The Friday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is an opportunity for blogging about anything. Unlike the other days of prescribed themes, this day is for blogging about an issue that I couldn’t fit anywhere else or couldn’t wait until next week to write.
Sin is complicated; it is multi-faceted. There is no denying what sin is, how we should understand it, what it does, what it doesn’t do, etc.
Using the outline of Jay Adams in his book A Theology of Christian Counseling, I want to give you a quick look at the main words for “sin” in the Bible that is translated as “sin.” By doing this, you will see how sin can take so many forms.
The Words for “Sin” in the Old Testament
Amal – Meaning “labor” or “sorrow.” It speaks of sin being a burden that everyone has to carry. Appears 10x in the O.T. Some examples of these references: Ecclesiastes 1:3; 2:19-21; 5:16, 18.
Asham – Meaning “guilt.” It is a word often associated with restitution. It implies that every sin must be dealt with and never overlooked. Appears 32x in the O.T. Some examples of these references: Leviticus 4:22; Psalm 34:21-22; Jeremiah 50:7; Ezekiel 6:6.
Avah – Meaning “bent” or “perverse craving” or “twisted out of shape”. Because we are depraved (Gen 3), we are born with the inability to please Him because we are warped and twisted. We do not function as we were originally designed (Gen 1-2). Appears 26x in the O.T. Some examples of these references: Deuteronomy 5:21; Psalm 45:11; 132:13-14; Proverbs 21:10.
Aval – Meaning “unjust” or “unfair.” It refers to the idea that we have moved away from righteous living. Appears 3x in the O.T. An example from these references: Malachi 2:6.
Aven – Meaning “unprofitable behavior” or “vain action.” When someone sins, they produce nothing of value. Since obedience is behavior that glorifies God, sin is behavior that brings God no glory or is worthless to participate in. Appears 77x in the O.T. Some examples of these references: Psalm 14:4; Proverbs 22:8; Isaiah 10:1; Jeremiah 4:14-15.
Chatha – Meaning “to wander” or “to miss the mark.” Anytime someone does not meet God’s standards, he is sinning. Everyone falls short of God’s standard of perfect righteousness. Appears 221x in the O.T. Some examples of these references: Genesis 20:6, 9; Joshua 7:11; I Kings 8:33; Proverbs 8:36.
Pasha – Meaning “rebellion” or “revolt.” Someone has said that sin is “cosmic treason against the Creator.” This was the whole temptation Satan tried to bring about in the Garden of Eden – rebellion against God. Appears 37x in the O.T. Some examples of these references: II Kings 3:5; Psalm 37:38; 51:13; Jeremiah 3:13; Ezekiel 2:3.
Ra – Meaning “breaking up” or “ruin.” This word speaks of the ruin or destruction that sin can accomplish (e.g., ruined marriages, broken relationships, etc.). Appears 217x in the O.T. Some examples of these references: Genesis 2:9; Judges 3:7; Job 21:30; Psalm 5:4; Isaiah 56:2.
Rasha – Meaning “confusion.” The sinner is restless – like he never knows which way to turn. Appears 249x in the O.T. Some examples of these references: Exodus 2:13; I Samuel 24:13; Ecclesiastes 8:10; Isaiah 57:20-21
The Words for “Sin” in the New Testament
Agnoema – Meaning “ignorance in an area of something someone ought to know.” Before God, we are without excuse and pretending to not know what God expects is never a valid excuse. Appears 1x in the N.T. (Heb 9:7).
Anomia – Meaning “lawlessness.” This is the most basic word for “sin.” It simply means that one chooses his law over God’s law. Appears 13x in the N.T. Some examples of these references: Matthew 7:23; Romans 4:7; II Corinthians 6:14; Titus 2:14; I John 3:4.
Hamartia – Meaning “missing the mark.” It is synonymous with the Hebrew word chatha. It communicates the idea of someone falling short of his target. It is the most common or general word for “sin” in the N.T. Appears 150x in the N.T. Some examples of these references: Matthew 3:6; Acts 26:18; II Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:17; Revelation 1:5.
Hettema – Meaning “defect” or “shortcoming.” When, and if God is not at the center of our lives, then we are guilty of this word. Appears 2x in the N.T. Some examples of these references: Romans 11:12; I Corinthians 6:7.
Parabasis – Meaning “crossing over the boundary line.” It would be analogous to someone seeing a “No Trespassing” sign and then walking into that forbidden property anyway. It is wanting to touch the paint when a sign is posted “wet paint.” It is wanting to walk on the grass when the sign reads “Don’t step on the grass.” Appears 7x in the N.T. Some examples of these references: Romans 2:23; 4:15; 5:14; Hebrews 2:2; 9:15.
Parakoe – Meaning “disobedience to God’s call.” When God calls and we don’t listen, don’t hear and don’t follow, this word applies. Appears 3x in the N.T. Some examples of these references: Romans 5:19; II Corinthians 10:6; Hebrews 2:2
Paraptoma – Meaning “falling.” In other words, it is not being dependable to God to follow Him in obedience. Appears 18x in the N.T. Some examples of these references: Mark 11:25; Romans 5:15; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13