In a religious context, sin is the act of violating God's will by transgressing his commandments. Sin can also be viewed as any thought or action that endangers the ideal relationship between an individual and God; or as any diversion from the perceived ideal order for human living. To sin has been defined as "to miss the mark".
The word derives from "Old English syn(n), for original *sunjō... The stem may be related to that of Latin sons, sont-is guilty. In Old English there are examples of the original general sense, ‘offence, wrong-doing, misdeed'". The English Biblical terms translated as "sin" or "syn" from the Biblical Greek and Jewish terms sometimes originate from words in the latter languages denoting the act or state of missing the mark; the original sense of New Testament Greek ἁμαρτία hamartia "sin", is failure, being in error, missing the mark, especially in spear throwing; Hebrew hata "sin" originates in archery and literally refer to missing the "gold" at the centre of a target, but hitting the target, i.e. error. (Archers call not hitting the target at all a "miss".)
In the Bahá'í Faith, humans are considered naturally good (perfect), fundamentally spiritual beings. Human beings were created because of God's immeasurable love. However, the Bahá'í teachings compare the human heart to a mirror, which, if turned away from the light of the sun (i.e. God), is incapable of receiving God's love.
Buddhism believes in the principle of karma, whereby suffering is the inevitable consequence of greed, anger, and delusion (known as the Three poisons). While there is no direct Buddhist equivalent of the Abrahamic concept of sin, wrongdoing is recognized in Buddhism. The concept of Buddhist ethics is consequentialist in nature and is not based upon duty towards any deity. Karma means action, and in Buddhist context, motivation is the most important aspect of an action. Whether karma done with mind, body and/or speech is called 'good' or 'bad', depends on whether it would bring pleasant or unpleasant results to the person who does the action. One needs to purify negative karma Four Satipatthanas to free oneself from obstacles to liberation from the vicious circle of rebirth. The purification reduces suffering and in the end one reaches Nirvana, the ultimate purification by realising seflessness or emptiness. An enlightened being is free of all the suffering and karmas, and will not be automatically born again.
In the New Testament however, the forgiveness of sin is effected through repentance which involves confessing the sin. Sin is forgiven, when the sinner acknowledges, confesses, and repents for their sin. The unregenerate man is expected to confess his sins to God through repentance in order to be restored to right relationship with God. The unregenerate man has never before been in a favorable relationship with God. When, as a part of his salvation, he is forgiven, he enters into a union with God which abides forever. In the Epistle to the Romans 6:23, it is mentioned that "the wages of sin is death", which is commonly interpreted as, if one does not repent for his sins, such person will not merit salvation.
In Jewish Christianity, sin is believed to alienate the sinner from God even though He has extreme love for mankind. It has damaged and completely severed the relationship of humanity to God. That relationship can only be restored through acceptance of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross as a satisfactory sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Humanity was destined for life with God when Adam disobeyed God. The Bible in John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting."
In Eastern Christianity, sin is viewed in terms of its effects on relationships, both among people and likewise between people and God. Also as in Jewish Christianity, Sin is likewise seen as the refusal to follow God's plan and the desire to be "like God" (as stated in Genesis 3:5) and thus in direct opposition to God's will (see the account of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis).
Original sin is a Western concept that states that sin entered the human world through Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden and that human beings have since lived with the consequences of this first sin.
The serpent who seduced Eve to eat of the fruit was punished by having it and its kind being made to crawl on the ground and God set an enmity between them and Eve's descendants (Genesis 3:14-15). Eve was punished by the pangs of childbirth and the sorrow of bringing about life that would eventually age, sicken and die (Genesis 3:16). The second part of the curse about being subordinate to Adam originates from her creation from one of Adam's ribs to be his helper (Genesis 2:18-25); the curse now clarifies that she must now obey her husband and desire only him. Adam was punished by having to work endlessly to feed himself and his family. The land would bring forth both thistles and thorns to be cleared and herbs and grain to be planted, nurtured, and harvested. The second part of the curse about his mortality is from his origin as red clay - he is from the land and he and his descendants would return to it when buried after death. When Adam's son Cain slew his brother Abel, he introduced murder into the world (Genesis 4:8-10). For his punishment, God banished him as a fugitive, but first marked him with a sign that would protect him and his descendants from harm (Genesis 4:11-16).
One concept of sin deals with things that exist on Earth, but not in Heaven. Food, for example, while a necessary good for the (health of the temporal) body, is not of (eternal) transcendental living and therefore its excessive savoring is considered a sin. The unforgivable sin (or eternal sin) is a sin that can never be forgiven; Matthew 12:30-32 : " 30 He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. 31 And Therefore I say to you: Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come."
In Catholic Christianity sins are classified into grave sins called mortal sins and less serious sins called venial sin. Mortal sins cause one to lose salvation unless the sinner repents and venial sins require some sort of penance either on Earth or in Purgatory.
Jesus was said to have paid for the complete mass of sins past, present, and to come in future. Even inevitable sin is said to have already been cleansed.
The Lamb of God was and is God himself and is therefore sinless. In the Old Testament, Leviticus 16:21 states that ‘the laying on of hands’ was the action that the High Priest Aaron was ordered to do yearly by God to take sins of Israel's nation onto a spotless young lamb.
In Hinduism, the term sin (pāpa in Sanskrit) is often used to describe actions that create negative karma by violating moral and ethical codes, which automatically brings negative consequences. This is somehow similar to Abrahamic sin in the sense that pāpa is considered a crime against the laws of God, which is known as (1) Dharma, or moral order, and (2) one's own self, but another term aparadha is used for grave offences. The term papa cannot be taken however, in literal sense as that of a sin. This is because there is no consensus regarding the nature of ultimate reality or God in Hinduism. Only, the vedanta school being unambiguously theistic, whereas no anthropomorphic God exists in the rest five schools namely Samkhya, Nyaya Yoga, Vaishashikha, and Purva-Mimansa . The term papa however in the strictest sense refers to actions which bring about wrong/unfavourable consequences, not relating to a specific divine will in the absolute sense. To conclude, considering a lack of consensus regarding the nature of ultimate reality in Hinduism, it can be considered that papa has lesser insistence on God for it be translated as Sin, and that there is no exact equivalent to Sin in Hinduism.
Muslims see sin (dhanb, thanb ذنب) as anything that goes against the commands of God (Allah). In Islam, Only the prophets and Angels are considered sinless. Islam teaches that sin is an act and not a state of being. The Qur'an teaches that,
For man's very soul incites him to evil unless my Lord shows mercy.
It is believed that Iblis (Devil) has a significant role in tempting humankind towards sin.
Sin is also defined in the hadith, a collection of Muhammad's sayings. It is reported by An-Nawwas bin Sam'an:
"The Prophet (Muhammad) said, "Piety is good manner, and sin is that which creates doubt and you do not like people to know it.""— [Muslim]
Wabisah bin Ma’bad reported:
“I went to Messenger of Allah (SAWS) and he asked me: “Have you come to inquire about piety?” I replied in the affirmative. Then he said: “Ask your heart regarding it. Piety is that which contents the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which causes doubts and perturbs the heart, even if people pronounce it lawful and give you verdicts on such matters again and again.”— Ahmad and Ad-Darmi
In Sunan al-Tirmidhi, a Hadith is narrated:
Allah's apostle said, "Every son of Adam sins, the best of the sinners are those who repent."— Sunan al-Tirmidhi,Hadith no. 2499
Allah's apostle said," By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would have pardoned them."
In Islam, there are several gradations of sin:
- sayyia, khatia: mistakes (Suras 7:168; 17:31; 40:45; 47:19 48:2)
- itada, junah, dhanb: immorality (Suras 2:190,229; 17:17 33:55)
- haraam: transgressions (Suras 5:4; 6:146)
- ithm, dhulam, fujur, su, fasad, fisk, kufr: wickedness and depravity (Suras 2:99, 205; 4:50, 112, 123, 136; 12:79; 38:62; 82:14)
- shirk: ascribing a partner to God; idolatry and polytheism (Sura 4:48)
One may sincerely repent to God for the wrongs committed and seek forgiveness, as stated in the Quran, "Our Lord! Forgive us our sins, remove from us our iniquities, and take to Yourself our souls in the company of the righteous." (Al-Imran.193/ 3.193).
"Say O my slaves who have transgressed against their own souls despair not of the mercy of God, verily He forgives all sins, verily He is the oft-forgiving, most merciful."
Mainstream Judaism regards the violation of any of the 613 commandments of the Mosaic law for Jews, or the seven Noahide laws for Gentiles as a sin. Judaism teaches that all humans are inclined to sin from birth. Sin has many classifications and degrees. Some sins are punishable with death by the court, others with death by heaven, others with lashes, and others without such punishment, but no sins with wilful intent go without consequence. Unintentional violations of the mitzvot do not count as sins, since no one can be punished for something he did not know was wrong. "Sins by error" are considered as less severe sins. When the Temple yet stood in Jerusalem, people would offer sacrifices for their misdeeds. The atoning aspect of korbanot is carefully circumscribed. For the most part, korbanot only expiate such "sins by error", that is, sins committed because a person forgot that this thing was a sin. No atonement is needed for violations committed under duress or through lack of knowledge, and for the most part, korbanot cannot atone for a malicious, deliberate sin. In addition, korbanot have no expiating effect unless the person making the offering sincerely repents his or her actions before making the offering, and makes restitution to any person who suffered harm through the violation.
Judaism teaches that all willful sin has consequence. The completely righteous suffer for their sins (by humiliation, poverty and suffering that God sends them) in this world and receive their reward in the world to come. The in-between (not completely righteous or completely wicked), repent their sins after death and thereafter join the righteous. The completely wicked also cannot correct their sins in this world and hence do not suffer them here, but after death. The very evil do not repent even at the gates of hell. Such people prosper in this world to receive their reward for any good deed, but cannot be cleansed by and hence cannot leave gehinnom, because they do not or cannot repent. This world can therefore seem unjust where the righteous suffer, while the wicked prosper. Many great thinkers have contemplated this.
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Notes and references
- Action and Person: Conscience in Late Scholasticism and the Young Luther Michael G. Baylor - 1977, "defined sin, in an objective sense, as contempt of god" page 27
- The Theology of the Oral Torah: Revealing the Justice of God Jacob Neusner - 1999, Page 523
- The fall to violence: original sin in relational theology Marjorie Suchocki - 1994 Page 29
- Five Views on Sanctification - page 188, Melvin Easterday Dieter, Stanley N. Gundry - 1996 "The other is 'deliberate violation of God's known will"
- Augustine eventually (after the Pelagian controversy) defined sin as a hardened heart, a loss of love for God, a disposition of the heart to depart from God because of inordinate self-love (see Augustine On Grace and Free Will in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, trans. P. Holmes, vol. 5, 30-31 [14-15]).
- "sin". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- ἁμαρτία, ἁμαρτάνω. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
- Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. Vintage Books: New York, 1989. p. 123.
- Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, Soka Gakkai, "Three Poisons": "Greed, anger, and foolishness. The fundamental evils inherent in life that give rise to human suffering."
- Schmaus, Michael (1975). Dogma: The Church as Sacrament. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 220,222. ISBN 0-7425-3203-8. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- Willmington, H.L. (1981). Willmington's Guide to the Bible. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. p. 725. ISBN 0-8423-8804-4.
- "Romans 6:23". Biblehub. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- "Original Sin". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1 February 1911. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Hanegraaff, Hank. The Bible Answer Book pp. 18-21. ISBN 0-8499-9544-2
- Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1472. The Vatican.
- Quran 12:53
- "The Seven Noachide Laws - Jewish Virtual Library". Jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
- Rosenberg, A. J.; Rashi (1969). The Book of Genesis (Genesis 8:21 with Rashi's commentary). New York: The Judaica Press. ISBN 1880582082.
- "Sacrifices and Offerings (Karbanot)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Rabbi Michael Skobac. "Leviticus 17:11". Jews for Judaism. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- "Reward and Punishment". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Preston, Christine (2009). The Rise of Man in the Gardens of Sumeria: A Biography of L.A. Waddell. Sussex Academic Press. p. 116. ISBN 9781845193157. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
They represented 'Adamu' as being tried before a god for the sin of casting down a divinity, a vestige of which is the 'original sin' which Christianity has tied up with Eve's disobedience in the Garden of Eden.
- The Essence of Shinto: The Spiritual Heart of Japan by Motohisa Yamakage
- Fredriksen, Paula. Sin: The Early History of an Idea. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-691-12890-0.
- Granoff; P E ; Shinohara, Koichi; eds. (2012), Sins and Sinners: Perspectives from Asian Religions. Brill. ISBN 9004229469.
- Hein, David. "Regrets Only: A Theology of Remorse." The Anglican 33, no. 4 (October 2004): 5–6.
- Lewis, C.S. "Miserable Offenders": an Interpretation of [sinfulness and] Prayer Book Language [about it], in series, The Advent Papers. Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement Publications, [196-].
- Pieper, Josef. The Concept of Sin. Edward T. Oakes SJ (translation from German). South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press, 2001. ISBN 1-890318-08-6
- Schumacher, Meinolf. Sündenschmutz und Herzensreinheit: Studien zur Metaphorik der Sünde in lateinischer und deutscher Literatur des Mittelalters. Munich: Fink, 1996.
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