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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Unintentional sins

I have been under the impression that sin has to be intentional. Maybe so, but there is a whole chapter in the Old Testament about unintentional sin, namely Leviticus 4. (The ESV -- see previous link -- and the NIV use unintentional as their translation. The KJV uses "through ignorance." I don't see that that is a significant difference.)

This chapter commands a specific penalty for a priest, for a leader, for an ordinary member of the Israeli congregation, and for the congregation as a whole, if an unintentional sin is committed. As would be expected, the smallest penalty is for an ordinary member, and is a goat. The penalties for the others are larger, and would have been more expensive.

I'm not sure that the Bible explicitly defines sin at any point. The Wikipedia article on sin says that sin is the violation of some moral rule, usually a rule set forth by a deity. It also says that one of the frequent questions about sin is the matter of whether or not an unintentional act is a sin. The article says that there were three words for sin in Hebrew, cheit, pesha, and avon. Although the article claims that cheit is the word for unintentional sin, I checked in the Blueletter Bible, and found that a lot of sins that I would consider intentional were cheit, or a variant of it. This includes David's plan to have Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, murdered. In 2 Samuel 12:13, after Nathan the prophet details David's sins, David confesses, using chata, which I take to be a variant of cheit. Strong's Hebrew concordance says chata is used:

to sin, miss, miss the way, go wrong, incur guilt, forfeit, purify from uncleanness

Here's how Strong's concordance defines avon:

1) perversity, depravity, iniquity, guilt or punishment of iniquity

a) iniquity

b) guilt of iniquity, guilt (as great), guilt (of condition)

c) consequence of or punishment for iniquity

Pesha. It is most often translated as transgression in the KJV. Strong's concordance says that the definition is:

1) transgression, rebellion

a) transgression (against individuals)

b) transgression (nation against nation)

c) transgression (against God)

1) in general

2) as recognised by sinner

3) as God deals with it

4) as God forgives

d) guilt of transgression

e) punishment for transgression

f) offering for transgression

This same Wikipedia article says that, to a Christian, sin is "not following God's moral guidance." It also says that there is a Greek word, hamartia, which means "missing the mark," which is used in the New Testament for sin.

Whatever the definition of sin, it's not good, I shouldn't do it, and, if I find that I have, I should ask forgiveness. As John put it: 1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (ESV)

Thanks for reading.


FancyHorse said...

Very encouraging! I John 1:9 is one of my favorite verses. It's on my sidebar.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, FancyHorse.