Daily Archives: September 1, 2009

The Definition of Sin

According to Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT):

The root occurs about 580 times in the Old Testament and is thus its principle word for sin. The basic meaning of the root is to miss a mark or a way. It is used two or three times in Ugaritic to mean “sin.”

The verbal forms occur in enough secular contexts to provide a basic picture of the word’s meaning. In Jud 20:16 the left-handed slingers of Benjamin are said to have the skill to throw stones at targets and “not miss.” In a different context, Prov 19:2 speaks of a man in a hurry who “misses his way” (RSV, NEB, KJV has “sinneth”). A similar idea of not finding a goal appears in Prov 8:36; the concept of failure is implied.

The verb has the connotation of breach of civil law, i.e. failure to live up to expectations, in Gen 40:1.

In Greek translations of the OT (the LXX) and carried on into the NT, it is “hamartia” (άμαρτία) which was originally an archery term for missing the bulls-eye (from “αμαρτάνω” [hamartanō], I miss, fail). Essentially, it has a similar meaning to the Hebrew words.

I guess the feeling in antiquity was that if a god expressed his or her preferences for his/her own worship, or his/her expectations for his faithful followers, and you missed the mark, you deserved punishment.

Basically, sin is defined as transgressing the Law of Moses. If you are not bound by the Law of Moses, then you cannot “sin”. I wonder if Paul realized the irony of abrogating the Torah means that subsequent Christians really can’t sin any more, but not in the way that they think. Or on the other hand, that abrogating the Torah and not following the 613 commandments, while still claiming to follow the god of Moses, means that they are left in perpetual sin.
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Posted by on September 1, 2009 in archery, greek, hebrew

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