Original Sin – A Cultural History by Alan Jacob (Thoughts by Bill Peck)



  • Genesis (chaps. 1 & 2) is an allegory describing Creation at a level the ancients could understand.
  • Before upright, bipedal primates (hominids) became fully human, they were mammals or animals.   Animals do not have the intelligence or conscience to avoid bad conduct.
  • When God, over millions of years, evolved hominids into full humans, they gained: a free will, a conscience and thus the intelligence to discern good and evil conduct.
  • The first symbolic humans, identified as Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, may have been perfect for a while (as gods or angels) – however, when God breathed the Holy Spirit into selected, evolved hominids for the first time, they symbolically ate the forbidden fruit from the symbolic tree of knowledge of good and evil and they became aware of who they really were. They covered their nakedness. 
  • When the Bible states that mankind was made in the image of God, they attained the intellectual powers of reasoning and  realized they could choose between good and evil. 
  • To be fully human, mankind became imperfect (sinners) either because God made them that way, or an evil power (Satan) .. already on our primordial earth, came along as the symbolic serpent and infected Adam and Eve.
  • It seems convenient to blame the evolutionary events in the lives of Adam and Eve as the cause of mankind’s propensity to choose decisions contrary to the will of God. God selected to have mankind with the freedom of choices.
  • The title: “Original Sin” came from St. Augustine in the 4th century AD. He developed this doctrine from his studies of Paul’s writings primarily from the book of Romans.
  • Did Paul say: “When man is born, he is already born with death because he contracts sin from Adam?” meaning he contracts it, as though it were a disease!! This seems strange!
  • Augustine believed even new born children were inclined to original sins, and would be condemned to hell if they died before being baptized. How could this great Christian theologian believe this? All baptized persons are still sinners!
  • Was evil in the world prior to Adam and Eve or did the development and awakening of humanity initiate the presence of evil? It’s hard to conclude either way – since evil does not exist, except as an act between living creatures, or God acting through his natural laws that impact living creatures. One could conclude that the only evil of any consequences came with the evolution of mankind.
  • As we define what it means to be human, how could humanity exist without the free will to be imperfect?
  • Original Sin seems to be a component of the description of the criteria God set in place as he evolved his up-right, bi-pedal primates into fully accountable human beings.
  • What are the practical problems of the doctrine of Original Sin for modern Christians? These are my thoughts:
  • Mankind, knowing that we all have a natural propensity to be imperfect, rationalizes that humans cannot help being sinful.
  • Christians know they can be forgiven for their sins, so why sweat it?
  • By definition, to be human is to be imperfect so being imperfect is not so bad.
  • No one, including infants, is condemned to hell, simply because they have never been baptized.  I believe Jesus would approve of this statement.
  • The Adam/Eve act of disobedience, expressed in allegorical language, sets the stage for humanity to begin the life long struggle to move from being self centered to being God centered. This is one of the main reasons why the Christian church exists.
  • Could it be that modern Christians need to focus more on their commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ rather than worrying about the implications of the doctrine of Original Sin?

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