I beleive the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated, copied, and interpreted correctly. In the course of my studies of the Bible, I've discovered that it has a long and convoluted history. So, these are my discoveries and my musings of Christian history and doctrines.

Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Orignal Sin from a faulty translation

Perhaps a controversial example of mistranslation would be that of Augustine's doctrine of original sin, which many Christians today accept as dogma. That doctrine is actually based on a faulty translation of Romans 5:12 in Latin. Augustine used the Latin Vulgate, which was translated by Jerome. In that version, with regards to Adams transgression, he read "...in whom all have sinned." ("...in quo omnes peccaverunt.") In reading that verse, Augustine came to believe that, not only did Adam sin, but that all men sinned in or through Adam and, therefore, partook of his sin.

But the King James Version translates the same clause as saying "for that all have sinned." Some Catholic and Protestant scholars believe that the later translation is the more correct one.

A Catholic writer Fillion writes:

"In quo (in whom), that is to say, in Adam, according to the interpretation of Origen, of our Latin version (the Vulgate), and of Saint Augustine, etc. Perhaps it would be better, following Theodoret, Euthemius, etc., to regard the Greek eph' O as a conjunctive locution and to translate by 'quia,propterea quod': because all have sinned" (1)
Another Catholic scholar named Crampon writes:
"In quo omnes peccaverunt: this formula of the Vulgate should be translated: because all have sinned, in quo being understood in the sense in eo quod (eph' O): all interpreters (translators) are in agreement on this point." (2)
The Protestant historian Phillip Schaff writes:
"The exegesis of Augustine, and his doctrine of a personal fall, as it were of all men in Adam, are therefore doubtless untenable." (3)
But have these religions changed their stance on the doctrine of original sin since this information has come to light? Probably not. Why not? What would that imply for a religion to admit that their doctrine has been wrong for all these centuries? On the other hand, it's all a matter of taking sides as to who had the best translation. But, how does one know for sure which translation is the best? That's definitely not something that one could adequately discern while discussing it over the dinner table, or a one hour lecture from the Sunday pulpit.

Of course, Latin is all Greek to me - I don't have the slightest idea of what they'e talking about, but like the saying goes "out of the mouth of two or three witnesses..."

  1. M. l'Abbé Louis-Claude Fillion, p.s.s., (1843-1927), La Sainte Bible, commentée d'après la Vulgate et les Textes originaux. Translated by Barker, James, in The Divine Church, vol. 3, p. 17.
  2. Crampon, La Sainte Bible. p. 148 note. Translated by Barker, James, in The Divine Church, vol. 3, p. 17.
  3. Schaff, Phillip, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, p. 834. (Hendrickson Publishers; 3rd edition,1996)


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