Reading through Leviticus, I am once again faced with a question I have not found a satisfactory answer to over the years:

What is the difference between sin vs. trespass vs. transgression?

There are many verses throughout the entire Bible which use the terms very similarly and others that imply a marked contrast. I ran a quick Google search again to see what some positions on the matter are, but still, I am not fully satisfied.

Ideally, I would like an answer that addresses the original words in their original languages (Hebrew, Koine Greek, and if you are truly well-versed, Aramaic too), though that is not necessary (i.e. you can address the usage in a particular translation or translations, as long as you state these). The approach would be to see the contrast in their usage and application (and definition) in context in the given passages. Some things to tackle would be for example the fact that Leviticus 6:25 mentions a "sin" offering, and then Leviticus 7:1 talks about a trespass offering, leading to the logical conclusion that the two are not the same (sin vs. trespass). A good answer would attempt to show where in the Bible (Tanach/OT, or NT, or both) a definition/usage for each of these words is given that shows what the difference is.

An example of some things I have read before include the conclusion that one term refers to "unwilling" sins, in contrast to "willing" sins; another says that one term refers to "breaking the law", while the other includes things that are in defiance to God but not spelled out in the law (say like "if you think it is sin, and do it, though it is not, it is sin to you), etc.

  • 2
    I don't understand how closing this question will help anyone get the answer he or she was looking for.
    – Polyhat
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 9:08
  • Oh wow, what happened to my question? 8k views, 3 likes, but it gets closed with no answers? Is there a way it can be edited to satisfy the closer's concerns? Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 11:40
  • Hi Raphael, I think one of the challenges here is that from a hermeneutical perspective it's difficult to ascertain or expect that all biblical authors were working to a single definition on these terms. Conceivably you could anchor on a single author or text - for example, as you seem to be interested in Leviticus, you could give examples of where two or three different terms are used and ask what each refers to within the context of this text, rather than the whole Bible. Arguably you could ask the same question of the Torah on the premise of one author (though expect some debate there!).
    – Steve can help
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 13:26
  • Oh well. I hope the question does get re-opened to allow for someone who might have some good insight on the matter to answer some day. Commented Jun 15, 2021 at 7:50
  • Just earned a badge on the popularity of this question, some mod should really consider re-opening it. Commented Apr 24 at 12:00


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