Church Fathers on Original Sin by Catholic Answers

Nowadays most people don’t believe in original sin. Oh, they may say they do, just to be polite and to make you go away, but look a little closer. You can tell easily enough they don’t believe in it because they believe everyone (not just Mary) was conceived immaculately. 

Well, that’s not what the earliest Christians thought. They knew the reality of original sin because they knew the real world. They didn’t hide from reality. 

Our ancestors in the faith would have agreed with a modern Christian apologist, the Anglican C. S. Lewis, who wrote that all men have a "bent" nature--and, if we really think about it, we all know our nature should be "unbent" and once indeed was "unbent"--but then came a calamity. 




"'They had need,' [the Shepherd] said, 'to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God. For,’ he said, 'before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water [of baptism]. They go down into the water [spiritually] dead, and come out of it alive’" (The Shepherd 9:16:2).


Theophilus of Antioch


"For the first man, disobedience resulted in his expulsion from paradise. It was not as if there were any evil in the tree of knowledge; but from disobedience man drew labor, pain, grief, and, in the end, he fell prostrate in death" (Ad Autolycus 2:25 [A.D. 181]).'




"But this man . . . is Adam, if the 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]" (Against Heresies 3:23:2 [inter A.D. 180-190]).'




"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 [Rom. 8:36, 2 Cor. 5:18-19]. For we were debtors to none other except to him, whose commandment we transgressed at the beginning" (ibid., 5:16:3.)





"On account of his [Adam’s] 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 Testimony of the Soul 3:2 [inter A.D. 197-200]).




"'Because by a man came death, by a man also comes resurrection' [Romans 5:17]. Here by the word 'man,' who consists of a body, as we have often shown already, I understand that it is a fact that Christ had a body. And if we are all made to live in Christ as we were made to die in Adam, then, as in the flesh we were made to die in Adam, so also in the flesh are we made to live in Christ" (Against Marcion 5:9:5 [inter A.D. 207-212]).




"The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants [Matt. 19:14; Luke 18:15-16; Acts 2:38-39]. For the apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stain of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" [Titus 3:5] (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 244]).




"Everyone in the world falls prostrate under sin. And it is the Lord who sets up those who are cast down and who sustains all who are falling. In Adam all die, and thus the world falls prostrate and requires to be set up again, so that in Christ all may be made to live" (Homilies on Jeremiah8:1 [post A.D. 244]).




"Anyone who would say that even infants who pass from this life without participation in the sacrament [of baptism] shall be made alive in Christ truly goes counter to the preaching of the apostle and condemns the whole Church, where there is great haste in baptizing infants because it is believed without doubt that there is no other way at all in which they can be made alive in Christ" (Letter to Jerome 166:7:21 [A.D. 415]).




"Adam, the first man, altered his course, and through sin death came into the world. . . . When Adam transgressed, sin reached out to all men" [Romans 5:12]. (Discourses Against the Arians 1:51 [inter A.D. 358-362]).


Cyril of Jerusalem


"Indeed, one man’s sin, that of Adam, had the power to bring death to the world. If by the transgression of one man, death reigned over the world, why should not life more fittingly reign by the righteousness of one man [Jesus]? If they were cast out of paradise because of the tree and the eating thereof, shall not the believers now enter more easily into paradise because of the tree of Jesus [the Cross]? If that man first formed out of the earth ushered in universal death, shall not he that formed him out of the earth bring in eternal life, since he himself is life?" [John 10:10, 14:6] (Catechetical Lectures 13:1 [A.D. 350])