In Part 1 of our “Where Does the Soul Come From?” series, I addressed the theory of pre-existence. The idea we will look at today is Traducianism. It is important to note that, beyond affirming that God is the ultimate author of our souls, this is not an essential Christian doctrine. During the next two installments, we will discuss the Scriptural support for Traducianism and creationism as well as some of their strengths and weaknesses.
Traducianism is the belief that the soul is propagated – transmitted from the parent(s) to the child. This view is sometimes referred to as Generationism; though, at times the two can be slightly different ways of viewing how the propagation of the soul takes place.
The argument of Traducianism is that once God created man, He completed the creation process and rested (Genesis 2:3). He created both animals and man to reproduce according to their own kind and we see in Genesis 5:4 that Adam begot a son in his own likeness. As a result of the fall, sin is now passed down from generation to generation through the soul.
Kenneth Samples, a senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe gives the following biblical and theological support for Traducianism.
- God’s breathing into man the breath of life is not said to have been repeated after Adam (Genesis 2:7).
- Scripture seems to convey the idea that descendants are in some sense in the loins of their fathers (Genesis 46:26; Hebrew 7:9–10).
- Since the Bible teaches man is a unity of body and soul (Matthew 10:28), it seems reasonable to conclude that both component elements of man had a simultaneous beginning.
- From a biblical perspective begetting involves passing on the image of God, therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that the immaterial aspect of man is passed on in this act (Genesis 5:3).
- Since it can be argued God has ceased creating (Genesis 2:2), it can thus be concluded that no new souls are being created by God but rather are passed on through this natural–spiritual generation.
- Traducianism appears to be the superior explanatory model in terms of explaining how sin is transmitted to all of humanity.
Challenges to Traducianism
The best challenge to Traducianism is found in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Traducianism may have difficulty explaining the sinlessness of Jesus if both his body and soul were passed from Mary. An easy way to explain this however is that the incarnation of Jesus is an unprecedented miracle. It is not difficult to say that the generation of His soul was also outside the standard method.
Proponents of Traducianism:
This is not an exhaustive list but merely a quick reference of others who have supported the idea of Traducianism.
- Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240)
- Tradux peccati, tradux animae
- Cyprian (c. 200 – 258)
- Macarius of Egypt (c. 300 – 391)
- Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300 – c. 368)
- Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395)
- Rufinus of Aquileia (c.340 – 410)
- Ambrose (c. 340 – 397)
- Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
- “In Adam all sinned, at the time when in his nature all were still that one man”
- See Letter 166 to Jerome for a great discourse on the soul.
- Apollinaris of Laodicea (d. 390)
- Nemesius of Emesa (c.390)
- Hilarius (d. 468)
- Anastasius Sinaita
- Theodore Abu Qurrah (c. 750 – c. 823)
- John Milton (1608 – 1674)
- G.T. Shedd (1820 – 1894)
- Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836 – 1921)
- “With regard to this view (Traducianism) we remark it seems best to accord with Scripture…”
- Lewis S. Chafer (1871 – 1952)
- Gordon Clark (1902 – 1985)
- Norman Geisler (1932 – )
- “It appears that Traducianism, rather than direct creationism, better fits all the data.”
- Millard Erickson (1932 – )
- “If Hebrews 7 does indeed support traducianism (and it appears to do so), this passage would in turn argue for the humanity of the fetus, since it would not then be possible to think of the fetus apart from a soul or a spiritual nature.”
- Robert L. Reymond (1932 – 2013)
- I myself am drawn to the traducianist view..”
- Kenneth Samples
Why is it important?
Again, this discussion is not essential to the Christian faith. It is not a matter upon which salvation hinges. However, the way you think about this can impact other areas of your theology and Christian walk.
It seems to me the Traducianism best defends the value of the human fetus because at no time would a fetus be less than human. In both pre-existence and creationism, there may be a point at which the fetus has not had its soul infused with its body. Furthermore, Traducianism avoids the issue of God creating fallen souls, or creating perfect souls knowing that they will immediately be fallen once placed into a body, and instead, the fallen soul is passed on by the parents.
In Part 3 we will look at creationism and how it may explain the origin of the soul.
 Tertullian, De Anima.
 Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology, (Philadelphia: The Griffith & Rowland Press, 1912), 494.
 Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol 3 Sin, Salvation (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2004), 44.
 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998), 570.
 Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).