The word “sin” is unpopular; even in some churches. No one wants to hear what they are doing, or the way they are living their life, is wrong. We don’t want someone to point it out to us, and we definitely don’t want to hear that it will send us to hell.
Well, before we get into that, lets look at the word “sin” and see what it means.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, sin means
1. a : an offense against religious or moral law
b : an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible it’s a sin to waste food
c: an often serious shortcoming: fault
2 a : transgression of the law of God
b : a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God
Ok, so what does it mean according to the Bible? Well, lets’ find out.
Bible Gateway says sin is used 326 times in the Old Testament, and 104 times in the New Testament. That is the exact word “sin”. It does not include, sins, sinning, sinner, etc.
To get a clearer meaning of the word as it was intended, I looked in both Strong’s Exhaustive and Young’s Analytical Concordances. There are several different words, with slightly different meanings, translated as “sin”. Sometimes, a word may be translated as “sin” in one place, and something similar in another. For an explanation of how the concordances work, as well as better pictures, see this post about the word “glory”.
I dropped my camera a few weeks ago. It landed lens down, with the lens open, and has been unpredictable ever since. When I turn it on, it may work or it may not, especially if I need to adjust the focus. After several tries, I was able to get this shot. Then the camera shut itself off again, so this is what we have. I didn’t realize until I uploaded it that I didn’t get the whole entry.
This picture is from Strong’s. You can see the heading for the word “sin”. Then there is a subheading that says “1. A Transgression”. That means this is the first definition for the word. So in all the following uses of the word “sin”, the general meaning is “transgression”. The other two definitions refer to a place (like the Desert of Sin), and don’t apply here. Under the “Transgression” subheading, each entry has a number that corresponds to the actual Hebrew word used.
The first entry is the first use of the word “sin” in the Bible. It is Genesis 4:7.
Here it is in the King James, since that is what both concordances use.
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
The same verse in the NIV.
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
The number listed at the end of the entry (which you cannot see in the picture), is 2403. It refers to the listing in Hebrew and Chaldee dictionary at the back of the concordance. This word is chattath (English spelling of course). It means “sin”. Ok, I was hoping for a little more than that. I looked up the same word in Young’s, and got the same meaning. Young’s however will also show you how the same word was translated different ways, and how many times that way was used.
For example, for chattath:
punishment 2 (the word chattath is translated as punishment two times)
punishment of sin 1
purification from sin 2
sin offering 116
Not terribly helpful in this case, but you can see chattath is translated as “sin” 169 times.
Going back to Strong’s, under the dictionary entry for 2304, it said the root word was 2398. I remembered that number was also listed under the “transgression” subheading in the front of the book. As a matter of fact, of the 11 Hebrew words listed under the “transgression” subheading, six of them refer back to 2398. The word is chata, and it means “to sin, to err, to miss the mark.” Now, we’re getting somewhere.
Young’s listing for chata says:
be in fault 1
bear blame 2
commit (sin) 5
do sin 2
have done harm 1
Again the most frequent translation is “sin”.
A scripture reference for chata is Genesis 42:22.
Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.
Other Hebrew/Chaldee words translated “sin” mean
The picture is getting clearer, isn’t it?
Moving to the New Testament, the number of Greek words translated as “sin” is significantly less. There are four. They mean:
miss the mark and not share in the prize.
The last word in the Greek is “hamartano”
Young’s listing says:
A scripture reference for hamartano is Matthew 18:21.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
No matter which word was used, it is plain to see that sin is a bad thing.
Now that we know what the word means, we can find out how it applies to us.
We’ll do that next week.
On a lighter note, I left the concordances on the dining room table while I was typing this post. I looked up from my laptop to see this, and the camera cooperated for a minute. They are so helpful!