Part 4
Chapter 3—Of Original Sin

Section 21—Gregorius Nazianzenus. A.D. 370.

Gregory of Nazianzum often inculcates the doctrine of original sin in his writings. He represents himself and all mankind as concerned in Adam's first sin, as ruined by it, and most bitterly laments the wretched consequences of it. He affirms,[1] that the souls of men sinned in Adam; that all men fell[2] by that sin which was from the beginning; that we are all from the same earth and mass,[3] and have all tasted of the same tree of wickedness. And of himself he says,[4] “I am fallen from paradise, I am turned again to the earth from whence I was taken, having for delicious fare this one thing, to know my own evils, kai and tes mikras edokes, ‘and for a little pleasure,' and condemned to sorrow without ceasing, and obliged to war against him who got into my friendship to my hurt, and through tasting, drew me into sin; these are the punishments of sin to me; hence I am born to labor, to live, and die: this is the mother of want, want of covetousness, covetousness of wars.” In another place he says,[5] “I fell wholly, and am condemned ek tes tou protoplas ou parakoes, through the disobedience of him that was first made, and the theft of the adversary.” Elsewhere he cries out,[6] pheu tes e emes atheneias, eme gare tou propatoros, “O my weakness, for that of my first parent is mine; he forgot the commandment which was given him, and was overcome by the bitter taste.” And then he proceeds to enumerate the multitude of evils which spring from this root of bitterness: Beautiful, says he,[7] was the fruit for sight, and good for food, o eme thanatosas, which killed me.” Hence he calls[8] the eating of it, geuthis oulomene, “the destroying taste,” which brought bitter punishment upon him; and the tree,[9] phutonandrophonon, “the man murdering plant;” and laments[10] the heavenly image being destroyed by the sin of the first man. One so sensible of the sad effects of the fall of Adam, could not fail of observing the weakness of man to all that is good, and the necessity of the Spirit and grace of God, and of divine help, to the performance of that which is truly so. “We are all poor,” says he[11] kai tes theias charitos epideeis, “and stand in deed of divine grace.” And in another place he observes,[12] that “such is the grossness of the material body, and imprisoned mind, that me boethoumenon, ‘unless it is helped,' it cannot otherwise have any understanding of God.” And elsewhere he says,[13] “It is by the Spirit of God only that God is heard, explained, and understood. That no man is spiritual without the Spirit.[14] This, says he,[15] “is my sentiment, oti duslepton men to agathon to anthropine phusei, that which is good is hard to be received by human nature.” He affirms,[16] that “God both gives a capacity to receive, and strength to perform that which is good. That he has two parts therein, the first and the last, and that oude Cristoio dicha brotos ichnos aeimei, ‘without Christ a man cannot take one step that way;' and therefore men should be careful not to ascribe too much to themselves, nor trust in their own strength, though never so wise.” For, as he observes elsewhere upon those words[17] “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy: “There are some who are so lifted up with their good works, as to ascribe all to themselves, and nothing to the Creator and Author of wisdom, and Supplier of good things. These words teach them, oti kai, to boulesthai kalos deitai tes pars Theou boetheias, ‘that to will rightly, requires help from God;' or rather, the choosing itself of things needful is something divine, and is a gift of God's good-will to man for salvation, and ought to be both in us and of God: therefore he saith, it is not of him that willeth, that is, not only of him that willeth, “nor of him that runneth only, but of God that showeth mercy; so because to boulethai para Theon, ‘to will is from God,' he rightly ascribes all unto him; for if thou runnest and strivest never so much, thou standest in need of him who gives the crown, according to Psalm 127:1.” In which passage may be observed, that he asserts not only that divine assistance, is requisite to a man's willing that which is good, but that the will itself is of God. Gregory does indeed assert[18] free will in man, as he was at first created by God, and continued in a state of innocence; but at the same time gives plain intimations, that man's free-will is now, through transgression, in a state of servitude. “Liberty and riches,” says he,[19] “were, or lay in the sole keeping of the commandments; and on the contrary, the transgressions of it is real poverty, kai douleia, and slavery.”


[1] Greg. Nazianz. Orat. 51, p. 742, tom. i.

[2] Ibid. 42, p. 684.

[3] Ibid. 5, p. 135.

[4] Ibid. 9, p. 158.

[5] Ibid. 14, p. 221.

[6] Ibid. 38, p. 619; et 42, p. 681.

[7] Ibid. 43, p. 700.

[8] Ibid. carmen 13, p. 86, tom. 2.

[9] Ibid. 47, p. 111.

[10] Ibid. 4, p. 68.

[11] Ibid. 16, p. 239, tom. 1

[12] Ibid. 42, p. 683.

[13] Ibid. 1, p. 17.

[14] Ibid. 25, p. 441.

[15] Ibid. 1, p. 6.

[16] Greg. Nazianz. carmen 58, p. 136, 137, tom. 2.

[17] Ibid. Orat. 31, p. 504, tom. 1.

[18] Ibid. 1, p. 8, 9; et orat. 16, p. 256; et orat. 38, p. 618; et orat 42, p. 680.

[19] Ibid. 16, p. 256.