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Old 06-25-2014, 11:15 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by aron View Post
Sorry to come so late into an interesting discussion.
Aron, you are more than welcome to join the discussion. I am not your equal. I don't have your knowledge and analytical skills. But at least I will be able to gain your insights.

Originally Posted by aron View Post
But I notice that the holy scriptures also say,

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Psalm 51
Aron, this translation of the Psalm comes from the Masoretic text, used by the KJV, the RSV, NKJV, NRSV, and virtually all Western Bibles, English or otherwise. The Masoretic text has never been the accepted norm for the EOC, which has traditionally used the Septuagint (which is older than the Masoretic text). The emphasis of these Western editions is that: 1) in sin and/or guilt my mother conceived me; and 2) I was born guilty / in sin; etc. Although this is typical of the theology of Western Christendom, it is highly foreign to the theology of Eastern Christendom.

In the Septuagint, "sin" is in the plural form: "in sins did my mother bear me".

I found two English translations from the Bible that they use in the Eastern Orthodox Church:

1) “For behold, I was conceived in transgressions, And in sins my mother bore me.”

2) In the the Greek Septuagint Bible, it’s Psalm 51:

“For, behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother conceive me.”

I also checked the Bible in Russian and the Bible in Slavonic, they are literal translations of the Greek Septuagint Bible. (The Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew Bible and some related texts into Koine Greek. The title and its Roman numeral acronym LXX refer to the legendary seventy Jewish scholars who completed the translation as early as the late 2nd century BCE. As the primary Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is also called the Greek Old Testament. This translation is quoted in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline epistles, and also by the Apostolic Fathers and later Greek Church Fathers. )

There are a few interpretations of the verse in the EOC. They are a bit different but I don't think they contradict each other.

We are responsible for the sins that we commit, not the sins of our forefathers and not the sins of our first parents. Orthodox refer instead to "ancestral sin," by which we mean our participation in the disobedience of the first Adam as inherited through death. It is a curse that the Law exposed in the inability of humans to fulfill the Mosaic Covenant. It is a curse which has been redeemed by Christ. [Galatians 3:13].

Some western commentators criticize the Orthodox understanding at this point by reminding us that,. according to Psalm 50(51):5 "behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." (NKJV: Masoretic text). As stated, this is capable of being interpreted either in the "western" manner or in the Orthodox manner. However, the Septuagint (LXX) version of the Psalm translated into English reads: "Behold I was brought forth in iniquities, and in sins (plural) did my mother conceive me." This makes it quite clear that sin is endemic to the human condition from birth to death. It says nothing about transmission, let alone transmission by sex. We must assume that the Jewish scholars in Alexandria knew what they were doing when they translated the Hebrew text into Greek. The Orthodox Church certainly accepts their scholarship and, importantly, there is nothing in Judaism then or now that comes anywhere close to the Christian west's understanding of original sin which is rather important if one wants to understand St. Paul's teaching on Adam and Christ the New Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. After all, St. Paul like our Lord, was a Jew by birth and by training, adept in the Law.

This, then, is the characteristic understanding of the Fall in the Orthodox Church: sin generated by the corruption of death. In the post-Orthodox, post Christian west however, many people see death as both the natural created state of man and an unacceptable reality. This mental bind is also not Orthodox. Death, being the curse of Eden, is an unnatural enemy, neither designed into Creation by God nor desired by Him. Death, as the ultimate threat causes people to flee from their brothers, their sisters and their God in a selfish pursuit of earthly things as if these will put off the evil day. "Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die," as the saying goes. This is the real death, the death of the spirit from whence death itself has cast a longer and longer shadow over the God-less secularism of western materialism.

'Conceived in iniquity' refers to the Fall. We are born tainted with iniquity i.e. original sin, but not original guilt. Of course, procreation and childbirth are not sinful, just our 'spiritual genes'. God's original intention was not so that we were born through lust and sex. It's a deviation from God's plan. But after the Fall of man, our nature became corrupt and was condemned to death. We are to born through conception, inheriting the sinful/corrupted nature of Adam's body. But it’s not a personal sin of a new born baby. And it’s not his hereditary guilt. It's rather an ancestral sin, a decease, the bondage of corruption, and the condemnation of death.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria (296–298 – 2 May 373) writes in his Commentary on the Psalms (Ps. 50:5): The original intention of God was for us to generate not by marriage and corruption. But the transgression of the commandment introduced marriage on account of the lawless act of Adam, that is, the rejection of the law given him by God. Therefore all of those born of Adam are “conceived in iniquities,” having fallen under the condemnation of the forefather.

The Orthodox Study Bible gives another interpretation: "Behold I was brought forth in iniquities and in sins [plural] did my mother conceive me." Far from seeing conception and childbirth as sinful in themselves, or as a means of passing on Adam's guilt, this passage tells us every action in this fallen world is accomplished by sinful people in sinful circumstances.

'Sinful people and sinful circumstances' applies in general to people and their actions in this world. But not to the conceived embryo/baby, since he is still pure. The only thing that we know about an embryo/baby is that they eventually inherit 'decay and death'. Each of us is born of sinful parents, into a world of sinners, affected by sin and its effects. This is what the psalm seems to be saying. Unlike the Masoretic rendering, there is no firm indication in the Septuagint that we are born already sinners, bearing the guilt of sin committed before our conception.

Probably, the main difference between the EO doctrine and the Western doctrines, is that in the Eastern Orthodox Church the inheritance of ancestral sin does not mean inheritance of the guilt of the ancestral sin, but rather of the consequences of sin, which are decay and death. Does the EO understanding contradict the Western understanding of the original sin? If we consider the guilt, I believe it does. For example, if we take a baby who inherited AIDS from his parents, the baby inherits the disease, but not the guilt, since he is not responsible for it. He is not accountable for the sin/infection because he was not even created yet. Therefore, he was not born guilty. Nevertheless, he was conceived in iniquities, and in sins his mother bore him.

To say the truth, I don't know which text is more "pure": the Masoretic text or the Septuagint. Aron, have you ever pondered over this? It would be interesting to know your opinion.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
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