Ancestral Sin and Death
Fr. Markellos Karakallinos
Death is closely linked with the
ancestral sin because it’s the result of disobedience. In the beginning,
death in human nature was not a natural event but was inserted as a foreign element. Holy Scripturerepeatedly reminds us that God did not make death but it entered into the world through Adam's sin. Thewise Solomon says:
“For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own
y. Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world” (Wis. of Sol. 2:23
God is good and evil cannot proceed from Him. Therefore, He did not fashion man to die. Consequently,
Adam and Eve’s sin was the cause of death entering the world.
The Apostle Paul says concerning this:
“Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so deathpassed to everyone” (Rom. 5:12).
Adam’s fall from the paradise of delight is the sin that brought death. This was God’s
commandment; notto eat from the forbidden fruit
“for in whatsoever day ye eat of it, ye shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
he did. Firstly, spiritual death, which is man’s separation from God, entered into human nature. Then
came bodily death; namely, the
soul’s separation from the body.
At the moment Adam sinned, he died spiritually. He lost communion with God his Father and hid becausehe was afraid and naked. Later, however, he also died bodily. Death is a horrible event and completelyunnatural for man, wherefore this spectacle always causes great grief and suffering. The troparion of theFuneral Service also declares this:
“Truly, there is nothing more fearful than the mystery of death.”
According to St. Gregory the Theologian, death is an expression
of God’s philanthropy.
He punishedAdam with death because he was unmindful of the command he was given and was conquered by thetemporary taste of the forbidden fruit. So he was automatically expelled from Paradise so that he wouldnot stretch out his hand and eat from the tree of life and thus both he and sin would become immortal.
Certainly he gains something from this: The fact he becomes mortal and sin is broken off so that
evil doesn’t become immortal. In this way the punishment becomes philanthropy.
The prayer read at the funeral service is based upon these words of St. Gregory:
“...gave command for
this reason, as God of our fathers, to prevent evil from becoming immortal, decreeing that hiscomposite and mixture, this bond which You made for joining body and soul unbreakably, shouldbe sundered by Your divine Will, and be dissolved.
The devil sought man’s extermination with death. However, God’s philanthropy made death a means for
renewal, both of man and all of creation which
” (Rom. 8:22)
together with manfrom sin.Namely, through physical death, man was given the opportunity to not live with sin eternally. Here,
God’s philanthropy is very great because God interrupted this sinful life of man in place of man living
eternally and being eternally a living dead man. For separation from God is spiritual death. This eternalspiritual death would have been a terrifying and unbearable event which human nature would not be ableto endure.
And God’s philanthropy finds this way of escape from eternal spiritual death. It dissolves the
union of soul and body and it will be united again, renewed and made incorruptible, during the general resurrectionof the dead at the Second Coming of Christ.