The first claim usually is that original sin was invented by Augustine. I think those claims are false, but that isn’t what I wish to get into here. I’ll reference these two videos for that objection:
My goal is to survey the biblical evidence for the view from both testaments. I wish to look at OT evidence for the concept of Original Sin. Some say that God only punishes us for our own sins that are done in our own lives. I wish to show that is a false assumption. It is true that we are punished for our sins, but we are also punished because of our federal heads.
In Genesis 9:22-25, Noah is angry at his son for doing an action that none of us are sure what that action is. It could’ve been seeing his father nude or an act of homosexual rape. It reads as such “22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
The point of all this is that instead, Noah curses all of Ham’s descendants. Why? It seems this line of thinking fits with a Federal Headship view. It seems he operates with the idea that forebears personify descendants and that seems to fit perfectly with federal headship.
In Exodus 7-11, in these chapters, God punishes the entire nation of Egypt, because of the Pharaoh’s stubbornness. They receive the plagues of God. The death of the firstborn being the final punishment. Even Pharaohs own son was punished because of his father’s sin.
In Leviticus 16, the Aaronic Priest would make atonement for all of Israel. He makes the atonement, but it still counts for Israel because he can make atonement on their behalf. To those who stress the individual’s role would have problems incorporating that into their theology.
In Deuteronomy 23, it lists out that many are not allowed into the assembly of the LORD, which the “assembly of the LORD” could be either public worship in the presence of God (Deuteronomy 10:4, 18:16) or possibly refers to leadership roles (Deuteronomy 31:28-30). It reads ““No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord. 2 No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord. 3 No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord, 4 because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.”
It is simple that you don’t choose to be born with a birth defect would be not allowed in this assembly, nor anyone that is of “illegitimate birth”. Did they choose their parents? I doubt it, yet they have kept out the assembly because they are descended from a group that has done wrong in the past. Which none of these things are from these individual’s actual doings, but that of whom they descend from.
This idea of federal headship is found in the Law itself. For the blessings and curses fell upon later generations:
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;”
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.”
Numbers 14:18 “The LORD is long-suffering, 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.”
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,”
In Numbers 16, is the story of Korah’s rebellion. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rose against Moses. In verse 27 we have not only the rebellious ones swallowed up, but their families. It reads “So they got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the doorway of their tents, along with their wives and their sons and their little ones.” and in verse 32 “and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions.”
In Joshua 6-7, we have the sin of Achan. He was not the only one punished. It says “24 Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. 25 Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones, and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. 26 They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day.”
In 1 Samuel 15, Saul is told by the prophet Samuel to attack the Amalekites for when Israel was weak and passing through on the way to the promise land. The Amalekites attacked the Hebrews.
Deuteronomy 25:17-19 (Also said in Exodus 17)
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore, it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.”
Which they were attacked because they attacked the Israelites many years ago. Which God held them guilty, because of when their federal head attacked the Hebrews.
In 2 Samuel 12, David is confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sin. He has slept with his wife and has impregnated her. He has killed Uriah and taken his wife. God forgives King David his sins. But David’s family is punished “11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’” 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.”. It seems like David’s family is punished for David’s crimes.
In 2 Samuel 22, King David felt obligated to keep the treaty between Israel and the Gibeonites that was made in Joshua 9. This is after Saul tried to exterminate them. King David wanted to atone for the actions of Saul. So, he handed over some of Saul’s children and the Gibeonites “hang them before the Lord in Gibeah”
In 1 Kings 17, because of King Ahab’s sins, all of Israel receives a drought. In 2 Chronicles 28:19, Judah was punished because of King Ahaz. “For the LORD humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the LORD.”. It seems Israel was punished for when they had a wicked king.
I saved this theoretical argument from the OT last. In Genesis 7-8, a flood kills all of mankind and is an example used by Peter of God displaying his wrath upon the world ( 1 Peter 3:17-22, 2 Peter 3:3-7). These people during the flood probably had an entire civilization. Which most likely seems they had children. Which implies also infants. If infants can receive God’s temporal wrath, then how could God punish the legally innocent(Exodus 23:7)? The problem is God would’ve have destroyed the innocent. Which is incompatible with the nature of God. But if the doctrine of inherited guilt is true, then nobody is legally innocent before God.
We shall now observe the New Testament evidence for vicarious guilt.
In Romans 5:12-19, we have the clearest statement on original sin.
“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— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. 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. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand, the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted in condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted in justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”
I think this text purpose is to convey the point of death in Adam and life in Christ. I think the other view of original sin while being correct that we are passed a sinful nature, but it isn’t the only thing true about our relationship to Adam. We also receive the forensic guilt of our federal head. I don’t understand how it really makes itself even distinct. It maintains that we are not corporately culpable for Adam’s sin, but that we are corporately punished for Adam’s sin (via receiving death and a sinful nature). How can we be punished for something we are not guilty of? It seems guilt presupposes sin. If that is right, then it seems impossible that we are not culpable for Adam’s transgression. That’s even if the Cranfield interpretation is correct.
We have in verse 12b is connected to 18a. That’s where Paul is finishing his thought. Which the parallelism of these verses seems to imply that by the one act of disobedient and the one transgression resulted with the progeny becoming sinful and condemned. Which is that Adam was the sole agent who brought all of mankind into condemnation. Which is apart from their agency. Just like Christ brings justification and life to all men apart from their agency. The antithetical parallelism of the verses implies that. Which is Paul’s own commentary on verse 12. Since Adam sinned, we all sinned. Furthermore, I take death to be both physical and spiritual. This would entail that the other reading of the passage requires transgression in order for us to die. This would entail that infants are not able to die. The truth of the matter is that they do die. The natural law, law of conscience, nor the Law of Moses can account sufficiently for the universality of sin.
It seems as Calvinist that we hold to total depravity. Which maintains that men have been completely and utterly touched by sin. This has corrupted man thoroughly and completely. The inherited guilt position can affirm this. Contrary positions have to maintain that men become depraved.
The parallel to Romans 5:12-19 is found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-21
“20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
As Christ was both raised physically and spiritually is the issue of the chapter as some at Corinth was doubting the resurrection. For the chapter stresses the bodily resurrection. Which fits with our knowledge that sin is a necessary prerequisite for death in both senses. So, if any person dies it implies that they are guilty of sin.
In Ephesians 2:3, we have clear proof that a man from birth is in Sin.
“Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
The “by nature” in BDAG means this “Condition or circumstances as determined by birth, natural endowment/ condition, nature, especially as inherited from one’s ancestor, in contrast to status or characteristics that are acquired after birth.” This fits better with the idea that men are sinful and legally are guilty of Adam’s sin.
In Hebrews 7:8-10, we notice a peculiar relationship between Abraham and Levi. It says “Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.” This is rather strange for those who don’t believe in Federal Headship. The reason it is strange is that Levi wasn’t born yet.
Suggested Reading and Listening:
Dr. Douglas Moo:
Dr. Robert Cara:
Reformed Apologetics Ministries:
Council of G+:
For more on Romans 5
Dr. Robert A. Morey: