Hamartiology




We’re in the middle of Systematic Theology II.

We just finished Theological Anthropology, and so today we’re going to begin the next topic in ST II, which is the Doctrine of Sin.


This is a massively important doctrine -- In fact, Jonathan Edwards called it, “that great important doctrine.”


Moreover, the better you understand the nature of sin, the better you’ll understand just about every other area of theology.


It’s a topic that is pastorally relevant.

It’s applicable at all time to the church and culture.


And the better your understanding of sin, the better you’ll be able to make sense of much that goes on in the world, and in your own life.


Beyond that, the greater you grasp of the doctrine of sin, the greater your worship.

“I look on the doctrine as of great importance;... For, if the case be such, indeed, that all mankind are by nature in the state of total ruin… then doubtless, the great salvation by Christ stands in direct relation to this ruin, as the remedy to the disease; and the whole gospel or doctrine of salvation, must oppose it; and all real belief, or true notion of that Gospel must be built up on” (Original Sin, Clyde A. Holbrook).


In other words, the stronger our grasp on the greatness of sin, then the deeper our worship will be of the cross of Christ.


We’ll begin understand for the first time, perhaps, just how great of salvation we truly possess. The weaker our theology of sin, the weaker our theology of salvation.


We’ll diminish His work.

We’ll diminish His cross.

We’ll diminish HIs resurrection.


In other words, we’ll altogether diminish the beauty of what it means to be in Christ.


So again, it’s such an important doctrine (and we really can’t overemphasize that).

But having said that, with this doctrine there are always difficult questions that arise regarding the sovereignty and holiness of God, especially in relations to man and his sin.


And so Grudem gives some helpful introductory observation in his ST:


Where did sin come from? How did it come into the universe? First, we must clearly affirm that God himself did not sin, and God is not to be blamed for sin. It was man who sinned, and it was angels who sinned, and in both cases they did so by willful voluntary choice. To blame God for sin would be blasphemy against the character of God. “His work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness without iniquity, just and right is He (Deut. 32:4).” Abraham asks with truth and force in his words, “Shall not the judge of all earth do right? (Gen.18:25)” And Elihu rightly says, “Far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong (Job 34:10)” In fact, it is impossible for God even to desire to do wrong; “God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one (Jas. 1:13).”


“Yet, on the other hand, we must guard against an opposite error: it would be wrong for us to say there is an eternally existing evil power in the universe similar to, or equal to, God himself in power. To say this would be to affirm what is called an ultimate 'dualism' in the universe, the existence of two equally ultimate powers, one good and the other evil. Also, we must never think that sin surprised God or challenged or overcame his omnipotence or his providential control over the universe. Therefore, even though we must never say that God himself sinned or he is to be blamed for sin, yet we must also affirm that the God who ‘accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11),” the God who 'does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What are you doing’ (Dan. 4:35),” did ordain that sin would come into the world, even though he does not delight in it and even though he ordained that it would come about through the voluntary choices of moral creatures.”


(For more on this, check out our episodes on “The Problem of Evil” and “Two Wills of God.”)


So we’re going to begin, as we always do, with defining the terms.

Today, we’ll deal with the OT.

Next time we’ll tackle the NT.


OT Biblical Terminology for “Sin:”


"חָטָא"


This is the primary word for “sin” in the OT and is used approximately 580 times (1 Kgs. 8:46; Psa. 51:4).


When it’s used it it’s verbal form, it simply means “to sin.” In a specific form, it can mean to “sin against.”


Various noun forms build off of this root and are commonly translated as “sin” and “sin-offering.”


There are times that it has non-moral meanings (e.g., Judges 20:16, where the men would not miss with their slings). This is the basic sense of the term-- it is to “miss the mark” or “to fail to reach the goal.”


"תָּעָה"


It is most commonly translated as “to err” or “to go astray” (Psa. 58:2, Isa. 29:94). In the NT, the common word for this term is "Planao."


The term involves the sense that the going astray is not by mistake or ignorance, but on purpose. This makes the individual more culpable. There are times that it has a non-moral meaning, such as with one who is drunk and wanders about as a result.


"עָבַר"


The typical translation of this term is “to overstep” or “to transgress” (Numb. 14:41; Jer. 34:18).


When it is used in a non-moral context, it means “to pass over/through/by.”

Girdlestone states that there is a reference to the “crossing over the boundary of rite and entering the forbidden land of wrong” (Girdlestone, Synonyms).


"סור"

Basic meaning is “to turn aside,” but with a sense of departing off of the correct path or way (Deut. 9:12; Psa. 14:3).


At times, you will see this turning away in a physical sense. Deut. 9:12 speaks of the people making molten images for themselves.


And yet, the physical turning aside is always the result of an inward turning of the heart (Jer. 17:15; Ezek. 6:9).

The sense of this term is one of apostasy.


"פָּשַׁע"


The verbal form is usually translated as “to rebel, transgress” and the noun is translated as “transgression” (1 Kgs. 12:19; Psa. 32:1).


Psalm 32:1 - “A Psalm of David. A Maskil. How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!”


Here, you get the sense of joy that Daivd has over thought of this transgression (or pasha) being forgiven.


It is not merely the idea that he has overstepped the “line,” but has openly rebelled, and is yet forgiven.


So this is a much more high-handed (overt) kind of sin. עָבַר is that idea of “overstepping,” but this is a high-handed rebellion. There’s a more extreme degree of intent, here. Both are sins, and grave offenses against God, but the intent of the heart with pasah, is uglier in high-handedness.


In fact, the significance of the term is how it speaks of spiritual rebellion. You see this in a few of the synonyms of pasha.


"מָרַד"


(often translated as “rebellious”)

Ezek. 2:3 - “Then He said to me, "Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.”

*Here, marad and pasha form a parallelism.


"מָרָה "


(often translated as “rebellion”)

Psalm 78:8 - “And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God.”


"סָרַר"


(often translated as “to be stubborn/ rebellious.”) [used, as well, in Psa. 78:8, but translated as stubborn]

Psalm 78:8 - “And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God.”


The point to understand is that these 4 terms are often used synonymously, and very much carry the idea of spiritual, high-handed rebellion.

You don’t accidently commit one of these. There is intentionally, overflowing from the spiritual state of the heart. Stubborn and rebellious, are very good translations because they speak of acting in the face of knowing what is right before God.


"מַ֫עַל"


“To act unfaithfully, treacherously” (Lev. 26:40; Ezra 9:2).

The terms speaks to the act of being spiritually unfaithful, and spiritually adulterous. This is an unfettered, even uglier form of unfaithfulness.

This isn’t so much a one time act/sin, but more so speaks to the characteristic of the lifestyle. There is great sense of giving oneself over the sin.


The synonym to ma’al is בּגד (Psa. 78:57; Isa. 24:16).

Often translated as “to act or deal treacherously, faithlessly, deceitfully.”

Again, there is high-handed intent, here. You don’t accidently fall into this. Also, the term functions to characterize a certain lifestyle. It is not speaking of a on-time act, or falling into temptation on occasion. In fact, “adultery” would be a decent translation.

"עָקֹב"


At its most basic meaning, it means “to deal treacherously.”

When it is in its adjectival form, it means “insidious, deceitful.”

The key passage, hamartiologically  speaking, is Jeremiah 17:9.


Jer. 17:9 - "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”


Interestingly, the root is also found in the name Jacob… so his deceitful character can help fill in the sense of the term.


"חמס"


The active verb means “to treat violently, to wrong.” The noun is usually translated as “violence” or “wrong.”

Verbal form: Job. 21:27; Jer. 22:3.

Noun form: Gen. 6:11; Amos 3:10.


The word also carries the idea of building up wrong until it is nothing less than full-on spiritual anarchy. That’s going to be important for understanding the nature of sin, at times... (we’ll develop this later).


"אוֶן "


(this is a noun)

“Trouble, sorrow, wickedness” (Gen. 35:18; Is. 29:20).

It is often associated with the ideas of deception or fraud, as well as the consequences of idolatry.


The proverbs like to use this term.

Prov. 6:12 - “A worthless person, a wicked man, Is the one who walks with a false mouth.”

Prov. 6:18 - “A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil.”


"אשַׁם"


“To be guilty, to offend” (Num. 5:6-8; 2 Chron. 19:10).


“The primary meaning of the word… seems to center on guilt, but moves from the act which brings guilt to the condition of guilt to the act of punishment. In any particular passage it is often difficult to determine which thrust the word has” (TWOT).


“Frequently it implies a breach of commandment, wrought without due consideration, and which, when brought to the notice of the offender, calls for amends or atonement” (Girdlestone, Synonyms).


The word group connected to the root עָוֹן

“To bend, twist, distort” is the basic meaning, and when used in moral contexts it takes on the idea “to pervert, to make crooked.” It is normally translated as “iniquity,” and speaks to the perversity of one's ways (Gen. 15:16; Jer. 14:10).


“This word also helps us see that there is a remarkable ambivalence [uncertainty or indecisiveness] between ‘sin as an act’ and ‘the penalty of sin,’ showing that in the thought of the OT, sin and its penalty are not radically separate notions” (TWOT).


There are many more terms in the OT that relate to the subject of hamartiology. Often they are in the form of figures of speech. The end result of all of this is a very extensive and full picture of the reality and presence of sin in man.


Some of the key texts that combine all these terms are:

Psalm 32

Psalm 51

Isaiah 1

Ezra’s prayer in Ezra 9.

Daniel’s prayer in Dan. 9.

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