Orthodox Archbishop: We Are Not Guilty of Adam's Sin

"Do all men inherit Adam's guilt? The consensus of the holy Fathers is, no, they do not..."

Considered by many to be a modern-day Orthodox Saint, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas was disinterred after nearly five years in the grave, and his relics were found to be incorrupt. A number of Orthodox Christians are now painting icons of him and venerating him as a Saint.

Archbishop Dmitri is the author of multiple books, including his Commentary on the Book of Romans. The following article is an excerpt from this commentary.

Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas

"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" (Romans 5:12)

Having dealt with man's state of sinfulness and unrighteousness, and the consequences of such, and the means whereby God redeemed men and made salvation from death possible, the Apostle reminds us of the origin of the state from which man had to be rescued. He answers the question, according to St. John Chrysostom (op. cit. Homily X), "How did death come in and prevail? Through the sin of one man. By what means, 'for that all have sinned.'"

The whole story is summarized in the Genesis account: in 2:17, the Creator warns man whom He had created in His image, that in the day that he should eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would surely die; in 3:17-19, after having committed the transgression of God's specific commandment, man is told that he would, after a life of toil and adversity, return to the dust of the earth from which he was taken.

Death, then, is what all men have inherited from their forefather Adam; because of sin's being unleashed in the world, all men were in a sinful state: all have sinned and all die. Do all men inherit Adam's guilt? The consensus of the holy Fathers is, no, they do not. St. Symeon the New Theologian (Discourse V, no. 11) admonishes us: "Whenever, then, we fall into any kind of sin, let no one of us accuse and blame Adam, but rather himself." In other words, all men sin, and being responsible for their own works and deeds, they all die. As the Apostle will tell us later (6:23), "The wages of sin is death."

If we should inquire as to how Adam's loss of immortality as the consequence of his transgression, should be the inheritance of all even though they have not transgressed God's specific commandment, and how all became sinners, let us consider what St. Athanasius says concerning the race of man: "For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all" (On the Incarnation of the Word of God, 9; see also his Discourse I, Against the Arians, chap. xii, no. 51). In other words, if this is said of the positive effect of Christ's work of redemption, the same could obviously be said of the negative effect of the sin of the progenitor of the human race, Adam. In subsequent verses, we shall see how Adam in this sense is a type of "the One to come," our Lord Jesus Christ, and how He, the God-Man, is the Progenitor of the new man (see v. 14 below and also 1 Corinthians 15:22). . . .

Most Orthodox theologians, among them Fr. Michael Pomazansky (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, chap. 5), think that the basis for the Western, Roman Catholic doctrine of original sin — that is, that all men share Adam's guilt — is the mistranslation in Latin of in quo as "in whom" . . . . 

Sin and death, both here and in subsequent verses, are practically personified: to speak of sin's being in the world, and reigning (v. 14); death's passing to all men (v. 12); and sin's reigning unto death (v. 21); and finally, man's yielding himself a servant of sin and death (see 6:16), is to say that a malevolent force, as we have said above, was unleashed in the world. And this force was the instrument of the chief enemy of man because he was first the enemy of God, that is, the Devil. "Through the Devil's envy death entered the world, and they that are of his side [meris, "faction" or "party"] do find it" (Wisdom of Solomon 2:24 and 1:16; 1 John 3:8). And that serpent who tempted Eve and Adam was the devil himself, "that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan" (Revelation 12:9).

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