Keil & Delitzsch (K&D) say that David is here confessing “his hereditary sin as the root of his actual sin.” That’s a possible explanation but it is not the best one in this writer’s opinion. What is David doing in Psalm 51? Is David excusing his action on an underlying fallen nature, or is David taking responsibility for his own sinfulness? Something that is “hereditary” or “originating” from someone else cannot be my fault. If David’s adultery originated from Adam’s sin, David could hardly be held responsible. If the cause of my sin is a fallen nature, making me totally depraved and separated from God, I could no make take responsibility for that than I could having blue eyes. David’s sin had nothing to do with original or hereditary sin.

Children might be tempted to blame their actions on others, but grownups know better. The teaching of inherited or original sin is not in keeping with the personal responsibility that God lays on every man. People like to say that the fallen nature, inherited from Adam, is the explanation for why David and others committed their sins. First of all, it’s not necessary to believe it since Adam sinned having a perfectly good nature. And secondly, it’s couldn’t be the case with David who was a man of God, the annointed King, and was a prophet having the the Holy Spirit inspiring him to write the Word.


Adam did not sin because he had a fallen nature.
And though it’s true that “all sin” and “there
are none righteous”, just like Adam, we do not
sin because we have a fallen nature. With the
good nature God gave to Adam and to us, we reach
a point of temptation, and knowing right and wrong,
we give in to disobeying God.
And then we die spiritually.

David sinned grievously by committing adultery with Bathsheba, and then he sinned by attempting a cover up by jeopardizing her husband’s life placing him on the front line of war. K&D and others believe that David’s sinfulness is the fault of his parents: he inherited it. But it doesn’t fit the context. “Against Thee alone have I sinned”, David said to God. The erroneous idea of inherited or original sin has nothing to do with David’s probleml. To blame his adultery and murder on his mother or Adam would be the wrong way to ask God for forgiveness.

It is more likely that David is using exaggerated speech, hyperbole, to confess how utterly sinful he is. He is saying, “Lord, I am so sinful that I have been sinful from the moment of my conception.” Psalm 58:3 seems to support this interpretation when David says that his enemies have been liars from birth; i.e. sinful from birth. Obviously David is using exaggerated speech to describe how utterly deceitful are his enemies. This is what David is saying about himself. David is not teaching hereditary sin, as K&D say. Ezekiel 18:18-20 show that sin is not inherited. Each person has only his own sin to be responsible for. My father’s sinfulness is not upon me and mine is not upon him. “Brought for in iniquity” is a way of describing the utterly sinful state David finds himself in. And he is sorry.
Inheriting the Father’s Sins

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14 replies

  1. Looks like Our Lord gave David the grace to recognize the truth of his condition in Psalm 51 (The Miserere). A grace indeed! “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51: 5 NKJV) Your are right that there is no “hereditary sin”. Certainly sin is not inherited from our parents. One is not culpable for the faults and sins of our mother and father although the consequences of their actions may affect us. Psalm 51 makes clear sense if we eliminate “hereditary sin” and focus on the distinction between personal sin and Original Sin. David recognizes both in Psalm 51. Saint Augustine (b 354) links this iniquity not to David’s parents but to the first parents of the human race: Adam and Eve.“Was David born of adultery; being born of Jesse, a righteous man, and his own wife? What is it that he saith himself to have been in iniquity conceived, except that iniquity is drawn from Adam? Even the very bond of death, with iniquity itself is engrained? No man is born without bringing punishment, bringing desert of punishment. A Prophet saith also in another placer “No one is clean in Thy sight, not even an infant, whose life is of one day upon earth.” [Psalm 143: 2 ?] (Augustine on Psalms 51;


  2. Dear Pazdziernik,The distinction between inheriting the parents’ sin and inheriting Adam’s sin is none at all. You write, “Saint Augustin links this iniquity not to David’s parents but to the first parents of the human race: Adam and Eve.” That is the same as inherited sin and it is a completely false doctrine. David is using hyperbole, speaking only of his own sinfulness. Any sinfulness of David’s parents or of the first parents is irrelevant to this contrite prayer. And your reference to a “prophet who saith in another place” that “No one is clean in Thy sight, not even an infant, whose life is of one day upon earth” appears to be a complete fabrication and unworthy of being mentioned. Here is where you and others miss the mark. There is no doubt that the consequence to sin is felt by future generations. We die because the first parents were shielded from having access to the tree of life. But there is an important distinction that must be recognized. The fallout from our parents sin does not touch the soul. There is no fall that is passed on. Each man is separated from God only when he, like Adam, knows right and wrong and chooses to do wrong. Thank you for your comments.– Dan


  3. Looks like Augustine is referencing Job 14, not Psalm 143. From what I gather “”No one is clean of sin before you, not even the infant whose life on earth is one day old” is from an older translation. Perhaps in his sermon he was paraphrasing from memory.Regardless, Job 14 in Douay-Rheims reads:“Who can make him clean that is conceived of unclean seed? is it not thou who only art? The days of man are short, and the number of his months is with thee: thou hast appointed his bounds which cannot be passed. ” (Job 14:4-5 )


  4. And the Proverb says not to add to or take away from God’s Word or he will reprove you, Pro. 30:6. Douay-Rheims adds to God’s Word, since there is no reference to “seed”, implying that hereditary depravity. Padziernik, it does not follow that Job was depraved from conception because he was born of a woman. It does not follow that he was corrupt from birth he was suffering the physical fallout of Adam’s sin. And it does not follow that Job was damned because he chose to sin. It does not follow because neither Jesse’s sins nor Adam’s sin were passed on and inherited by their posterity. The inference of inherited or original sin is false. What advantage is there in blaming one man’s damnation on his parents? None, and the doctrine itself is damnable as it makes God unjust for letting one man to suffer eternally for Adam’s error.If Adam’s fall were passed on to each generation, through the “seed”, as Douay-Rheims implies, then hell would be filled on account of Adam. Paul, in Romans 5:12, shows that the blame is not on the depraved seed, not on the parents, not on Adam: it is on each person that sins as Adam did. Rom 5:12 <><>Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, <>because all sinned<>— <><>


  5. Dan,Douay-Rheims is a pretty literal English translation from the Latin. I know Latin a bit so I took a look. Job 14:4 in the Vulgate is “Quis potest facere mundum de immundo conceptum semine? nonne tu qui solus es?”I would translate the first part as “Who would make clean from unclean seed?”; the second as “is it not only you?” So next, to dig deeper we have to try to understand if the text is referring to ceremonial uncleaniness, moral uncleanliness, etc. Regardless, this is just the reference text that Saint Augustine uses when explaining Psalm 51: 5-6 on “inherited sin” as not directly from the PERSONAL sins of David’s parents but from the sin of Adam.This is just an illustration that Sacred Scripture supports the Christian doctrine of “inherited sin”. In researching this I learned that Original Sin is transmitted through Adam alone and not through both Adam and Eve. (I stand corrected and learned something myself that your original blog post led me to. I had been under the impression that because both Adam and Eve sinned both were responsible in part for its transmission; that Eve contributed to this transmission as well. Thanks for the topic choice!)Here’s a fuller extrapolation: “Adam’s sin is transmitted to his posterity, not by imitation, but by descent” (de Fide)“The Council of Trent rejects the doctrine that Adam’s loss of sanctity and justice received from God was merely for himself alone, and not for us also, and that he transmitted to his posterity death and suffering only, but not the guilt of sin. It positively teaches that sin, which is death of the soul, is inherited by all his posterity by descent, not by imitation, and that it dwells in every single human being. It is removed by the merits of the Redemption of Jesus Christ, which as a rule are bestowed through the Sacrament of Baptism on adults as well as children. Therefore children also are baptised for the forgiveness of sins (in remissionem peccatorum). ” [Dr. Ludwig Ott Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma].Once again, I realize that you may not agree with this but teaching such as these are supported by Sacred Scripture. Of course, the transmission of the personal sins of our parents, other than Adam, is not supported in any authentic Christian Tradition, written or oral.-Paz


  6. Dear Paz,Jesus said not to add to His Word. The Holy Spirit inspired the first century Apostles and prophets to record the written Word, what you call the “sacred text.” Anything and everything that does not agree with the sacred text, it false. I don’t mean any disrespect toward you, but the Council of Trent holds no sway with me. Unless the Apostles and Prophets of the Bible said it, we are going to disagree.We must agree that the Bible is our authority. The decision at Trent that Catholic tradition is equal to Scripture is ridiculous. They ensured that whatever they taught could never be challenged for adding or taking from Scripture. Take for example the Augustinian teaching on original sin. He added “seed” to Job 14:4. Most people would say that is adding to Scripture. But the Catholic church can justify it as tradition and equal to the sacred text. The Catholics always have an out.As far as the Latin Bible goes, there is no support for “semine” being in Job 14:4, not from the Hebrew and not from the Septuagint text. So where Augustine came up with that, I could not guess, but it isn’t Bible. Maybe it comes from an early version of the Living Bible. To put in your words, there is no support for original sin in the sacred text. About your finding that original sin is only transmitted through Adam and not through Eve, this is not helpful. We are to believe that male and female can be infected by the genetic sin, but only the male is the carrier? Please! Up until now, this doctrine is something I have encountered only with my Baptist friends. It is a grasping attempt to prevent Mary from having the stain of original sin without conceding to the Catholics and their peculiar Immaculate Conception belief. Baptist have told me that original sin, coming only through only the father, is support for their position that God did not need to miraculously protect Mary from original sin. So she had this “Original Sin”, but she could not pass it on to Jesus Christ. And Paz, the question is not whether the sin was moral or ceremonial. It is more of a diversion because the question yet to be established is at what point is the person unclean? Is the seed unclean, meaning it creates a depraved child, or is Job acknowledging that I believe that all men (not children) sin and are unclean. Sin makes one unclean and it brings death. By the addition of “semine” or “seed”, you make sin to be something genetically passed on and I suggest that sin is an act of disobedience toward God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And, “you were dead in YOUR trespasses and sins.” Sin is not a corrupted state, a depraved state, that the soul of man inherits from Adam. I’m sorry, but you couldn’t be more wrong to assert that sin is death. James shows the distinction between the two: When sin is full grown, it brings forth death, Jas. 1:14,15. Sin and death are two separate things. Just as Adam sinned and it brought spiritual separation from God, so with “each one” (Jas. 1:14) today, Satan tempts and with the lusting, man gives way to the temptation and sins. Spiritual death follows the sin. So this all refutes the idea that spiritual death precedes ever committing a first sin. You must sin first in order to die spiritually.The seed of man is passing on to each generation the fallen state. Spiritual death follows the sin I commit.Paz, sacred text does not support the doctrine of original sin. Sacred text, not the Hebrew or the Septuagint, has nothing in Job 14:4 concerning the unclean “seed”. Such is an addition to God’s Word. The Council of Trent is a 16th century event that has nothing to do with Sacred text. Whatever David is saying about sin in Psalm 51, he is not blaming his mother and he is not crediting original sin. The distinction between hereditary sin and original sin is kind of superficial and in essence is no distinction at all. When you agree that the original sin is passed on through the father, you reveal this fact.


  7. Dan,I’ll look into getting an independent translation from the original Hebrew of Job 14:4. I have a few contacts. If you think something was “added” please help to offer your translation or opinion of the text. It would be helpful. (I feel your frustration that “modern dynamic equivalence” translations of Scripture obfuscate the meaning of God’s Word.)Once again, Job 14 was cited by Augustine on his commentary on Psalm 51. Central to the discussion is “Original Sin” and its transmission.Perhaps another consideration that may be helpful is that Adam was the unity of the human race and all men are implicated in Adam’s sin JUST AS all men are implicated in Jesus Christ’s justice. (see Roman 5: 12-19) This deprivation of original holiness is not personal sin but something different all together. From your comments, I sense you are tending toward a DNA/physical/scientific type of transmission. Quite 21st Century outlook! However, in fact, it is death of the soul. Hey, it’s a mystery and can not be fully explained. Nevertheless it has been revealed by God to us in Sacred Scripture. That Mary was saved from Original Sin by the merits of Christ is another mystery that has been revealed. Her special grace from God has nothing to do with a “male line” from Adam. If your Baptist friends want to go this route in any aspect regarding Adam then they will run into difficulties. Certainly, it is not a position that Catholics hold.-Paz


  8. Dan,Sorry… I have a correction to my previous post:“From your comments, I sense you are tending toward a DNA/physical/scientific type of transmission. Quite 21st Century outlook! However, in fact, it is death of the soul. ” should read“From your comments, I sense you are tending toward a DNA/physical/scientific type of transmission. Quite 21st Century outlook! However, in fact, it is death of the <>body.<>Men and women can only suffer eternal loss (damnation) due to <>personal sin<>. <>Original sin<>, the sin of Adam (Genesis 3) results in a wounded human nature which of course includes bodily death.


  9. Dear Paz,Thank you for your correction. About your comment that original sin results in a wounded human nature: where is the proof for that? Abel and Cain each had the same nature that God gave to Adam and Eve. Theirs was not corrupted. Cain merely needed to change his thinking and do what was right. Cain was faced with temptation, just as were his parents, and he fell too. I don’t believe there is an ounce of difference between the nature of Adam (at the moment he was made) and the nature of any child today. Adam’s nature, was childlike though being full-grown. But Adam had life layed out before Him by God. There was free will to obey or disobey God and there was temptation. “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” All of the ingredients were there for Adam to fall from God’s grace. God said, “In the day you eat you shall die.” Since Adam did not even begin the physical dying process until later, it was spiritual death which he suffered on that “day”. Because of Adam’s sin, he was spiritually separated. His sin did not touch another soul. It did not corrupt the human nature of his children. If it did, then you would have a case for hereditary or original sin. The fall of each man comes the same way that it did with Adam. When each person knows to do right, but they choose to do the wrong, then they fall as Adam fell. The physical death, the only part of Adam’s sin that touches his seed, occured afterward when God said, “<>22Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; <>and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, <>and live forever<><> 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.<>” – Gen. 3:22,23The Romans 5 comment you made is relevant, but you are not recognizing an inconsistency you have offered. It is true that Adam and Jesus each have their followers. Christ brings redemption and Adam brings death. But Jesus’ redemption comes to those who, by free will, follow Him; otherwise, everyone would be saved. And here is where you and others mistakenly overstate the power of Adam’s action. Everyone does not fall by virtue of being Adam’s offspring. We fall when we too disobey and follow his example of disobedience. Here is what Paul said in Romans 5:15, “<>For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.<>” You have to read the context to get it, but Paul makes it clear that the fallout from Adam is contingent on each man sinning. “Death spread to all men, <>because all sinned<>” (Rom. 5:12). The error comes if we think that Adam’s fall brought spiritual death to all men through original sin. Because you would have to be consistent and believe that Jesus life brings eternal life to all men. There is the proof that Adam’s effect has been overstated because we only enjoy Jesus’ life when we follow Him. And therefore we only suffer Adam’s fate when we follow him. Do we all sin? Yes. But not because of a corrupted human nature due to the so-called “original sin.” We sin for the same reason that Adam did who had a normal, good, human nature. I’m glad to see that you teach that man and women only suffer condemnation for their own sins. But the fact that you believe in the transmission of Original Sin, a totally depraved and sinful state, is to believe that men and women are separated from God by Adamic sin. The Catholic practice of “baptizing” (not really since it is not immersion) infants “for the remission of sins” is evidence that they believe children are spiritually separated from God, and lost, without ever committing a first sin. This is exactly what Augustine was saying which I disagree with completely. Babies are not unclean. Man is not unclean from the seed. David is in the middle of a contrite prayer of repentance. This is not the time that a man starts passing the buck, playing the blame game, by laying his wrong on the so-called “Original” or “hereditary”. sin. David was God’s child. He didn’t act sinfully because of a corrupted nature. David knew right and wrong and he chose to do wrong. David was God’s anointed King, and God saw that as a boy he had a good heart. So David, God’s child and covenant person, could not be saying he sinned because of a corrupted nature.Thank you.


  10. Dan,Just a few comments: DM:About your comment that original sin results in a wounded human nature: where is the proof for that?PAZ: Well, death is one proof. Just watch this nightly news I suppose is another! Bascially the moral aberrations of humanity and the lapse from the belief in the True God. DM: But the fact that you believe in the transmission of Original Sin, a <>totally depraved<> and sinful state,…PAZ: “Total depravity”… no way. That idea comes from the 16th Century Reformers. Human nature is wounded but not totally corrupted due to the events of Genesis 3. PAZ: I got a response from a contact at Columbia U., on Job 14:4 …<>Job 14:4 in Hebrew translates to: “Who can make a clean (thing) from an unclean (thing)? No one!” or, in Hebrew: “Mi-yiten tahor mitame’ lo’ echad”I think you could figure out the Greek (tis gar katharos estai apo hrupou; all’ outheis). Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Latin Vulgate might be closer to the Hebrew, since the Hebrew and Latin appear transitive and the Greek appears to make the clean/unclean to refer back to the “who.” Anyway, I hope this helps. <>


  11. DM,Excellent post, and I loved your responses to challenges. Good all around.


  12. Dear Paz,Physical death is not proof of a fallen human nature. You are now repeating yourself. I established from the Genesis account that the spiritual death of Adam, which occured when he ate the forbidden fruit, is not the same as the physical death brought about by no longer having access to the tree of life. It’s very easy to see that Adam’s fall was not the same thing as his physical death. Since we die physically, it is not related to Adam’s sin being transmitted to us. It has to do with our not have access to the tree. As far as spiritual death is concerned, we die spiritually in the same way that Adam did: when we know the right thing to do and do not do it, or when we know what not to do and do it anyway, then we die spiritually. The Scripture is full of examples which I have cited (Ephesians 2:1ff is an example) that shows that the Ephesians fell when they sinned – not when they were conceived. You offer a false dichotomy between an unproven original sin and fallen nature and the real separation each of us suffers when we disobey God. You offer a false dichotomy between Calvin’s “total depravity” and your “wounded” nature. It’s all the same doctrine. There is hardly an ounce of difference between the two. And about the Job 14 passage. It should never have been mentioned in the context of our discussion. There is nothing in the Hebrew or LXX that supports the idea of “seed” being unclean. The unclean “thing” is the “all” who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The insertion by Augustine of “seed” is clearly a distortion to prop up the idea of the fallen nature at conception. You must admit this fact if we are to have any further discussion. You gave that quote from Augustine and Psalm 51. He said that a prophet said in another place that “not even an infant, whose life is of one day upon earth” is clean. Augustine’s and your difficulty is with finding a reliable text that establishes this.


  13. Saint Augustine used a version of the Latin Vulgate compiled by Saint Jerome (c. 404 AD). The OT of this was a translation of the Septuagint (second century BC). Admittedly, scholars note that the text of the OT Septuagint often differs widely from the Hebrew text. I have no evidence to link this to Job 14 in particular since I am not qualified for Hebrew to Greek translations.Nevertheless, what the Sacred Authors, inspired by God, handed on to us (in Latin “tradere” from which we get the word “tradition”) has been faithfully preserved as truly the Word of God. We put our stake in God’s Word and not in any particular translation. Saint Augustine, theologian, Catholic Bishop and Church Father, explains in Book XIV of “City of God” that Christ came to save the whole man both body and soul:“I have already stated in the foregoing books (Book XII) that God chose to make a single individual the starting-point of all mankind, and that his purpose in this was that the human race should not merely be united in a society by natural likeness but should be bound together by a kind of kinship to form a harmonious unity, linked together by the ‘bond of peace’. And this race would not have been destined for death, in respect to its individual members, had not the first two human beings (of whom one was created from no one, and the other from him) incurred death as the reward of disobedience: and so heinous was their sin that man’s nature suffered a change for the worse; and bondage to sin and inevitable death was the legacy handed on to their posterity.”Sorry, no “coughing up a boatload of quotes” here — I have time constraints. We should always approach Scripture as a whole. Saint Augustine, wow, goes into tremendous detail from the Sacred Texts to arrive at conclusions that are in harmony with the Faith. Later on in Book XIV (Ch 11) he goes on:“…as the Bible says, ‘God made man upright,’ (Eccleasties 7,29) and therefore possessed a good will — for he would not have been upright, had he not possessed a good will. Good will then is the work of God, since man was created with it by God.But the first evil act of will, since it preceded all evil deeds in man, was rather a falling away from the work of God to its own works, rather than any substantive act. And the consequent deeds were evil because they followed the will’s own line, and not God’s. And so the will itself, as it were, the evil tree which bore evil fruit (Matthew 17), and in the shape of those evil deeds; or rather it was man himself who was that tree, in so far as his will was evil. Moreover, though an evil will is not natural but unnatural because it is a defect, still it belongs to the nature of which it is a defect, for it cannot exist except in nature. But it can only exist in a nature which God created out of nothing, not in that nature which the Creator begot out of himself, as he begot the Word through whom all things were made, (John 1,3) …” Wow, Augustine nails it on the head! I hope this is yet another different perspective on The Fall and its consequences for us today.


  14. Dear Paz,You talk about “sacred authors” and the inspiration of God and the necessity of approaching the Scriptures as a whole. We have no disagreement here, that is, unless you think that Augustine’s writing is sacred or that his teaching must be part of the whole of our understanding. Because Augustine is a 300 or so years too late for that. You again quote Augustin, not the Apostle Paul or Jesus Christ, to show that “so heinous was their (Adam and Eve) sin that man’s nature suffered a change for the worse; and the bondage to sin and inevitable death was the legacy handed on to their posterity.” Augustine was a false teacher. The only sacred text that Augustine is quoted as using in in Ecclesiastes. But Ecclesiastes 7:29 says God made man, as in mankind, upright, and “they” went astray. Solomon doesn’t agree with Augustine. And what about what Augustine said in his “City of God” concerning God’s plan to save man, both body and soul? This is not supported. Man’s body is dying and it is going to die. Jesus came to save the soul. I have no clue where Augustine gets this stuff. Amazing how it just rolls out of him without any Scripture.You wrote: “But the first evil act of will, since it preceded all evil deeds in man, was rather a falling away from the work of God to its own works, rather than any substantive act. And the consequent deeds were evil because they followed the will’s own line, and not God’s. And so the will itself, as it were, the evil tree which bore evil fruit (Matthew 17), and in the shape of those evil deeds; or rather it was man himself who was that tree, in so far as his will was evil.”Now Paz, what you write here is nearly impossible to understand. But there is no proof in Scripture that one’s man will is defective. Adam had a will and he sinned. By your reasoning, you and Augustine would have to say that God created Adam with a defective and evil will. After all you are explaining that men sin because they have a evil will. Consistency please. I have explained this and you do not hear or acknowledge what Scripture shows as obvious fact. I could not care less as to what Augustine says. But the Bible says that Adam sinned and he died. He died spiritually because he disobeyed God. He did not die physically until later, after the angel of the Lord barred Adam from having access to the Tree of Life. The spiritual death and the physical death are two separate things. As a consequence to Adam’s sin, we too do not have access to the Tree of Life and we die. But as far as the act of sin goes, until we do as Adam did, we are not spiritually dead. Ezekiel 18:20 and the surrounding text shows that one man is not touch in the least bit by another man’s sin. There is not Biblical support for original or hereditary sin. Thank you.Dan


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