Archive for the ‘Original Sin’ Category

Sin, Satan, and Satan’s Fall

January 30, 2013

I was recently directed to some questions about Sin, Satan, and Satan’s fall.

Did Satan exist before Adam and Eve? How and when did he fall?

The Scriptures do not specify when God created the angels or when specifically Satan fell.

Jude 6 states: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”

2 Peter 2:4 stats: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;”

Job 4:18 states: “Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:”

Thus, we know that some of the angels did fall and that this was due to some foolishness and sin on their part. But the exact timing of their creation is not specified.

Isaiah 14 has sometimes been interpreted as referring to the fall of Satan. There are a few reasons that this view has some weaknesses – particularly in that verse 16 speaks about kingdoms, but it is clear that at the latest Satan fell when only Adam and Eve lived.

Nevertheless, vss. 12-15 may be a reference to the fall of Satan, and may be a comparison between that fall and the fall of the king of Babylon (see vs. 4). In other words, God may be comparing the fall of the king of Babylon to the fall of Satan.

We may speculate that Satan and other angels (who are described as having wings) were created with the winged fowl on the 4th day, or that Satan and the other angels being heavenly bodies (and compared to stars) were created with the stars on the 3rd day, or that the angels were created on the first day when God created the heavens and the earth, or that they were created on the 6th day since Satan is described as a serpent. But all this is speculation, since God does not say.

All we know is that all things were made by God in the space of six days (Exodus 20:11), and therefore the angels were created in this time period.

Did sin exist before Adam and Eve?

It seems sin did not exist before the end of the sixth day, because on the sixth day God saw all that he had made and behold it was very good (Genesis 1:1). How could God say that if there was already sin?

Of course, “sin” is not a thing that has its own existence. Rather it is any lack of conformity to (or violation of) God’s law.

It seems clear that Satan’s temptation in the Garden of Eden of Eve and by her of Adam was sinful and an act of rebellion on Satan’s part.

After all, Satan is clearly identified as the serpent in Revelation 20:2 “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,” and Revelation 12:9 “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

Moreover, his sins of lying and murdering were there:

John 8:44
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

After all, because of Satan’s lie, Eve was deceived and came under judgment of death, making Satan both liar and simultaneously murderer.

Some people may speculate that it was in this very act that Satan fell – namely that the fall of Satan is timed as immediately before the fall of man. Whether this is the case or not, we simply do not know, because Scripture does not say. One reason to think this is that the Serpent is cursed specifically together with Adam and Eve, but prior to the curse of the earth for Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:14).

The only remaining question is how there could be sin before Adam’s sin, when Scripture states:

Romans 5:12
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

But just as this does not exclude Eve’s sin before Adam’s sin, so also it does not exclude Satan’s sin before Eve’s sin. For Adam was made the head of the physical creation. In Adam (not in Eve or in Satan) all mankind fell, and that in context is what Paul is describing.

Scripture tells all we need to know. John assures us that we can read the gospel of John and believe and have eternal life (John 20:31) and the Scriptures teach us that they thoroughly equip us for living the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:17). Nevertheless Scripture does not promise to answer every question we may have about everything. Some things we simply cannot be dogmatic about. We should, therefore, cease to be dogmatic where Scripture ceases revelation.

– TurretinFan

Grace in Cyril’s Commentary on the Book of Exodus (First Discourse)

June 2, 2011

The Orthodox Research Institute has published an English translation of the first discourse of Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Book of Exodus. It’s not a massive volume (about 50 pages of English text). Nevertheless, it serves to illustrate some aspects of Cyril’s teachings on topics related to the doctrines of grace. Most of the following will be quotations from this single work. Any bolding is my own, whereas material in brackets is added by the translator:

The State of Fallen Man
The following interestingly seems like some form of recognition of original sin, at least of concupiscence, and its universal applicability to the human race, as well as its source in God’s withholding grace:

But let the word of the narrative pause at this point. Let us say presently bringing the mind into the innermost spectacles, that because the thought of man is persistently devoted to evil things since his youth because of lack of good things from above, the whole human race, so to speak, was being corrupted and something like a famine was devouring the heavenly lessons; It was exactly as we could observe the prodigal who is also drawn as a model of a parable, who devoured the paternal fortune in foreign lands, and wished to satisfy his hunger with the fruit of the carob tree from which the pigs were eating.

(Chapter 3 at p. 13)

Bondage of the Will
In the following, Cyril appears to argue that it is the knowledge of God that brings true freedom of will.

“But God,” he says, “considered them, and looked upon the children of Israel, and was made known to them.” When, therefore, we live in ignorance of God {ignoring God or being ignored by God} then we all will also fall under those who do us injustice, and we roll around into the mires of sin, having as bitter and raw {cruel} supervisors of such things the unclean demons. But the grace of freedom will always follow the knowledge of God (knowing God will always be followed by the freedom of will}.

(Chapter 8, at p. 75)

Justification of the Impious by Faith in Christ

In the following, Cyril appears to argue for justification by grace through faith:

For {the fact that} those who do not move away from the worship according to the law are being held under the power of corruption, Christ himself will make clear. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink the blood, ye have no life in you.” And this was the mystery, not from those under the law from some place or other, but from those who have accepted the faith and have been justified in Christ and {have accepted} the education which is better than the one under the law, and I mean the evangelic one. Those, therefore, who did not become free of the burden through faith, or under the {power of} corruption, and as in a mall, {which is} the mother of death, and I mean, indeed, the same, and they are away from Christ. But if they would wish to untie the sample, that is the corruption, which {corruption} does not have the power to justify them, and {if they would wish} to approach the grace which truly produces life, then they will approach the one who justifies the impious one, {they will approach} Christ, that is, through whom and with whom the glory belongs to the Father together with the Holy Spirit to the centuries of centuries. Amen.

(Chapter 8, at p. 87)

Plain and Direct Style of Scripture
Finally, here is one quotation from Evie Zachariades-Holmberg, editor/translator, which is of interest as it relates to the perspicuity of Scripture:

There are, of course examples in the early Christian literature, where the authors achieve masterpieces with the use of the simple or the sophisticated / artificial style in the language. St. Paul’s mode of expression for example in chapters 12 and 13 of the first epistle to the Corinthians is amazing in its directness, vivacity, power and simplicity, especially when compared to the epistle of Clement of Rome who is also addressing the Corinthians on the same subject.

(p. xv)

– TurretinFan

A Desert Father on Original Sin

February 20, 2011

We are sometimes told that the doctrine of original sin is exclusively a Western idea. The primary basis of this claim is that it is Augustine who primarily popularized the term “original sin,” and his influence was mostly felt in the West. The secondary basis is that most Eastern Orthodox folks today seem to reject the idea of original sin. In the following discussion, one can see one of the desert fathers speaking about original sin, but – of course – without using the term “original sin.” Thanks to Roger Pearse for making this translation available.

Isidore of Pelusium (died about A.D. 449), Letter 100 — to Syros the Reader (Against the Novatians)(translated by Clive Sweeting)

Say to the disciple of Novatian’s pride: why are you foolishly boasting as if [you were] clean? Why are you pretending that you are sinless? Why deny the (fault) common to nature? Isaiah declares himself unclean; David knows that every man is a liar and that all were conceived and carried in the womb in sin. God Himself knows that human beings are devotedly attached to evil and require only the mercy of divine kindness- and do you arrogantly boast of being clean? Either then give over lying or from what you are doing be exposed as a laughing-stock or indeed mightily shameful.


I think the expression “common to nature” is particularly interesting, since the opponents of original sin seem to be fond of allegedly that man’s nature was not affected by Adam’s sin. I should point out further that the source of this nature is not explained in this short letter. So, it would be a stretch to conclude from this short letter that Isidore of Pelusium had as well-developed an idea of original sin as Augustine did. Still, the statements are interesting, particularly as an expression of Eastern rejection of Pelagian errors.


Dawkins Criticizes Rome and Original Sin

September 20, 2010

In a recent speech (link), Dawkins has attempted to criticize the Roman Catholic Church.

Dawkins began by pointing out that contrary to the implications of Ratzinger in his recent speech in Edinburgh, Adolph Hitler was more Roman Catholic than Atheist, at least by the standard that is used by Rome when saying how many members her church has (namely those baptized persons who have not renounced their baptism or been excommunicated).

Dawkins then asserted that there is no link between atheism and evil. Of course, there’s obviously a connection between atheism and violation of the first table of the law, the relation between men and God. There’s also an intuitive link between atheism and the second table, though we expect the correlation to be muted both by the influence of conscience (atheists have consciences too) and the presence of large numbers of members of false religions, as well as hypocrites and the self-deluded (Hitler would fall in at least the latter category, and probably in some sense in both categories), who themselves also have consciences.

Dawkins continues by trying to attack original sin. This was interesting to me, because my friend Dr. White recently debated an atheist on the topic of “is the New Testament evil,” in which the atheist’s primary argument was about original sin.

After the attack on original sin, Dawkins declares that Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity, identifying children (on account of the sex abuse scandal and making them feel “guilty” in general), “gay people” (one presumes he means sodomites), women (because it won’t let them be priests), truth (because he denies the usefulness of a common barrier protection device against AIDS), poor people (because he encourages large, unaffordable families), science (because of opposition to stem cell research), an enemy of the Queen’s church (on account of his assertion that Anglican orders are null and void, even while trying to poach Anglican vicars), and education (because of the teaching that “evidence” is less reliable than revelation, faith, tradition, and the pope’s own authority).

I’m sure that many of Dawkins’ criticisms would be equally or at least similarly applicable to the Reformed churches. Some portions would not be applicable, such as the sex abuse portions, the opposition to the Queen’s church, as such, or the portion about denying the truth about the usefulness of barrier protection against infection. Dawkins, however, does not elaborate on the relevant criticisms to much extent, except briefly with respect to original sin.

With respect to original sin, Dawkins’ complaints seem to be these:

1) The doctrine of original sin is taught to young children.

This is only a valid objection if the doctrine is false, but the doctrine is true.

2) The doctrine of hell is also taught to them.

The doctrine of hell is also true.

3) The doctrine of original sin is based on an historical Adam, but Romanists now acknowledge that there was no historical Adam.

This criticism is not applicable to us, the Reformed, who affirm that Adam was an historical person. Additionally, there are conservative RCs who continue to affirm that Adam was an historical person.

4) The doctrine of original sin is a “disgusting theory.”

This is not really an argument, just a statement of preference (and one that, in the mouth of an atheist, is wholly consistent with the doctrine).

5) The doctrine of original sin leads people to presume that it is godlessness that led Hitler to do what he did.

Perhaps it does lead to that. If it does, then this is only an objection insofar as the doctrine of original sin is false, but the doctrine of original sin is true.

6) The doctrine of original sin indicates that “we are all monsters unless redeemed by Jesus.”

Actually, the doctrine of original sin does not entail rejecting the idea that depraved men still have consciences. Thus, while there is a sense in which they are “monsters,” they do not all behave monstrously.

7) The doctrine of original sin is a “revolting, depraved, inhuman theory”

This is just a stronger statement of item (4), addressed above.

As for the remainder of Dawkins’ complains, we are happy to acknowledge that Divine revelation is more reliable than extrapolations based on the assumptions of contemporary scientists. We affirm the high value of children, and consequently consider those with large families wealthy even if they lack significant financial assets. Our affirmation of the high value of children also motivates our concern about attempts by science to destroy the very young in an attempt to extend the lives of the old. We note that the reason for male leadership is God’s design and gifts of leadership to him, the woman being the weaker vessel. We condemn fornication among all those who commit it. Finally, returning again to children, our care for them also motivates to be concerned for their souls, even from a young age.

On these grounds, while we may join with Dawkins in recognizing that the pope is evil, we cannot endorse the significant misguided portions of his criticism.


Did Augustine Teach the Sinlessness of Mary?

September 6, 2010

I recently received an email from someone who was trying to argue that Augustine “clearly” taught that Mary was immaculate conceived. The person writing to me provided the following quotation (emphasis is his):

Now with the exception of the holy Virgin Mary in regard to whom, out of respect for the Lord, I do not propose to have a single question raised on the subject of sin — after all, how do we know what greater degree of grace for a complete victory over sin was conferred on her who merited to conceive and bring forth Him who all admit was without sin — to repeat then: with the exception of this Virgin, if we could bring together into one place all those holy men and women, while they lived here, and ask them whether they were without sin, what are we to suppose that they would have replied?” (On Nature and Grace, or De natura et gratia, Migne PL 44:267)

To which I reply:

a) In this quotation, Augustine is refusing (at the time) to address the question of whether Mary had sin. He does not assert that she was sinless.

b) Augustine is saying that there is one (Jesus Christ) who certainly had no sin.

c) Augustine is addressing the issue of actual sin, not original sin.

Moreover, just a short time before writing “On Nature and Grace,” Augustine wrote “On Merits and Forgiveness of Sins,” in which he spoke more clearly:

Augustine (354-430):

This being the case, ever since the time when by one man sin thus entered into this world and death by sin, and so it passed through to all men, up to the end of this carnal generation and perishing world, the children of which beget and are begotten, there never has existed, nor ever will exist, a human being of whom, placed in this life of ours, it could be said that he had no sin at all, with the exception of the one Mediator, who reconciles us to our Maker through the forgiveness of sins.

NPNF1: Vol. V, On Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, Book II, Chapter 47.

And again…

Augustine (354-430):

Let us hold fast, then, the confession of this faith, without filtering or failure. One alone is there who was born without sin, in the likeness of sinful flesh, who lived without sin amid the sins of others, and who died without sin on account of our sins. “Let us turn neither to the right hand nor to the left.” For to turn to the right hand is to deceive oneself, by saying that we are without sin; and to turn to the left is to surrender oneself to one’s sins with a sort of impunity, in I know not how perverse and depraved a recklessness. “God indeed knoweth the ways on the right hand,” even He who alone is without sin, and is able to blot out our sins; “but the ways on the left hand are perverse,” in friendship with sins.

NPNF1: Vol. V, On Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, Book II, Chapter 57 [XXXV].

Likewise, at the very end of his life, in his “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” Augustine wrote something similar:

Augustine (354-430 AD): See, here is Ambrose; see what he says about what you are attacking. He says, “He could not alone be righteous, since the whole human race went astray, if it were not that, because he was born of a virgin, he was not held by the law of the guilty race.” Listen further; listen and stop the impudent tongue of your effrontery by shedding tears: “For intercourse with a man did not open the gates of the Virgin’s womb; rather, the Holy Spirit poured spotless seed into that inviolable womb. For among those born of a woman the holy Lord Jesus was absolutely the only one who did not experience the contagion of earthly corruption because of the new manner of his immaculate birth; rather, he shrugged it off by his celestial majesty.” John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian, Book I:66, Part 1, Vol. 25, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 91.

And if you will not accord weight to the testimony of an unfinished work, consider what Augustine wrote in his letters.

First, his letter to Jerome that was the same year as his publication of “On Nature and Grace“:

Augustine (354-430):

Therefore it is true that in the sight of God “shall no man living be justified,” and yet that “the just shall live by his faith.” On the one hand, “the saints are clothed with righteousness,” one more, another less; on the other hand, no one lives here wholly without sin—one sins more, another less, and the best is the man who sins least.

NPNF1: Vol. I, Letters of St. Augustin, Letter 167 – To Jerome, Chapter 3, §13.

Second, his letter to Optatus about two years later:

Augustine (354-430):

For, if no soul is propagated from another, while all souls are enclosed in flesh descended from sinful flesh, how much less credible is it that His soul could have come by propagation from a sinful woman, whereas his flesh came from a virgin and was not conceived in lust, that He might be ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh,’ not in sinful flesh!

See FC, Vol. 30, Saint Augustine Letters 165-203, Letter 190, to Optatus (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1955), p. 287.

And then again to Optatus five years after writing “On Nature and Grace“:

Augustine (354-430):

In the advice and admonition he gives that I rather apply my effort to stamping out this deadly heresy from the Churches, he refers to that same Pelagian heresy which I urge you, my brother, with all my strength, to avoid with the utmost care, whenever you either think or argue about the origin of souls, so that the belief may not steal upon you that any soul at all, save that of the unique Mediator, was free from inheritance of Adam, that original sin under which we are bound when we are begotten but from which we are freed by our second birth.

FC, Vol. 30, Saint Augustine Letters 165-203, Letter 202A, To Optatus (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1955), p. 420.

And while my correspondent simply asserts that Augustine did not come up with the content quoted in “On Nature and Grace,” we can prove that Augustine — in holding to the universality of original sin to those born from sexual intercourse — was following his teacher Ambrose.

Ambrose (c. 339-97) commenting on Luke 1:35:

For wholly alone of those born of woman was our Holy Lord Jesus, Who by the strangeness of His undefiled Birth has not suffered the pollutions of earthly corruption, but dispelled them by heavenly majesty.

Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book II, §56, p. 59.

Ambrose (c. 339-97): No Conception is without iniquity, since there are no parents who have not fallen. (Nec conceptus iniquitatis exsors est, quoniam et parentes non carent lapsu. ) Prophetae David ad Theodosium Augustum, Caput XI, PL 14:873; for translation, see I. D. E. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations (Oklahoma City: Hearthstone Publishing, 1996), p. 258.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

So, then, no one is without sin except God alone, for no one is without sin except God. Also, no one forgives sins except God alone, for it is also written: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And one cannot be the Creator of all except he be not a creature, and he who is not a creature is without doubt God; for it is written: “They worshipped the creature rather than the Creator, Who is God blessed for ever.” God also does not worship, but is worshipped, for it is written: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.”

NPNF2: Vol. X, On the Holy Spirit, Book III, Chapter 18, §133.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

Let us therefore consider whether the Holy Spirit have any of these marks which may bear witness to His Godhead. And first let us treat of the point that none is without sin except God alone, and demand that they prove that the Holy Spirit has sin.

NPNF2: Vol. X, On the Holy Spirit, Book III, Chapter 18, §134.

And we don’t have to speculate whether Augustine was consciously agreeing with Ambrose:

Augustine (354-430 AD):

Hilary says that all flesh comes from sin apart from the flesh of the one who came without sin in the likeness of sinful flesh. He says that the one who cried out, I was conceived in iniquities (Ps 51:7), “was born from a sinful origin and under the law of sin. Saint Ambrose says that “the little ones who have been baptized are changed from their wickedness back to the original state of their nature.” He says that “by reason of his immaculate birth the Holy Lord Jesus alone of those born of a woman experienced no infection from earthly corruption.” He says that we all die in Adam, because through one man sin entered the world (Rom 5:12) and his sin is the death of all. He says that in his wound “the whole human race would have died, if that Samaritan had not come down and healed his grave wounds.” He says that Adam existed and all existed in him, that Adam perished and all perished in him. He says that we are stained with infection before we were born and that a human being is not conceived free of iniquity, because, as he says, we are “conceived in the sin of our parents and we are born in their transgressions. Birth itself has its own infections, and nature itself does not have only one infection.” He says that the devil is a money lender to whom sinful Eve “put the whole human race in debt with succeeding generations subject to usury.” He says that Eve was deceived by the devil “in order to trip up her husband and place their descendants in debt.” He says that Adam was so wounded by the bite of the serpent “that we all limp because of that wound.” He says that through the union of the bodies of the man and the woman no one is immune from transgression, but that “the one who is immune from transgression,” that is, Christ the Lord, “is also immune from that manner of conception.”

See John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Answer to Julian, Book I:7, 32, Part 1, Vol. 24, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1998), pp. 290-291.

Augustine (354-430 AD):

Say to this man [i.e., Ambrose], if you dare, that he makes the devil the creator of human beings who are born from the union of both sexes. He, after all, exempted Christ alone from the bonds of the guilty race, because he was born of a virgin. All the others coming after Adam are born under the debt of sin, the sin which the devil, of course, planted in them. Refute this man for condemning marriage, for he says that only the son of the virgin was born without sin. Charge this man with denying the attainment of virtue, since he says that vices are implanted in the human race at the very beginning of conception.

See John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Answer to Julian, Book II:2, 4, Part 1, Vol. 24, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1998), p. 306.

Augustine (354-430 AD):

Moreover, when expounding the Gospel according to Luke, he [i.e. Ambrose] says: “It was no cohabitation with a husband which opened the secrets of the Virgin’s womb; rather was it the Holy Ghost which infused immaculate seed into her unviolated womb. For the Lord Jesus alone of those who are born of woman is holy, inasmuch as He experienced not the contact of earthly corruption, by reason of the novelty of His immaculate birth; nay, He repelled it by His heavenly majesty.”

NPNF1: Vol. V, Augustin’s Anti-Pelagian Works, The Grace of Christ And on Original Sin, Book II On Original Sin, Chapter 47. This same citation of Ambrose is likewise found in John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian, Book I:66, Part 1, Vol. 25, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 91; and again later in the same work, 4:121, p. 485; as well as in His Answer to Julian, as set forth above.

– TurretinFan

The Punishment of Jehu

February 23, 2010

I happened to come across an alleged Biblical contradiction. The alleged contradiction is explained thus:

Let’s set up the problem clearly:

1. Elijah announced a dynastic judgment on Ahab’s line and household. God told Jehu to execute this judgment, which he did. Jehu is commended by YHWH for executing the house of Ahab in 2 Kings 10.30:

The LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”

2. But then, a century later, in Hosea 1.4, Jehu is punished for the massacre!

Then the LORD said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. (NIV)

The allegation is that God’s express commendation (earlier) is incompatible with/contradicts God’s (later) ‘negative judgment’ on Jehu for the same events, as expressed in Hosea 1.4.


The source I’ve linked above provides some possible solutions, but I think the easiest explanation is found by looking at a verse that the problem’s statement overlooks.

In addition to killing the house of Ahab in Jezreel, Jehu also killed a significant part of the royal family of Judah (by God’s providential decree, but not by God’s command to Jehu):

2 Chronicles 22:7-9
And the destruction of Ahaziah was of God by coming to Joram: for when he was come, he went out with Jehoram against Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to cut off the house of Ahab. And it came to pass, that, when Jehu was executing judgment upon the house of Ahab, and found the princes of Judah, and the sons of the brethren of Ahaziah, that ministered to Ahaziah, he slew them. And he sought Ahaziah: and they caught him, (for he was hid in Samaria,) and brought him to Jehu: and when they had slain him, they buried him: Because, said they, he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart. So the house of Ahaziah had no power to keep still the kingdom.

2 Kings 10:12-14

And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing house in the way, Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, Who are ye? And they answered, We are the brethren of Ahaziah; and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen. And he said, Take them alive. And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing house, even two and forty men; neither left he any of them.

This murder God did not permit to go unpunished, but brought judgment on Jehu’s line with a Jezreel of their own. Jehu was right to kill Ahab and his family, but not the family of David.

Thus, God commended and blessed Jehu:

2 Kings 10:30 And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.

My friend Fred Butler will be happy to notice that “fourth generation” here was taken fairly literally:

2 Kings 15:12 This was the word of the LORD which he spake unto Jehu, saying, Thy sons shall sit on the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation. And so it came to pass.

1) 2 Kings 10:35 And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead.

2) 2 Kings 13:9 And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers; and they buried him in Samaria: and Joash [aka Jehoash] his son reigned in his stead.

3) 2 Kings 14:16 And Jehoash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead.

4) 1 Kings 14:20 And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years: and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead.

Leading finally to the destruction of the entire family of Jeroboam:

1 Kings 15:25-30
And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin. And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon. Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead. And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger.

One final note. Passages like these highlight two things. First, God is punishing the sins of Jehu upon Nadab. Second, God is also punishing the sins of Jeroboam upon Nadab. But, note that Jehu himself is not some innocent God-fearing man who is getting punished for nothing. He walked in the way of his father and did evil in the sight of the LORD. Had he repented, God would have spared him, for God is rich in mercy. So do not use the sins of your fathers as an excuse for your lack of repentance. Don’t follow your fathers’ evil ways, but follow the paths of righteousness that it may be well with you.


Psalms 58:3 vs Kerrigan Skelly

June 24, 2009

The following is a two-part video response to Kerrigan Skelly on Original Sin and Psalm 58:3. Mr. Skelly challenges Calvinists to exegete this passage, but when we do so we discover that, contrary to Mr. Skelly’s assertions, the text does support the doctrine of original sin.

Children Punished for a Parent’s Sins

August 24, 2008


Some folks who hold to a nearly dogmatic form of rugged individualism do not like the idea of federal headship, especially when it comes to punishments. I much more rarely hear people complain that they will be judged righteous for the deeds of their federal head. It is when guilt and punishment are concerned that the objections seem to come in. There are several rebuttals.

1. General Revelation – Nature Itself

a. Nourishment

The general revelation of nature should make it apparent that the children receive what comes from their parents, as a general rule. An unborn child (fetus, if you will, though that sounds so dehumanizing) obtains nourishment from its mother via the marvelously designed placenta. The infant obtains nourishment from the mother’s breast. The children generally eat the grown/hunted/gathered or purchased by their parents even once they could hypothetically fend for themselves.

b. Class

Children of poor parents are usually also poor, and children of rich parents are usually well off. To describe it in statistical terms, there is a high correlation between the state of a child and the state of a child’s parents – not only socioeconomically, but genetically. A child of two short parents is unlikely to be tall, and a child of two tall parents is unlikely to be short.

c. Human Justice

The laws of men too bare testimony to the fact that children are punished for their parents’ sins. Most societies have laws whereby evildoers are punished in their persons or property. If a father is imprisoned or fined for a crime, his children generally suffer financially: even more so if justice is rendered against the father in a capital case. It is not that the law sets out to punish the children of law-breakers: it just happens that way.

d. Fornication / Adultery

When men and women engage in extramarital sexual relationships, it often results in procreation. The children of such unions are often stigmatized, but even more significantly they often come into the world without a father to provide for them, or without a mother that wants them. In ancient Rome, such children were sometimes murdered through exposure to the elements after birth. In modern societies, such children are often murdered by their mothers in ways that sicken at least this author. Even if a child survives birth, its a statistical observation that such children tend to have a more difficult time in life.

2. Special Revelation – Scripture

a. Examples of Children being punished for the sins of their parents.

(i) The Great Deluge

We are not specifically told that there were any infants in Noah’s day, but God brought the Flood on account of the sinfulness of the world 120 years prior to the Flood. Men lived longer in those days, but they did have children, and they did not give up their usual marital relations in view of Noah’s preaching.

Luke 17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Genesis 6:1-7
1And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

(ii) Sodom and Gomorrah

Especially considering the form of sexual immorality for which Sodom is famous, we cannot be absolutely sure that there were young infants in the city, nevertheless, there is no particular reason to suppose that they had been so exclusively consumed by illicit lust that there were none. The fire God sent against the city, however, did not discriminate according to age.

Genesis 19:24
24Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

(iii) Firstborn of Egypt – 10th Plague

You may recall that the tenth plague, the plague that permitted the Israelites not only to leave but to plunder the Egyptians, was the death of the firstborn of all the Egyptians. This plague is couched in such universal terms that we may safely assume that it included infants and not only the firstborn that had grown somewhat.

Exodus 11:4-6
4And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 6And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.

(iv) Ham’s Mockery

As you may recall, our grandfather Noah got drunk and lay naked in his tent. His son Ham found him in this inebriated condition and mocked him, calling his brothers Shem and Japheth. They, however, did not join his mockery but took a sheet with them and walked backwards into the tent covering Noah in the process. When Noah discovered what had happened, he cursed Ham, but especially Ham’s son, Canaan.

Genesis 9:24-27
24And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

(v) The Unborn Child of the Middianitish Woman

You may recall that the women of Moab were a temptation to the men of Israel. So much so that they began to go after the false gods of Moab. God was angry against Israel for this unfaithfulness to Him, and smote them with a plague. But what stopped the plague was the action of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, who killed one of the most open philanderers with a javelin. He skewered the man and the woman – in her case, the Bible specifies that it was through her belly, from which may infer that she had a belly – i.e. was pregnant.

Numbers 25:1-9
1And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. 4And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. 5And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. 6And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

(vi) Achan’s Theft

You may recall Achan. He was passing through the wreckage and rubble of Jericho, a city that was cursed by God. He decided that despite God’s specific prohibition, he would take several items of value that he found in Jericho. He took the items and hid them in his tent. God then defeated Israel at the hands of the tiny forces of Ai.

The fact that others were punished for Achan’s sin became a sort of by-word among Israel, at least for a time:

Joshua 22:20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

More to the point, however, when Joshua had discovered that Achan the son of Zerah had disobeyed God, the punishment was his death, but not only his death. Also executed were his family, and even his cattle.

Joshua 7:24-26
24And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

His children were killed with him, though we are not explicitly told that any of them were infants.

(vii) Solomon’s Older Brother

Solomon’s older brother is not named in Scripture. He is the child of the adultery of David with Bathsheba. As you may recall, David’s seduction of Bathsheba and murder of her husband greatly displeased God, and God punished David for this. God spared David’s own life, but he cursed David’s line, such the sword would not depart from it, and more relevant to the point of this article, he slew David’s infant son.

2 Samuel 12:7-23
7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. 15And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. 16David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 18And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? 19But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. 20Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. 21Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. 22And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

This list of examples is not exhaustive. For example, we could also add Korah (Numbers 16), Saul’s sons (2 Samuel 21), or Jericho both a first (Joshua 6) and a second time (1 Kings 16), but perhaps the seven examples above suffice to prove the point.

b. God’s Own Self-Description

God does not hesitate to describe himself as a God who punishes the fathers by also punishing their children. We may subsume within that description of course the specific instances where God killed or had killed the children of those who sinned, for the sins of their fathers.

On top of those, we may list the four times God specifically states that he visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children:

(i) Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

(ii) Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

(iii) Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

(iv) Deuteronomy 5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

3. General Revelation 2 – Conscience, Culture, and Reason

Perhaps this is a bit redundant, but children generally feel responsible for their parent’s failures. Some children respond to this by working twice as hard to avoid doing what their parents did, and other children respond to this by fatalistically resigning themselves to follow in their parents’ footsteps. While the latter approach is wrong, both approaches implicitly recognize a principle of the children being in some way held responsible for what their parents have done.

Culture to a degree reinforces this. The sometimes popular “reparations” movement among descendants of former slaves in America has it its roots a view that the descendants of slave owners should be responsible for what their ancestors did. Slavery itself (in many cultures the result of some personal failure) was passed on to children in many places. Likewise, a degree of cultural opposition to Jews (especially religious Jews) is based on (in some places and at some times in history) on the fact that their ancestors killed Christ (who, in fact, did call down God’s wrath on themselves and their children, Matthew 27:25).

Furthermore, Reason applying itself to culture commends the same. For culture generally permits inheritances of goods to children (as Scripture confirms to be proper). Reason, favoring symmetry, suggests that not only positive things but negative things should be transmitted from parents to children, thus favoring the idea that guilt too may be inherited.


For all these reasons, it should be clear that it is just for children to be punished for their parents’ sins. It may violate the principles on which modern pluralistic society is built – specifically the value of rugged individualism – but it is Scriptural, it is in accordance with the light of nature, and it is in accordance with the light of conscience and reason. Thus, we properly affirm it.


Romans 5 a ProofText for Universalism?

April 24, 2008

Recently a poster over Steve Gregg’s forum, using the handle “Homer,” suggested (it seems, he was a bit oblique) that if Romans 5 demonstrates Original Sin, that it also is a “prooftext for Universalism.”

I had written: “Calvinists affirm what Paul taught in Romans 5, that Adam’s guilt was imputed to his family, just as Christ’s righteousness is imputed to his family.”

Homer responded that perhaps my statement seemed right when Romans 5 was “read through [a] Calvinist lens,” but then went on to claim that if Romans 5:12-15 and 18-19 are talking about spiritual death, then we have a “proof-text” for Universalism.

Before my answer, here is a reproduction of the passage (Romans 5:8-21):

Romans 5:8-21
8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. 12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

I answer:

a) Both do refer to spiritual death.

b) They are only a “prooftext” for universalism to the extent that the “many” to whom the grace of Christ has abounded (in verse 15), the “all men unto justification” in verse 18, and the “many” that shall be made righteous (in verse 19) are co-extensive with the “all men” in verse 12, “all men to condemnation” in verse 18, and the “many were made sinners” in verse 19. If, however, (as we would suggest) the latter group is all in Adam (i.e. Adam’s family) and the former group is all in Christ (i.e. Christ’s family), then there is no reason to reach a universalist view from the text.

c) But let’s go a step beyond. Could they refer to physical death alone? How could God permit an innocent man to die (even purely physically) without imputing sin to that person? For whose sins do infants die?


Innocent from Man’s Perspective or God’s?

April 21, 2008

A poster at Steve Gregg’s forum, using the handle “Suzana” made an interesting argument in favor of the supposed innocence of young children. I’ve presented here basic argument below, followed by my response.

Suzana’s basic argument is based on Psalm 106:37-38

Psalm 106:37-38
37Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, 38And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.

Then, her implicit argument was that because it says “innocent blood” it means that the children had no guilt of sin.

My response to is as follows:

With respect, I think you’re overreaching to view “innocent” there to refer to absolute innocence. It seems easier to understand that passage as referring to innocence in the eyes of man’s law. Compare, for example, Deuteronomy 19:10, in which the person who kills his neighbor without malice is considered “innocent,” even though surely you would agree that a person who is old enough to be out chopping wood has committed at least one sin in his life in view of “all have sinned ….”

If then it is simply a statement that the children did not commit any capital crimes, then there is no reason to infer absolute sinlessness to such people.

It’s actually a frequent idiom in Hebrew to say “shed innocent blood” as a way of saying “murder.” (see, for example, 2 Kings 21:16, Proverbs 6:17, Isaiah 59:7, Jeremiah 22:3 & 17, and Joel 3:19).

Let us not hesitate to stand up against the shedding of innocent blood at the hands of women and their doctors, who sacrifice their children not on the altar of Molech but to the altar of convenience.


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