Thirty-Three Words for Sin in the New Testament Part 1 -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 100:397 (Jan 1943)
Article: Thirty-Three Words for Sin in the New Testament Part 1
Author: John F. Walvoord

Thirty-Three Words for Sin in the New Testament
Part 1

John F. Walvoord

[Editor’s Note: This article is the first of a series dealing with the words for sin in the New Testament, an important foundation for the study of Hamartiology.]


Every system of theology can be characterized by its conception of sin. It is, therefore, a matter of great importance that the words used in the Holy Scriptures for sin in its various aspects be carefully studied with a view to establishing distinctions and conclusions which are fundamental to the study of Hamartiology and which bear an important relation to the doctrine of salvation. Fundamentally, this is the task of the lexicographer, but it is impossible for either the lexicographer or the theologian to work alone, as the work of either is colored by the work of the other.

The present study is limited to the thirty-three words for sin found in the New Testament. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer has pointed out that there are thirty-three aspects to the riches of grace bestowed upon the believer in Christ at the moment he believes.1 It is interesting that there should be, in contrast, exactly thirty-three generic words for sin in the New Testament, excluding specific names for acts of sin. While the Old Testament has its important contribution, and the Septuagint does much to link it with the New Testament, in the final analysis the New Testament must be its own authority as to its definition of words for sin, with uses outside the Scripture merely confirming and illustrating their meaning.

Before turning to the ten words for sin in the New Testament from which all the rest are derived, it may be helpful to take a foreview of the contribution of each. The thirty-three words for sin consider sin from every angle, even different forms of the same root word not being used exactly

with the same emphasis. One of the most important words is ἁμαρτία and its kindred forms, in which sin is viewed as missing the mark, “coming short of the glory of God.” In παραβαίνω, we see sin as transgression, characterizing sin as a breaking of moral law and a turning from the perfect will of God. In παράπτωμα, sin is viewed as a fall. In παρακούω there is a picture of sin in the light of failing to listen to God, with open and flagrant disobedience being the result of this failure. The verb ἀδικέω and its kindred words point to sin as being unri...

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