APPENDIX B : LUTHER ON PSALM 51 - CONCEPTION, SOULS & ORIGINAL SIN . . . .
"THE BURDEN OF THE WORD OF THE LORD FOR ISRAEL, SAITH THE LORD, WHICH STRETCHETH FORTH THE HEAVENS, AND LAYETH THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND FORMETH THE SPIRIT OF MAN WITHIN HIM" ZECHARIAH 12: 1. . . .
Q : Using the example of King David, how can a first generation cell [ a fertilised human egg or zygote] be shown to possess all the rights of a human being?
A : According to the Scriptures, God dealt with King David from his very conception [ Ps 51. 5 & Ps. 139 14 - 16 ]. Conception in the womb is ordained by God, and David, as a first generation cell, inherited original sin. Thus David, was a moral / spiritual entity i.e. a human being in God's image from his very conception. In summary, since God deals with man from his very conception - so should men recognise other men whether they be a zygote, or fully grown.
Q : What exactly is original sin and how is it transmitted? How does it affect people?
A : The Westminster Assemblies Catechetical Questions summarise the doctrine of original sin well :
Q : 18 (Shorter Catechism) Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A : The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin, together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Rom 5.19, Rom3.10, Eph. 2.1, Ps 51.5 & Matt 15.19&20
Q 26 (Larger Catechism) How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity?
A : Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceeds from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.
Ps 51.5, Job 14.4, Job 15.14 & John 3.6
Q : Did King David, being a moral entity from conception, have his soul from conception ?
A : It would seem reasonable to assume, that, as a moral entity accountable to God, David would have had his soul from the moment of his conception. Although no one proof text can be offered, Ps. 51 :5, Ps. 139 : 14-16, Gen. 1 : 27 & Zech. 12: 1 taken together, are highly suggestive of it. It can certainly be said that God had marked out David's fertilised egg for a soul, even if it was not given immediately at fertilisation!
Q : How does a zygote acquire a soul ?
A : The two main theological views are :  special creation by God of each soul and  traducem or propagation - that is that the soul of the child is derived from the substance of the soul of the parent.
Francis Turretin, Academy of Geneva, [ 17th C ] comments...
"Although there are various opinions of theologians and philosophers about the origin of the soul, yet principally there are two to which the others can be referred : one asserting the creation, the other the propagation [ traducem ] of the soul. The former holds all souls to have been immediately created by God, and by creating infused, thus to be produced from nothing and without any pre-existing material. The latter, however, maintains that souls are propagated. The former is the opinion of almost all the orthodox (with many of the "fathers" and scholastics). The latter is embraced by the Lutherans. Tertillian was the author of propagation [ traducis] in Treatise on the Soul, whom the Luciferains and many of the Latins followed. Augustine suspends his judgment on this point and, although often discussing the question, still would not determine anything about it...He testifies that "he still did not know what was to be held""
John Calvin comments..
"....To the understanding of this subject, there is no necessity for an anxious discussion [ which in no small degree perplexed the ancient doctors ] as to whether the soul of the child comes by the transmission from the soul of the parent. It should be enough for us to know that Adam was made the depository of the endowments which God was pleased to bestow on human nature, and that therefore, when he lost what he had received, he lost not only for himself, but for all of us...."
See Zech. 12.1, Ecc. 12 :7, Num. 16 : 22 & Is. 57 :16
Q : If King David, the first generation cell, was accounted a human being ( with a "body" and soul ], before God - does that mean that every fertilised human egg, throughout history, whether conceived in the womb, or a test tube, whether running to full term or not, had/has the same standing as David did?
A : All that can be said, without engaging in unfruitful speculation, is that any given zygote should be regarded as potentially [and therefore, in practice, actually ] in the same standing before God as David - we cannot know any more than this, in this life.
King David- "conceived in iniquity" : Dr Luther comments on Psalm 51, conception and original sin
Psalm 51 [verses 1-5]: To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.- see 2 Samuel 11 & 12 [ King David had committed adultery and subsequently arranged the death of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah ]
1. Have mercy upon me O God, according to thy lovingkindness : according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions
2. Wash me from me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3. For I acknowledge my transgressions : and my sin is ever before me.
4. Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest
5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me......
Initial comments ..
....A knowledge of this psalm is necessary and useful in many ways. It contains instruction about the chief parts of our religion, about repentance, sin, grace, and justification, as well as about the worship we ought to render God. These are divine and heavenly doctrines. Unless they are taught by the great Spirit, they cannot enter the heart of man. We see our opponents have expended great effort and discussed this doctrine in many huge volumes. Yet none of them really understands the nature of repentance, sin or grace. These words are like a dream to them, which leaves some traces in the mind but itself has utterly disappeared from the mind and the eyes. The reason for this blindness and ignorance is that true knowledge of these doctrines does not depend on the intelligence and wisdom of human reason. nor is it born, so to speak, in our home or hearts. But it is revealed and given from heaven.....
....This psalm is commonly called the penitential psalm, and among them all is the most widely used in church and daily prayers.....Here the doctrine of true repentance is set forth before us. There are two elements in true repentance: recognition of sin and recognition of grace; or, to use the more familiar terms, the fear of God and trust in His mercy. These two parts David sets forth before us in this prayer as in a beautiful picture for us to look at. At the beginning of the psalm we see him troubled by the knowledge of his sin and the burden of his conscience. At the end he consoles himself with trust in the goodness of God and promises that he will also instruct others so that they might be converted.
....The fact that such a great man - filled with the Holy Spirit, with the highest good works and divine wisdom, and famous above all for his outstanding gift of divine prophecy - should have fallen so miserably is an example for us, to comfort us when we are beset by sin and fall, or when our consciences are touched by a sense of the wrath and judgment of God. Here in a glorious example there shines the goodness and mercy of God, who is ready to forgive sins and to justify us, just as long as we do not add to our sin a denial that we have sinned.......Here the dejected mind jeers up, and on the basis of this teaching of grace it joyfully declares: "Though I am a sinner in myself, I am not a sinner in Christ, who has been made Righteousness for us (I Cor. 1 : 30). I am righteous and justified through Christ, the Righteous and the Justifier, who is called the Justifier because He belongs to sinners and was sent for sinners".....
Luther 's comments on verse 5
" Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me".Ps 51 :5
"...He [ David ] shows the cause of sin and, as it were, opens up the basis of the whole transaction, explaining why he confesses his sin and begs for mercy : "because", he says, I was conceived in iniquity." What could be said more clearly and meaningfully? He does not say I murdered Uriah." He does not say "I committed adultery." But he wraps up all of human nature as in one bundle and says, "I was conceived in sin". He is not talking about certain actions but simply about the matter, and he says; "The human seed, this mass from which I was formed, is totally corrupt with faults and sins. The material itself is faulty. The clay, so to speak, out of which this vessel began to be formed is damnable. What more do you want? That is how I am; that is how all men are. Our very conception, the very growth of the foetus in the womb, is sin, even before we are born...."
".....Furthermore, he is not talking about sin in marriage or about the sin of parents; as though he was accusing his parents of sin when he says, "I was conceived in sin".......Thus the true and proper meaning is this : "I am a sinner, not because I have committed adultery, nor because I have had Uriah murdered. But I have committed adultery and murder because I was born, indeed conceived and formed in the womb as a sinner."
... This verse contains the reason why we ought to confess that we are sinners, that all our efforts are damnable in the sight of God, and that God alone is righteous. This teaching is most necessary in the church; neither the pope nor the Turk believes it. I can testify from my own example that I did not yet know this teaching when I had been a doctor of theology many years. They used to discuss original sin, but they said it was removed in Baptism...
....Let this be enough about the confession of original or innate sin, which is hidden from the whole world and is not revealed by our powers, reasonings, or speculations, but is rather obscured, defended, and excused by them. We need the Word of God from heaven to reveal this uncleanness or fault in our nature. With faith in this Word let us confess that this is the way things are, even though all nature should object, as object it must. This is the most difficult teaching of this psalm, yes, of all scripture or theology; without it, it is impossible to understand the Scripture correctly, as the dreams of modern theologians prove."