Re: Human origins and doctrine (was Definition of "Species")

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Wed Feb 27 2002 - 09:41:04 EST

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    George Murphy writes

    > There is another point that ought to be noted in this discussion.
    > Bob points out with citations below, the eastern tradition generally holds
    > the descendants of Adam did not inherit his guilt but were subjected to
    > illness, death, & corruption because of Adam's sin. But the idea that our
    > vulnerability to disease and our physical death are due to sin, and would
    > exist if sin had not been committed, seems very implausible in an
    > scenario. Certainly our prehuman ancestors, who couldn't sin because they
    > weren't moral agents, died. Unless we want to say that the first humans
    > briefly gifted with immortality at the time they became (however it
    > genuinely human, they would have been as mortal as their biological
    > As I have pointed out here before, there is some hint in
    Athanasius that
    > the first humans would have died even had they not sinned. His
    > of Gen.2:17 in Greek, where the Hebrew "you shall surely die" is rendered
    > you shall die," is that there are two aspects of death. There is the
    > biological death and then the corruption which is a result of sin. His
    > suggests, though he does not explicitly say, that humans would have been
    > to the first aspect even if they hadn't sinned.
    > Shalom,
    > George

    To pick up on George's reference to Athanasius, one of the western
    theologians explicitly argued that death is a natural occurance and not the
    result of the fall. In his controversy with Augustine over original sin,
    Julian of Eclanum, Pelagius' most articulate defender, wrote: "Our
    mortality is not the result of sin but of nature! Why does Genesis not say,
    'because you sinned and transgressed my precepts'? This should have been
    said, if bodily dissolution were connected with a crime. But recall, what
    does it say? 'because you are earth.' Surely this is the reason why one
    returns to earth, 'because you were taken out of it.' If this, then, is the
    reason God gives, that one was from earth, I think it can be assumed that
    one cannot blame sin. Without doubt it is not because of sin, but because
    of our mortal nature...that the body dissolves back into the elements."
    Julian goes on to claim that Christ affirms that death is a condition of
    nature when he teaches that God created and blessed human fertility even
    before sin "to replenish the earth," with the assumption that the death of
    human beings would repleat it. (these passages are quoted by Augustine in
    his _Opus imperfectum_, 6, 27, 40).

        To add another point, Julian is horrified with A's notion that because
    of the sin of Adam the entire universe was subjected to corruption:
    "...[the] merit of one single person is not such that it could change the
    structure of the universe itself," he asserted (ibid, 6, 30).

        My source for this is Elaine Pagels, _Adam, Eve, and the Serpent_, 1988.

    Bob Schneider

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