Sin - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Sinhamartia (G266) Sin
parakoe (G3876) Disobedience
anomia (G458) Unrighteousness
paranomia (G3892) Breaking the Law
parabasis (G3847) Transgression
paraptoma (G3900) Trespass
agnoema (G51) Error
hettema (G2275) Failure
This group contains numerous wordshamartia, hamartema, parakoe, anomia, paranomia, parabasis, paraptoma, agnoema, hettemaand more can easily be added. It is not difficult to see why: sin may be viewed from an infinite number of aspects in all languages. The diagnosis of sin primarily belongs to Scripture, where it is viewed from the greatest number of perspectives and described with many various images. When sin is viewed as the missing of a mark or aim, it is referred to as hamartia or as hamartema. When seen as the transgressing of a line, sin is termed parabasis. When understood as disobeying a voice, sin is called parakoe. When perceived as falling where one should have stood upright, sin is labelled paraptoma. When portrayed as the ignorance of what one should have known, sin is termed agnoema. When depicted as the diminishing of what should have been given in full measure, sin is called hettema. When viewed as the nonobservance of a law, sin is termed anomia or paranomia. When seen as a discord in the harmonies of God's universe, sin is referred to as plemmeleia.Sin may be described in ways almost beyond number.
We will begin our study of this word group with hamartia, the word most frequently used to describe sin. Hamartia's etymology is uncertain and so cannot help us accurately define the word or distinguish it from the other words in this group. Suidas derived hamartia from marpto, as though hamartia came from hamarptia (a failing to grasp). Buttmann's conjecture that hamartia belongs to the root meros (G3313), meiromai, on which a negative intransitive verb (to be without one's share of, to miss) was formed, has found more favor. Only this, however, is obvious: when sin is contemplated as hamartia, it is regarded as a failing (or missing) of the true end and scope of our lives, namely God.
A slighter understanding of sin and its evil goes hand in hand with a slighter ethical significance in the words used to express it. Nowhere in classical Greek do hamartia and hamartanein (G264) have the depth of meaning they have acquired in revealed religion. They run the same course there that all ethical terms seem to have run. Employed first about natural things, hamartia and hamartanein were then applied to the moral or spiritual realm. Initially hamartanein meant to miss a mark and was the exact opposite of tychein (G5177). Thus over and over in Homer we read of the warrior hamartei, who hurls his spear but who fails to strike his foe. Ton hodon hamartanein is to miss one's way. Next, hamartia was applied to the intellectual realm. Thus we read of the poet hamartanei, who selects a subject that is impossible to treat poetically or who seeks results that lie beyond the limits of his art. Hamartia constantly is contrasted with orthotes. Hamartia is so far removed from any necessary ethical significance that Aristotle sometimes (if not always) withdrew it from the realm of right and wrong. The hamartia is a mistake (per- haps a fearful one), like that of Oedipus, but nothing more. Elsewhere, however, hamartia can be as close in meaning to our use of sin as any word used in heathen ethics.
Hamartia refers to sin in the abstract as well as to sin in the concreteto the act of sinning and to the actual sin. Hamartema, however, never refers to sin as sinfulness or to the act of sinning. Instead, hamartema refers to sin in terms of its separate consequences and acts of disobedience to a divine law.There is the same difference between anomia and anomema, between asebeia and asebema, and between adikia and adikema. This is brought out in Aristotle's contrast of adikon and adikema: "To adikema and to adikon are different. Adikon is by nature or by order; but whenever this very thing is committed, it is an adikema" Clement of Alexandria has a long but not very profitable discussion on the distinction between hamartia and hamartema, between adikia and adikema, and between other words in this group. Asebeia is used with adikia just as asebes (G765) is used with adikos, anosios and hamartolos.
Asebeia is positive and active irreligiona deliberate withholding from God of his dues of prayer and service, as if one were in battle array against him. The Authorized Version always translates asebeia as ungodliness," and the Rheims Version always translates asebeia as "impiety" and asebes as "impious," though neither of these words occur in our English Bible. The asebes and the dikaios are always opposed to one another (cf. Gen. 18:23) as the two who wage on earth the great warfare between light and darkness and between right and wrong.
Parakoe occurs only once in the New Testament (Rom. 5:19) and never in the Septuagint, though parakouein is used several times in the Septuagint in the sense of "to disobey." In its strictest sense, parakoe is a failing to hear or an incorrect hearing. The sense of active disobedience that results from this inattentive or careless hearing is superinduced on the word, or perhaps the sin is already committed in failing to listen when God is speaking. Bengel has a good note:
Para [G3844] in parakoe expresses as suitably as possible the reason for the origin of Adam's fall. Does one inquire how the mind and will of any upright person was able to suffer defeat or to receive injury? Answerthe mind and will wavered at the same time through carelessness; nothing can be assumed prior to carelessness, just as the relaxing of the guards is the beginning of the capturing of a city. Parakoe, disobedience, indicates such carelessness.
Frequently in the Old Testament, disobedience is described as a refusing to hear (Jer. 11:10; 35:17) and it appears literally as such in Acts 7:57. In Hebrews 2:2, where parakoe is joined with and follows parabasis, the writer is implying that every actual transgression embodied in an outward act of disobedience was punished as was every refusal to hear, though such refusals might not have resulted in outwardly disobedient acts.
Generally we have translated anomia as "iniquity" (Matt. 7:23; Rom. 6:19; Heb. 10:17), once as "unrighteousness" (2 Cor. 6:14), and once as "transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). Anomia is contrasted with dikaiosyne and used with anarchia and antilogia. Anomos is used negatively at least once in the New Testament to refer to a person without law or to whom a law had not been given. Elsewhere anomia is used of the greatest enemy of all law, the man of sin, the lawless one (2 Thess. 2:8). In 2 Thessalonians 2:8 anomia does not refer to one living without law but to one who acts contrary to law, as also is the case with paranomia, which occurs only in 2 Peter 2:16 (cf. Prov. 10:29), and with paranomein (G3891) in Acts 23:3. It follows that where there is no law (Rom. 5:13), there may be hamartia or adikia but not anomia, which Oecumenius defined as "the error against the adopted law" or as Fritzsche stated, "the contempt for the law or the permissiveness of morals by which the law is violated." Thus the Gentiles who do not have a law (Rom. 2:14) might be charged with sin; but since they were sinning without law, they could not be charged with anomia. Behind the law of Moses that the Gentiles never had is another law, the original law and revelation of the righteousness of God that is written on the hearts of all (Rom. 2:14-15). Since this law is never completely obliterated in the human heart, all sin, even that of the darkest and most ignorant savage, must still in a secondary sense remain as anomia, a violation of this older, though partially obscured, law. Thus Origin stated:
Guilt indeed has this differentiation from sin, in that guilt refers to those things which are done against law; hence also the Greek language calls it lawlessness [anomian]. But that can also be called a sin which is committed against what nature teaches and conscience censures.
It is the same with parabasis. There must be something to transgress before there can be a transgression. Sin occurred between the time of Adam and Moses, a fact attested to by death. Those people who lived between the law that was given in paradise (Gen. 2:16-17) and the law that was given from Sinai sinned, though not "according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam" (parabaseos,Rom. 5:14). With the coming of the law at Sinai, for the first time there was the possibility of transgressing that law (Rom. 4:15). Parabasissome act that is excessive or enormousis the term especially used to refer to such transgressions or trespasses. Cicero wrote: "To sin is as if to leap across lines." According to Paul, a parabasis, seen as the transgression of a given commandment, is more serious than hamartia.From this viewpoint, and with reference to this very word, Augustine often drew a distinction between the peccator (sinner) and the praevaricator (transgressor), and between the peccatum (sin, hamartia) and the praevaricatio (transgression, parabasis). Thus Augustine stated:
Every transgressor indeed is a sinner because he sins with the law, but not every sinner is a transgressor because some sin without a law. For where there is no law, there is neither a transgressor.
The Latin word praevaricator (one who does not walk straight) introduces a new image, not that of overstepping a line but that of halting on unequal feet, though this imagery had faded from the word by the time Augustine used it. Augustine's motive in using praevaricator, or collusive prosecutor, was that this word dealt unjustly with a law. In Augustine's language, one who is under no express law and sins is a peccator (sinner), but the one who has such a law and sins is a praevaricator (transgressor). Before the law came men might be the former, but after the law they could only be the latter. In the first there is implicit disobedience, in the second explicit disobedience.
Paraptoma occurs only in later Greek and then rarely. Cocceius wrote: "If we look at the origin of the word, it signifies those actions for which someone falls and lies prostrate, so that he cannot rise and stand before God." In Ephesians 2:1, where paraptomata and hamartia occur together, Jerome distinguished them (apparently in agreement with others) in this way: the former are sins suggested to the mind and partially entertained and welcomed there; the latter are embodied in actual deeds:
They say that paraptomata are, as it were, the beginnings of sins, when a silent thought has crept in while we are drowsy but does not drive us to ruin. Sin, however, exists when something actually is done and reaches its conclusion.
This distinction is unwarranted, except insofar as sins of thought partake more of the nature of infirmity and have less aggravation than the same sins consummated and embodied in actions. Thus paraptoma sometimes is used to designate sins that are not the gravest or the worst, as is clearly the case in Galatians 6:1, where the Authorized Version translated it as "fault," and not obscurely, as it seems to be in Romans 5:15, 17-18. Polybius used paraptoma to refer to an error, to a mistake in judgment, to a blunder. In another inadequate distinction, Augustine described paraptoma as the negative omission of good, as contrasted with hamartia, the positive doing of evil.
Paraptoma has not always been understood so mildly and certainly is not used that way in Ephesians 2:1, "dead in trespasses [paraptomasi] and sins." In Ezekiel 18:26 paraptoma refers to mortal sin. In Hebrews 6:6 parapesein (G3895) is equivalent to the "sinning [hamartanein] willingly" of Hebrews 10:26 and to the "departing from the living God" of Hebrews 3:12. A passage in Philo that closely resembles the two in the Epistle to the Hebrews expressly precludes a weaker understanding of paraptoma. In this passage Philo used paraptoma to describe a man who had reached an acknowledged pitch of godliness and virtue but who had fallen from that state: "He was lifted up to the height of heaven and is fallen down to the depth of hell."
Agnoema occurs in the New Testament only in Hebrews 9:7, though agnoia (G52) is used in the same sense of sin in Psalm 25:7 (and often), and agnoein (50, to sin) occurs in Hosea 4:15; Ecclesiasticus 5:15; and Hebrews 5:2. Sin is referred to as an agnoema when one tries to make excuses for it (as far as this is possible), to regard it in the mildest possible light. Although there is always an element of ignorance in every human transgression (making it human and not devilish), this mitigates but does not eliminate the sin; it makes forgiveness possible but not necessary. As Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). And Paul said, "I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Tim. 1:13). No human sin, except perhaps the sin against the Holy Spirit, is committed with a complete recognition of the true nature of the evil that is chosen and of the good that is forsaken. Many passages in Plato identify vice with ignorance and even claim that no man is voluntarily evil. Whatever exaggerations Plato's statements may contain, sin is always to a greater or lesser degree an agnoema. The more the agnoein (as opposed to the "sinning willingly" of Heb. 10:26) predominates, the greater the extenuation of the sinfulness. Therefore the one New Testament use of agnoema (Heb. 9:7) is very appropriate. In Hebrews 9:7, the agnoemata (errors) of the people for which the high priest offered sacrifice on the great Day of Atonement were not willful transgressions; they were not "presumptuous sins" (Ps. 19:13) that willingly were committed against the conscience and with a high hand against God. Those who committed such sins were cut off from the congregation; there was no provision in the levitical constitution for the forgiveness of such sin (Num. 15:30-31). Rather, these were sins that resulted from the weakness of the flesh, from an imperfect insight into God's law, and from a lack of due circumspection that afterwards were viewed with shame and regret. The same distinction exists between agnoia and agnoema as the one between hamartia and hamartema and between adikia and adikema:the former is often more abstract, and the latter is always more concrete.
Hettema is not used in classical Greek, though hetta, a briefer form of the word, is contrasted with nike (G3529), as defeat is opposed to victory. Hettema is used once in the Septuagint (Isa. 31:8) and twice in the New Testament (Rom. 11:12; 1 Cor. 6:7), but only in 1 Corinthians 6:7, where it refers to a coming short of duty, to a fault, does it have an ethical sense. According to Gerhard: "Hettema is a decrease, a lack, from hettasthai, to be defeated, since sinners succumb to the temptations of the flesh and of Satan."
Plemmeleia occurs frequently in the Old Testament (Lev. 5:15; Num. 18:9; and often), as well as in later ecclesiastical Greek, but not in the New Testament. Properly speaking, plemmeleia is a discord or disharmony.Augustine's Greek was faulty when he related plemmeleia and melei (G3199), "it is a concern," and made plemmeleia equivalent to ameleia (carelessness). Instead, plemmeleia refers to sin that is regarded as a discord or disharmony in the great symphonies of the universe: "Disproportioned sin jarred against nature's chime, and with harsh din broke the fair music that all creatures made to their great Lord."
Delitzsch made the following observation on the more important Hebrew terms that more or less correspond with the ones we have just studied:
Sin is called poša'  as being a tearing away from God, a breach of fidelity, a falling from the state of grace, in Greek asebeia; hata'ah[G2401] is a missing the mark set by God, a deviation from what pleases God, achieving what is contrary to God, in Greek hamartia; 'aôn  is a perverting what is right, a misdeed, an incurring of guilt, in Greek anomia or adikia.