Original Sin


For what is sin? Could a child who has only just been born commit a sin? And yet he has sin for which it is commanded to offer a sacrifice. For this reason the Church received from the Apostles the tradition to administer baptism to the children also. For the men to whom the secrets of divine mysteries had been entrusted knew that in everyone there were genuine sinful defilement, which had to be washed away with water and the Spirit.

Homilies on Leviticus

Infants are baptized for the remission of sins. What sins? Whenever have they sinned? In fact, of course, never. And yet: ‘No one is free from defilement.’ (Job 14:4) But defilement is only put away by the mystery of baptism. That is the reason why infants too are baptized.

Homilies on Luke

For the opinion which says that death passed through to all men suffices, both that of the Apostle and of him who said, “No one is pure from uncleanness, even if his life should be one day long.” But when that death of sin which passed through to all had come to Jesus and had attempted to pierce him with its sting—“for the sting of death is sin”—it was repulsed and broken. “For he was life,” and death was inevitably destroyed by life. At that time it is said to [death], “Where, O death, is your sting? Where, O death, is your victory?” Because death had conquered all, it is said to death here, “Where, O death, is your victory?”

Homilies on Romans, Book 5, Chapter 1

Therefore our body is the body of sin, for it is not written that Adam knew his wife Eve and became the father of Cain until after the sin. After all, even in the law it is commanded that sacrifices be offered for the child who was born: a pair of turtledoves or two young doves; one of which was offered for sin and the other as a burnt offering. For which sin is this one dove offered? Was a newly born child able to sin? And yet it has a sin for which sacrifices are commanded to be offered, and from which it is denied that anyone is pure, even if his life should be one day long. It has to be believed, therefore, that concerning this David also said what we recorded above, “in sins my mother conceived me.” For according to the historical narrative no sin of his mother is declared. It is on this account as well that the Church has received the tradition from the apostles to give baptism even to little children. For they to whom the secrets of the divine mysteries were committed were aware that in everyone was sin’s innate defilement, which needed to be washed away through water and the Spirit. Because of this defilement as well, the body itself is called the body of sin; it is not because of sins the soul committed when it was in another body, as they who introduce the doctrine of metempsychosis imagine. But because the soul was fashioned into the body of sin, and the body of death and lowliness, and just as he said, “You have lowered our soul to the dust.”

Homilies on Romans, Book 5, Chapter 9

Cyprian of Carthage

But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted — and 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.

Epistle 58


When Adam had transgressed, his sin reached unto all men

For He brought them into His own garden, and gave them a law: so that, if they kept the grace and remained good, they might still keep the life in paradise without sorrow or pain or care besides having the promise of incorruption in heaven; but that if they transgressed and turned back, and became evil, they might know that they were incurring that corruption in death which was theirs by nature: no longer to live in paradise, but cast out of it from that time forth to die and to abide in death and in corruption… So here, once more, what possible course was God to take? To demand repentance of men for their transgression? For this one might pronounce worthy of God; as though, just as from transgression men have become set towards corruption, so from repentance they may once more be set in the way of incorruption. But repentance would, firstly, fail to guard the just claim of God. For He would still be none the more true, if men did not remain in the grasp of death; nor, secondly, does repentance call men back from what is their nature — it merely stays them from acts of sin. Now, if there were merely a misdemeanor in question, and not a consequent corruption, repentance were well enough. But if, when transgression had once gained a start, men became involved in that corruption which was their nature, and were deprived of the grace which they had, being in the image of God, what further step was needed? Or what was required for such grace and such recall, but the Word of God, which had also at the beginning made everything out of nought? For His it was once more both to bring the corruptible to incorruption, and to maintain intact the just claim of the Father upon all. For being Word of the Father, and above all, He alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all with the Father.

Four Discourses Against the Arians / On the Incarnation of the Word

Ephraim the Syrian

Just as Adam sowed sinful impurity into pure bodies and the yeast of evil was laid into the whole of our mass [nature], so our Lord sowed righteousness into the body of sin and His yeast was mixed into the whole of our mass [nature]

Hilary of Poitiers

Having been sent in a flesh in the likeness of that of sin, He did not have sin in the same way that He had flesh. But as all flesh comes from sin, that is, it derives from the sin of Adam the progenitor, He has been sent in a flesh similar to that of sin, because in Him sin does not subsist, but the image of sinful flesh.

Commentary on Psalm 118

Ambrose of Milan

In Adam I fell, in Adam I was cast out of paradise, in Adam I died. How shall God call me back, except He find me in Adam? For just as in Adam I am guilty of sin and owe a debt to death, so in Christ I am justified.

On the Death of His Brother Satyrus

Gregory of Nyssa

Evil was mixed with our nature from the beginning… through those who by their disobedience introduced the disease. Just as in the natural propagation of the species each animal engenders its like, so man is born from man, a being subject to passions from a being subject to passions, a sinner from a sinner. Thus sin takes its rise in us as we are born; it grows with us and keeps us company till life’s term.” “For He Who bestowed on all things that are, the power of being, is the God and overseer of what He has Himself produced. But since, by the wiles of him that sowed in us the tares of disobedience, our nature no longer preserved in itself the impress of the Father’s image, but was transformed into the foul likeness of sin, for this cause it was engrafted by virtue of similarity of will into the evil family of the father of sin: so that the good and true God and Father was no longer the God and Father of him who had been thus outlawed by his own depravity, but instead of Him Who was by Nature God, those were honored who, as the Apostle says, ‘by nature were no Gods,’ and in the place of the Father, he was deemed father who is falsely so called, as the prophet Jeremiah says in his dark saying, ‘The partridge called, she gathered together what she hatched not.’  Since, then, this was the sum of our calamity, that humanity was exiled from the good Father, and was banished from the Divine oversight and care, for this cause He Who is the Shepherd of the whole rational creation, left in the heights of heaven His unsinning and supra-mundane flock, and, moved by love, went after the sheep which had gone astray, even our human nature. For human nature, which alone, according to the similitude in the parable, through vice roamed away from the hundred of rational beings, is, if it be compared with the whole, but an insignificant and infinitesimal part. Since then it was impossible that our life, which had been estranged from God, should of itself return to the high and heavenly place, for this cause, as says the Apostle, He Who knew no sin is made sin for us , and frees us from the curse by taking on Him our curse as His own , and having taken up, and, in the language of the Apostle, ‘slain’ in Himself ‘the enmity’  which by means of sin had come between us and God —(in fact sin was ‘the enmity’) — and having become what we were, He through Himself again united humanity to God. For having by purity brought into closest relationship with the Father of our nature that new man which is created after God , in Whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily , He drew with Him into the same grace all the nature that partakes of His body and is akin to Him. And these glad tidings He proclaims through the woman, not to those disciples only, but also to all who up to the present day become disciples of the Word, — the tidings, namely, that man is no longer outlawed, nor cast out of the kingdom of God, but is once more a son, once more in the station assigned to him by his God, inasmuch as along with the first-fruits of humanity the lump also is hallowed. ‘For behold,’ He says, ‘I and the children whom God has given Me.

The Beatitudes; Against Eunomios, Book 12

Basil the Great

..is not the personal sin of Adam, but the original human being himself, who exists in us by necessity

John Chrysostom

But what means, for that all have sinned? This; he having once fallen, even they that had not eaten of the tree did from him, all of them, become mortal.

– Homily 10 on Romans


Why did Ham sin and yet vengeance was declared against his son Canaan? Why was the son of Solomon punished [for Solomon’s sin] by the breaking up of the kingdom? Why was the sin of Ahab, king of Israel, visited upon his posterity? Now we read in the sacred books, ‘Returning the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them’ (Jeremiah 32.18) and ‘Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation’ (Exodus 20.5)?… Are these statements false? Who would say this but the most open enemy of the divine words?”“However, it is called sin, not in such a way that it makes us guilty, but because it is the result of the guilt of the first man and because by rebelling it strives to draw us to guilt, unless we are aided by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, lest even the dead sin so rebel that by conquering it revives and reigns.

Against Julian

Cyril of Alexandria

How did many become sinners because of Adam?… How could we, who were not yet born, all be condemned with him, even though God said, ‘Neither the fathers shall be put to death because of their children, nor the children because of their fathers, but the soul which sins shall be put to death’? (cf. Deut. 24:18) … we became sinners through Adam’s disobedience in such manner as this: he was created for incorruptibility and life, and the manner of existence he had in the garden of delight was proper to holiness. His whole mind was continually beholding God; his body was tranquil and calm with all base pleasures being still. For there was no tumult of alien disturbances in it. But because he fell under sin and slipped into corruptibility, pleasures and filthiness assaulted the nature of the flesh, and in our members was unveiled a savage law. Our nature, then, became diseased by sin through the disobedience of one, that is, of Adam. Thus, all were made sinners, not by being co-transgressors with Adam,… but by being of his nature and falling under the law of sin… Human nature fell ill in Adam and subject to corruptibility through disobedience, and, therefore, the passions entered in.

Commentary on Romans

Maximus the Confessor

There then arose sin, the first and worthy of reproach, that is, the falling away of the will from good to evil. Through the first there arose the second – the change in nature from incorruption to corruption, which cannot elicit reproach. For two sins arise in [our] forefather as a consequence of the transgression of the Divine commandment: one worthy of reproach, and the second having as its cause the first and unable to elicit reproach

Quaestiones ad Thalassium

Symeon the New Theologian

Human nature is sinful from its very conception. God did not create man sinful, but pure and holy. But since the first-created Adam lost this garment of sanctity, not from any other sin than pride alone, and became corruptible and mortal, all people also who came from the seed of Adam are participants of the ancestral sin from their very conception and birth. He who has been born in this way, even though he has not yet performed any sin, is already sinful through this ancestral sin.””Thus, in soul Adam died immediately, as soon as he had tasted [from the fruit of that tree from which God had commanded him not to taste, threatening him that if he should only taste of it he should die]; and later, after nine hundred and thirty years, he died also in body. For, as the death of the body is the separation of it of the soul, so the death of the soul is the separation from it of the Holy Spirit… Later, for this reason, the whole human race also became such as our forefather Adam became through the fall – mortal, that is, both in soul and body. Man such as God had created him no longer existed in the World.”

Homily 37:3; Homily 45:3


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