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Romans 5:19, Original Sin

Victor M. Eskew


            The doctrine of original sin is taught by the Catholic Church.  In the book, Catechism of the Catholic Church, original sin is defined.  On page 113, it is said that Adam “has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the ‘death of the soul.’”  On the next page, the authors of this work develop the doctrine in more detail.  They write:


                             “How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants?                                     The whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man.’  By this                                         ‘unity of the human race’ all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all                                                       are implicated in Christ’s justice.  Still, the transmission of original                                                   sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand.  But we do know                                                          by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice                                                        not for himself alone, but for all human nature.  By yielding to the                                                    tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but the sin affect-                                               ed the human nature that they would transmit in a fallen state.  It          is                                             a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is,                                           by the transmission of a human nature deprived of its original holi-                                                   ness and justice.  And that is why original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an                                     analogical sense:  it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’ – a state                                                and not an act” (p. 114).


One of the passages used to attempt to “prove” this doctrine is Romans 5:19.  In the Catechism, we read:  “All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms:  ‘By one man’s disobedience many [that is, all men] were made sinners…’” (p. 113).

            Two verses nullify the meaning that the Catechism places upon Romans 5:19.  The first is Ezekiel 18:20.  This verse reveals that sin cannot be transmitted from a father to a son and vice versa.  “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.  The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son:  the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”  The doctrine of original sin opposes the prophet’s words.  It declares that every son has born the iniquity of their father Adam.

            The second verse is found in Romans 14:12.  It states:  “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”  Each person will stand in judgment to give an account.  He will be responsible for his actions alone.  He will not be responsible for the sins of another.  He certainly will not be responsible for the sin of Adam.

            Let’s now go back to Romans 5:19.  The whole verse reads as follows:  “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”  If the doctrine of original sin is true and if those who hold to it are consistent in their teaching, they must teach universal salvation.  If all are made sinners by Adam’s transgression, then all are made righteous by Jesus Christ.  If not, why not?  The reality is that all become sinners by choice, and all become righteous by their choice to obey the terms of salvation found within the gospel of Christ.