexual procreation." This became an established pillar of Catholic theology." source

My question is are there any writings from the church fathers teaching Original Sin before Augustine?

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Scroll down to: CHAPTER 3. OF ORIGINAL SIN, THE IMPOTENCE OF MAN'S FREE WILL, ETC. pbministries.org/books/gill/gills_archive.htm –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Mar 2 '14 at 8:57
I will gladly scroll... –  Tony Jays Mar 3 '14 at 7:08
I think we find this in Bible itself: 1Corinth.15:21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. 15:22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. and Rom:5:15 But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! –  Seek forgiveness Mar 10 '14 at 10:37
@jayyeshu I am surprised you did not start with Roman 5:12 or include it. –  Tony Jays Mar 11 '14 at 4:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Although St. Augustine clearly tops the list (at least in the West) of those Church Fathers who taught the doctrine of Original Sin, he surely is not the first.

First off, lets define Original Sin:

Original sin, also called ancestral sin, is the Christian doctrine of humanity's state of sin resulting from the fall of man, stemming from Adam's rebellion in Eden. (Wikipedia)

Original Sin is arguably the most touched upon doctrine in the history of the Church - not counting Sacred Scripture (which wasn't clearly agreed upon for the first 3 centuries) - simply because its the root cause of our need for salvation.

Reference: Gen 3; 1 Cor 15:21; Rom 5:12,15; 6:23; Rom 5:12,19; Psalm 51:5; Eph 2:1-3

Discussion of this doctrine is clearly evident in the early centuries of the Church.

St. Irenaeus writes toward the end of the 100's:

....having become disobedient, [Eve] was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race....Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith. ...But this man [of whom I have been speaking] is Adam, if truth be told, the first-formed man....We, however, are all from him; and as we are from him, we have inherited his title [of sin]. ...Indeed, through the first Adam, we offended God by not observing His command. Through the second Adam, however, we are reconciled, and are made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to none other except to Him, whose commandment we transgressed at the beginning. (Against Heresies 3:22:4; 3:23:2; 5:16:3 emphasis mine)

Later we find Tertullian (c. 200 AD)

Finally, in every instance of vexation, contempt, and abhorrence, you pronounce the name of Satan. He it is whom we call the angel of wickedness, the author of every error, the corrupter of the whole world, through whom Man was deceived in the very beginning so that he transgressed the command of God. On account of his transgression Man was given over to death; and the whole human race, which was infected by his seed, was made the transmitter of condemnation. (The Testmiony of the Soul 3:2, c. 200 AD)

Origin (c. 244 AD):

Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin....And if it should seem necessary to do so, there may be added to the aforementioned considerations [referring to previous Scriptures cited that we all sin] the fact that in the Church, Baptism is given for the remission of sin; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of Baptism would seem superfluous. (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3)

The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism even to infants. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit. [cf. John 3:5; Acts 2:38]. (Commentaries on Romans 5:9)

St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250 AD):

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. (Letters 64:5 of Cyprian and his 66 colleagues in Council to Fidus)

There are dozens more writings from early Church Fathers.

Long story short...

Despite the fact that Augustine is perhaps the most referenced theological giant (in the West at least), he most certainly isn't the first.

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These comments so far assume too much into the text.

People who don't believe in original sin, do NOT deny the fact "death" came into the world to all men. We are separated from the tree of life, in Genesis it says "Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever" You see, if they ate from that tree they would of lived forever constrained in sin.

What original sin deniers claim, is that offspring from Adam are held morally responsible for the sins of their father. Ezekiel 18 goes against this, the whole chapter. Revelation 20 says people are judged according to the work they THEY did. Not Adam's. Romans 5:12;15 was put up above as a proof text up ahead. Notice it does not say all are sinners because of Adam, it says many die because ALL HAVE SINNED. Not ALL SINNED BECAUSE OF Adam. Also, 1 cor 15 only speaks about death coming into the world, not inheriting a "sin nature".

I'd also argue that sin isn't natural. Romans 1 says homosexuality is UNNATURAL. Getting drunk is UNNATURAL, because you're taking in more alcohol than your body is meant to handle. Same with drugs. Longing for a wife/husband isn't wrong, nor is sex, when in marriage. Evil is the perversion of good, perverting something against it's purpose.

Origen held gnostic teachings, gnostics taught we inherited "sinful flesh". Original sin stems from these doctrines, that's why it seems like Origen is supporting original sin, when he's truly saying that the baby's flesh itself has the sin. What is sin? Is it a microbe? A cell? Or a choice? Is it substance? Let's get clear here, sin is an act of volition of the will.

The early church preached HARD against the fundamentals of original sin, if you read the 500 quotes against it instead of these chopped up quotes pieced together, approached with eisegesis gives the impression of original sin being taught but it clearly was NOT.

Youtube "beyond augustine" on youtube to find an excellent documentary on the subject. You'll see many quotes presented clearly on the E.C.F's

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Hi Scotty! Welcome! I can see you put some work into this answer; but the question was asking about the church fathers; I barely see a mention of them in your answer - and rather than just referring to a Youtube video (which may be taken offline), you should probably summarize its content; that makes a better answer. –  Matt Gutting Jul 29 '14 at 18:13

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