Sin, A Word Study: Part III

Our study on sin continues by examining three more words that highlight the guilt associated with it: awon, anomia, and adikia.

Awon is a Hebrew word that emphasizes trouble, sorrow, or emptiness. A general word for sin, it, like ra, focuses on the pain sin brings. An example of this is found in Gen. 35:18, where Rachel names Benjamin “Ben-oni” (oni is a derivative of awon), or literally “son of my trouble,” with her dying breath. Moral guilt, however, is not absent from its meaning. It is also used to refer to idolatry and even of idols themselves, as in Hos. 5:8, where Hosea calls Bethel (lit. “house of God”) Beth-Awon, meaning “house of idols.” The connection to idolatry probably is due to the fact that awon is closely associated with the Hebrew word for “nothingness” or “non-existence.” Likewise, in 1 Sam. 3:13, God promises to judge Eli for the iniquity of his sons. Ultimately, their awon brought about not only their deaths, but the death of Eli as well.

It is not surprising, then, that guilt associated with sin is a major idea of awon. As such, sacrifices had to be offered so that it could be forgiven (Lev. 5:1, etc.).  The ultimate sacrifice was found in Jesus Christ, as predicted by Isaiah in Isa 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (KJV) The word for “gone astray” is taah, which has the idea of wandering away. Isaiah is saying that in wandering away from God’s righteousness, all had sinned and brought trouble and evil (awon). Yet rather than punishing us for this sin, God laid it all on His own Son at the Cross.

Adikia is a New Testament word that literally means “unrighteous.” It some places, this word is used to translate awon. Therefore, passages like Rom. 1:18 and 2 Pet. 2:13 speak of God’s wrath being poured out on adikia. It also means “unjust” (Luke 18:6) and thus “workers of iniquity” (Luke 13:27).

Anomia literally means “no law” or “lawlessness.” John equates sin with lawlessness in 1 John 3:4, and Jesus says that lawlessness or iniquity begins in the heart (Matt. 24:12). One who breaks God’s law is just as guilty before God as one who breaks man’s law is before a human judge.

The differences between awon and adikia and anomia are not that great. The latter two are virtually synonymous, and the differences between the Greek and Hebrew words show the difference in the way they thought. The Greek mind was more abstract, whereas the Hebrew mind was more concrete. For the Hebrew, awon speaks of the guilt and trouble that comes from sin. For the Greek, adikia and anomia speak of the guilt and punishment that come from breaking the law. In both cases, the sinner is condemned and, if not forgiven, must be dealt with as justice demands. The Gospel, then, emphasizes how God’s justice was satisfied by the Cross of Christ.

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