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Does "sin" really mean "miss the mark"?

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#1 Steven



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Posted 17 June 2006 - 03:05 PM

First off, sin, AMARTIA, as a noun, always means sin, error, wrong, mistake -- depending on whether the context is legal religious or not as to the strength of meaning.

But the verb, AMARTANW, "err", can it mean "miss the mark"? I include the below from the "little Liddle" for simplicity:


I. to miss, miss the mark, c. gen., hekôn hêmartane phôtos he missed the man on purpose, Il.; hamrtanô tês hodou to miss the road, Ar.; tou skopou Antipho.
2. generally, to fail of doing, fail of one's purpose, to miss one's point, fail, go wrong, Od., etc.; c. gen., noêmatos êmbroten failed in hitting upon the thought, id=Od., etc.; ham. tou chrêsmou to mistake it, Hdt.
3. to fail of having, i. e. to be deprived of, lose, c. gen., hamartêsesthai opôpês that I should lose my sight, Od.; ham. pistês alochou Eur.

II. to fail, do wrong, err, sin, Hom., etc.; c. dat. modi, gnômêi ham. to err in judgment, Hdt.; or en logois id=Hdt., Plat.; with a neut. adj., tode g' êmbroton I erred in this, Od.; in Prose, ham. peri ti ham. peri ti to do wrong in a matter, Plat., etc.
2. Pass., hamartanetai ti a sin is committed, Thuc.:--impers., hamartanetai peri ti Plat.

So yes, in the Illiad the verb 'AMARTANW, to err, is used of missing a target with a spear:
hekôn [on-purpose] hêmartane [he-missed] phôtos [the-man]

Yet all the same, in pagan literature "AMARTANW and AMARTIA still mean "to sin" and "sin" respectively:

ILIAD BOOK IV : Their hearts by incense and reverent vows and libations and the savour of sacrifice do men turn from wrath with supplication, whenso any man transgresseth and doeth sin. For Prayers are the daughters of great Zeus, halting and wrinkled and of eyes askance, and they are ever mindful to follow in the steps of Sin.

HERODOTUS CXXXVIII. Furthermore, of what they may not do, they may not speak, either. They hold lying to be the most disgraceful thing of all and next to that debt; for which they have many other reasons, but this in particular: it is inevitable (so they say) that the debtor also speak some falsehood. The citizen who has leprosy or the white sickness may not come into town or mingle with other Persians. They say that he is so afflicted because he has sinned in some way against the Sun. Every stranger who gets such a disease, many drive out of the country; and they do the same to white doves, for the reason given. Rivers they especially revere; they will neither urinate nor spit nor wash their hands in them, nor let anyone else do so.

The latter is particularly interesting in that Herodotus is describing Persian not Jewish belief about sin, yet it's almost spot on with OT/NT Jewish misunderstandings of the cause of illness.

But more importantly "miss" "err" (as in miss the target) is a different structure from "sin against". Grammatically if Achilles was standing with his spear and threw it and AMARTANW a man, he's missed the man and done him good. But if AMARTANW EIS it means he hit him. EIS, into, turns the meaning from "err"=miss to "err against"=sin againt. Small preposition... BIG difference.

What's the point of this post? Simply to say the "miss the mark" definition has something to say for the some uses of "err" in a certain grammatical context -------- but generally, in religious contexts "err" means "err" against divine precepts, or "err" against ones fellow man. So in NT if we see "sin" it means "sin".

Edited by Steven, 17 June 2006 - 03:06 PM.

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