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One of four theories of the origin of the individual soul, i.e., that the soul, as well as the body, comes from the parents. Alternatives are: (1) Preexistence of all souls, held by, e.g., Origen and Mormons; (2) Reincarnation; (3) Creationism, whereby God creates a fresh soul for each body.

Direct biblical evidence is nonexistent, and conclusions must be based on deductions. In favor of Traducianism:

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Traducianism was held by Tertullian and many Westerns; since the Reformation by Lutherans; also by the Eastern church. Roman Catholics and most Reformed Theologians are Creationists, though Shedd and Strong favor Traducianism. Modern studies in heredity and psychosomatic unity are indecisive, but can easily be interpreted on the Traducianist side.

J S Wright
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

A H Strong, Systematic Theology


Catholic Information

Traducianism (tradux, a shoot or sprout, and more specifically a vine branch made to take root so as to propagate the vine), in general the doctrine that, in the process of Generation, the human spiritual Soul is transmitted to the offspring by the parents. When a distinction is made between the terms Traducianism and Generationism, the former denotes the materialistic doctrine of the transmission of the Soul by the organic process of Generation, while the latter applies to the doctrine according to which the Soul of the offspring originates from the parental soul in some mysterious way analogous to that in which the organism originates from the parent's organism. Traducianism is opposed to Creationism or the doctrine that every Soul is Created by God. Both, however, against Emanationism and Evolutionism (q.v.) admit that the first human Soul originated by Creation. They differ only as to the mode of origin of subsequent Souls.

In the early centuries of the Christian Church, the Fathers who touch upon this question defend the immediate Creation of the Soul. Tertullian, Apollinaris, and a few other heretics advocate Traducianism, but the testimony of Saint Jerome (Epist. cxxvi, 1) that "the majority of Oriental writers think that, as the body is born of the body, so the Soul is born of the Soul" seems exaggerated, as no other writer of prominence is found to advocate Generationism as certain. Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Macarius, Rufinus, Nemesius, although their views on this point are not always clear, seem to prefer Generationism. After the rise of Pelagianism, some Fathers hesitate between Generationism and Creationism, thinking that the former offers a better, if not the only, explanation of the transmission of Original Sin. Among them Saint Augustine is the most important. Creationism is held as certain by the Scholastics, with the exception of Hugh of Saint Victor and Alexander of Hales, who propose it merely as more probable. In recent times Generationism has been rejected by all Catholic Theologians.

Exceptions are Froschammer who defends Generationism and gives to the Generation of the Soul from the parents the name of secondary Creation; Klee and Ubaghs who leave the question undecided; Hermes who favours Generationism; Gravina who advocates it -- and Rosmini who asserts that the sensitive Soul is Generated by the parents, and becomes spiritual when God illuminates It and manifests to it the idea of being which is the foundation of the whole intellectual life. From the philosophical point of view, the reasons alleged in favour of Generationism have little or no value. The parents are really generators of their offspring even if the Soul comes from God, for the Generative process is the condition of the union of body and Soul which constitutes the human being. A murderer really kills a man, although he does not destroy his Soul. Nor is man inferior to animals because they generate complete living organisms, since the difference between man and animals comes from the superiority of the human Soul and from its spiritual nature which requires that it should be created by God. On the other hand the reasons against Generationism are cogent. The organic process of Generation cannot give rise to a spiritual substance, and to say that the Soul is transmitted in the corporeal semen is to make it intrinsically dependent on matter. The process of spiritual Generation is impossible since the Soul is immaterial and indivisible, no spiritual germ can be detached from the Parental Soul (cf. St. Thomas, "Contra gent." II, c 86; "Sum. theol." I:90:2, I:98:2, etc.). As to the power of Creation, it is the prerogative of God alone (see CREATION, VI).

Theologically, corporeal Traducianism is heretical because it goes directly against the spirituality of the Soul. As to Generationism, it is certainly opposed to the general attitude of the Church. Froschammer's book, "Ueber den Ursprung der menschlichen Seelen", was condemned in 1857, and Ubaghs's opinion expressed in his "Anthropologiae philosophicae elementa" was reproved in a letter of Cardinal Patrizi written by authority of Pius IX to the Archbishop of Mechlin (2 March, 1866). Moreover, Anastasius II in a letter to the bishops of Gaul (498) condemns Generationism (Thiel, "Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum", 634 sqq.). In the Symbol to be subscribed to by Bishop Peter of Antioch (1053), Leo IX declares the soul to be "not a part of God, but Created from nothing" (Denzinger, 348). Among the errors which the Armenians must reject, Benedict XII mentions the doctrine that the Soul originates from the Soul of the father (Denzinger, 533). Hence, although there are no strict definitions condemning Generationism as heretical, it is certainly opposed to the doctrine of the Church, and could not be held without temerity.

Publication information

Written by C.A. Dubray.

Transcribed by Tomas Hancil and Joseph P.Thomas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


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This doctrine, which by many is derided as esoteric, is anything but. It has very important moral and social implications. But before turning to that, let's set forth what is meant by the term and why it must be accepted as biblical.

Traducianism is the teaching that not only the body but also the soul is passed down by natural generation. That is to say, in contrast to the rival doctrine called Creationism there is no time from conception on when there was not a soul present in the child. Creationists believe that a new soul is created for every child but differ as to whether it is placed within him at conception or possibly at some other time preceding birth.

Now, the proofs for traducianism are many, among which I shall mention these:

1. When God finish creating there was nothing more left to create. According to Genesis 2:3, after creating man He ceased creating. His Creative work was complete. The Scriptures never indicate that God created anything else. In His providence He now orders all that occurs in that creation, but does not create anything more /de novo/.

2. Sin (both corruption and guilt) is passed down from one generation to the next. Though the body suffers from the effects of sin (clubfeet, retardation, and so on), it is not the conveyor of the sinful nature itself. The sinful nature is a matter of the heart (or soul). Unless sinful corruption is passed down through the generations by means of the soul, it could not happen. Such continuity would be broken if the Creationist's suppositions were true.

3. If God created souls (after Adam and Eve's) then He would be creating something sinful rather than “good.” That, of course, is unthinkable. He Himself declared His creation “good.”

4. The fact that children die before birth indicates that they are considered “sinners.” That is true because the “wages of sin is death.” In Adam all die. Since children in the womb die at every stage, their standing as human beings, held guilty of Adam's sin, is assured from conception.

From this discussion there is but one conclusion to reach – Traducianism is true. There is also one implication that I wish to draw: If Creationism were true, Creationists could not be called upon to refute the idea that the fetus at some stage or other might be less than a human being. Creationists might be forced to admit that until the new soul was created and placed into the body (whenever that might be), the living substance within the womb could be considered non-human. Clearly, Creationism leaves this option open, though (without any evidence) many Creationists refuse to posit such a period of time. While it is unknown how the soul is passed down in conjunction with the body, that is no objection to Traducionist teaching. There are aspects of many things that are assuredly true for which we await answers.

Jay Adams

Institute for Nouthetic Studies


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Traducianism is the teaching that the immaterial human soul is transmitted through the natural act of procreation and is generated along with the material human body. Therefore, as the human body is generated from the life of the parents, so is the soul. This position teaches that the human soul in each individual is not generated by God's active hand at each conception but is rather a continued generation from Adam who was the only soul directly made by God (Eve being taken from Adam).

Contrast with creationism.



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Traducianism is one of two biblically plausible views on the origin of the human soul (immaterial nature, spirit) following God's initial creation and mankind's Fall. Traducianism is the theory that human beings are propagated as whole beings, both materially and immaterially (including both body and soul). Creationism, on the other hand, is the view that God specially creates a new soul ex nihilo when a human being is conceived. Both views have their strengths and weaknesses and both have been held by notable theologians of the past.

A third view, which lacks biblical support, proposes that God created all human souls at the same time, prior to Genesis 1, and attaches a soul to a human being at the moment of conception. In other words, all the souls that will ever be were created and pre-existent before Adam. This view is not generally accepted as an orthodox option.

Traducianism was held by Tertullian and many Westerns; since the Reformation by Lutherans; also by the Eastern church. Roman Catholics and most Reformed theologians are creationists, though Shedd and Strong favor traducianism. Modern studies in heredity and psychosomatic unity are indecisive, but can easily be interpreted on the traducianist side.

Traducianist view

Support for Traducianism is as follows:

The weakness of Traducianism is that it is unclear how an immaterial soul can be generated from another soul.

Notable proponents of the Traducionist view include: William G. T. Shedd

Creationist view

Creationism was held by many early church fathers and also has scriptural support:

The weakness of Creationism is that it has God continually creating new human souls, while Genesis 2:2-3 indicates that God ceased creating. Also, since the entire human existence, body, soul, and spirit, are infected by sin – if God creates a new soul for every human being, how is that soul then infected with sin?

Notable proponents of the Creationist view include: A. A. Hodge

External links

  • Traducianism, by Gordon Clark
  • Extent of Adam's Parental Relation, by Samuel J. Baird (a defense of the traducianist view)
  • Creationism or Traducianism?, by Francis Turretin (a defense of the creationist view)
  • Turretin on Traducianism, Refuted, by Ken Hamrick
  • Pulling Traducianism out of the Shedd (PDF), by Oliver Crisp
  • Traducianism (Catholic Encyclopedia)

  • Theopedia

    Also, see:
    Origin of the Soul

    The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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