the act of violating God’s will; any thought or action that endangers the ideal relationship between an individual and God; any diversion from the perceived ideal order for human living; to miss the mark
Sin is the transgression of the law—1 John 3:4
The Online Etymology Dictionary reveals that the word sin comes:
From Middle English verb sinne, from Old English verb synn (syngian) “to commit sin, transgress, err,” and noun moral wrongdoing, injury, mischief, enmity, feud, guilt, crime, offense against God, misdeed,” from synn (noun) from Proto-Germanic *sun(d)jo- “sin” from Old Saxon sundia / sundion from Old Frisian sende / sendigia, Middle Dutch sonde / sondighen, Dutch zonde / zondigen, Old High German sunteon from the Germanic root sunta (Sünde / sündigen) “to sin, transgression, trespass, offense”, probably ultimately “it is true,” i.e. “the sin is real” (compare Gothic sonjis, Old Norse sannr “true”), from PIE *snt-ya-, a collective form from *es-ont- “becoming,” present participle of root *es- “to be” or the Latin sons and sont-is, both of which mean guilty. (The Germanic word may have been an early borrowing directly from the Latin genitive).
Semantic development of the word sin is interesting, and can almost be reduced down to the verb “to be” (which harmonises with man’s propensity to or for sin):
- “to be truly the one (who is guilty)“
- Old Norse phrase, verð sannr at ≡ “be found guilty of“
- use of “it is being” in Hittite confessional formula
- same process yielded the Latin word sons (genitive sontis) “guilty, criminal” from present participle of sum, esse “to be, that which is“
- (see also sooth)
Monotheistic views OF SIN
Old Testament Hebrew / JUDAISM (redacted from Wikipedia)
There are three Hebrew words that are translated to sin. The principal of these is chatta’ah (Strong’s # 2403), chata (Strong’s # 2398), or cheit. Apart from sin, cheit means to miss the way, to miss the mark, to fall short, to go wrong, or to incur guilt. To disobey God’s will and commands. It can connote a willful defiance of what one knows is right but more often refers to accidental opposition to the divine order of things.
Pesha (Strong’s # 6588) is the second most common word for sin in the Old Testament and it is most commonly translated as transgression, but also as trespass, and carries a connotation of breaking an established rule. Think rebellion. [Romans 5:17; 1 John 3:4; Psalm 51:4]
A third word which is translated sin from the Hebrew is avon (Strong’s # 5771). It carries a connotation of perversion or depravity, and is most commonly translated as iniquity — the sense of willful or continuing sin.
“Chatta’ah” [sins] and “avon” [iniquities] are used in parallel in Isaiah 59:2:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
Mainstream Judaism regards the violation of any of the 613 commandments of the Mosaic law for Jews (or the seven Noahide laws for Gentiles) as a sin. Judaism teaches that all humans are inclined to sin from birth. Sin has many classifications and degrees. Some sins are punishable with death by the court, others with death by heaven, others with lashes, and others without such punishment, but no sins with willful intent go without consequence.
Unintentional violations of the mitzvot do not count as sins, since no one can be punished for something he did not know was wrong. “Sins by error” are considered as less severe sins. When the Temple yet stood in Jerusalem, people would offer sacrifices [to specifically atone] for their misdeeds:
- for the most part, korbanot only expiate such “sins by error” (sins committed from forgetfulness)
- for the most part, korbanot cannot atone for a malicious, deliberate sin
- no atonement is needed for violations committed under duress or through lack of knowledge
- korbanot have no expiating effect unless the person making the offering sincerely repents his or her actions before making the offering, and makes restitution to any person who suffered harm through the violation
The completely righteous suffer for their sins (by humiliation, poverty and suffering that God sends them) in this world and receive their reward in the world to come. The in-between (not completely righteous or completely wicked), repent their sins after death and thereafter join the righteous. The completely wicked also cannot correct their sins in this world and hence do not suffer them here, but after death. The very evil do not repent even at the gates of hell. Such people prosper in this world to receive their reward for any good deed, but cannot be cleansed by and hence cannot leave gehinnom, because they do not or cannot repent. (This world can therefore seem unjust where the righteous suffer, while the wicked prosper.)
New Testament Greek / CHRISTIANITY (redacted from Wikipedia)
The original sense of New Testament Greek ἁμαρτία (hamartia) “sin”, is failure, being in error, missing the mark, especially in spear throwing. (Hebrew chata “sin” originates in archery and literally refer to missing the “gold” at the centre of a target, but hitting the target, i.e. error.) Archers call not hitting the target at all a “miss”.
The doctrine of sin is central to Christianity, since its basic message is about redemption in Christ — describing sin as an act of offence against God by despising his persons and biblical law, and by injuring others. Sin can be seen as an evil human act which violates the rational nature of man as well as God’s nature and his eternal law. It is a refusal to follow God’s plan or a desire to be like God (Genesis 3:5) — a loss of love for God and an elevation of self-love or concupiscence (a sin of pride) — and thus in direct opposition to God’s will. Sin can be understood as a mostly legal infraction or contract violation (and in which salvation, also, is viewed in legal terms) or, it can be understood as fundamentally relational.
At the root of all sin is pride. —1 Timothy 3:6
Eastern Christianity views sin as relational, both between people and between people and God. Sin has severed the relationship between creator (who is sinless) and His created. Restoration can only come through acceptance of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross as a satisfactory sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Western Christianity similarly considers sin to alienate one from God, despite His unending love for His creation — original sin entering the human world through Adam and Eve, and humans now live with the consequences of this first sin — alienation from God.
Mesopotamian tradition / Islam (redacted from Wikipedia)
In Mesopotamian Tradition, Adamu goes on trial for the “sin of casting down a divinity”. His crime is breaking the wings of the south wind. Muslims see sin as anything that goes against the commands of Allah, a breach of the laws and norms laid down by religion. Islam teaches that sin is an act, and not a state of being. It is believed that Allah weighs an individual’s good deeds and against his or her sins on the Day of Judgement, punishing those individuals whose evil deeds outweigh their good deeds. These individuals are thought to be sentenced to afterlife in the fires of jahannam (Hell).
a few Western colloquial SPINOFFS:
- Sin-eater (1680s): a person who, through a ritual meal, magically takes on the sins of a household, often because of a recent death, thus absolving the soul and allowing that person to rest in peace
- Live in sin: cohabit without marriage (1838) used earlier in a more general sense.
- Sin bin: ice-hockey slang for penalty box, attested from 1950 (there are some less savoury slang connotations also)
Ultimately, all sin goes against the will of God.
- cheit: to miss the mark; to stumble (an unintentional sin)
- pesha: rebellion (an intentional sin — an act committed in deliberate defiance of God e.g. “rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft” —1 Samuel 15:23
- avon: iniquity ( an intentional sin — a sin done knowingly but not with the intention to defy God)
Unbelief can be considered a sin: “without faith it is impossible to please God” —Hebrews 11:6
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. —Matthew chapter 5
— ♣ —
- Sin is Missing the Mark, Mike Jeshurun – Michael Jeshurun
- Boating Adventures: “Missing the Mark”, Vicki Totten – WWNRockport.com
- What Is Sin?, Jack Hendren – Life, Hope and Truth
- Sin – Wikipedia
- The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man – Human figures by Peter Paul Rubens and flora and fauna by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1617 [Wikimedia Commons]