orginal sin

What is the doctrine of the Coptic Church about the original sin of the Virgin Mary? I think it is different from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church?


  • that is a big question, how much time do you have?!

    i will try to be brief - please send me a personal message if you would like to have an article on the Christian orthodox concept of salvation with references from the church fathers (will need an email address as it is too long to post here), but basically it is generally confusing for us to use the term 'original sin'.
    it is not in the Bible, nor in the writings of the early church fathers, but it is a concept from the roman church in western europe since 1000AD.
    they use it to mean the idea that we inherit sin itself (we don't, we inherit the tendency to sin and we inherit mortality).

    but because lots of roman catholic churches infiltrated the coptic (and other) orthodox churches from 1700s onwards, we hear the term in sermons in our church.
    (my confession father has a masters' degree in theology from the coptic orthodox colleage in cairo, and i have a few friends with theology degrees, some of them orthodox, so i have checked out my reading with them (the orthodox ones); it is not my own idea).

    one of the reasons we hear it is that our arabic speaking spiritual fathers learn english from catholic and anglican prayer books, so they think that they are translating a correct arabic term into english (this is also the reason why many people use old english when translating the prayer 'our Father in the heavens'; this is also wrong).

    so when orthodox clery use the term 'original sin', they are usually trying to say 'the tendency to sin'.

    so, having given that long introduction, i will rephrase your question and ask; 
    part 1: 'did the virgin saint mary inherit the tendency to sin'? and 
    part 2: 'did the virgin saint mary sin (did she need forgiveness)?'

    here is the answer (don't hold your breath - if you are not ready for a long answer, go and make a cup of tea with soy milk and then come back and sit comfortably):
    part 1: yes. she is human. we all inherited this. our Lord Jesus Christ did not inherit any sin (nor did we), however he did take on (willingly) a corruptible human nature.

    good, that was easy. it is part 2 that is a bit longer.

    part 2: saint mary said in luke 1:47; 'my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour', so she needed salvation (maybe she got grumpy once when she was a small child).
    but we also call her 'sinless' in the orthodox church.
    this is because she willingly took on a vital role in the appearance of the Son of God on the earth. 
    she was despised for being (apparently) pregnant without being married, and she accepted the awful location of our Lord's birth (in an animal house! how smelly and unclean that must have been) without complaining. 
    she gave up the opportunity to have a normal physical relationship with a young man and listened to the shocking messages of the wise men who predicted her future suffering.
    she allowed our Lord Jesus Christ to wander around preaching and teaching without knowing if he was safe and had enough to eat or drink or anywhere to lie down (what egyptian, african, or indeed any mother would allow her adult son to wander around as a homeless preacher?!)
    she saw His suffering and His torture and accepted even His death on the cross.
    so whatever tiny sin she might have had is nothing compared with all our complaining, gossiping and lying.

    we call her sinless, because the early church fathers knew her spotless reputation and because no one ever reported a harsh word from her or a lack of love and care.
    she was completely full of love and was so kind that her life has inspired millions of spiritual mothers and fathers in the orthodox church, who pass on the same love and care to their spiritual children as she learnt from God Himself.

    for more about her life and her importance in the church see here:

    i hope this is helpful; i didn't check out any ethiopian orthodox sources, but if there is any difference, it could be because of either catholic or protestant influences; i know there has been a lot of influence from these groups in ethiopia and eritrea because of colonialist europeans (i apologise on their behalf as a native european).

  • Thanks @mabsoota - this is fantastic.. How many times have I said that I am learning from you all the time?
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ ⲡϭⲥ
  • edited March 2023
    First of all, thank you
    I mean, as is well known, death entered into all mankind because of Adam's transgression of the law. Therefore, since man could not save man, God sent his only son into the world to become man. As the prophet Isaiah said 64:6.

    As you said, it is true that there is no such thing as "original sin" in the Orthodox Church. Instead, Adam suffered a character disorder (Fallen Nature)due to his wrongdoing. Now here is my question. My question is, did the Virgin Mary have this problem of behavior or not? Teach her what the Coptic church is.
    And also, what do you think about this tendency to sin in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church? We believe that our teaching around this is that the Virgin Mary has the same identity as before Adam was wronged. Isaiah 1:9

    But what makes the Virgin Mary special is that even though Adam used his free will to come down from exaltation, even though she retained the identity that Adam had before he was wronged, she could use her free will like Adam to be wronged.
  • Hello,

    The Church accepts that St Mary did have original sin.  While it is legitimate to attack certain Western ideas of original sin, the following about Augustinian original sin is not true:

    "nor [is it] in the writings of the early church fathers, but it is a concept from the roman church in western europe since 1000AD."

    1) As its name suggests, Augustinian original sin was formulated by St Augustine.  It actually became the dominant view of original sin in the Latin church right after his repose.  Since the Latins left Orthodoxy around 451AD (and not 1000AD as the above suggests), Orthodoxy did not have enough time to elaborate on this concept with the Latins.

    2) Even if St Augustine got some things about original sin wrong, that does not mean we reject original sin in totality.  In fact, the Council of Ephesus refuted Pelagianism on the basis of the Carthaginian councils which taught original sin.

    3) There is a monastic deacon in the USA who recently finished his PhD which is heavily based on St Cyril's acceptance of original sin.

    4) The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church does not accept the Roman dogma of Immaculate Conception (which actually originated with Byzantine heretics like Gregory Palamas).  Yes, there was a controversy, but HH Pope Shenouda III resolved this controversy when it was brought to him and there has been no appeal of his resolution.

    God bless you all,
  • Dear Dioscoros,

    As I remember, according to St.Gregory of Tatev, St.Mary, John the Baptist and other several Prothets didn’t have original sin. But not from the moment of conception (as Catholics teach), but from the moment the Holy Spirit descended upon them in the womb.

    God bless you,
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