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by André van der Merwe on Friday, June 17, 2011 at 7:04am

G265 ἁμάρτημα ham-ar-tee’-ah

From G264; sin (properly abstract): – offence, sin (-ful)


G264 ἁμαρτάνω ham-ar-tan’-o

Perhaps from G1 (as a negative particle) and the base of G3313; properly to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize), that is, (figuratively) to err, especially (morally) to sin: – for your faults, offend, sin, trespass.


Hamartia (missing the mark) is often misinterpreted to mean “breaking the 10 Commandments”. But if this were really the case, what about those people who lived before the law was given to Israel? Because the Bible clearly says that sin was in the world before the law was given:


…for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is the type of Him who was to come. (Rom 5:13-14 MKJV)


This scripture says that death even reigned over those who hadn’t sinned like Adam did. This means that they missed the mark too, even though they hadn’t broken any laws, because remember that the law hadn’t even been given yet.


Doubly Guilty


Mankind was dubbed into a condition of sin through Adam’s disobedience, and was made aware of this sinful condition through the giving of the Old Testament Law:


1)     We were made guilty through the condition of sinfulness, inherited from Adam:

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19 KJVA)


2)     Each and every person who tries to justify themselves before God through trying to obey the law, are made guilty by the law as well:


Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom 3:19-20 MKJV, emphasis added)


Missing the Mark?


It’s easy for some to say that we sin when we “miss the mark”. But let’s think about this for a moment: What is the mark? How big is the mark? And how do we miss it?


If “hitting the mark” means that we perfectly obey the requirements of the law, then it gets very interesting, because remember the law didn’t just consist of the 10 Commandments. No, a total of 613 laws and stipulations were given to Israel (from Exodus to Deuteronomy) which they had to obey down to the last letter for as long as they lived. The law was given as a covenant, which means it was a life-long contract. Suddenly the mark becomes a 1mm little pin prick set against a wall about 9,000km away.


Paul the apostle talked about a different kind of righteousness; a way of being able to stand perfectly justified before God apart from trying to obey the Old Testament laws:


But now a righteousness of God has been revealed apart from Law, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets; even the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ, toward all and upon all those who believe. (Rom 3:21-22 MKJV, emphasis added)


The entire New Covenant (after the cross) proclaims a redeeming message of being made perfect through faith in Christ. Through faith we enter into unity with God, receive eternal life, we have all our sins forgiven and we are made completely, 100% righteous… forever. As a mark of our salvation we receive the promise of the Father, the indwelling Holy Spirit.


But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. (Rom 8:9 MKJV)


The Sin of Unbelief


Although God has already forgiven the sins of the entire world and extended His Grace towards all men, not everybody chooses to receive this offer of peace. If it were somebody’s birthday and their friend arrived at their door with a gift, the birthday person still has to make a choice to open the door and take the gift. The gift becomes useless if the gift bearer is left standing outside the door.


The only choice that can nullify the redemption of the cross in a person’s life, is choosing not to believe in Jesus. The Bible is clear that it’s only through faith that a person becomes born again:


Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. (1 John 5:1a MKJV, emphasis added)


For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 MKJV, emphasis added)



Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. (Rom 10:9 MKJV, emphasis added)


Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:1 MKJV, emphasis added)


The Sin of Trying to Live According to the Law


The Law isn’t based on faith. It promises life only to people who obey its commands. (Gal 3:12 CEV)

For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Rom 14:23b ESV)


The Old Testament Law is not based on faith, because it didn’t take any faith for a person to know that they were wrong when they transgressed one of the commands. But it does take faith for us to still believe we are the righteousness of God, even when we just messed up!


When we combine Gal 3:12a with Rom 14:23b it says this:


“Living according to the Old Testament Law is sin.”


Bottom line.


What if we had the idea of sin all wrong?

What if the word “sin” itself was a bad translation? These are some of the questions that I asked as I began to study my Bible, and some of the original Greek words, in regard to sin.  As God shed light on first one passage, and then another, and another, the things I found changed how I viewed my Christian life.

If you are willing to have your Christian walk forever changed, made simpler, made better, then this is for you.

Paul writes: (The Darby Translation) Phil. 3:14 – I pursue, [looking] towards [the] goal, for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus. The culture in his day was influenced by Greece, and by Rome. Athletic contests were well understood. The winners received shared a prize, as we see today in professional sports – especially in horse racing.

The word translated as “sin” is a Greek word, hamartia (ham-ar-tee-a), which has quite a different meaning than we may think it does.

It means to miss the target and so to fail to share in the prize. It also means to stray from the path, to err, to have frailty, or have a tragic flaw.

The Hebrew has a comparable term that has been translated as “sin”. It is the verb chãtä‘, from which the noun chëta‘ is derived, and is easily researched.

The English word, “sin”, the root is Old English. It was syn(n); an offense or misdeed. It is akin to the German sunde, and the Latin sons which means “guilty”.

You may be asking why hamartia was translated by using the word “sin”. I have not found a translation, with a couple of little known exceptions, which does not use the word “sin” for hamartia. It seems that by the time the texts were translated out of the Greek, the idea of guilt, moral weakness, and disobedience to God, had influenced the thinking of the translators.

I began to cross out the word “sin” in one of my Bibles, and write in “error” or “missed” or “frailty” or “flaw”. I’ve come to prefer “deviate” or “deviation”. Try it for yourself.

Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (King James Version) [“come short of the glory of God” is literally : are wanting of the “doxa” (dignity/glory/honor/praise/worship) of the God] Compare to (The Bible in Basic English) – For all have done wrong and are far from the glory of God;

I like The Interlinear Scripture Analyzer (ISA Basic 2.1.3)  on my computer,which a free download. ISA uses “misses” for sins, “the missing” for sinner, and so on.

I have used any of the meanings listed earlier, depending on the context and what makes the most sense. When “the missing” is used, it follows the Greek where the article “the” also appears in the original text.

When you read it the correct way, you realize that we don’t deserve punishment for missing the mark. And God is not wrathful towards us.

He loves us and sent His Son to rescue us from our plight, for we could never hit the mark and partake in His glory in our flawed state. But Jesus did it. Any who believe in Him will not suffer the result of our “flaw”, which is death, but will have eternal life.

Our flawed nature is our human condition and it causes us to be unable to hit the mark.

Being is a state of hamartia also exacts a price, or wage. That price is death, first pronounced on humanity by God in Eden. But in Christ, who paid the price for us, we are made alive and become the inheritors of eternal life.

What a God! He wants us to share in the prize of His glory!

John says, in 1 John 3:4, that it is the same as being without law. [The Amplified Bible – Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect–being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will).]

If we all are flawed, we cannot keep the law. It is impossible.

James is saying that everyone who practices/lives as one who misses, is therefore guilty of breaking the law (which came to escort the Jews to Christ).

He is not saying the breaking the law makes anyone a sinner. He is saying the opposite.

Jesus kept the law and died as one who was innocent, thereby stopping all mouths, and ending the penalty of death. Hallelujah!

(Note: Continue with Part 2 and 3 – some questions will be answered.)

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