Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sin in the Bible - Part 2 Greek Words


New Testament Words For Sin

Bloesch points out that the meaning of sin in a religion based on law is quite different than one based on the gospel.[i] Bloesch goes on to state that sin from the evangelical perspective is more the breaking of a covenantal relationship rather than an infringement of a moral code.[ii] The words translated as sin in the NT certainly reflect this view.

Similar to what we found in the OT Hebrew, there are many words translated as sin in the Greek used in the NT. In the NT, there are 12 words translated into English as sin as seen in Figure 2.[iii] As with the Hebrew, I will only address some of those words here. The most common of the Greek words translated into English as sin is ἁμαρτία [hamartia /ham·ar·tee·ah/] and is the Greek equivalent of חָטָא, חֶטְאָה, חָטָא [chata’ /khaw·taw/] meaning to miss the mark.[iv] In the NT, hamartia appears 174 times and is translated as sin, sinful, or offense (Mt 18:21; Lk 15:18; Jn 9:2; Ac 25:8; Ro 3:23; 6:15; 1Co 6:18; Eph 4:26; 1Ti 5:20; Heb 10:26; 1Pe 2:20; 2Pe 2:4; 1Jn 1:10; 5:16; Jn 8:11 v.r.)[v]. As a synonym of the Hebrew, hamartia also carries the implication that the sin offense committed is intentional in nature on the part of the individual committing the sin. Ryrie opines that when a NT writer wanted one inclusive word for sin, he used this word.[vi]

Ryrie goes on to state that when hamartia is used in the Gospels, it almost always occurs in a context that speaks of salvation or forgiveness.[vii] Instructive references include Acts 2:38; Rom. 5:12; 6:1; 1 Cor. 5:21; Jam. 1:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 1:7; 2:2; and Rev. 1:5.

κακῶς [kakos /kak·oce/] used as an adjective appears 51 time and another 16 times as an adverb. It is translated as evil, evil things, that which is evil, wicked, and bad among several others. The principle idea behind kakos is being of a bad nature or of a mode of thinking, feeling, or acting.[viii] Simply put, moral badness is at the heart of the meaning of kakos.[ix]

ἔνοχος [enochos /en·okh·os/], though appearing only 10 times in Scripture, implies a strong connection to one’s crime and guilt sufficient enough to warrant death (Matt. 5:21-22; Mark 14:64; James 2:10).[x]

ἀγνοέω [agnoeo /ag·no·eh·o/] appears 22 times and translates as be ignorant, ignorant, not know, and understand not. This Greek word carries the connotation of sinning through ignorance or by making a mistake.[xi] Ryrie brings to our attention that this word may refer to ignorant worship of something other than the true God as in Acts 17:23 and Rom. 2:4 but that such ignorance still leaves one guilty and in need of atonement.[xii]

Often used when referring to unsaved people as in Rom. 1:18, ἀδικία [adikia /ad·ee·kee·ah/] usually translates as unrighteousness but is also occasionally translated as iniquity, unjust, and wrong.[xiii] Adikia generally means a deed violating law and justice or an unrighteous life and heart.[xiv]

Slightly stronger language than adikia is ἀσεβής [asebes /as·eb·ace/] which is translated ungodly and once as ungodly men. Mostly appearing in 2 Peter and Jude, the Biblical usage refers to godless apostates.[xv]

Also in common with the Hebrew, there are additional words in the Greek that could also be included here. Rather than continue this exercise, the remaining What is clear is that sin is contrary to God and has to be addressed. Returning to Systematic Theology mentioned in the introduction for a moment, it is now more easily understood how systematic theologians can arrive at views of sin with a slant that makes their system flow more smoothly. The interpretations they make are defensible in light of the limitations of translations. It is also clearer why study of Hebrew and Greek is so very important to the understanding of the Biblical text. Without a basic knowledge of at least one of these languages, proper exegesis is limited to the most dedicated of laypeople and to theologians and seminarians; a status in my view that at the very least undesirable. With a rather basic word study completed, I will now shift my focus to the very reason sin is a problem.


[i] Bloesch, D. G., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 1106.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] McDaniel, Chip, and C. John Collins. The ESV English-Hebrew Reverse Interlinear Old Testament. (Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2006; 2009). Figure 2 illustrates the various Greek words translated as sin.

[iv] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G266.

[v] Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos research Systems, Inc., 1997), DBLG 279. Please note that the reference to John 8:11 is variant reading in a manuscript included by the author of the work cited.

[vi] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 241-42.

[vii] Ibid. See Matt. 1:21; John 1:29.

[viii] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G2560.

[ix] Mark 7:21-23 is an especially poignant illustration of this moral badness where Christ, describing the things that defile a man, goes right to the evil heart of men and how it is what comes from the heart that is evil.

[x] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G1777.

[xi] Ibid, G50.

[xii] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 241-42.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G93.

[xv] Ibid, G765.

1 comment:

Chris Sanchez said...

As with the "Hebrew Words for Sin in the Bible" post, this post is also taken from a research paper I completed for my seminary studies. Comments welcome!