On Original Sin

(Vermigli’s Common Places, Vol. 1)

Translated and Edited by Kirk Summers


Publication Date: August 10, 2019

About this book

Seeing God face-to-face is “man’s ultimate happiness.”

Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) was a forgotten giant of the Protestant Reformation. With a legacy that spanned from Naples to Zurich to Oxford, Vermigli left behind him voluminous biblical commentaries and treatises, and a band of faithful disciples who collected his writings into the massive theological compendium, the Loci Communes. “On Original Sin” represents the first installment of a new project to translate the Loci into English for the first time since 1583, Presented here in a clear, readable, and learned translation, Vermigli’s searching discussion of original sin reveals the biblical and patristic foundations of this controversial doctrine, and its centrality to Protestant orthodoxy. Along the way, Vermigli offers a scathing critique of the semi-Pelagian Catholic theologian Albert Pighius and defends the Augustinian understanding of sin and grace, in a treatise marked by exegetical skill, historical erudition, and philosophical sophistication.

Paperback | 158 PAGES | 6×9 | PubliSHed August 10, 2019 | ISBN: 978-1949716016

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From the Book

“TO BEGIN WITH, we will ask the question whether or not original sin is a real thing, since some utterly deny that it even exists. After that, we will say what it is. Lastly, we will examine what properties it has, how it is passed on as an inheritance to posterity, and how it is forgiven or remitted.

As to the first matter, we must remember that, both in the Scriptures and in the Fathers, it has various names. In Romans 7 [vv. 8, 23], it is called sin, and the law of the members, and concupiscence. Elsewhere, it is termed the lack of original righteousness, the corruption of nature, an evil imagination [Gen. 8:21], the kindling [of hate and evil, Gen. 37:8], a weakness of nature, the law of the flesh, and others of such a kind. Long ago, the Pelagians used to deny the existence of this sin; today the Anabaptists do the same. Their arguments run roughly as follows: first, they say, the fall of Adam received its sufficient punishment, and there is no reason why God would want to exact a penalty for it from his posterity, especially since in the prophet Nahum it is written that “God does not punish the same sin twice, for it is enough that he punished it once” [Nah. 1:9]. Second, they argue that the Scriptures say that the son will not bear the iniquity of the father, but the same soul that sins will likewise die [Ez. 18:20]. Next, they argue that the body, when it is formed in the womb, is the workmanship of God, and there is no reason that it should be blamed. To the contrary, they say, we should admire it to the utmost, along with marveling that it has a soul created or infused by God. They also assert that we should not consider the means of its propagation as a bad thing, since marriage is commended by Scriptures, and from the beginning God bid mankind to procreate.

In view of this, they ask through what cracks, among so many defenses of innocence, sin could insinuate itself. They add also that Paul in I Corinthians [7:14], when he was urging a believing wife to remain with an unbelieving husband should the spouse be willing, says among other things, “Your children are holy.” They object that they cannot be holy if they are born in sin. Therefore, those, who are born from believing parents cannot inherit original sin from them. Additionally, they maintain that in common parlance a sin is something that is said, done, or desired contrary to the law of God, and that it is not a sin unless it is voluntary. Accordingly, John says in his epistle [1 John 3:4], “sin is iniquity,” to which is contrasted equity or fairness, which cannot be reckoned as anything than that which is contained in the Law. Thus, sin is the transgression of the Law. None of these things, they argue, properly fit with infants who are just being born. . .”

Read a Portion of the book here


Foreword and General Introduction, Chris Castaldo

Volume Introduction, Kirk Summers


The Pelagians On Human Nature


Adam’s Wholeness Before the Fall


Pighius on Infant Guilt


Concupiscence: A Propensity for Evil


The Reomval of Divine Grace in the Fall


Recovering Our Humanity in Christ


Original Sin in Infants


Pighius on Adam’s Original Wholeness


Natural Knowledge


The Transition of Original Sin


The Punishment of Unbaptized Infants


Generational Guilt


Godly Parents and Inherited Sin


Aggregated Guilt


Digression on Romans 5: Sin Defined


Digression on Romans 5: How Sin Enters the World


Digression on Romans 5: How Sin is Propagated


Digression on Romans 5: Creatures and the Fall

Select Bibliography


About the Author

Kirk Summers (Ph.D, University of Illinois) is the General Editor of the Vermigli Common Places Project, and served as translator for this first volume. Dr. Summers is Director of the Classics Program at the University of Alabama, and has done extensive research and translation in neo-Latin, with a particular focus on 16th-century Reformed works. He is the author of Morality After Calvin: Theodore Beza’s Christian Censor and Reformed Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2016).


“Vermigli’s Commonplaces became one of the most influential of all Reformed systematic theologies, especially in the English-speaking world. Kirk Summers has translated the selection of these commonplaces pertaining to the pivotal Christian teaching concerning Original Sin and rendered them into lucid, legible, modern English. For any scholar or aspiring theologian attuned to the Reformed tradition this volume should be obligatory reading.”

– W.J. Torrance Kirby

McGill University, author of The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology

“Peter Martyr Vermigli is undoubtedly one of the most significant Reformed theologians of the sixteenth century and his Common Places is the crown jewel of his collected works. The rendering of this work into contemporary English is a great service to the understanding of Reformation thought and will be enriching for scholars and pastors alike. Vermigli’s theological training and acumen are on full display here and the results are rightly esteemed as a masterwork of Reformed theology.”

– Jordan J. Ballor

The Acton Institute, Junius Institute, author of Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus

“With this precise but grandly readable translation, Reformation scholars owe a debt of gratitude to the editors and translator for this initial volume in this new series on Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Commonplaces. Kirk Summers has faithfully and eloquently rendered Vermigli who is here at his subtle and forceful best; and has thus opened to a wider audience the Reformer’s thought on some of the questions most central to the disputes of the sixteenth century.”

– Gary Jenkins

 Eastern University; author of Calvin’s Tormentor’s: Understanding the Conflicts that Shaped the Reformer


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