Sin: Missing The Target

By Jimmy Tuten

There are several different Greek words in the New Testament which represent sin in its various aspects. Most of us are familiar with one of them for its definition is the one given most often in defining sin, i.e., “missing the mark.” While in both the Old and New Testaments sin can be generally defined in this way, this definition is a definition given in the broadest sense and constitutes an oversimplification that does not do justice to the subject. For example, one word (translated “iniquity”) has reference to non-observance to law, while another refers to disobedience to a voice. This study centers itself around various words that are found in the New Testament that involve sin.

From a scriptural standpoint, “sin” is basically anything not in harmony with, or contrary to God’s standards, ways and will. It is anything marring one’s relationship with God. It may be in word (Psa. 39:1), in deed (2 Cor. 12:21) or in failing to do what should be done (Jas. 4:17). It involves attitudes of the heart and mind. It results from a lack of faith or confidence in God, as aptly illustrated in the case of the Gentiles described in Romans 1.

Hamartia: Missing The Mark

William Barclay tells us that this word occurs 60 times in the epistles of the apostle Paul (New Testament Words, p. 118). This makes it the most common New Testament word in the noun form for “sin.” In the Classical Greek it is always connected with a negative failure rather than a positive transgression, hence, to “miss the mark” as when throwing a spear at a target (Studies In The Vocabulary of The Greek New Testament, Wuest, p. 95). The Classical Greek use of the term never completely approaches the use made of it in the Bible. Hamartia is a fearful mistake for it involves a failure to attain a divinely appointed goal, a perversion of what is upright according to God’s perfect standard. While in most instances it describes the state of sin rather than the act of sinning, with one exception it is always translated “sin” (the exception being 2 Cor. 11:7, “offense”). It is connected with blasphemy (Matt. 12:31), deceit (Heb. 3:13), lust (Jas. 1:15), lawlessness (1 Jno. 3:4), unrighteousness (1 Jno. 5:17) and respect of persons (Jas. 2:9) to the extent that it is equated with them in some instances. There is no word that has the sense of horror and awfulness of sin as that found in hamartia. It is so serious and personalized that it should be spelled with a capital letter. It does not matter whether it occurs in thought, feeling, action or speech, or whether it is of omission or commission, it is sin! The second word hamartema differs from this only in that it denotes an act of disobedience to Divine law, hence a positive thrust rather than negative thrust (Rom. 3:25).

Parakoe: Failing To Hear

Acts 7:57 describes the sin involved in this word very clearly: “then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord.” Parakoe is translated “disobedience” in Hebrews 2:2, and while it is the effect, i.e., the actual transgression, it is the result of inattention. This sin is regarded as having already been committed in one’s having failed to listen to God’s Word. This carelessness in listening to what God has to say is the forerunner to actual disobedience. Many times in the Old Testament sin (disobedience) is described as refusing to listen to what God has to say. Punishment befalls Israel because “I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered,” said Jeremiah (Jer. 35:17; 11:10). This gives Hebrews 2:1-3 special significance for if the failure to heed Jehovah’s instructions in the Old Testament was met with punishment, “how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?” A lack of earnestness and honesty in one’s attempt to know God’s will is sin in every instance.

Anomia: Sin Of Substitution

The word nomos (law) when compounded with the letter alpha makes it anomfa which means literally “no law” (Vine, p. 317). It means “lawlessness” though most often translated “iniquity” (Englishman’s Greek Concordance, p. 55). It has reference to contempt for law resulting in one’s acting contrary to law. It is therefore, a rejection of God’s law and will, and the substitution of the will of self. Any deviation from God’s standard, the Word of God, is an act contrary to law. Thayer defines the word as “the condition of one without law, either because ignorant of it, or because violating it” (p. 460). Though one engages in things that are religious, such as crying “Lord, Lord” or casting out “devils” or “many wonderful works,” if there is no general or specific authority for it in God’s Word, it is lawlessness! The word of God is given that man might be complete in every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). His word is so constituted that it furnishes all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). If “we do many things for which we have no authority,” we sin and commit iniquity! I would to God that our institutional brethren could learn this before it is too late.

Parabasis: Going Beyond

Parabasis is translated by the word “transgression,” except in Romans 3:23. The primary meaning is to “step aside” or “over step,” to “violate” and/or transgress. The strength of this sin is seen in the definition given by Thayer: “absolutely, the breach of a definite, promulgated, ratified law” (p. 478). It is always used with reference to a breach of law. Matthew used the verb form (parabaino) when dealing with the question of the Pharisees and Scribes as to why Jesus’ disciples stepped aside from the tradition of men of former times (Matt. 15:1-6). Jesus, you will recall, counter-questioned as to why these opposers transgressed the commandment of God by their tradition which made the word of God of none effect. It is of interest to note that some Greek texts have the same verb in the text of 2 John 9, who “goes beyond, and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ.” The violation of established law is seen in the introduction of the instrument of music rather than singing in worship as directed by God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). People putting away their spouses for any cause other than fornication (Matt. 19:9) and remarrying is another example.

Paraptoma: Unintentional Sin

Vine says of this word that it means “a false step, a trespass, translated `fault’ in Galatians 6:1 and `faults’ in James 5:16” (p. 83). The word means literally “to fall beside” a person or thing, or “deviation from truth and uprightness” (Studies In The Vocabulary of The Greek New Testament, Wuest, p. 98). Wuest quotes Cremer as saying that the word means “a fault, a mistake, an offense, neglect, error” (p. 98). It denotes sin as a missing or violation of that which is right. It may therefore be regarded as synonymous with parabasis, which (as seen above) designates sin as a transgression of known, established law, though not as strong as parabasis.(1) Paraptoma involves a sin that was not a conscious disobedience of the will of God, but unintentionally committed. No matter, for whether knowingly or unknowingly, in weakness or ignorance, it is still sin! How else can you explain “restore such a one” in Galatians 6:1? Too, “confess your faults one to another” means confess your sins, though obviously not in a confessional type situation or as is practiced in Crossroadism (Jas. 5:16). Those who advocate the “grace-unity” doctrine on this matter of “sins of weakness” need to take note of paraptoma and cease their false teaching on this matter.

Agnoema: Sin Of Ignorance

Coming from the word agnoeo, a verb meaning “to be ignorant, not to understand, to sin through ignorance,” the noun agnoema is void of presumption or willful transgression. This writer does not know of any sin that could not be labeled, in one form or another, a sin of ignorance. But this does not mitigate the sinfulness of it. This sin needs forgiving of as surely as any other sin. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Paul’s former life was in ignorance and unbelief (1 Tim. 1:13), but he was still chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Agnoema then is the sin resulting from the weakness of the flesh, of imperfect insight into God’s law, out of heedlessness and lack of due circumspection. But it still brings shame and regret for it is sin!

Hettema: Sin Of Decrease

Hetteriaa has as its primary meaning, “a decrease” or “loss.” It can be best illustrated in Romans 11:12 where the loss of the Jewish nation nationally and spiritually was due to failure to accept God’s testimonies. Hence, they diminished. The church at Corinth suffered loss because of their discord and sinful ways (1 Cor. 6:7). There was a “fault” (failure, sin) among them. “An hettema is `an inferiority to a particular standard; default, failure, shortcoming”‘ (A Commentary On Paul’s First Epistle To The Corinthians, Willis, p. 186). The adverb “altogether” (or “utterly”) shows how comprehensive the loss was to the whole church. It was an utter decrease! Their going to law was an utter deficiency and inferiority. There was a more excellent way for them. So they need not suffer defeat. In how many other says do we defeat ourselves?


Regardless of the nature of sin it brings death (Rom. 6:23). But Jesus Christ saves us from our sins (Matt. 1:21). The shedding of His blood was “for the remission of sins” of the whole world (Matt. 26:28, Eph. 1:3, 7). The believer is washed or cleansed in baptism (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). No matter how soiled, mired, stained or muddied by sin, the sinner is cleansed by the blood of Christ (2 Pet. 1:9). The drawing of the veil of mercy over our sins takes place when the “old man of sin” is crucified with Christ and the “new man” arises to walk in newness of life from the waters of baptism (Rom. 6:1-6, 16-17).

There is no book that pictures the awfulness of sin as does the Bible. Likewise, there is no book that perfectly pictures the cure and remedy except the word of God (Rom. 6:23).


1. I was in error therefore for saying “the word `faults’ (Jas. 5:16, jt) is from paraptoma, meaning `a false step, a blunder.’ It is not speaking of sin. . .” (Guardian of Truth, July 15, 1982, p. 437). It is speaking of sin! Though I did not intend to say this in dealing with the Prayer Partner concept of Crossroadism, I did say it none-the-less and it was wrong. James 5:16 is talking about sins. I am grateful to Dudley Spears and Earl Robertson for pointing this out to me before the ink hardly had time to dry. Failure to get this into print sooner is due to a heavy schedule. I am thankful for the opportunity to correct this paraptoma.

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 8, pp. 246-247
April 21, 1983