For sixteen hundred years there have been heated theological arguments over the doctrine of original sin.
Generally speaking, what people think about it is determined by what they have been taught through centuries of tradition in their particular church grouping.
There is enormous pressure on church leaders to conform to tradition. Until now it has usually been adequate simply to quote theology from a long line of church fathers.
But now things are changing. The U.S. church is losing ground rapidly to Millennials and GenZs who are asking tough questions and wanting sensible answers for today that can be supported with statements they can read for themselves in the Bible. Tradition is not enough.
The purpose of this study is to go to the original New Testament manuscripts – the same thing that theologians do – and see for ourselves what the Bible teaches (or doesn't teach) about original sin.
Here are the three points typically expressed by people who believe in the doctrine of original sin:
Some Christians believe only one or two of the three points, and some (below) don't believe any of them.
Here is response to the three points by people who don't believe in the doctrine of original sin:
The term 'original sin' does not appear anywhere in the Bible. It is a doctrine conceived by theologians long after the deaths of Jesus, the Apostles and all New Testament writers.
The doctrine had its origin in the writings of Tertullian (160-220) and Cyprian (200-258). It was popularized by Augustine (354-430), Luther (1483-1546) and Calvin (1509-1564).
The people who first taught the doctrine of original sin did not have any personal interaction with Jesus or his disciples. Hundreds of years had passed, and oral transmission was no longer consistent and trustworthy, so for truth they studied the manuscripts we now call the New Testament – the exact same manuscripts we can study today.
Those theologians didn't have any advantage over us. In fact, we now have advantages over them for interpreting scripture.
Consider Staint Augustine, for example, the person most responsible for giving impetus to the doctrine of original sin (see 1.1.1). He lived 1,500 years ago in Africa. He did not have a printed Bible or study books; he lived a thousand years before the printing press. His language was Latin, and he could read only a smattering of Greek, so he read scriptures from hand-written fragments of a Latin translation of the original Greek called the Vulgate, translated by Saint Jerome in the late fourth century.
Now compare Augustine's situation to our situation today. We have the benefit of 1,500 years of collection and study of thousands of actual Greek manuscripts preceding the Vulgate ... Greek-to-English interlinear versions from the world's best linguists who have thoroughly researched word usage and meanings in Palestine at the time of Jesus ... scholarly translations into dozens of English versions (plus hundreds of other languages) which can be compared side-by-side ... and tens of thousands of research projects, books and commentaries.
Virtually all scholars agree on the exact content of the original Greek manuscripts for the book of Romans. Interpretation is the issue, not the source documents.
Today anyone can be better equipped to study scripture than Saint Augustine, who did the best he could with what he had, but he had only parts of the Latin Vulgate. Now all the documentation we need is instantly available to anyone without charge via the Internet!