Ephesians 2:3c and “Peccatum Originale” -- By: David L. Turner

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 01:2 (Fall 1980)
Article: Ephesians 2:3c and “Peccatum Originale”
Author: David L. Turner


Ephesians 2:3c and “Peccatum Originale”

David L. Turner

I. Introduction

The student of hamartiology soon discovers that Eph 2:3c is a standard proof text for and often occurs in the various presentations of original sin (peccatum original or habituale). It may well be that after Rom 5:12–21 this passage is the most important in the NT on this doctrine. All branches of Christendom, including Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, Arminian, and Roman Catholic1 have depended

upon this passage in formulating their hamartiological positions. There are those, however, who deny that this passage has any relevance to original sin.2 Their arguments are not to be taken lightly. The purpose of this paper is to determine whether Eph 2:3c actually supports the concept of original sin, and if so, what that contribution is.

One point of definition must be clarified first: this paper deals with original sin proper rather than the broader area of man’s depravity. Kuehner thus explains this term:

It is so named because (1) it is derived from the original root of mankind; (2) it is present in each individual from the time of his birth; (3) it is the inward root of all actual sins that defile the life of man.3

It is true that “original sin” is often used with all three of these concepts in mind. As “original sin” is used in this paper, however, a narrower concept is implied: “the phrase original sin designates only the hereditary moral corruption common to all men from birth.”4

The investigation. then, relates to the legitimacy of using Eph 2:3c as a proof text for the hereditary moral corruption of man’s nature.

The term “nature” is used incessantly in articulating the doctrines of theology proper (specifically relating to the trinity), Christology (one person with two “natures”), anthropology (human “nature”), and hamartiology (sin “nature,” old “nature”). However, there is often confusion in the way this term is used. In this writer’s view, it is imperative to distinguish between a “person” as a substantive entity and a “nature” as a complex of attributes in any of these branches of theology.5...

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