to be hAMARTIAN
Carl W. Conrad
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Mon Jul 31 09:09:34 EDT 2000
I want to comment on two responses on this query:
(1) At 9:59 PM -0700 7/29/00, J. Garnier wrote:
>In speaking of 2 Cor. 5: 21, Harold Holmyard wrote,
>> It is probably for English comprehension. If the translation was more
>> literal, it might be confusing:
>> "God made the one not knowing sin to be sin for us, so that in him we
>> become the righteousness of God"
>> This could mean that he did not know about sin, or had never seen it. The
>> Hebrew idea of experiencing would not necessarily come across. Even if the
>> translation was "experiencing," people might think that he had no run-in
>> with sin from other people. The idea is that he did not experience sin
>> because he never committed it. Since he did not commit sin, he had no sin.
>And this could be yet another example where the intellectual's attempt to
>simplify and dumb down the Bible for the stupid people of the masses (of
>which I would be classed) has rendered a simple and perfectly understandable
>phrase awkward and imprecise. hAMARTIAN, rendered sin by intellectuals of
>another day, is more precisely missing the target, deviation, but not
>deviation as a condition, precise moments or acts of deviation. Jesus was
>not knowing a deviant act, and only a fool would believe he had no
>experience with one after reading any of the things the intellectual elite
>of his day did to him. The literal understanding of the verse is:
>for that one not having known a deviant act, he did in behalf of us, in
>order that we might become God's righteousness by him
Isn't "a deviant act" most likely to be read by an innocent reader to refer
an act of sexual perversion? I think that's more misleading than what
traditional translators have offered us. Preferable (if one actually
believes that hAMARTIA means "going astray" or "deviation") would be
"mis-step" or "error."
>This is not smooth English, and would not win a pulitzer, but as a
>translation it is perfectly understandable as it stands written. The
>ability to grant oneself poetic license is the first step in the staircase
>leading to the arrogant position of being a Bible corrector. MH GENOITO!
Quite frankly, I don't quite understand the stance being taken here
regarding hAMARTIAN in the verse in question. I hardly think that this is a
very apt instance of "the intellectual's attempt to simplify and dumb down
the Bible for the stupid people of the masses." Have four centuries of
translators of the Greek Bible into English and other European vernaculars
really been guilty of such contempt for the intelligence of the readers of
I think not. Although the word hAMARTIA has been explained etymologically
in terms of deviation from the straight path or an archer's missing of the
mark (and that IS one of the senses that the verb hAMARTANW can take with
an ablatival genitive), etymology is in this instance, as very frequently
indeed, an inadequate guide to meaning. Below I'll cite Louw & Nida on the
NT usages of hAMARTIA and hAMARTANW, articles that I think are very
well-phrased. But even in classical Attic Greek, where the senses of
hAMARTIA and hAMARTANW sometimes involve simple deviation or error, the
notion of sin as a 'polluted' condition requiring 'cleansing,' KAQARSIS, is
well-rooted--one may find it, for instance, in the Oedipus plays of
Sophocles and elsewhere in classical literature. Surely Romans 7 and the
celebrated first-person analysis there by Paul refers to 'sin' as a state
of helpless alienation and guilt from which the individual is incapable of
delivering him/herself through one's own resources.
88.118 hAMARTIA b , f: a state of sinfulness as an integral element of
someone's nature - 'sinfulness, being evil.'EN hAMARTIAIS SU EGENNHQHS
hOLOS 'you were born completely in sinfulness' or 'from birth you have
been evil' Jn 9:34. The implication of this statement made in criticism of
Jesus in Jn 9:34 was that he had not adhered rigorously to all the
conventional requirements of the OT law as interpreted by the Pharisees.
88.289 hAMARTANW; hAMARTIA a , f: to act contrary to the will and law of
God - 'to sin, to engage in wrongdoing, sin.'
hAMARTANW: POREUSOMAI PROS TON PATERA MOU KAI ERW AUTWi, PATER, hHMARTON
EIS TON OURANON KAI ENWPION SOU 'I will get up and go to my father and
say, Father, I have sinned against God and against you' Lk 15:18.
hAMARTIA a: MHDE KOINWNEI hAMARTIAIS ALLOTRIAIS 'take no part in the sins
of others' or 'do not join others in sinning' 1Tm 5:22.
88.310 hAMARTIA c , f: the moral consequence of having sinned - 'guilt,
sin.' TO hAIMA IHSOU TOU hUIOU AUTOU KAQARIZEI hHMAS APO PASHS hAMARATIAS
'the death of Jesus his Son makes us clean from every sin' (or 'from all
our guilt') 1Jn 1:7; AFESIN hAMARTIWN 'the forgiveness of sins' Mt 26:28;
ANASTAS BAPTISAI KAI APOLOUSAI TAS hAMARTIAS SOU EPIKALESAMENOS TO ONOMA
AUTOU v 'stand up, be baptized, and have your sins purified by praying to
him' (literally ' by calling upon his name'; see 33.176) Ac 22:16;
METANOHSATE OUN KAI EPISTREYATE EIS TO EXALEIFQHNAI hUMWN TAS hAMARTIASß
'therefore, repent, turn to (God) so that your sins may be wiped away' or
' forgiven' Ac 3:19.
A number of languages make a clear distinction between the active
event of committing sin and the resulting moral effect of guilt, so that
one must speak of 'committing sin' but 'forgiving guilt.' This is often
required in some languages since a term meaning 'to forgive' is literally
'to wipe away,' 'to erase,' 'to blot out,' or 'to return to someone.' The
actual event of sinning often does not fit with such verb expressions,
since it is not the event itself which is eliminated but the moral
consequences of such an event, namely, the guilt.
(2) At 7:17 AM -0400 7/31/00, Jason Hare wrote:
>... about this verbless phrase (TON MH GNONTA hAMARTIAN hUPER hHMWN
>hAMARTIAN EPOIHSEN), the 'to be' that is inserted so often in the English
>is probably adopted from the verb-supplied phrase in the second part of the
>verse: 'hINA hHMEIS GENWMEQA DIKAIOSUNH QEOU EN AUTWi.' So we see that 'he
>(assumed "God") made the one not having known sin *to become* sin for us,
>so that we might become the righteousness of God in him (i.e., in the one
>who knew no sin).'
>The point is that *to be* is justified because: (1) it is a verbless clause
>and it is normal to insert equative verbs in verbless clauses and (2) *to
>be* is adopted from *to become* (GINOMAI). Just some thoughts.
I don't know why this should be termed a "verbless phrase" at all. As
Harold Holmyard clearly stated in the first response to Mark's question,
the construction here is that of double accusative with a verb of making:
TON MH GNONTA hAMARTIAN ... hAMARTIAN EPOIHSEN
"the one who knew not sin he made sin"
is exactly like the much more concrete phrasing of
TON KHRON QERMON EPOIHSEN
"he made the wax hot" = "he heated the wax"
Finally, as for the "to be" which occasioned the original query, I think it
is implicit in the double accusative construction: TON KHRON QERMON
EPOIHSEN = EPOIHSEN hOTI QERMOS ESTI/GINETAI hO KHROS ("he brought it about
that the wax is/becomes hot." Normally, however, we have no need to make
the infinitive "to be" or "to become" explicit in English. I would guess
that the reason why the translators have made it explicit in this instance
is to make it clear that "sin" in the clause "he made him-who-knew-not sin
sin" is NOT a verb but a noun; otherwise that translated clause might be
misunderstood to mean "he caused him-who-knew-not sin to sin." In fact,
then, the translators have made what might have been an ambiguous version
if translated most literally a clear English statement.
What is left problematic still is the sense in which GNONTA is being used
in the phrase TON MH GNONTA hAMARTIAN. I think that this text most
illuminating for that question is Rom 7:7-8 ... ALLA THN hAMARTIAN OUK
EGNWN EI MH DIA NOMOU KTL. Here the sense of GNWNAI must be "recognize,
discern (in oneself), have an intimate understanding of"
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com
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