Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas on Original Sin

Chris Siefert (
College of William and Mary

May, 2000


The question of how the sin of Adam affects the human race is one that was brought to the forefront in the Pelagian controversy of the 5th century. In Romans, Paul writes, ``by the disobedience of the one [Adam] all were made sinners'' (5:19). Unfortunately, he offers no explanation of how this is. In response to Pelagius, Augustine of Hippo articulated the Catholic response to the Pelagian heresy, insisting on the doctrine of ``original sin,'' and eventually the controversy subsided. About seven hundred years later, Thomas Aquinas would outline his own thinking on the issue of original sin in his theological textbook Summa Theologica. But what is the relation between Augustine's thought and Aquinas'? Did the doctrine of original sin develop at all in those intervening years, and if so, what changed? This work will first attempt to outline the thinking of both theologians when it comes to the state of original justice, and from there it will move on to original sin and its effects.

Original Justice

Augustine writes that, ``Man's nature...was created at first faultless and without any sin'' (On Nature and Grace III.1; Fathers of the Church). But what does he mean by saying that man was ``faultless?'' Would mortality be considered such a fault, making Adam and Eve immortal? As Augustine notes, there are some ``who say that Adam was so formed that he would even without any demerit of sin have died...from the necessity of being'' (On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants II.2; Fathers of the Church). Would Augustine and Aquinas have felt that this was the case?

Augustine continues the discussion of this point, noting that these same people interpret Genesis 2:17 in a questionable fashion. The passage reads, ``From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die,'' and is interpreted by these people to refer to the death of the soul, rather than the death of the body. Augustine refutes this position by turning to Genesis 3:19, which reads, ``you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return,'' to show that death is distinctly post-lapsarian (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). For this reason, Augustine writes that ``if Adam had not sinned, he would not have been divested of his body, but would have been clothed upon with immortality and incorruption'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church).

But does this make Adam immortal by nature? Augustine's answer is a decisive no. He points out the difference between being mortal, or capable of dying, and being destined to die. He does this by analogy, noting that ``our body in its present state capable of sickness, although not destined to be sick'' (Ibid. I.5; Fathers of the Church). In the same way, Adam was capable of dying, as he did after the fall, but was not destined to do so as humans now are. Had Adam not sinned, he would have grown ``full of years without decrepitude, and, whenever God pleased, pass from mortality to immortality without the medium of death'' (Ibid. I.4; Fathers of the Church). According to Augustine, mortality was part of the state of original justice, but this mortality would have become immortality had Adam refrained from sin. So man was mortal, but he did not have to die.

However, Thomas Aquinas disagrees with Augustine. In Summa Theologica, he notes that ``a thing may be incorruptible on the part of its efficient cause; in this sense man is incorruptible and immortal in the state of innocence'' (Ia.91.1; New Advent). Aquinas does not make the distinction that Augustine makes between being mortal and being able to die. Instead he finds that original immortality exists ``not by reason of any intrinsic vigor...but by reason of a supernatural force given by God to the soul, whereby it was enabled to preserve the body from all corruption so long as it remained itself subject of God'' (Ibid.; New Advent). For Aquinas, the state of original justice involved immortality as a gift from God, a gift that remained so long as the state of original justice remained. Thus, in this case, Augustine and Aquinas disagree.

In addition to inquiring about the mortality of the first humans, it it also of interest to inquire as to the state of the soul of Adam and Eve. What were the key points in the state of the soul in during the time of original justice? By establishing clearly which features and powers were in the pre-lapsarian soul, one may more clearly understand what was lost through the sin of Adam.

Augustine writes that, ``the primeval righteousness of the first human beings consisted in obeying God'' (On the Merits II.37; Fathers of the Church). The first, and most important property of the soul in the state of original justice was the alignment of man's will to that of God's. Thus, Augustine writes that men ``were pleasing to God, and God was pleasing to them'' (Ibid. II.36; Fathers of the Church). He also notes that, ``though they [men] carried about an animal body, they yet felt in it no disobedience moving against themselves'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). For Augustine, one of the attributes the soul in the state of original justice was complete ordering of the members to the will. Each member would, Augustine writes, ``exhibit a service suitable to the life given it without resistance'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church).

In a similar vein, Augustine notes that men did not have ``in their members the law of their own concupiscence warring against the law of their mind'' (Ibid. II.37; Fathers of the Church). But what is concupiscence for Augustine? He writes that concupiscence is ``the law of sin which remains in the members of this body of death'' and that this evil ``remains in our flesh, not by reason of the nature in which man was created by God and wisdom'' (Ibid. II.4; Fathers of the Church). Thus Augustine claims that concupiscence is precisely this disordering of members, and that it is certainly not a property of the man in the state of original justice.

Was man subject to other passions in the state of original justice? Could he know fear, suffering, desire or love? Augustine found that man certainly could not know fear, suffering or desire. He asks, ``what could those persons fear or suffer in such affluence of blessings, where neither death nor ill health were feared'' (City of God XIV.10; Fathers of the Church). Indeed, they not only were free from fear and suffering, but from desire as well. Augustine writes that, ``did they [Adam and Eve] perhaps desire to touch and eat the forbidden fruit, yet feared to die...and thus both fear and desire preyed upon those first of mankind? Away with the thought that such could be the case where there was no sin'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). Augustine finds that these passions were totally foreign to the state of original justice. Love however, was not foreign to original justice. He writes that ``Their [Adam and Eve's] love for God was unclouded, and their mutual affection was that of faithful and sincere marriage'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church).

Thomas Aquinas lays out his view on the powers of the soul in the state of original justice in his Summa Theologica. Like Augustine, Aquinas finds that in the state of original justice, the will was fully aligned and subject to the will of God. Aquinas notes that, ``reason itself was perfected by God, and was subject to Him'' (IaIIae.85.3; New Advent). Also like Augustine, Aquinas found that the soul was perfectly ordered to the will, and that ``as a result of original justice, reason had perfect hold over the lower parts of the soul'' (Ibid.; New Advent). Adam's ``rectitude consisted in his reason being subject to God, the lower powers to reason, and the body to the soul: and the first subjection was the cause of both the second and the third'' (Ibid. Ia.95.1; New Advent). Aquinas would describe this as more than just a natural gift, but rather a ``supernatural endowment of grace'' (Ibid.; New Advent).

When it comes to concupiscence however, Aquinas finds himself in disagreement with Augustine. He notes that ``concupiscence is something natural, since it is an act of the concupiscible power'' (Ibid. IaIIae.85.3; New Advent). He defines concupiscence as ``the craving for pleasurable good'' (Ibid. Ia.30.3; New Advent). He defines natural concupiscence as concupiscence which is ``suitable to the nature of the animal; for example, food, drink, and the like'' (Ibid.; New Advent). It is precisely this form of concupiscence with existed in the state of original justice. However he notes that, ``concupiscence is natural to man, in so far as it is subject to reason'' (Ibid. IaIIae.85.3; New Advent). Though concupiscence was in man in the state of nature, it was totally subject to reason, and the soul was well-ordered.

Aquinas also says that passions existed in the soul of man in the state of original justice. Citing Augustine, he notes that `` `in our first parents there was undisturbed love of God,' and other passions of the soul'' (Ibid. Ia.95.2; cf. Augustine City of God XIV.10; New Advent). Like Augustine, Aquinas finds that ``Adam had no passion with evil as its object; such as fear, sorrow and the like; neither had be passions in respect of good not possessed'' (Ibid.; New Advent). Thus, the soul in the state of nature was not subject to fear, sorrow or desire. But, as Aquinas notes, ``passions which regard the present good, as joy and love...existed in the state of innocence'' (Ibid.; New Advent). Thus, on the issue of passion in the soul of Adam, Augustine and Aquinas find themselves in agreement.

Original Sin

Now that the views of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas toward the state of original justice have been established, their attitudes toward the state of original sin can be addressed. Like the questions regarding original justice, this issue can be divided into several sub-questions. The first has to do with the mortality of fallen man. What is the change in man in terms of mortality between the states of original justice and original sin? The state of the fallen soul is also a subject for inquiry. Is the fallen soul well-ordered? What is the state of the will and the intellect? How has concupiscence affected the soul? Finally, the question of propagation in the state of original sin is of interest. How is original sin passed on from generation to generation? Was this sin passed on to all men, or is Christ excluded from the bonds of original sin?

As noted above, Augustine found that man was mortal in the state of original justice, though not destined to die. Now in the state of original sin, this destiny has changed. Augustine writes that, ``it most fully appears that by reason of sin the human race has brought upon itself not spiritual death merely, but the death of the body also'' (On the Merits I.4; Fathers of the Church). Likewise, he notes that death reigned even over those ``who had not yet sinned of their own individual will, as Adam did, but had drawn from him original sin...because in him [Adam] was constituted the form of condemnation to his future progeny'' (Ibid. I.13; Fathers of the Church). Augustine is firmly convinced that man, after original sin is not merely mortal, as he was in paradise, but now destined to die.

Thomas Aquinas writes, ``It is written (Rm. 5:12): `By sin death came into the world.' Therefore man was immortal before sin'' (Summa Theologica Ia.97.1; New Advent). As noted above, Aquinas finds that man was immortal in the state of original justice. However, under original sin, man was most decidedly subject to death. He notes that original sin causes death accidentally, through the forfeiture of original justice. He writes that, ``Wherefore, original justice being forfeited through the sin of our first parent; as human nature was stricken in the soul...also it became subject to corruption'' (Ibid. IaIIae.85.5; New Advent). Through removal of original justice, ``the sin our our first parent is the cause of death and all such like defects in human nature'' (Ibid.; New Advent). Thus Aquinas outlines his view that mortality is strictly a consequence of original sin.

What, then, are the effects of original sin upon the soul? To understand Augustine's thought on the effects of original sin on the soul, one must first understand his thought on the structure of the soul itself. Augustine finds that the will holds a sort of primacy among the parts of the soul. It alone makes the soul's affections right and wrong. He writes that, ``the character of the human will is of moment; because if it is wrong, these motions of the soul will be wrong, but if it is right, they will not merely be blameless, but even praiseworthy, For the will is in them all [the affections]'' (City of God XIV.6; Fathers of the Church). In fact, Augustine would go as far as to say that none of the soul's affections ``is in anything else than the will'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). It is precisely because the will has such precedence in the soul, that Augustine finds that the will is the root of all sin. He notes that ``no sin is committed save by that desire or will by which we desire'' (Ibid. XIV.4; Fathers of the Church). Thus, since the will is where sin is committed, it is precisely the will where the primary guilt and consequence of original sin lies.

How, then, did Adam's sin affect his will? Augustine finds that his will was corrupt even before his sin, since ``the first evil will... preceded all man's evil acts'' (Ibid. XIV.11; Fathers of the Church). He notes that, ``Our first parents fell into open disobedience because they were already secretly corrupted; for the evil act had never been done had not the evil will preceded it'' (Ibid. XIV.13; Fathers of the Church). But how did the will undergo this change? Augustine finds that this change came from pride, or the ``craving for undue exaltation'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). He writes, ``this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). Thus, even before he ate the apple, Adam had already turned from God and corrupted his will. It is this corrupted will, which Adam created for himself by choosing himself over God, that is inherited by all of humanity. Thus, ``we are not able to do justly and fulfill the law of righteousness in every part thereof'' through our fallen will alone (On the Merits II.5; Fathers of the Church). God's help is required, according to Augustine, for the will to once again be properly aligned with God's.

Thomas Aquinas also accords a sort of primacy to the will, at least over most of the other powers of the soul. Although he finds ``the intellect is nobler than the will'' (Summa Theologica Ia.82.3; New Advent), the effect of original sin on the will is much more substantial than its effect on the intellect. In fact, Aquinas finds that original sin infects will before all other powers. Citing Anselm of Canterbury, he notes that, ``Original justice has a prior relation to the will, because it is `rectitude of the will'... Therefore original sin, which is opposed to it, also has a prior relation to the will'' (Ibid. IaIIae.83.3; cf. The Virginal Conception III; New Advent). Aquinas also notes that since, ``the whole order of original justice consists in man's will being subject to God...Accordingly, the privation of original justice, whereby the will was made subject to God, is the formal element in original sin'' (Ibid. Ia.IIae.82.3; New Advent). Though the corruption of the will is not in itself the formal element of original sin, the will was related in a special way to original justice, and thus is affected in a special way by original sin. This is why Aquinas finds that original sin involves the ``inclination of the soul to act...It must therefore regard first of all that power in which is seated the first inclination to commit sin, and this is the will'' (Ibid.; New Advent).

Thus far, Aquinas' view of the will and original sin is almost perfectly Augustinian -- although Thomas accords a primacy to the intellect in general, it is the will that holds this primacy in relation to sin. As one looks more carefully, this synthesis begins to break down. Aquinas writes that there is ``the good of the natural inclination...and this is diminished by sin'' (Ibid. Ia.IIae.85.4; New Advent). Note his language carefully -- the natural inclination to will good is diminished, ``but is not entirely destroyed'' (Ibid.; New Advent). Though he is speaking of sin generally, and not of original sin in particular, the fact that this corruption of the will is not complete, seems to stand in contrast with Augustine's rather pessimistic assessment of the fallen human will.

Also, Aquinas does not hold the Augustinian position that ``no sin is committed save by ...[the] will'' (City of God XIV.4; Fathers of the Church). He finds that original sin is a sin of nature, rather than a sin of the will. Though original sin is a sin of the will of Adam, it is not a sin of his descendants ``except inasmuch as this person [his descendant] receives his nature from his first parent, for which reason it is called the `sin of nature'' (Summa Theologica IaIIae.81.1; New Advent). Since, ``the soul is the form and nature of the body, in respect of its essence and not in respect of its powers...the soul is the subject of original sin chiefly in respect to essence'' (Ibid. IaIIae.83.2; New Advent). Thus for Aquinas, the primary effect of original sin is in the nature of soul itself, and the effects on the powers of the soul (which include the will) are secondary.

In addition to the effect original sin had on the will of man, Augustine also found that it had an effect on the ordering of the soul. He writes that Adam's body ``lost the grace whereby it used in every part of it to be obedient to the soul'' (On the Merits I.21; Fathers of the Church). As noted above, Augustine finds that the will has an undisputed primacy over the other parts of the soul. Thus, this disordering can be expressed in terms of the loss of obedience of the soul's members to the will. Augustine writes, ``For who can count how many things he wishes which he cannot do, so long as he is disobedient to himself, that is, so long as his mind and his flesh do not obey his will?'' (City of God XIV.15; Fathers of the Church). He notes that, ``in spite of ourselves we suffer whatever else we suffer...which we would not suffer if our nature absolutely and in all its parts obeyed our will'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). What, then, are the the visible effects of this disordering? Augustine writes that man, ``in spite of himself his mind is both frequently disturbed, and his flesh suffers, and grows old and dies'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). So, Augustine finds suffering to be an effect of original sin. Out of these disordering effects or concupiscence, Augustine finds that lust holds a special place. In explaining the story of the fall in Genesis, Augustine notes that when Adam and Eve, ``were stripped of this grace [original justice]... there began in the movement of their bodily members a shameless novelty which made nakedness indecent (Ibid. XIV.17; Fathers of the Church). This is why, according to Augustine, Adam and Eve were compelled to clothe themselves. He note that the generative organs began to be ``moved and restrained not at our will, but by a certain independent autocracy'' with the effects of original sin (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). Not only do the generative members themselves become shameful and disordered due to the effects of original sin, but Augustine finds their actions to to be full of shame. He writes, ``does not even conjugal intercourse, sanctioned by the law for the propagation of retirement from every eye?...And why so, if not because that which is by nature fitting and decent is so done as to be accompanied with a shame-begetting penalty of sin'' (Ibid. XIV.18; Fathers of the Church). Thus Augustine finds suffering and concupiscence to be effects of original sin, with concupiscence to be so great as to make the generative organs and their acts all subject to shame.

Aquinas also finds that the ordering of the soul is damaged by original sin. He writes that ``original justice was forfeited through the sin of our first that all the powers of the soul are left, as it were, destitute of their proper order'' (Summa Theologica IaIIae.85.3; New Advent). Why is this? Aquinas writes that ``the whole order of original justice consists in man's will being subject to that the will being turned away from God [in original sin], all the other powers of the should became inordinate'' (Ibid. IaIIae.82.3; New Advent). He calls this concupiscence the material component of original sin, and he concludes that original sin is indeed concupiscence (Ibid.; New Advent).

Like Augustine, Aquinas finds that some of these powers of the soul are more affected by original sin than others. Citing Augustine, Aquinas writes that, ``the infection of original sin is most apparent in the movements of the members of generation, which are not subject to reason'' (Ibid. IaIIae.83.4; cf. City of God XIV.16; Fathers of the Church). He goes on to enumerate these particularly affected facilities, writing that, ``the powers which concur in this act [generation], are chiefly said to be infected. Now this act serves the generative power...and it includes the delectation of touch, which is the most powerful object of the concupiscible facility...these three are said specially to be corrupted and infected'' (Ibid. IaIIae.83.4; New Advent). Though, as noted above, original sin has an effect on more than just the powers of the soul, Aquinas finds that these three powers are more heavily corrupted by original sin than others.

But can this concupiscence rightly be called a punishment for original sin? Augustine most certainly thinks so. He writes that, ``Accordingly, criminal nature [original sin] has its part in the most righteous punishment'' (On Nature and Grace III; Fathers of the Church). Augustine finds that this concupiscence ``is of such a character that is the punishment from sin'' (On the Merits II.36; Fathers of the Church). Also, in City of God, he notes that, ``by the just retribution of the sovereign God whom we refused to be subject to and serve, our flesh, which was subject to us, now torments us by insubordination'' (XIV.15; Fathers of the Church). Thus, this concupiscence, which is the result of original sin, Augustine finds to also have the character of punishment for the same transgression.

Aquinas too finds that this disordering of the soul can rightly be called punishment. He writes that, ``sin incurs a debt of punishment through disturbing an order,'' and that, ``the effect remains so long as the cause remains'' (Summa Theologica IaIIae.87.3; New Advent). In fact he writes that:

``Accordingly, man can be punished with a threefold punishment corresponding to the three orders to which the human will is subject. In the first place a man's nature is subjected to the order of his own reason; secondly, it is subjected to the order of another man who governs him either in spiritual or in temporal matters, as a member either of the state or of the household; thirdly, it is subjected to the universal order of the Divine government. Now each of these orders is disturbed by sin, for the sinner acts against his reason, and against human and Divine law. Wherefore he incurs a threefold punishment; one, inflicted by himself, viz. remorse of conscience; another, inflicted by man; and a third, inflicted by God'' (Ibid. IaIIae.87.1; New Advent).

Aquinas finds that since original sin is most certainly a crime against God, and thus incurs divine punishment. In his first objection to Question 83, Article 1, Aquinas cites Romans 7:23, and makes the argument that original sin is in the flesh, since unnatural concupiscence (the other ``law in my members'' ) is of the flesh. He refutes this argument, noting with Augustine that, ``the Apostle is speaking of a man already redeemed, who is delivered from guilt, but is still liable to punishment'' (Summa Theologica Ia.IIae.83.1; cf. Augustine Retractions I.27; New Advent). Thus, Aquinas concludes that this unnatural concupiscence bears the character of punishment for original sin.

Augustine writes that, ``whoever maintains that human nature at any period required not the second Adam for its physician, because it was not corrupted in the first Adam, is convicted as an enemy to the grace of God'' (On the Grace of Christ and on Original Sin II.34; Fathers of the Church). Thus no man is to be saved without Christ. However, man was created in a state of original justice, and would be capable of salvation on his own, had sin not interjected itself into man's relationship with God. Thus, original sin had to in some way makes its way down to all of the sons and daughters of Adam. But how does this happen?

Citing Paul, Augustine writes that, `` `By one man,' says he [Paul], ``sin entered into the world, and death by sin.' '' (On the Merits I.10; cf. Romans 5:12; Fathers of the Church). With an eye toward refuting the Pelagians, Augustine goes on to note that, ``This indicates propagation, not imitation; for if imitation were meant, he would have said, `By the devil.' But as no one doubts, he refers to that first man who is called Adam'' (Ibid.; Fathers of Church). From this passage, it is clear that Augustine finds original sin to be passed somehow through natural propagation.

How is this the case? The Pelagians challenged him on this point, asking how original sin could be passed to the next generation if the parents were baptized. He turns to concupiscence to explain his way out of this dilemma. He notes that man is moved to procreation ``by the concupiscence which is in his members, and the law of sin is applied by the law of his mind to the purpose of procreation'' (Ibid. II.11; Fathers of the Church). Thus, even for a righteous man, procreation is still governed by the concupiscence which infects his generative members. This is certainly consistent with Augustine's view of those members as presented above. He continues, pointing out that, ``Only the children of God are righteous, but in so far as they are children of God, they do not carnally beget, because it is of the Spirit, and not of the flesh, that they are themselves begotten'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). For Augustine, natural procreation was of the flesh and subject to concupiscence, and thus could only generate what was of the flesh and subject to concupiscence. Even the spiritual rebirth of baptism did not change this aspect of the human condition.

Thomas Aquinas gives his explanation of the transmission in his 81st question of his Summa Theologica IaIIae. Arguing from precisely the same passage from Romans as Augustine, he comes to precisely the same conclusion, noting that, ``It follows therefore that through origin from the first man sin entered the world'' (Summa Theologica IaIIae.81.1; New Advent). However, his explanation of sin's transmission does not involve the concupiscence and carnal generation in the same way as Augustine's explanation. As explained above, Aquinas finds the core of original sin to be in the nature of man, and thus original sin must also be propagated by nature. He writes that, ``we must explain the saying that all men born of Adam may be considered as one man, inasmuch as they have one common nature, which they receive from their first patents'' (Ibid.; New Advent). He continues, noting that, ``Porphyry says that `by sharing the same species, many men are one man.' Accordingly the multitude of men born of Adam, as as so many members of one body'' (Ibid.; New Advent). Since all of mankind is one in Adam, and thus share in his nature, all are subject to original sin, which is first and foremost a sin of nature. Therefore Aquinas writes that, ``original sin is not the sin of this [any] person, except inasmuch as this person receives his nature from his first parent'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church).

So how is this sin of nature transmitted by origin? Aquinas writes that, ``original transmitted to his [Adam's] posterity, just as, from the soul's will, actual sin is transmitted to the members of the body, through their being moved by the will'' (Ibid. IaIIae.81.3; New Advent). Since any man is of one body with Adam, original sin is imputed to him for he belongs to the body. Aquinas writes that, ``in this way...the disorder born of Adam is the will of the first parent, who, by the movement of generation, moves all who originate from him'' (Ibid. IaIIae.81.1; New Advent). He also notes that, ``original sin remains in its effect as regards...the disorder of the lower parts of the soul and of the body itself, in respect of exercises his power of generation (Ibid. IaIIae.81.3; New Advent).

So, how is this any different from Augustine's view? Both theologians see the unnatural concupiscence inherent in carnal generation as contributing to the propagation of original sin. For Augustine, this itself is the method of original sin's propagation. In violation of the will's rule over the soul, generation occurs and is thus subject to original sin. For Aquinas however, this is only the method by which Adam's will moves his descendants, and thus makes them subject to original sin as participators in his nature. Thus, the distinction between the will (Augustine) and the nature (Aquinas) as to the location of the prime subject of original sin, appears in the theologians theories of original sin's propagation.

Jesus Christ too, is born of woman. Would it be proper to say that he was born with original sin? Augustine finds that this is not the case. Christ was born, ``in the likeness of sinful flesh,'' but by the will of God (On the Merits II.38; Fathers of the Church). Augustine writes that Christ, ``never had any sin, nor did he assume a flesh of sin, though born of a maternal flesh of sin'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). Augustine finds that, ``what then He [Christ] took of flesh, He either cleansed in order to take it, or cleansed by taking it'' (Ibid.; Fathers of the Church). Thus Augustine finds that Jesus Christ, although not conceived through carnal generation, had need to cleanse his human body of sin, and thus did so either before or during his conception. For Augustine, the fact that Jesus' conception was not by the carnal means was not in and of itself sufficient to save him from original sin. This is curious, especially in light of Augustine's views the method of the transmission of original sin.

Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, finds that Jesus Christ, by virtue of his conception, would not be subject to original sin. Aquinas found that original sin passed to men since they were ``one body'' with Adam (Summa Theologica IaIIae.81.1; New Advent). But Christ was not part of this body. As Aquinas notes, original sin is only contracted by those ``who are descended from him [Adam] through seminal power'' (Ibid. IaIIae81.4; New Advent). In other words, only those properly of the seed of Adam would be subject of original sin. Thus Aquinas concludes that ,''If anyone were to be formed by God out of human flesh, it is evident that the active power would not be derived from Adam. Consequently, he would not contract original sin'' (Ibid.; New Advent). Thus, Aquinas finds that Jesus Christ would have no need to cleanse his body of original sin, since his conception, by its independence from carnal generation, would have been without sin.


Thus, we have two similar but different views of original sin, as explained by Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. Augustine finds original sin to be primarily of the will and concupiscence to be its wholly unnatural consequence. In terms of propagation, Augustine found that original sin was propagated by carnal generation, and that Jesus' body had need of cleansing from it. Aquinas, on the other hand, found that original sin was primarily of human nature, and that concupiscence was only a product of sin insofar as it exceeded reason. In terms of propagation, Aquinas found that original sin was propagated through being ``moved'' by the will of Adam, which was accomplished by carnal generation. For him, Jesus' miraculous conception alone would have sufficed to give him a body freed from original sin.


Augustine of Hippo. ``City of God.'' Fathers of the Church. 1999.

Augustine of Hippo. ``On the Grace of Christ and on Original Sin.'' Fathers of the Church. 1999.

Augustine of Hippo. ``On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants.'' Fathers of the Church. 1999.

Augustine of Hippo. ``On Nature and Grace.'' Fathers of the Church. 1999.

Thomas Aquinas. ``Summa Theologica.'' in Aquinas on Nature and Grace. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

Thomas Aquinas. ``Summa Theologica.'' New Advent. 1999.

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Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas on Original Sin

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