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In Christian theology, traducianism is a doctrine about the origin of the soul or synonymously, spirit, holding that this immaterial aspect is transmitted through natural generation along with the body, the material aspect of human beings. That is, an individual's soul is derived from the souls of the individual's parents. This implies that only the soul of Adam was created directly by God (with Eve's substance, material and immaterial, being taken from out of Adam), in contrast with the idea of creationism of the soul, which holds that all souls are created directly by God.[1]

History of the doctrine[edit]

Most Church Fathers agreed that the soul of Adam was directly created by God; but Tertullian actively advocated traducianism (that is, the parental generation of souls). After the rise of Pelagianism, some theologians hesitated between Generationism and Creationism, thinking that the former offers a better, if not the only, explanation of the transmission of original sin.[2] For Augustine, traducianism suggested a simple explanation for original sin, though he could not decide between it and creationism. In his writing to Saint Jerome, Augustine said, "If that opinion of the creation of new souls is not opposed to this established article of faith let it be also mine; if it is, let it not be thine.".[citation needed] Jerome condemned it, and said that creationism was the opinion of the Church, though he admitted that most of the Western Christians held traducianism. Gregory of Nyssa alone among the Greek Fathers leans toward traducianism. [3] Theodore Abu Qurrah, Macarius, Rufinus and Nemesius also favored this view. Clement of Alexandria laid the foundations for the creationist view. Ambrose of Milan drew a distinction between the creation of Eve's body from Adam's rib and the creation of her soul, citing Genesis 2:22 "the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..." and noting that it did not say "soul of my soul".[4]

Creationism always prevailed in the East and became the general opinion of the medieval theologians.[5] Amongst the scholastics there were no defenders of traducianism. Alexander of Hales characterized creationism as the more probable opinion.[2] All the other scholastics held Creationism as certain and differed only in regard to the censure that should be attached to the opposite error. Accordingly, Peter Lombard asserted, "The Catholic Church teaches that souls are created at their infusion into the body." Saint Thomas Aquinas is more emphatic: "It is heretical to say that the intellectual soul is transmitted by process of generation." Hugh of Saint Victor and Hilary of Poitiers were creationists. Anselm of Canterbury was against traducianism.[6]

There was a diversity of opinions among the remaining scholastics. Some held that the soul of a child is produced by the soul of the parents just as the body is generated by the parent-body. Others maintained that all souls are created apart and are then united with their respective bodies, either by their own volition or by the command and action of God. Still others declared that the soul in the moment of its creation is infused into the body. Though for a time these several views were upheld, and though it was doubtful which came nearest the truth, the Church subsequently condemned the first two and approved the third. Gregory of Valencia spoke of "Generationism" as "certainly erroneous." While there are no explicit definitions authoritatively put forth by the Catholic Church that would warrant calling the Doctrine of Creationism de fide, nevertheless, there can be no doubt as to which view has been favored by ecclesiastical authority.

That the soul sinned in its pre-existent state, and on that account was incarcerated in the body, the Catholic Church regards as a fiction which has been repeatedly condemned. Divested of this fiction, the theory that the soul exists prior to its infusion into the organism, while not explicitly reprobated, is obviously opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, according to which souls are multiplied correspondingly with the multiplication of human organisms. But whether the rational soul is infused into the organism at Conception, as the modern opinion holds, or some weeks subsequently, as Medieval scholastics supposed, is an open question with some theologians.

Luther, like Augustine, was undecided. Calvin favoured creationism,[5] as did Robert Baron.


Traducianism was developed initially by Tertullian, who took a semi-materialistic view of the nature of the soul.[7] It has been endorsed by Church Fathers such as Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Anastasius Sinaita, and other theological figures in the early centuries of the Orthodox Church. Protestant advocates include various Lutheran Churches as well as some modern theologians such as Augustus H. Strong (Baptist), and Gordon Clark (Presbyterian), Lewis Sperry Chafer, Millard Erickson,[8] Norman L. Geisler, and Robert L. Reymond.[citation needed]

W. G. T. Shedd says that the soul of any given individual is a part of the original soul given to Adam, and therefore is not originated in the act of procreation.[9]

Arguments for traducianism[edit]

Supporters of traducianism present arguments from the Bible such as:

  • Traducianists find support in Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned..." and 1 Corinthians 15:22 "For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,"[6]
  • Foundational to the traducian position is the statement in Hebrews:7:10 "When Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor."[10]

Arguments opposed[edit]

Reasons for opposing the traducianism of human beings include the metaphysical argument that since humans cannot control their own existence, their existence cannot be caused by themselves; it must rather be caused by a necessary being otherwise known as God. Creation, in other words, includes God's on-going causation of human existence.[11] This causation is through the human soul because, as Saint Thomas Aquinas argues,[12] the human Soul has activities beyond the capacity of matter and the existence of these activities shows that the human soul is both immaterial and immortal---but not independent of God's causality. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that "every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents, and also that it is immortal..."[13]

Traducianism contradicts the concept of the indivisibility of the soul. Because the soul is incapable of division, it is impossible for the soul of the child to be derived from the souls of the parents.[10]

The weakness of traducianism, to many theologians, is that it makes the generation of the soul dependent of the transmission of matter.[14] Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge held that since the nature of the soul is immaterial it could not be transmitted by natural generation.[15]

Traducianism proceeds on the unproven assumption that God only works in a managerial manner after completing the creation of the world. Louis Berkhof points out that God continues to work immediately both in the performance of miracles and in some parts of the work of redemption.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "xiv", Dogma, Dis seminary, August 2005, According to the ruling opinion of Catholic Theologians the human soul is not received by parental propagation (traducianism), but by immediate divine creation (Creationism). It is also generally held that the Soul's creation coincides with its infusion into the human organism.
  2. ^ a b Dubray, Charles. "Traducianism." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 7 February 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ Gregory of Nyssa. De Hominis Opificio, 29 (Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. 44, 233-234)
  4. ^ Hennings, Ralph. "Disputatio de origine animae -or the victory of creationism in the fifth century", Studia Patristica: Historica, Theologica et Philosophica, Critica et Philologica, (Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds.), Peeters Publishers, 1997, p. 260 ISBN 9789068318364
  5. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 388.
  6. ^ a b Randles, Marshall. "Requests and Replies, The Expository Times, T. & T. Clark, 1891, p. 157
  7. ^ Hall, Francis Joseph. Evolution and the Fall, Longmans, Green, and Company, 1910, p. 216, n.2
  8. ^ Erickson, Millard (2013). Christian Theology. Grand Rapids,MI: Baker Academic. p. 506. ISBN 978-0-8010-3643-9.
  9. ^ Crisp, Oliver D., An American Augustinian: Sin and Salvation in the Dogmatic Theology of William G. T. Shedd, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007, p. 18 ISBN 9781556356582
  10. ^ a b Grenz, Stanley J., Theology for the Community of God, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000, p. 166 ISBN 9780802847553
  11. ^ The contingency of existence is one of the basic arguments for God's existence; for instance, see Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, first volume, question two.
  12. ^ Summa Theologica, first volume, question 76.
  13. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church §366
  14. ^ Webb, Stephen H., Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter, Oxford University Press, USA, 2012, p. 200, ISBN 9780199827954
  15. ^ Ryrie, Charles C., Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, Moody Publishers, 1999ISBN 9781575674988
  16. ^ Berkhof, Louis. Manual of Christine Doctrine, Christian Liberty Press, 2007, p. 46, ISBN 9781930367906

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Traducianism" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Creationism and Traducianism". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.