What Must We Believe about Adam and Eve?

The Council of Trent infallibly taught the following:

“If anyone does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost the sanctity and justice in which he had been constituted, and incurred, through the offense of that type of prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and therefore also the death with which God had threatened him beforehand, and with death, captivity under the power of him who thereafter held the empire of death, that is, the Devil; and the whole Adam, through that offense of prevarication, was changed for the worse in body and soul: let him be anathema.”

Therefore, we must believe that Adam existed as a real historical person. The claim that Adam never existed, or that his character in the Bible merely represents a number of first parents (polygenism), is heresy. If Adam were not a real historical person, he could not have transgressed the commandment of God, nor have lost the sanctity and justice in which he was created, nor could he change for the worse in body and soul, nor could he be punished by death.

“If anyone asserts that the prevarication of Adam harmed himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the sanctification and justice, received from God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not also for us; or that his defilement, through the sin of disobedience, has transfused only death and the punishment of the body into the whole human race, but not also sin, which is the death of the soul: let him be anathema.

We all inherit original sin from Adam (except Jesus and Mary), for all human persons are his posterity. The idea that not all human persons are descendants of Adam is heresy. Moreover, the sin of Adam was that of disobedience, not any other type of sin.

Eve is not mentioned by name by the Council of Trent. But since the Council teaches that we are all descendants of Adam, it is implied that we are descended from both Adam and Eve. For how else would Adam conceive descendants? And Sacred Scripture does teach us about Eve in particular, not only about Adam. Both fell from grace, and they are the only progenitors of the whole human race.

Now I have my own theological speculation as to when Adam and Eve existed, and how they could be the progenitors of the whole human race. But in any case, the faithful must believe that Adam and Eve existed, fell from grace in Paradise, and subsequently gave rise to the whole of humanity. The faithful must also believe that all human persons, except Jesus and Mary, inherited original sin from Adam, and must receive some form of Baptism to be freed from the guilt of original sin.

“By these words, a description of the justification of the impious is introduced, as being a translation from the state, in which a person is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the children of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior. And certainly [this] translation, after the promulgation of the Gospel, is not able to occur without the washing of regeneration or its desire, just as it is written: “unless one has been reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God.” [John 3:5]

The Council teaches that everyone who is in the state of grace is also in the state of adoption as children of God. And this state of grace is not obtain only by a formal baptism with water, as Christians receive, but also by “its desire”, meaning a baptism of desire (which can even be implicit). Therefore, it is a heresy contrary, to the infallible teachings of Trent, to claim that only baptized Christians are children of God by spiritual adoption. In truth, all human persons in the state of grace are truly children of God.”

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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