Part 4
Chapter 3—Of Original Sin

Section 15—Athanasius. A.D. 350.

Athanasius held the doctrine of original sin, and the corruption of human nature through it; whereby man is brought into a state of slavery, out of which he cannot recover himself by his own strength, nor restore the image of God lost by sin; he says,[1] that “Adam transgressing, eis pantas, tous anthropous e apate diebe, ‘the deception passed unto all men;' and that,[2] when man sinned and fell, through his fall all things were disturbed; death reigned from Adam to Christ; the earth was cursed, hell was opened, paradise was shut, heaven was angry, and at length eppthare o anthropos kai apektenothe, man was corrupted and slain.” He observes,[3] that the apostle in the epistle to the Romans shows, that “otherwise there could be no redemption and grace to Israel and to the Gentiles, ei me luthe e archaia amartia, e die tou Adam eis apantas genomene, “unless the old sin which through Adam came to all men was dissolved;' and that this could not be blotted out but by the Son of God; by whom also at the beginning the curse came, for it was not possible that another should loose the offense.” And to the same purpose he says in another place,[4] that “the devil wrought sin from the beginning in the rational and understanding nature of man; for which reason it is impossible for nature, being rational, and willing, and being under the condemnation of death, eauten anakalesasthai eis eleutherian, ‘to restore itself to liberty;' as saith the apostle, “what the law could not do in that it was weak.” The weakness of human nature is frequently inculcated by him.[5] The re-implantation of the image of God in man, he represents as a thing impossible to be done by either men or angels; his words are these:[6] “It was not proper that those who once partook of the age of God should perish; what therefore was fit for God to do? or, what should be done? but to renew the image again, that hereby man might be able to know him again: but how could this be done, unless the image of God, our Savior Jesus Christ, comes? Di anthropon men gar ouk en dunaton, ‘for by men it was impossible,' since they were made after his image; nor by angels, for they are no images; hence the Word of God by himself came, that as being the image of the Father, he might ton kat eikona anthropon anaktisai, ‘create man again after his image;' which could not be, unless death and corruption were made to vanish away.” And elsewhere, explaining those words, that they may be one in us, among other things he says,[7] “This phrase in us is the same as if it was said, that they may be made one by the power of the Father and of the Son; aneu gar Theou touto genesthai aduaton, for without God it is impossible that this can be done.” And a little after he says,[8] dia ten dedomenen emin charin tou Pneumatos, “‘through the grace of the Spirit given unto us,' we are in him, and he in us; and because he is the Spirit of God who is in us, we likewise having the Spirit are reckoned to be in God; and so God is in us, not indeed as the Son is in the Father;” for the Son does not partake of the Spirit, that thereby he may be in the Father; neither does he receive the Spirit, but rather gives it unto all; nor does the Spirit give the Word to the Father, but rather the Spirit receives from the Word. The Son indeed is in the Father as his own Word, and the brightness of him; we truly without the Spirit are strangers and afar from God, but by participation of the Spirit we are joined to the Deity; so that for us to be in the Father, me emeterou einai, “is not ours, or in our power, but the Spirit's, who is in us, and abides in us.” Dr. Whitby[9] cites a single passage from Athanasius, proving, that man has a free will to incline to that which is good, or turn from it; and it must be owned, that he does in the place[10] referred to, and elsewhere,[11] speak of man as autexousios, “endued with free will;” but then he speaks of man as he was at first created by God, and of the power of his will, with respect to natural and civil actions, which he abused to his hurt, being of a moveable, changeable, and flexible nature; and so capable of being turned from that which is good, and inclined to that which is evil, as the event of things showed.


[1] Athanas. contr. Arian. orat. 2, vol. 1. p. 358.

[2] Ibid. in dictum Matthew 11. 27, p. 150.

[3] Ibid. Synops. S. Script. vol. 2. p. 141.

[4] Ibid. de Salutar. adv. Jes. Christ. vol. 1. p. 638.

[5] Athanas. de Incarnatione, p. 63, centr, Arian. orat. 8, p. 436.

[6] Ibid. p. 66.

[7] Ibid. contr. Arian. orat. 4, p. 474.

[8] Ibid. p. 477.

[9] Discourse, etc. p. 97, 381; ed. 2. 95, 371.

[10] Athanas. contr. Gentes, orat. p. 5.

[11] De Incarnatione Verbi, p. 56.