Forgiveness - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


aphesis (G859) Forgiveness
paresis (G3929) Passing over (of Sins)
Aphesis is the primary word used to express forgiveness (or remission) in the New Testament. In the Septuagint, however, aphesis is not used in that way. Aphesis is derived from aphienai (G863), and the underlying imagery depicts the release of a prisoner (Isa. 61:1) or the remission of a debt (Deut. 15:3). The Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:31, 40; 27:24), the year when all debts were forgiven, may have suggested the higher application of the word, a usage frequently found in the New Testament. On a single occasion, however, the phrase paresis ton hamartematon (G265) occurs (Rom. 3:25). The Authorized Version's marginal note about this variation of the apostle's phrase translates paresis as "remission," just as elsewhere "remission" is used to translate aphesis. Although many scholars have agreed with this translation, others have more correctly affirmed that Paul deliberately used paresis to express something that aphesis would not adequately express and that our translators should have reproduced Paul's change.
Cocceius and his school used Romans 3:25 as one of the main supports for their doctrine that there was no remission of sins in the fullest sense under the old covenant. Cocceius taught that there was no teleiosis (G5050,Heb. 10:1-4), no entire abolition of sin even for the faithful themselves, only a present praetermission (paresis), a temporary dissimulation by God in consideration of the sacrifice that was one day to be. Until that sacrifice the "remembrance of sins" remained. A violent controversy raged among the theologians of Holland at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the following century about this matter. On the one hand, those who opposed the Cocceian scheme incorrectly denied that there was any distinction between aphesis and paresis. On the other hand, Cocceius and his followers were undoubtedly wrong in saying that for the faithful under the old covenant there was only a paresis, not an aphesis, of sins and in applying to them what was asserted by the apostle in respect to the world. But Cocceius and his followers were correct in maintaining that paresis is not perfectly synonymous with aphesis. And indeed, Beza had already drawn attention to the distinction between the two words.
Aphesis and paresis suggest different meanings. If aphesis means "remission," then paresis naturally means "praetermission"the "passing by [paresis] of sins." The praetermission (passing by) of sins for the present leaves the future open for God either to remit the sins entirely or for him adequately to punish them, as may seem good to him who has the power and right to do one or the other. Fritzsche spoke plainly on this point:
These two wordsaphesis and paresisagree in that whether the one or the other occurs to you, no reckoning of your sins is made; they differ in that when the former is given, you never pay the penalty for your deeds, but when the latter is granted, you suffer no punishment for your deeds as long as he who has the right of chastising your transgressions decides to leave them unpunished.
The classical usage ofparienai and paresis bears out this distinction. Thus Xenophon stated: "It is not right to pass over [parienai] unpunished sins." And Josephus related that although Herod desired to punish a certain offense, he passed it by. When the Son of Sirach (Ecclus. 23:2) prayed that God would not "pass by" his sins, he did not use ou me pare as a synonym for ou me aphe but asked only that he might not be without a wholesome chastisement following close on his transgressions.
Although aphesis and paresis suggest different meanings, the following passage from Dionysius of Halicarnassus has been adduced to prove that paresis is synonymous with aphesis:"They did not find complete remission [holoschere paresin], but they delayed for as long as they were able." It is "complete" paresis that is synonymous with aphesis, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus undoubtedly added that epithet because paresis alone would not have properly expressed his meaning.
Thus there is a strong prima facie probability that Paul intended something different by the sole use of paresis hamartematon in his letters (Rom. 3:25) as contrasted with the many places where he used aphesis. The Authorized Version translates Romans 3:25 in this way: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." I would translate Romans 3:25 this way: "Whom God hath set forth as a propitiation, through faith in his blood, for a manifestation of his righteousness because of the praetermission [dia (G1223) ten paresin, not dia tes pareseos], in the forbearance of God, of the sins done aforetime." I think this was Paul's exact meaning: "There needed to be a signal manifestation of the righteousness of God, on account of the long praetermission or passing over of sins, in his infinite forbearance, with no adequate expression of his wrath against them, during all those long years which preceded the coming of Christ; which manifestation of God's righteousness found place, when he set forth no other and no less than his own Son to be the propitiatory sacrifice for sin" (Heb. 9:15, 22). Prior to the incarnation, God's extreme indignation against sin and sinners had not been pronounced. During that time, God's connivancethe holding of his peacewas only partial, for as Paul declared, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). And in verses 24 through 32, Paul traced some ways in which God's wrath was displayed. This was the time when God "allowed all nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:16); they were "the times of ignorance" that "God overlooked" (Acts 17:30), the times of the anoche [G463] tou Theou.
By its very nature, this position regarding sin could only be transient and provisional. Among humans the passing over (praetermission) of offenses is often identical with their remission, that is, paresis is synonymous with aphesis. This is because people forget, because they are not able to bring the distant past into judgment, and because we do not have the righteous energy to will such a judgment. But with an absolutely righteous God, the paresis can only be temporary, and there must be a final settlement. Forbearance is not acquittal; every sin must either be absolutely forgiven or adequately avenged. As the Russian proverb tells us, "God has no bad debts." And as long as these sins are passed by, the paresis itself might seem to call into question God's absolute righteousness. Because God held his peace, people wrongly concluded that God, like them, was morally indifferent to good and evil. But now "at the fitting time" God, by the sacrifice of his Son, has rendered such an interpretation impossible. Bengel wrote:
The object of passing by [pareseos] is sin, of forbearance [anoches] it is the sinner. As long as passing by and forbearance existed, God's righteousness was not apparent; for he did not seem to be angered vehemently at sin, but to be indifferent, unconcerned, and negligent with the sinner, Heb. 8:9. But through Christ's blood and propitious death God's justice has been displayedwith punishment against sin itself, that he himself might be just, and with zeal in behalf of the sinner, that he himself might be justifying.
Thus the one who partakes of the aphesis has his sins forgiven, and unless he commits new acts of disobedience (Matt. 18:32, 34; 2 Pet. 1:9; 2:20), his sins will not be imputed to him or mentioned against him any more. The paresis is different from the aphesis and is a subordinate benefit. The paresis is the present passing over of sin, the suspension of its punishment, the not shutting up of all the ways of mercy against the sinner, the giving to him of space and helps for repentance. If such repentance follows, then the paresis will lose itself in the aphesis; if not, then the punishment that was suspended but not averted will arrive in due time (Luke 13:9).

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