Part One

Humanity and Sin
(Anthropology and Hamartiology)

Chapter One

The Origin of Human Beings

15 16 17

As discussed in Volume 2, all evangelical theologians believe in the creation of the first human beings by God. With this in view, the focus here is on the original created conditions of Adam and Eve in which temptation and the Fall occurred. All of this will set the stage for a treatment of the origin of the soul in each human being after Adam, and it will serve as background for understanding the inherent and inherited depravity of each person born since Creation.

The Original Created Conditions

God is absolutely perfect,[1] See Volume 2, chapter 14. and it follows, therefore, that His creation was also perfect. Moses declared, "He is the Rock, his works are perfect" (Deut. 32:4). David added, "As for God, his way is perfect" (2 Sam. 22:31). Jesus said, "Your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Nothing less than the perfect can come from an absolutely perfect Being, and it befits the perfect Being to make only perfect beings, for the effects bear the image of their Cause.[2] Cf. James 1:17; see also Volume 2, chapter 18, under "The Nature of Humankind."

The Biblical Basis for the Original State of Innocence and Perfection

According to Genesis 1-2, Adam and Eve were created with complete innocence. They had no evil in their natures or their environment. They18 "were not ashamed" (Gen. 2:25 NASB), and they did not yet know "good and evil" (3:5). In short, they were not only guiltless of any sin but also innocent of sin.

Further, the very temptation to "be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5) implies they did not know evil before they fell. Indeed, when they ate the forbidden fruit, "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves" (3:7). According to the New Testament, by disobedience Adam and Eve became sinful (Rom. 5:12; 1 Tim. 2:14) and brought condemnation on themselves and their posterity: "The result of one trespass was condemnation for all men" (Rom. 5:18).[3] Again, the word anthropology, meaning "the study of human beings," comes in part from the Greek word anthropos, which frequently occurs (biblically) in either original or derivative form. While some translations unilaterally render variations of anthropos as "man" or "men" (e.g., Rom. 5:18, above), there are scriptural instances where anthropos refers to "a human person" (of either gender) or "people" (of both genders). Lexigraphically, this is widely confirmed; for instance, Harold K. Moulton defines anthropos as "a human being," "an individual" [metaphorically], "the inner man" (Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978], 30). When plural, then, the derivatives of anthropos can also mean "human beings" or "individuals." Cf. William D. Mounce, The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 77-78. In regard to the soteriological (salvific) usages of anthropos, those who argue that this word, in all its forms, only and always refers to "men" are thus compelled to maintain that God desires to save only males. Before this, they were flawless.

A State of Virtue and Uprightness

Not only were Adam and Eve innocent (without evil), they were morally virtuous by virtue of their created state, for God endowed them with moral perfection. Solomon wrote, "This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes" (Eccl. 7:29).[4] All scriptural emphasis added. The Hebrew word for "upright" is yashar, meaning "straightness," "uprightness," "honesty," or "integrity"; it is the same word used in connection with "righteous" (Deut. 32:4 NASB), "blameless" (Job 1:1), and "pure" (Job 8:6). Consequently, yashar does not merely denote the absence of evil but also the presence of good—it is not simply the lack of vice but the presence of virtue. There are two basic views as to the origin of this created state of purity.

The Supernatural View

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) held that this original status was a supernaturally created state of grace that Adam had before the Fall and then lost by his sin:

The history [of Genesis 1-3] leads us to suppose that Adam's sin, with relation to the forbidden fruit, was the first sin he committed.


Which could not have been had he not always, till then, been perfectly righteous, righteous from the first moment of his existence; and consequently, created or brought into existence righteous. [Further], in a moral agent, subject to moral obligations, it is the same thing, to be perfectly innocent as to be perfectly righteous. It must be the same, because there can no more be a medium between sin and righteousness, or between being right and being wrong, in a moral sense, than there can be a medium between being straight and being crooked, in a natural sense. (WJE, 1.178)

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Catholics following him have held the same view, viz., that original righteousness was not natural but supernatural. One Catholic scholar affirmed that it was necessary for God to give Adam this supernatural righteousness at creation "in order to provide a remedy for this disease or languor of human nature, which arises from the nature of material organization" (cited by Shedd, HCC, 1.143).

Noted Reformed theologian William G. T. Shedd (1820-1894) criticized this view as "a relic of the Gnostic idea of matter" (ibid., 1.147) and rejected it because: "If so, then God creates man in a sinful state" (ibid., 1.148).[5] It is contradictory to propose that God gave Adam supernatural righteousness at Creation while also suggesting that there was a "disease or languor of human nature."

The Natural View

Shedd argued that this created state of perfection was natural, viz., the very created nature God gave Adam was a morally upright and perfect one. He noted that the same word (Heb: yashar) is used by God of Job: "This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1).[6] However, Adam's righteousness was original; Job, though upright and pure, lived after the Fall. The fact that Job "shunned evil" demonstrates his awareness of evil, which Adam, according to Genesis, did not initially have.

Original righteousness enters into the very idea of man as coming from the hands of the Creator. It is part of his created endowment, and does not require to be superadded. The work of the Creator is perfect, and needs no improvement. (op. cit, 1.145)

In short, according to the natural view, since God is perfect, He cannot make an imperfect creature. Hence, the natural state of Adam and Eve, from the moment of Creation, must have been perfect.

A Perfect Environment

Not only was Adam given a perfect nature, but he also had a perfect environment. There was no sin in Eden, a paradise of goodness. God had20 made it (Gen. 2:8ff.), and everything God made was "very good" (Gen. 1:31).

There was no moral (or metaphysical) imperfection in Eden; it was flawless in every way. There was no tendency toward evil from within Adam, and there was nothing evil about his created environment around him. Creation was not subject to corruption, as it was after the Fall (Rom. 8:22). There was no human death (Rom. 5:12), and both internal and external natures were absolutely perfect.

A State of Dominion

In the original created state, humankind was not a servant of nature but master over it. Man did not serve under its strong hand; rather, it served his, for nature was subject to humanity. God said to them, "Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Gen. 1:28; cf. Psa. 8).

A State of Moral Responsibility

All of this is not to say that Adam had no moral accountability to anyone over him. He did, for "the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die'" (Gen. 2:16-17). God had given an order, and Adam had a responsibility to obey His Creator. As we know, at this Adam failed miserably (Gen. 3:1ff.; cf. Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Tim. 2:14).

Adam was free in that his actions were self-determined;[7] See chapter 3, below. God specifically said, "You are free" (Gen. 2:16). When Adam chose to disobey, God blamed him, asking, "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" (3:11 amp). The emphasized words clearly point to a self-determined act (cf. v. 13). You did it, God said. Your "self is responsible, He maintained. No one else made Adam and Eve commit sin, including the devil, who tempted them. Such is the self-determining nature of freedom.[8] See chapter 3, below.

The Presence of the Tempter

Of course, these perfect persons in a perfect paradise were not without an imperfect intruder. Satan, a fallen archangel of God, had rebelled against his Creator, sweeping with him a third of all the angels (Rev. 12:4, 9). By clever deception, the great deceiver led Eve and then, through her,21 Adam into disobedience against God (Rom. 5:19; 1 Tim. 2:14). By a free and uncoerced choice of their wills, the perfect pair in the perfect paradise fell into imperfection—and their world with them. Their disobedience led to death and destruction (Rom. 5:12-21; 8:20-23).

It is noteworthy that Adam and Eve were not enticed to lie, cheat, steal, or curse. Indeed, their moral nature was perfect; thus, they were not vulnerable to these kinds of temptations. The command of God for them not to eat the forbidden fruit was not a command to stay away from what was intrinsically evil. With this, they had no problem, for their upright and virtuous state protected them from it. What they were vulnerable to was a test as to whether they would obey God simply because He said it

"Hath God said?" was the snare they faced from the devil (Gen. 3:1 KJV). Their moral responsibility to God was with regard to an object that was morally neutral. God could have said, for instance, "Don't pick the daisies." Again, the issue was not that the sin was inherent in the substance in which they partook; the temptation to sin was in the enticement to defy God, and subsequently to be conscious of the evil of choosing against Him. No evil from within or from without drew them to their transgression. Only a raw act of freedom, wrongly exercised, carried out their disobedience and sealed their doom.

Herein, perhaps, lies the solution to a thorny problem: If Adam and Eve had committed some other sin before eating the forbidden fruit, would it have precipitated the Fall? The answer may very well be that it was impossible for them to sin on another issue, since they were created morally perfect. Surely Satan would have so tempted them if he could have, but there is no indication that he did. Most likely, only disobedience to God's specific command would precipitate the Fall and plunge the whole creation into death and disaster.

The Theological Basis for the Original State of Innocence and Perfection

The perfect condition of the original state of creation is derived from the nature of God as an absolutely perfect Being. The argument goes as follows:

  1. God is an absolutely perfect Being.
  2. An absolutely perfect Being cannot produce an imperfect creation.
  3. Therefore, the original creation God made was perfect.
God Is an Absolutely Perfect Being

Since this point has been established elsewhere,[9] See Volume 2, chapter 14. only the outline will be restated here. The biblical basis for God's moral perfection is found in numerous passages.


"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he" (Deut. 32:4). "As for God, his way is perfect.... It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect" (2 Sam. 22:31, 33). "Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?" (Job 37:16). "His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless" (Ps. 18:30). "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul" (Ps. 19:7). "O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago" (Isa. 25:1).

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). "When perfection comes, the imperfect disappears" (1 Cor. 13:10). "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ" (Col. 1:28). "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18).

The theological basis for God's perfection can be supported by other reasoning as well. For one thing, our knowledge of the imperfect implies a Perfect; because we cannot know what is not perfect unless we know what is Perfect, there must be a Perfect (God). Just as we cannot know a circle is flawed unless we have an idea of a flawless one, moral imperfections cannot be detected unless we possess some concept of moral perfection.

Furthermore, granted that God is a moral Being, it follows from three of His metaphysical attributes that He must be morally perfect. The reasoning goes like this:

  1. God's nature is morally perfect.
  2. God is infinite, unchangeable (immutable), and necessary by nature.[10] See Volume 2, chapters 3-5.
  3. Therefore, God is infinitely, unchangeably, and necessarily morally perfect.
An Absolutely Perfect Being Cannot Produce an Imperfect Creation

Again, this premise is based on the principles of analogy and causality, which have been defended earlier.[11] See Volume 1, chapters 7-9 for more detail. Briefly, the effect must resemble the cause in its actuality, but not in its potentiality.[12] See Volume 2, chapter 2. Thus, if the Creator makes something with moral perfection, He too must have the same characteristic, for a cause cannot give a perfection it doesn't possess, and it cannot share with others what it does not have to share.


However, unlike the Cause of all things, the effect must be limited—it must have potentiality to be and/or not to be something other than it is, either accidentally or substantially.[13] A being becoming something other than what it is is an example of substantial change; a being obtaining something other than what it has is an example of accidental change. See also Volume 2, chapter 4, under the arguments of Thomas Aquinas for God's immutability. Thus, while the effect is similar to the Cause in its actuality, it must be dissimilar in its potentiality and limitations, since God is Pure Actuality.[14] See Volume 2, chapter 2. From this it follows that if creatures were given perfection in a limited way, then their Cause (God) must have perfection in an unlimited way; if creatures are relatively perfect, then God must be absolutely perfect, and so on. Whatever perfection creatures have, the Creator must have it absolutely, infinitely, and immutably.

The Historical Basis for the Original State of Innocence and Perfection

Early Church Fathers
Irenaeus (C. 125-C. 202)

Irenaeus contended that God did not bestow absolute perfection upon humanity—only God is absolutely perfect. Adam was finitely perfect, yet he was untested. Hence,

If... anyone says, "What then? Could not God have exhibited man as perfect from the beginning?" let him know that, inasmuch as God is indeed always the same and unbegotten as respects Himself, all things are possible to Him. But created things must be inferior to Him who created them, from the very fact of their later origin; for it was not possible for things recently created to have been uncreated. But inasmuch as they are not uncreated, for this very reason do they come short of the [absolutely] perfect. (AH,

God had power at the beginning to grant [absolute] perfection to man; but as the latter was only recently created, he could not possibly have received it, or even if he had received it, could he have contained it, or containing it, could he have retained it. (ibid.)

Theophilus (C. 130-190)

God having thus completed the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all that are in them, on the sixth day, rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made.... And after the formation of man, God chose out for him a region among the places of the East, excellent for light, brilliant with a very bright atmosphere, [abundant] in the24 finest plants; and in this He placed man. (TA in Roberts and Donaldson, ANF, II.2.19)

Scripture thus relates the words of the sacred history: "And God planted Paradise, eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of Paradise" (TA in ibid., II.2.20).

Medieval Fathers

The great theologians of the Middle Ages concurred on Adam's perfection from the moment of his creation. Augustine is a case in point.

Augustine (354-430)

Man's nature, indeed, was created at first faultless and without any sin; but that nature of man in which every one is born from Adam, now wants the Physician, because it is not sound. (ONG, 3)

Accordingly we say that there is no unchangeable good but the one, true, blessed God; that the things which He made are indeed good because from Him, yet mutable because made not out of Him, but out of nothing. (CG, 12.1)

Anselm (1033-1109)

Man being made holy was placed in paradise... as it were, in the place of God, between God and the devil, to conquer the devil by not yielding to his temptation, and so to vindicate the honor of God and put the devil to shame, because that man, though weaker and dwelling upon earth, should not sin though tempted by the devil. (CDH, I.XXII)

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

This is clear also from the very rectitude of the first state, by virtue of which, while the soul remained subject to God, the lower powers in man were subject to the higher, and were no impediment to their action. And from what has preceded it is clear that as regards its proper object the intellect is always true.... Therefore, it is clear that the rectitude of the first state was incompatible with any deception of the intellect. (ST, 1a.94.4)

Paradise was a fitting abode for man as regards the incorruptibility of the first state. Now this incorruptibility was man's, not by nature, but by a supernatural gift of God. Therefore that this might be attributed to the grace of God, and not to human nature, God made man outside of paradise, and afterwards placed him in paradise to live during the whole25 of his animal life; and, having attained to the spiritual life, to be transferred thence to heaven. (ibid., 1a.102.4)

Reformation Leaders
Martin Luther (1483-1546)

The image of God in which Adam was made was something most beautiful and noble. The leprosy of sin adhered neither to his reason nor to his will, but, within and without, all his senses were pure. His intellect was very clear, his memory very good, and his will very sincere. His conscience was clean and secure, without any fear of death and without care. To these inner perfections came also that beautiful and superb strength of the body and all its members, by which he surpassed all the other animate creatures in nature. For I fully believe that before he sinned, the eyes of Adam were so clear and their vision so acute that he excelled the lynx and the eagle. Stronger than they, Adam handled lions and bears, whose strength is very great, as we handle little dogs. (WLS, 878)

If we want to speak about outstanding philosophers, let us speak about our first parents while they were pure and unstained by sin. For they had the most perfect knowledge of God. And indeed, how could they be ignorant of Him whose image they had and felt in themselves? (ibid., 1046-47)

John Calvin (1509-1564)

Our definition of the image seems not to be complete until it appears more clearly what the faculties are in which man excels, and in which he is to be regarded as a mirror of the divine glory. This, however, cannot be better known than from the remedy provided for the corruption of nature. It cannot be doubted that when Adam lost his first estate he became alienated from God. Wherefore, although we grant that the image of God was not utterly effaced and destroyed in him, it was, however, so corrupted, that anything which remains is fearful deformity; and, therefore, our deliverance begins with that renovation which we obtain from Christ, who is, therefore, called the second Adam, because he restores us to true and substantial integrity. (ICR, I.XV.V)

Post-Reformation Teachers
Jacob Arminius (1560-1609)

Man, having been previously placed in a state of integrity, walked with unstumbling feet in the way of God's commandments; by this foul26 deed he impinged or offended against the law itself, and fell from his state of innocence (Rom. 5:15-18).... Man perpetrated this crime, after he had been placed in a state of innocence and adorned by God with such excellent endowments as those of "the knowledge of God" and "righteousness and true holiness" [Gen. 1:26-27; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24] (WJA, 1.485).

"So many facilities existed for not sinning, especially in the act itself, yet man did not abstain from this sin" [Gen. 2:16-17] (ibid.).

Charles Hodge (1797-1878)

In the moral image of God, or original righteousness, are included (1) the perfect harmony and due subordination of all that constitutes his reason; his affections and appetites to his will; the body was the obedient organ of the soul. There was neither rebellion of the sensuous part of his nature against the rational, nor was there any disproportion between them needing to be controlled or balanced by extra gifts or influence. (2) But besides this equilibrium and harmony in the original constitution of man, his moral perfection in which he resembled God, included knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. (ST, 11.99)

Schubert Ogden (B. 1928)

To some extent, of course, Protestant theology has always been critical of this distinction as understood and employed by Catholic theologians. Lutheran and Reformed orthodoxy alike rejected the doctrine that "original righteousness" is a donum superadditum, on the ground that its implication that our natural state was imperfect clearly conflicts with Gen. 1:31 (Schmid: 158; Heppe: 190-191). And yet [Catholic theologians'] own understanding that God's original gifts to human beings were natural did not preclude speaking of God's revelation in Jesus Christ as supernatural. For even these natural gifts themselves must be called supernatural, insofar as they are "above the nature corrupted by sin and are not restored except by supernatural grace" [Heppe: 191] (OT, 33).

Three Views On the Origin of the Human Soul

Three primary views on the origin of the soul have been held by Christians. One, the preexistence view, has subsequently been declared heretical, since it contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture about the creation of human beings.[15] The others are the creation view and the traducian view, explained below. The preexistence view has two forms: platonic (uncreated) and Christian (created). The former serves as a backdrop for understanding the latter.

Two Forms of the Preexistence View
The Uncreated-Preexistence View

According to Plato (c. 427-347 b.c.), human souls are not only intrinsically immortal but they are also eternal (see P); they were never created but are part of the eternal world that exists outside of God (the Demiurgos). Just like Plato's proposed world of eternal Forms (Ideas), there are also eternal souls that exist by virtue of the World Soul, which animates all things. Before birth, allegedly, these souls enter a body (in a woman's womb) and become incarnate in human flesh. Thus, human beings essentially are eternal souls in temporal bodies.

So goes the uncreated-preexistence view, and the problems with it fall into three categories: (1) It isn't biblical, (2) it isn't scientific, and (3) it isn't philosophically sound.

First, the Bible clearly declares that human beings were created, body and soul.[16] See Volume 2, chapters 18-19. If they were brought into being at a point in time, then they have not existed from eternity.

Second, the scientific evidence points to individual human life beginning at conception.[17] See appendix 1.

Third, an infinite number of moments is impossible, since the present moment is the end of all moments before it, and there cannot be an end of an infinite series of moments (see Craig, KCA). Thus, no human (temporal) being can be eternal.

The Created-Preexistence View

The created-preexistence view, maintained by some early Christians, borrowed heavily from Plato. Origen (c. 185-c. 254) and even Augustine (earlier in his life) believed that the soul existed before birth, but that rather than having existed without creation from eternity, it was created by God from eternity. By insisting on creation, adherents to the created-preexistence view hoped to preserve the Christian dimension of the platonic view, but it was condemned as heresy nonetheless. Augustine rightly reversed this erroneous allegiance with preincarnationism in his Retractions; the Bible declares that human beings had a beginning (cf. Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4).

The Creation View: The Soul Is Created Directly by God

Having addressed the two untenable forms of the preexistence view, there are still two other basic perspectives, embraced by orthodox theologians, on the origin of the human soul after the original creation. The first28 is creationism, examined here, and the second is traducianism, which we will address next.

The essence of creationism, in regard to the human soul, is that God directly creates a new individual soul for everyone born into this world. While the body of each new human being is generated by his or her parents through a natural process, the soul is supernaturally created by God.

Various Christian writers have placed the moment of this direct creation of the soul at different points in the development of the human body. There are several main subviews.

Creation of the Soul at Conception

Most evangelical Christians who hold the creationist view maintain that the creation of the soul by God occurs at the moment of conception. There is both biblical and scientific evidence in favor.[18] See appendix 1.

The Biblical Evidence

David wrote, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5). Jesus was the God-man from the moment of conception, for the angel said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:20).

The Scientific Evidence

Modern science has provided a window to the womb. As a result, the evidence is now clearer than ever that an individual human life (soul) begins at the very moment of conception (fertilization).

First, it is a genetic fact that a fertilized human ovum is 100 percent human. From that very moment, all genetic information is present, and no more is added from the point of conception until death.

Second, all physical characteristics for life are contained in the genetic code present at conception.

Third, the sex of the individual child is determined at the moment of conception.

Fourth, a female ovum has twenty-three chromosomes; a male sperm has twenty-three chromosomes; a regular human being has forty-six chromosomes. At the very moment of conception, when male sperm and female ovum unite, a new tiny forty-six-chromosome human being emerges.

Fifth, from conception until death, nothing is added except food, air, and water.


Sixth, and finally, world-famous geneticist Jerome LeJeune (b. 1925) declares:

To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence. (As cited in Geisler and Beckwith, MID, 16)

Creation of the Soul at Implantation

Other Christian writers maintain that the soul is created at implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. The basis for this is alleged to be in the fact that identical twinning can occur up to the embryo stage (two weeks, or fourteen days, after conception); thus, it seems implausible to speak of an individual human being where there is still the possibility of two. In such a case we would have to assume, for example, that the original individual (zygote) dies when it becomes the two twins. Further, it is argued that experiments on sheep and mice, which, like humans, have intrauterine pregnancies, show that there is not one individual being before the completion of implantation into the uterus.[19] Again, fourteen days after conception in humans.

However, there are good reasons to reject this conclusion.[20] See appendix 2 for further explanation.

For one thing, at best, this argument shows only that individual human life begins two weeks after conception, not that actual human life begins then. Indeed, it is acknowledged that there is a living human nature from the very moment of conception.

In addition, if human life begins from conception, it is moot to debate when a continuous individual (person) begins. Human life has sanctity whether or not it is yet individuated (cf. Gen. 1:27; 9:6).

Further, as even proponents of this position agree, this argument is ultimately philosophical, not factual, and, therefore, it should not be used as a basis for treating a conceptus[21] A product of conception, at any point between fertilization and birth. with anything but full rights as a human being.

Finally, the later zygotic split (into twins) could be a nonsexual form of "parenting" akin to cloning.[22] That is, where a new individual life begins without any sexual act by parents. Consequently, it does not logically follow that a zygote prior to twinning is not fully human simply because identical twins result from a zygotic split.

Creation of the Soul After Implantation

Thomas Aquinas, following the lead of Aristotle (384-322 b.c.), placed the creation of the human soul well after conception. He argued that while30 the animal soul was generated by the parents, nonetheless, the rational soul,[23] We reject this differentiation. in which is found one's humanness, was not created until forty days after conception for boys and ninety days for girls (CSPL, Dist. Ill, Art. II). This view was based on an outdated aristotelian model of biology that has no basis in either science or Scripture. It is an embarrassment both to Roman Catholics and to the pro-life movement in general, since if it were true, a fertilized ovum, initially, would not be truly human, and hence subject to abortion for the first few weeks after conception. Most Catholic theologians are convinced that Aquinas would have repudiated the after-implantation view if he would have been made aware of the scientific facts available today (see Heaney, "AHC" in HLR, 63-74).

Creation of the Soul at Animation

Some theologians have speculated that God does not create a human soul until just before the baby starts moving in the mother's womb. This, however, is based on outdated scientific theory as well as an inadequate understanding of soul. (Soul was thought to be "the principle of self-motion"; thus, when life began to move in the womb, the mother assumed that God had given a life [soul] to it.)

Creation of the Soul at Birth

Finally, some Christians have argued for the view that individual human souls are created at birth. For this they offer two main arguments.

First, human life is biblically designated from the point of birth (cf. Gen. 5:1ff.).

Second, Adam was not human until he began to breathe, as Genesis 2:7 declares: "The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and [then] man became a living soul" (KJV).

Responding in reverse order, Adam was a unique case, since he was directly created by God. Therefore, the fact that he did not become human until he breathed is not decisive for determining when individual human life begins, for several reasons.

First, Adam wasn't conceived and born like other humans; again, he was directly created.

Second, the fact that Adam was not human until he began to breathe no more proves when individual human life begins today than does the fact that he was created as an adult prove that individual human life does not begin until we are adults.

Third, breath in Genesis 2:7 (Heb: ruach) denotes the origin of "life" (cf. Job 33:4). This indicates, then, that life began when God gave human life to Adam, not simply because Adam began breathing. Human life was31 later given to his posterity at fertilization or conception (Gen. 4:1).

Fourth, other animals breathe but are not people (Gen. 7:21-22). Obviously, breath, in and of itself, did not make Adam human.

Fifth, medically, many who at some point in life stop breathing later revive (or, they live by the aid of a machine). The unborn human cannot be seen (without instruments) in the womb, and hence is not a part of the social scene until birth.

Sixth, if "breath" is equated with "the presence of human life," then the loss of breath would mean the loss of humanness. However, God's Word teaches that human beings continue to exist after they stop breathing (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Rev. 6:9).

Seventh, and finally, the Scriptures speak of human life in the womb long before breathing begins, namely, from the point of conception (Ps. 51:5; Matt. 1:20).

As to the other argument (that human life is designated from birth in the Bible [Gen. 5:1ff.]), it should be noted that the verses on breath do not speak of the beginning of human life but simply of the initial "coming out" event (when the human being begins to breathe). These passages speak about the beginning of observable life, not the beginning of life itself. Even in biblical times, people knew the baby was alive in the womb (cf. Luke 1:44). Birth was not seen as the beginning of human life but simply as the beginning or emergence—the human debut—of life into the naturally visible world.

The Traducian View: The Soul Is Created Indirectly Through Parents

The word traducian comes from the Latin tradux, meaning "branch of a vine." As applied to the origin of the soul, it means that each new human being is a branch off of his or her parents; that is to say, in the traducian model both soul and body are generated by father and mother.

In response to the creation view (which says that God creates each new life directly in the womb), traducianists observe, first of all, that creation was completed on the sixth day (Gen. 2:2; Deut. 4:32; Matt. 13:35) and that God is resting and has not created since (Heb. 4:4).

Further, traducianists note that the scientific evidence for how an individual human life (soul) begins is clear: It comes from the sperm and ovum of its parents and is first conceived in the womb as a fully individual person.

Finally, traducianists point out that the creationist view does not explain the inheritance of original sin.[24] For more on the inheritance of original sin, see chapters 3 and 5. Certainly a perfect God would not create a fallen soul, nor can we accept the gnostic[25] Gnosticism held the erroneous belief that all matter is inherently evil. idea that the contact of a pure soul with the material body (in the womb) precipitates its fall. The most reasonable explanation is that both fallen soul and body are naturally generated from one's parents.

Summary and Contrast of the Three Basic Views


While both creationists and traducianists believe that God creates all souls, creationists claim He does it directly in the womb, and traducianists insist He does it indirectly through parents. Specifically, creationism holds that while each new human body is generated by parents, each new human soul is directly created by God.

The preexistence view, stemming from Plato, asserts that all souls existed before the world began—they are eternal and uncreated. In a variant of this ideological model, some early Christian thinkers believed each soul was created by God before the world began and then later, before birth, came into a body. However, unlike the platonic and other non-Christian views, Origen and the early Augustine,[26] Some of Augustine's later views contradicted his earlier ones. This is further explained in subsequent chapters. for example, did not believe there was a reincarnation of the soul after death (see Geisler and Amano, RS). The three main views can be summarized as follows:

  Preexistence Creationism Traducianism
Time of Creation

From eternity (Plato)

Before the world (Origen)

(1) At conception (2) At implantation (3) After implantation[27] When the rational soul is created.(4) At animation (5) At birth Originally in Adam, instrumentally through parents
God's Role

None (Plato)

He created all souls (Origen).

He creates each soul. He creates body and soul through parents.
Parents' Role

No role in the creation of the soul

Efficient cause of the body[28] See Volume 1, chapters 6 and 10 for a treatment of causes.

Occasional cause of the soul Efficient cause of the body Instrumental cause of both soul and body
Nature of Man Man is a soul. Man has a body. Man is a soul. Man has a body. Man is a unity of soul/body.[29] Some traducianists are inconsistent and do not see these as logical entailments of their view.
Nature of Human Soul Simple/Indivisible (unregenerable) Simple/Indivisible (unregenerable) Unified (regenerable)
Image of God In soul only In soul only In soul and body[30] Some traducianists are inconsistent and do not see these as logical entailments of their view.
Immortality Soul only Soul only Soul and body[31] Some traducianists are inconsistent and do not see these as logical entailments of their view.
Christian Proponents Justin Martyr Origen Early Augustine Thomas Aquinas Charles Hodge W. G. T. Shedd Later Augustine Lewis S. Chafer

Evidence for the Traducian View

The evidence for the traducian view of the origin of the soul is biblical, theological, and scientific. The heart of the traducian view is that human life (soul) can be divided and passed on to others.

The Biblical Evidence for Traducianism[32] Most of These Arguments Are Also Found in William G. T. Shedd's Dogmatic Theology (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1894), 2.19ff.

First, from the beginning, male and female were considered one species, two sharing human life (Gen. 1:26).

Second, both male and female, not just male, were broadly called "Adam" (5:1-2).

Third, Eve was made from Adam, not separately (2:21-22).

Fourth, creation was complete from the beginning (2:1-3), and God has rested from creating ever since (Heb. 4:4).

Fifth, the Bible speaks of the unity of male and female (1 Cor. 11:8), one coming from the other.

Sixth, Eve is called "the mother of all the living" (Gen. 3:20), a title most appropriate if all other human life came from her.

Seventh, Adam had children in his image (5:3; cf. 1:26), which makes sense if his life was truly transmitted to them by natural generation.

Eighth, flesh (Gk: sarx) can mean "whole person with body" (John 3:6; cf. 1:14; Acts 2:17; Rom. 3:20) rather than just the transmission of a physical body (as is contended by the creationist view of the origin of the soul).

Ninth, likewise, in Romans 1:3, flesh, which comes from physical generation, refers to one's whole humanity, not just to the body.

Tenth, Acts 17:26 KJV says that all who are God's offspring (image) are made of "one blood," which is accomplished by natural processes.

Eleventh, Hebrews 7:10 teaches that Levi was in Abraham's loins and came by physical transmission from him.[33] Abraham was Levi's ancestor.

Twelfth, Psalm 139:13-16 reveals that our personal substance, which is more than physical, was made in the womb by a natural, God-ordained process.


Thirteenth, the body in the womb is referred to as a person in many passages (e.g., Job 10:10; Ps. 22:9-10; Jer. 1:5). In addition, person is more than the physical aspect of humanity.[34] See chapter 2.

Fourteenth, Romans 5:12 says we all sinned "through one man" [Adam]. This implies that sin, which is possible only for a person, can be transmitted by natural processes.

Fifteenth, 1 Corinthians 15:22-27 affirms that all humans were "in Adam."

Sixteenth, Ephesians 2:3 makes plain that we were all born with a sinful nature, and mere bodies without souls cannot sin.

Seventeenth, Psalm 51:5 declares that we were conceived in sin, something not possible unless there is a human soul at conception.

Eighteenth, and finally, Jesus is said to be from the "loins" of David (1 Kings 8:19 KJV), indicating His genetic connection through His mother.[35] See appendix 4.

The Theological Evidence for Traducianism

There are several theological truths that are best explained by the traducian view of the human soul's origin.

First, the Bible speaks of the imputation (attribution) of sins from Adam to his entire posterity (Rom. 5:13, 18). It is extremely difficult to interpret this in any actual sense of the term unless sin is transmitted through natural processes.[36] See chapters 3 and 5.

Second, the fact that we are born with a natural inclination to sin (Eph. 2:3; John 3:6) favors the traducian view.

Third, the universality of sin supports traducianism, for if sin is not inherited by all at birth, then why are all people born in sin?

Fourth, and finally, the soul/body unity of human nature[37] See chapter 3 for detailed definition, explanation, and analysis. favors traducianism, since it makes sense that soul and body, together, are transmitted from parent to child.

The Scientific Evidence for Traducianism

Remembering that soul (Heb: nephesh and Gk: psuche) means "life," and that a human life is a human soul, the scientific evidence that human life (the soul) begins at conception is strong.[38] See appendix 1.

First, it is a scientific fact that individual human life (with unique DNA) is passed on by natural generation, from parents to child.

Second, cloning produces the same kind of life without a new creation.35 Hence, the possibility of human cloning argues in favor of traducianism.

Third, by analogy, human souls, like animal souls,[39] See chapter 2, under "The Analogy With Animals." Recall that (above) we denied the alleged difference between "animal soul" and "rational soul." are passed on from parents to offspring.

Fourth, and finally, because humans are a psychosomatic (soul/body) unity,[40] See chapter 3. the body is only part of, not the whole, person. Again, it makes sense that both are passed on together, from parents to child.

Answering Objections to the Traducian View

Many arguments have been set against the traducian paradigm. However, as will be seen, none of them provides a definitive refutation.

Objection One—Based On God As the Father of Spirits

This objection is based on Hebrews 12:9, which says, "How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!" This phrase, "Father of our spirits," is taken to mean that God directly fathers (creates) all human spirits.[41] See chapter 2 for a broader treatment of soul and spirit.

Response to Objection One

In reply, the text does not say that God created our spirit at conception or that He fathered all human spirits directly (rather than indirectly, through our parents). God is also said (in Genesis) to be the Creator of all animals, yet He created only the first pair directly—the rest came about by a divinely given process of natural conception.

Further, even if the term Father implies creation, it does not indicate how or when God produced us. He certainly could have fathered us through an indirect process of human generation.

Also, the term Father in Hebrews 12:9 may not be a reference to the generation of human beings, but instead may describe the care given to them by God after they are conceived. This fits the immediate context of God, our Father, disciplining us, His children (cf. 12:3ff.).

Objection Two—Based On God Making Souls

According to this argument, Isaiah affirmed that God made souls, saying, "I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit36 of man would grow faint before me—the breath of man [soul] that I have created" (Isa. 57:16).

Response to Objection Two

As with Objection One, the passage does not say why, how, or when God created all souls. There is no question that He is the ultimate efficient Cause of all souls;[42] Again, see Volume 1, chapters 6 and 10 for definition and explanation of causes. the issue is whether He used intermediate (or instrumental) causes (such as parents) to create them.

In addition, the word soul (Heb: nephesh and Gk: psuche) is often biblically used of the whole person,[43] Op. cit. including the body, which we know is generated through natural processes.

Finally, the word made (Heb: asah), instead of create (Heb: bara), is used in this verse; asah seldom means "to create from nothing."

Objection Three—Based On God Creating People Since Adam

It is also objected that the Bible presents God as having created people since Adam. Zechariah affirms that "the Lord... stretches out the heavens, [He] lays the foundation of the earth, and [He] forms the spirit of man within him" (Zech. 12:1). Malachi challenges, "Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?" (Mal. 2:10).

Response to Objection Three

Once more, it does not say how God did it. The word create sometimes can even refer to "a natural process in the present" (e.g., Ps. 104:30), and it does not always mean "to create something from nothing." Even in Genesis, when God created Adam (__Gen__1:27), He used dust to do part of it (2:7).

Objection Four—Based On the Dependence of All Creation Upon God's Necessity

Thomas Aquinas opposed traducianism on the grounds that only God can create and that all creative acts are direct and immediate (see ST, 1a.44.1).[44] As opposed to certain creative acts being indirect and intermediate. No creature can create, because every creature depends, for its existence, on a Cause that is not a creature. Every contingent being, for its existence, at every moment of its existence, is dependent on the necessary Being, for the contingent being never ceases to be a contingent being.[45] See Volume 2, chapter 3.37 Thus, for Aquinas, parents cannot possibly be the cause of the existence of their children.

Response to Objection Four

Traducianism does not hold that the parents are the efficient cause of their child's existence but only the instrumental cause. The parents cause the becoming of their child; only God can cause his or her being. However, as instrumental causes, the parents do pass on to their posterity the soul, which only God can and did create, and which only God can and does sustain in existence. The question is not about the origin and sustenance of a human soul, which, clearly, only God can perform and uphold. Rather, the question pertains to the transmission of the soul, which, as instrumental causes, parents facilitate.

The Historical Testimony On the Origin of the Soul

Long before Christian theologians philosophized on the soul, two brilliant ancient thinkers, Plato and Aristotle, provided a foundation for the divergent perspectives among Christians, depending on whether they followed Plato's dualistic preexistence view,[46] Soul and body in opposition. as Augustine did, or Aristotle's hylomorphic view,[47] Soul and body in unity. See chapter 2. as Aquinas did.

Ancient Greek Philosophers
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

The question might also be raised about the parts of the soul: What is the separate role of each in relation to the body? For, if the whole soul holds together the whole body, we should expect each part of the soul to hold together a part of the body. But this seems an impossibility; it is difficult even to imagine what