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That which is in opposition to God’s benevolent purposes for creation. According to the biblical writers, sin is an ever-present reality that enslaves the human race and has corrupted God’s created order. There are numerous Hebrew and Greek words used to designate sin in the biblical writings. One is a Hebrew word meaning “revolt” or “transgression” and indicating a deliberate act of defiance against God. This idea lies at the heart of the Genesis account of the beginning of sin (Gen 3:1-7). Paul also understood sin this way, as he indicates in (Rom 1:18-3:20); all humankind lies under condemnation because all are idolaters of one type or another. From this basic idea derive most of the other ideas connected with the attempt to describe different manifestations of sin. There is sin that is characterized by falling short of God’s requirements or “missing the mark”; there are cultic sins (failure to observe the ritual requirements), political and social sins, and “spiritual” sins (e.g., envy, hate). There is sin implicit in the failure of a person to do right, especially toward one’s fellow human beings (Matt 25:31-46; Luke 16:19-31). Many biblical passages point to the universality and inevitability of sin in human life (Rom 3:9; 1John 1:8). Further, the enslavement of sin is something from which the human race cannot extricate itself by its own efforts. In the OT writings, God’s covenant with the Hebrew people establishes a relationship between God and the people, the Temple cult provides for the people’s sins to be forgiven, and the prophets call God’s people to repentance. In the NT writings, the emphasis is upon a relationship between God and humankind through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’s death and resurrection, sinners have been forgiven and reconciled to God, and a new relationship has been established that will bring the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all the biblical writers to fulfillment.

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.