Skip to main content



From the Latin tradux, a shoot or sprout, sometimes called generationism. There is no consistency or unanimity in the terminology, divisions, and definitions of traducianism and generationism. Generally traducianism and generationism (sometimes synonyms) denote a group of theories concerning the origin of the human soul from the parents and its simultaneous transmission with the body. In this sense it is opposed to creationism, preexistentism, emanationism. Traducianism is either a generic term including generationism, or a term connoting a materialistic view that the human soul is germinally contained in the bodily sperm and is transmitted by organic generation, or that the parents generate from an inanimate matter both body and soul of a child. Generationism connotes a spiritualistic view that the soul originates from the substance of the soul of the parents, or signifies the creative power of the soul received from the Creator to produce another soul and to transmit it to the child.

History. The Bible is not explicit on the origin of the human soul, because it knows no strict anthropologic dichotomy [C. Tresmontant, A Study of Hebrew Thought, tr. M. Gibson (New York 1960)]. Patristic teaching is mostly obscure, difficult to interpret, and not unanimous (see creationism). Tertullian taught materialistic traducianism (De anima 941). Those who seem to have favored traducianism or generationism were: Arnobius the Elder (Adv. nat. 2.36), Apollinaris, Gregory of Nyssa (De hom. opif. 29), Faustus of Riez (Epist. 3); some hesitated, e.g., Bachiarius (Lib. de fide 4), Rufinus (Apol. ad Anast. 4). Augustine rejected the traducianism of Tertullian (Epist. 190.4.14), hesitated (because of Pelagianism) in respect to creationism (Epist. 166.8.26), and favored spiritual generationism (Epist. 190.4.15). His authority led many Latin Fathers into indecision. In the Middle Ages only Averroists and Luciferians (Catharist sect) defended generationism and traducianism. Inspired by Augustine, Luther and many other reformers renewed generationism and traducianism and are followed by the majority of the contemporary Protestant theologians. Only in recent times have several Catholic theologians revived generationism in modified forms, e.g., G. Ubaghs, G. Hermes, H. Klee, F. X. Dieringer, J. Oischinger, P. Mayrhofer, Kolschmid, etc. J. Frohschammer taught a "secondary creationism" (parents do not generate, but create the soul), and A. de Rosmini-Serbati defended "generatocreationism" (development of a spiritual soul from a sensitive one; H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 322024). There is no solemn teaching of the Church concerning the origin of the human soul. The ordinary magisterium teaches creationism (ibid. 190, 360, 685, 3896) and condemns traducianism and generationism (ibid. 360361, 1007, 322024).

Theology. Traducianism and generationism oppose the spirituality and simplicity of an individual soul and the transcendent dynamism of the Creator. However, they point out the necessity of reinterpreting an oversimplified creationism, which sins against the mystery of the origin of the whole man as a person in both spiritual and biological aspects and who receives his existence wholly from God (primary cause) and wholly from his parents (secondary cause), but in a different manner.

See Also: evolution; soul, human; soul, human, origin of.

Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 15.1:135065. a. mitterer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 4:668669. p. overhage and k. rahner, Das Problem der Hominisation (Freiburg 1961). m. j. scheeben, Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik (Freiburg 1961) 3:151. r. c. zaehner, Matter and Spirit: Their Convergence in Eastern Religions (New York 1963).

[p. b. t. bilaniuk]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Traducianism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 19 Sep. 2018 <>.

"Traducianism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (September 19, 2018).

"Traducianism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.