The term 'original sin' does not appear anywhere in the Bible. It is a doctrine conceived by theologians long after the deaths of Jesus, the Apostles and all New Testament writers.
The doctrine had its origin in the writings of Tertullian (160-220) and Cyprian (200-258). It was popularized by Augustine (354-430), Luther (1483-1546) and Calvin (1509-1564).
The people who first taught the doctrine of original sin did not have any personal interaction with Jesus or his disciples. Hundreds of years had passed, and oral transmission was no longer consistent and trustworthy, so for truth they studied the manuscripts we now call the New Testament – the exact same manuscripts we can study today.
Those theologians didn't have any advantage over us. In fact, we now have advantages over them for interpreting scripture.
Consider Staint Augustine, for example, the person most responsible for giving impetus to the doctrine of original sin (see 1.1.1). He lived 1,500 years ago in Africa. He did not have a printed Bible or study books; he lived a thousand years before the printing press. His language was Latin, and he could read only a smattering of Greek, so he read scriptures from hand-written fragments of a Latin translation of the original Greek called the Vulgate, translated by Saint Jerome in the late fourth century.
Now compare Augustine's situation to our situation today. We have the benefit of 1,500 years of collection and study of thousands of actual Greek manuscripts preceding the Vulgate ... Greek-to-English interlinear versions from the world's best linguists who have thoroughly researched word usage and meanings in Palestine at the time of Jesus ... scholarly translations into dozens of English versions (plus hundreds of other languages) which can be compared side-by-side ... and tens of thousands of research projects, books and commentaries.
Virtually all scholars agree on the exact content of the original Greek manuscripts for the book of Romans. Interpretation is the issue, not the source documents.
Today anyone can be better equipped to study scripture than Saint Augustine, who did the best he could with what he had, but he had only parts of the Latin Vulgate. Now all the documentation we need is instantly available to anyone without charge via the Internet!
For nearly eighteen hundred years there have been theological arguments over the doctrine of original sin.
Generally speaking, what people believe about it – if they even think about it at all – is determined by what they have been taught through centuries of church tradition. There is enormous pressure on church leaders to conform to tradition and, until now, little or no reason for deviation.
Now, however, churches in the West are declining and some old traditions are falling under scrutiny of common sense and renewed investigation. People today are smarter and asking penetrating questions.
It is time to restudy and rethink some questionable doctrines to see what the Bible actually says and to have the courage to challenge traditions not objectively grounded in scripture.
The purpose of this study is to go all the way back to the original New Testament manuscripts – the same thing that theologians do – and see for ourselves what the Bible teaches (or doesn't teach) about original sin.
As usually understood, there are three points to the doctrine of original sin; i.e., three concepts consolidated into one doctrine:
Some Christians believe only one or two of the three points.
Most Christians have become inoculated to the horror of this doctrine, which is repelling people from the love and justice of God rather than to the love and justice of God.
The Bible study in Part C, summarized here, shows that NONE of the three points in the doctrine of original sin is objectively grounded in scripture: