17For on whatever day you will eat from it you will die.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]Gen 2:17[/reftagger]). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


What is original righteousness? Some make it a quality; others make it something else. If we follow Moses, we should take original righteousness to mean that man was righteous, truthful, and upright not only in body but especially in soul, that he knew God, that he obeyed God with the utmost joy, and that he understood the works of God even without prompting. A clear example of this state of affairs is this: When Adam was sleeping very soundly and God formed Eve out of his rib, Adam recognized the work of God immediately upon awaking, and said ([reftagger title=””]Gen. 2:23[/reftagger]): “This is bone of my bone.” Is this not a superb intellect which at the first glance understands and recognizes the work of God?

It is part of this original righteousness that Adam loved God and His works with an outstanding and very pure attachment; that he lived among the creatures of God in peace, without fear of death, and without any fear of sickness; and that he had a very obedient body, without evil inclinations and the hideous lust which we now experience. In this way a very beautiful and very accurate picture of original righteousness can be inferred from the deprivation which we now feel in our own nature.

When the sophists speak of original sin, they are speaking only of wretched and hideous lust or concupiscence. But original sin really means that human nature has completely fallen; that the intellect has become darkened, so that we no longer know God and His will and no longer perceive the works of God; furthermore, that the will is extraordinarily depraved, so that we do not trust the mercy of God and do not fear God but are unconcerned, disregard the Word and will of God, and follow the desire and the impulses of the flesh; likewise, that our conscience is no longer quiet but, when it thinks of God’s judgment, despairs and adopts illicit defenses and remedies. These sins have taken such deep root in our being that in this life they cannot be entirely eradicated, and yet the wretched sophists do not mention them even with a word. Thus, as it always is with correlatives, original sin shows what original righteousness is, and vice versa: original sin is the loss of original righteousness, or the deprivation of it, just as blindness is the deprivation of sight.

This involves much more than the monks think when they restrict original righteousness almost exclusively to chastity. But the soul ought to be given consideration first; thereafter also the body, which has been made so hideous by lust. But in the case of the soul the outstanding fact is this: that the knowledge of God has been lost; that we do not everywhere and always give thanks to Him; that we do not delight in His works and deeds; that we do not trust Him; that when He inflicts deserved punishments, we begin to hate God and to blaspheme Him; that when we must deal with our neighbor, we yield to our desires and are robbers, thieves, adulterers, murderers, cruel, inhuman, merciless, etc. The passion of lust is indeed some part of original sin. But greater are the defects of the soul: unbelief, ignorance of God, despair, hate, blasphemy. Of these spiritual disasters Adam, in the state of innocence, had no knowledge.

Moreover there must be added here the punishments for original sin. For the name “original sin” is correctly given to whatever was lost of those conditions which Adam enjoyed while his nature was still unimpaired: that he had a very keen intellect, so that he immediately realized that Eve was his own flesh; that he had an accurate knowledge of all the creatures; that he was righteous and upright; that he was endowed with extraordinary perception and an upright yet imperfect will. (For perfection was postponed until the spiritual life after the physical one.)

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 1: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 113–115). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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