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Original sin in the Old Testament

Many Christian theologians regard the Garden of Eden story in Genesis as describing the first sin, and the consequent "ruin" or, the "Fall" of man. The doctrine of original sin attempts to explain how that sin affects humanity today.

Adam and Eve disobeyed the command of God, "Of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." (Genesis 2:17). Eve was tempted by a serpent to eat the fruit of the tree ("you will not die, you will be just like God"). After she did, she convinced Adam to eat of it as well. Adam and Eve then made aprons of fig leaves to cover their lower parts. After this God expelled them from the Garden of Eden.

In some traditions, the covering of the lower parts means they became aware of their nudity for the first time, and hid from each other in shame.

According to many Jewish and Christian interpretations of this story, the consequence of this action was to both make man mortal, and also aware of the consequences of his/her actions (i.e. humanity gained free will). Other interpretations exist as well. In the Unification Church, the original sin was an act of adultery). In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, this was an exercise of a free will that already existed, which also made man mortal. In Calvinism, Man has freely chosen his own ruin, by neglecting the gifts he was given by means of which he would have remained in close communion with God (which is life), by failing to trust in the faithfulness of God, and exchanged all that belonged to him and his posterity for an equality with God that can never be his.

Some Christian interpretors include the judgments of God in Genesis 3, in their explanation of the hopelessness into which creation had been brought through Adam's disobedience. Others view these judgments as the beginning of the history of the redemption from sin. It is of particular concern to these latter interpreters to emphasize that the serpent is cursed, as is the ground on account of man, but the woman and the man are given promises and blessings which however mixed with mystery and misery because of sin, and however limited by the tyranny of death, are the basis of hope and of justice in the earth.

As soon as one starts living, he/she also starts dying. The concept of Original Sin stipulates that Human Life is essentially self-destructive due to the sin it inherits from the first couple. It is because of this sin that Life also embodies Death and Eternal Life is impossible until Life grows out of the sin it embodies.

Original sin in The New Testament

The concept of original sin underwent development by Paul, in Romans and First Corinthians, in the New Testament. Paul placed special emphasis on this by stressing that belief in Jesus would allow Christians to overcome death, by earning salvation in the hereafter. The New Testament teaches that rejection of Jesus as the path to salvation must be viewed as willful disobedience, and a rebellion against God. This choice then compels a just God to enforce that person's separation from Him, causing such a person to be sentenced to Hell, or in Roman Catholicism, Purgatory. Only belief in Jesus, as a savior and son of God, could rescue a person from this fate.

Although the character Satan does not appear as such in the Biblical text, by the time that the New Testament was canonized, the serpent mentioned in Genesis became identified with Satan; this identification is so strong that many believers interpret the Biblical story as Eve being tempted by Satan.

Augustine's modern Western formulation of original sin

Under Augustine the common and modern-day Western understanding of Original sin was formulated; he taught that the taint of Adam's original sin was inherited by all people at birth, and that nothing a person does in their life can get rid of this taint. This doctrine took on special prominence in Catholic Christianity and in many Protestant Christian denominations.

In most branches of Christianity, the doctrine of Original sin states that all humans have inherited the guilt of sin from Adam and Eve; this state of sin exists in all people from the moment of their conception. According to this doctrine, all people are born sinners and die sinners; all people are 'lost' eternally, and are in need of Divine salvation. The only way people can be justified in God's eyes and reconciled with God is by humbly asking for forgiveness, believing that His son Jesus Christ, through his death and crucifixion, took on himself the due punishment for our sins and trespasses (atonement), and depending upon God's grace to perfect their faith in God by increasing their love for God, which fulfills obedience. The ultimate punishment for the original sin was expulsion from the presence of God and subjection to physical and spiritual death; the ultimate goal and blessing of reconciliation is the restoration of the original relationship man had with God; this includes eternal life. This idea of inherited guilt is not always followed with literal strictness. Various traditions in the West diverge from one another in terms of what, exactly, is meant by inherited guilt. Most agree that mankind after the fall has inherited the circumstances of ruin, misery, futility, and inability to repair his condition; but they may disagree concerning the sense, or the extent to which man's nature itself is "ruined". Some hold to a doctrine called total depravity; others are repulsed by this term and the doctrine associated with it. The debate also raises the question of whether Jesus Himself had Original Sin. Some theologists hold that Original Sin is passed to offspring through the father, making the son of God the Father free of Original Sin. Roman Catholic dogma says that Mary was conceived innocent of original sin; that is the Catholic dogma of immaculate conception, a term often misunderstood as referring to virgin birth.

Christians have different views on the way to receive salvation from original sin. On one end of the spectrum are those such as Calvinists who believe that each particular person who puts faith in Christ is predestined from the foundation of the world to live in the light of God's love, but those who do not trust in Christ will remain in darkness and the guilt of sin. On the other end are those such as universalists that believe that every person ever born will ultimately be justified, restored and saved. Between those two poles are those that emphasize man's ability to choose life with God or separation from God; people remain dependent on God's grace and mercy, but also have a part to play in achieving their own salvation.

Original Sin as understood by Orthodox Christianity

Augustine wrote in Latin in the fourth century, but his writings were not translated into Greek until the fourteenth century. Consequently, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity never held that guilt is inherited, and began repudiating this idea once they learned of it. They teach that we inherit a corrupted or damaged human nature in which the tendency to do bad is greater, but that each person is only guilty of their own sins. By participating in the life of the church, each person's human nature is healed and it becomes easier to do good; at the same time, the Christian becomes more acutely aware of his or her shortcomings. Eastern Orthodox theologians believe that Adam and Eve began to choose separation from God when they chose independence and took fruit for themselves, rather than allow God to continue to feed them and remain dependent on Him. The expulsion from the Garden was not a legal consequence, but to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life and immortalizing their sin. As Christians partake of the Eucharist and eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, they return to dependence on God and experience a gradual healing of the relationship between God and humanity. The ultimate goal is theosis or divinization, an even closer union with God and closer likeness to God than existed in the Garden of Eden.

Original Sin as understood by the Unification Church

According to Unification Theology, Adam and Eve sinned by having a sexual relationship before they had reached perfection. The "fruit of knowledge" was a symbol of Eve's sexual love, which could be either good (if centered on God) or evil (if not). Eve was initially tempted into sin by the Archangel Lucifer, who seduced her. The reason Adam and Eve hid their "lower parts" after the Original Sin is similar to the reason a child having swiped cookies might hide their hands ("I have concealed by transgressions like Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom." -- Job 31:33)


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