We aren’t saying what Augustine said

In East-West discussions on original and actual sin, it’s sometimes assumed that the West holds to Augustine’s view.  Augustine worked off of the following translation of Romans 5:12,

in quo omnes peccaverunt

which is translated,

“in whom all sinned.”

Eastern Orthodox correctly point out that is wrong.  The Greek reads

eph ho pantes hemarton

Hoekema suggests the idiom eph ho should be translated “because” or “since.”  We still have the problem of identifying the connection between our pre-temporal sinning in Adam and Adam’s sin; nevertheless, Scripture seems to affirm it.  The problem remaining is that those who haven’t yet lived are said “to have sinned.”


13 comments on “We aren’t saying what Augustine said

  1. John says:

    I’m curious as to your quotation about those who are said “to have sinned”. What and where is this reference you are alluding to?

      • John says:

        There is some contention in the reading of the text in Greek. If it is translated “because of which (that is, death) all have sinned” then it is clear that we sin because we are mortal. But even given the translation of “since” or “because” it is nonsense to say that someone who does not even exist is guilty of sin, or even innocent of sin, for one who does not exist can’t be innocent or guilty. They also can’t be said to be alive or dead, black or white, male or female, etc., because they don’t exist!

        The Fathers did find a link between Adam’s sin and our mortality right there in Romans. We die because we share in the nature of Adam, even if we are not guilty for his sin.

  2. olivianus says:


    And that is why Marxism has dominated Eastern Orthodox Russia.

    • John says:

      Russia has been Orthodox for about 1000 years. Marxism, last I heard, was, what, mid-to-late 1800’s? And took root in Russia in the 20th century, give or take? How does that account for the other 800 to 900 years? I don’t really know what you are trying to say but perhaps you could flesh it out.

    • Eric Castleman says:

      This is the reason nobody takes you seriously.

  3. I take “eph ho” as an idiom to mean “because” or “since.” If that holds then my reading is correct.

    • John says:

      St. John Chrysostom (a native Greek speaker) said concerning the term ‘since’ or ‘because’:

      “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.”

      He connects, as I noted before, our mortality with Adam’s sin, not any kind of guilt. And if this is the only verse you have to show the transmission of guilt from Adam to us, one that has possible alternate readings (as noted above), then your doctrine seems to rest on some shaky ground.

      • glossing it as “mortality” doesn’t explain how Ephesians 2 says our nature is one under wrath. I understand Chrysostom was a native Greek speaker, but that doesn’t excuse the fact, for example, that he totally misread Romans 9. He had his own presuppositions (human autonomy).

    • John says:

      Upon thinking about this more, I can see how you would think that if “eph ho” means “because” or “since” that your reading is correct. But this is not necessarily so. The issue isn’t settled because the clause “because all have sinned” can be either causal or evidentiary.

      If we have sinned because we are mortal, then the clause is evidentiary. Our sin points to our mortality. If we are mortal because we are sinners, which can only mean we are somehow sinners from conception because it is quite obvious that we are not immortal from birth, then the clause is causal.

      A great example of this is the woman in Luke, chapter 7, who is said to be forgiven “because she loved much”. I don’t think any Christian would interpret that in a causal manner, that is, she was forgiven because she loved much. Rather, the fact that she loves is the result of her forgiveness (evidentiary).

      I won’t go into depth on Ephesians 2 here. Suffice it to say that we differ on the nature of God and what that means when we speak of God’s wrath, jealousy, etc. and how we view the fall of our first parents.

  4. Eric Castleman says:

    In this post, are you suggesting that reformation theology doesn’t agree with either Augustine or the East on fallen nature?

Comments are closed.