Let me try to answer the question I think you are asking, and feel free to
ask a follow-up question. Let us first consider the use of the word sin in
the Bible. The principal word in Hebrew translated as sin is the word
chatta’ah and its derivatives such as chata and chet. The word chatta’ah
(Strong’s concordance word #02403) means sin, miss the way, go wrong,
incur guilt, and so forth. The sense of the Hebrew word includes both
willful going against what one knows is right and accidentally going
against the divine order of things.

The second most common word for sin in the Old Testament is the word
pesha. This word is most commonly translated as transgression, but it is
also translated as trespass or sin. The word pesha has a connotation of
breaking a rule that has been established.

A third word which is translated sin from the Hebrew is avon. This word
means carries a connotation of perversion or depravity. It is most
commonly translated as iniquity. The word avon carries a sense of willful
or continuing sin. For example one finds both of these words used in
Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your
sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” In this
passage, avon (iniquities) and chatta’ah (sins) are used in a parallel

There are other Hebrew words translated as sin as well. Clearly, the word
sin in the Hebrew has a complicated usage and meaning.

The common Greek word for sin used in the New Testament is hamartia. This
word derives from a technical word used in archery. It literally means to
miss the mark. It can be used to express willful rebellion against God as
well as making a mistake and falling short. Because the word hamartia is
used in such a broad variety of contexts, one can see that the word sin in
English also carries with it a fairly wide variety of connotations. One
should let the context of an individual passage determine the sense in
which the word sin is to be interpreted. The overall sense one gets from
the Bible is that God is concerned both about the willful, blatant sins
and the unintentional breaking of God’s will as well–the falling short
and missing the mark God has set for us.

Perhaps you are asking the origin of the English word sin. The word sin
comes from the Middle English word sinne, which is derived from the Old
English word synn. Probably the word synn derives from the Germanic root
sunta or the Latin word sons, both of which mean guilty. It would appear
that this word has maintained virtually the same connotation throughout
most of its history.

John Oakes, PhD

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