John the Baptist said Jesus would take away the sin of the world:

On the next day he sees Jesus coming toward him. And he says, “Look— the Lamb of God, the One taking-away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) [DLNT]

Τῇ ἐπαύριον βλέπει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει· ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου.

John said “sin” (singular), not “sins” (plural).

There are other places where John records passages which support understanding the Baptist’s statement in terms of a singular sin of the world:

Now is the judgment of this world!... (John 12:31)

If you were of the world, the world would be loving its own. But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world— for this reason the world hates you. (John 15:19)

However, when explaining the accomplished satisfaction of sin in his letter, John distinguishes between an individual's sins and the [sins (?)] of the entire world:

My little-children, I am writing these things to you in order that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ the Righteous. And He Himself is the satisfaction for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world’s (ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου). (1 John 2:1-2)

The letter seems to indicate there are “sins” (plural) of the entire world, not a “sin” (singular) of the world.

Is there a singular sin of the world and if so, what is it? And how should the Letter and Gospel be reconciled?


10 Answers 10


The term "κόσμος" is polysemantic, as is the English word "world". For example, in the expression "The whole world (κόσμος) has gone after Him" (John 12:19), the word "world" means the people of all nations. Also in this expression: "He will take the sin of the world", the term "world" implies all humanity and the "sin" that condition of all humanity to which it has been fallen since the primordial lapse of Adam and Eve. This condition of horrible split between spectrum of human desires and human understanding of what is good (when what is good is desired, but simultaneously hindered and even annulled by another undesired desire that works as an infection of what Paul calls "sin" in the very depth of human being) is so powerfully depicted by Paul in Romans 7:15-20, in which the apostle finds in Jesus the only remedy for this tragic ontological split in our nature.

John is in a complete accord with Paul, saying that "Jesus will take the sin of the world", that is, through His crucifixion and resurrection He will pave way for humanity to participate in His salvific act through faith, so that Jesus Christ, who has been with the Father in His transcendence for all eternity, would become the inner, immanent principle within historical life of each of us (Col. 1:29), performing in us, with our free co-action (συνέργεια) (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9) the trasnfigurative work, to bring us to the perfection (Eph. 4:13). Thus, Jesus', the Heavenly Bread's presence within us, His grace, becomes heavenly "infection" inside us, that we voluntarily invite in our hearts, or which we voluntarily greet with open heart through our free act of faith and our free initiative of the responsive love, and through it we overcome the involuntary infection of sin that has been tormenting us. For through one man, Adam, sin overpowered the mankind, and through new Adam, Jesus, the Life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), this power is altogether annulled and not only annulled but superabundantly eclipsed (5:12-15).

Thus, the "sin of the world" means the sinful condition of mankind. This condition is healed by Jesus, the Son of God, but not automatically, so to say, and unconditionally (although performed by infinite and unconditional love), but pending also upon our free initiative of the responsive love and faith, for God cannot save us without our synergy with Him.


We use "sin" in English in two senses: (a) to mean some specific offense; and (b) to mean the quality of "sin" itself. I think that it is in this latter sense that John 1:29 is to be understood.

This seems to be the understanding of the Greek (Byzantine) commentator, who posed a question similar to yours in his Explanation of the Gospel of John (written in the 11th century):

Why did he say, sin, and not "sins"? We say, "Men fell away from God," meaning "all mankind fell away"; by using sin in the singular, John means "all sin."

He also explains that the sin of the world could at the same time be understood to refer to the specific sin of Adam's disobedience, which led, in turn, to all sin:

When man disobeyed God, he fell headlong into the passions. The sin of the world means universal disobedience: this the Lord completely removed, healing the disobedience of mankind by Himself becoming obedient unto death [Phil. 2:8].

[In the above, it must be understood, I think, that Theophylact is an Orthodox writer, for whom the notion of inherited guilt from Adam's offence would have been foreign. Hence his referral to "healing" rather than "punishing" the disobedience of mankind.]


Yes, the sin of the world (singular) is different from sins (plural). All the sins of mankind are rooted in "the sin". You can look at it like this, "the sin" is the root of all sins. "Sins" are the fruit and "the sin" is the root. John, speaking of Jesus, said

Matthew 3:10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

"The sin of the world" or simply "the sin" is what Jesus came to deal with. Romans 5 and 6 speak of "the sin" that is dealt with in being crucified with Christ. The Youngs Literal Translation is the only English translation that correctly adds the definite article before sin, distinguishing "the sin" and "sin".

Romans 6:1-14 What, then, shall we say? shall we continue in the sin that the grace may abound? 2 let it not be! we who died to the sin -- how shall we still live in it? 3 are ye ignorant that we, as many as were baptized to Christ Jesus, to his death were baptized? 4 we were buried together, then, with him through the baptism to the death, that even as Christ was raised up out of the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we in newness of life might walk. 5 For, if we have become planted together to the likeness of his death, [so] also we shall be of the rising again; 6 this knowing, that our old man was crucified with [him], that the body of the sin may be made useless, for our no longer serving the sin; 7 for he who hath died hath been set free from the sin. 8 And if we died with Christ, we believe that we also shall live with him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised up out of the dead, doth no more die, death over him hath no more lordship; 10 for in that he died, to the sin he died once, and in that he liveth, he liveth to God; 11 so also ye, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to the sin, and living to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not then the sin reign in your mortal body, to obey it in its desires; 13 neither present ye your members instruments of unrighteousness to the sin, but present yourselves to God as living out of the dead, and your members instruments of righteousness to God; 14 for sin over you shall not have lordship, for ye are not under law, but under grace.

To understand what "the sin" is, you first must understand a few things about the government of God and the original sin. First off, when Jesus came preaching the gospel he said,

Matthew 4:17 Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.

Strange thing to say. Seems that he should have said, "Believe that I'm going to die and rise again on the third day to be forgiven and you'll go to heaven when you die." But instead, he preaches repentance. Not for doing bad things necessarily, but because there is a kingdom that is present. Why should one repent because the kingdom of God is at hand? A kingdom is a form of government. A monarchy. Where one person rules. That person, a King, makes up the rules and culture of their kingdom. Two people cannot sit as king in a kingdom. Jesus said,

Matthew 12:25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

When Jesus says to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he is saying to repent of being the authority of our own lives. This is the original sin.

You see, the kingdom of God was prepared before the foundations of the earth were laid.

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

So before Genesis 1:1 God created a government, a kingdom. In that kingdom, God created seraphim, cherubim, angels, etc. One of those was Lucifer. Isaiah prophecies about the fall of Lucifer and how the kingdom of darkness originates in Isaiah 14:12-15. He is prophesying to the king of Babylon and as he is prophesying he speaks to the spiritual influence of the king of Babylon, Lucifer, and declares how he fell.

Isaiah 14:12-15 ESV “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Notice Lucifers sin. Five times he says in his heart "I will...". Why does this get him cast out? Because he is in a kingdom. He commits high treason by no longer desiring to do the will of the King, but instead, he is committed only to his own will. He sets himself up as ruler/judge/king/lord of his own self, thus committing treason against God's will. This is "the sin" that leads to all other sins. This is "the sin" that leads to death. (Romans 6:23)

This is the same sin that Adam and Eve were tempted with and that every human being was born into since then.

When the serpent tempted Eve he tempted her with becoming like God in the sense of being her own judge of what was good and what was evil. Being her own ruler/king/judge/lord. People are often mistaken in that they believe Adam and Eve didn't know right or wrong before the fall. But this is clearly not the case for Eve knows that it is wrong for her to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God has already told them so.

Genesis 3:2-3 ESV And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Their sin was that they decided they would be the judge of what was good and what was evil for themselves. They would become like God in this sense. This is the sin that has lead mankind into all the evil, hurt, injustice, perversion, and sin throughout human history. This "natural instinct" to be the deciders of what is good and evil, which is in all of us, is what Jesus came to take away as the Lamb of God. If he deals with the root, naturally the fruit will be dealt with.


Consider these two parallels:

John 1:29 John 1:29, Textus Receptus, 1550

ΚΘʹ Τῇ ἐπαύριον βλέπει ὁ Ἰωάννης τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτόν καὶ λέγει Ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου TR, 1550

29 On the next day, John sees Jesus coming to him, and he says, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

1 John 3:5 1 John 3:5, Textus Receptus, 1550

Εʹ καὶ οἴδατε ὅτι ἐκεῖνος ἐφανερώθη ἵνα τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν ἄρῃ καὶ ἁμαρτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν TR, 1550

5 And you know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him.

So, the same author (let us suppose) uses the same verb, a conjugation of αἴρω, in the same general context: the taking away of ἁμαρτία. In the gospel, he uses a singular declension of ἁμαρτία, but in his epistle, he uses a plural declension. I don’t appreciate a substantial contextual distinction. It may simply be that he thought it fit to use ἁμαρτία as a collective noun in the gospel since he was referring to κόσμος, a singular noun which itself he uses to represent all of humanity.


This is correct. It could not be more clear. Something in addition I would add that Jesus did before he was crucified. He took the burden of sin from the sinners--even those who thought they were righteous. He did a great service when he told the stoners to halt their killing of the adulterous woman.

The Baptists say Jesus died for our sins. The message he gave, and he was God, came before the crucifixion. Thank you Jesus.


The sin of the whole world is simple in that the world of ungodly humans on mass do not obey what God says:-

NWT 1 Corinthians 1:21 " .the world did not get to know God . . ."

NWT James 4:4 "Adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is making himself an enemy of God."

But buy contrast Christian do this:-

WNT Acts 5:29 "In answer Peter and the other apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men."!

  • Have you considered John 16:9? Dec 2 '18 at 14:34
  • @Revelation Lad Its the same thing/sin not to except Christ.
    – user26950
    Dec 2 '18 at 14:38

Take a look at the world we live in. The preponderant negative is how we humans act to negate, to destroy those with whom we differ. To me, this is the "sin of the world." When Jesus healed the sick, fed the poor, made heroes of the despised (think of the Good Samaritan and the tax collectors Matthew and Zacchaeus for example) he was dealing with the sin of the world. And because he did this, those who benefited from humanity's differences, the rich Sadducees and the self-righteous Pharisees (both of whom are common today), killed him. He was the sacrificial lamb for doing what was good. And because he sacrificed himself for this, God raised him from the dead to demonstrate that we, too, should do the same.


On the next day he sees Jesus coming toward him. And he says, “Look— the Lamb of God, the One taking-away the sin of the world. (John 1:29 DLNT)

Τῇ ἐπαύριον βλέπει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει· ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου.

One might be tempted to see an allusion to the scapegoat of Yom Kippur ("day of covering"):

NIV Leviticus 16: 20“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

However, the animal is not a "lamb" but rather an adult goat.

The other possibility (which I believe to be the correct one) is to view God's "lamb" as a violent figure who forcibly purges the earth of everything that offends:

New International Version Rev 14:10 they, too, will drink the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.

New International Version Rev 6:16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

So this is what John expected the lamb of God to do:

New International Version Matthew 3: The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

So why is a "lamb" such a violent figure? People today refer to their children as "kids". A "kid" is a baby goat, so from a scriptural view, where goats are on Jesus' unfavored side it makes sense. But Jesus is God's "lamb", meaning he is his child and of course on God's favored side. So I like to think of Sylvester Stallone in "First Blood" as "Lambo"! He takes away ALL the sin of the world through a purging fire, etc. as seen in the Revelation.

As to the passage in Romans where he uses the definite article, the article functions to personify sin as an evil alien overlord that lives in the members of a Jew and undermines their mental resolve to obey the commands of the Torah:

NIV Romans 7: 7What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what [Mr.] sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But [Mr.] sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, [Mr.] sin was dead. 9Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, [Mr.] sin sprang to life and I died. 10I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11For [Mr.] sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.


I'm wondering these days if "the sin" doesn't refer to the "sin offering" (IE: in the temple) but this only works if I'm correct that hO KOSMOS refers to temple-centric Judaism. If so then the wrath of the Lamb and the destruction of Babylon (Jerusalem) seems to fit.

Update 2

Alternatively, (and again this is dependent on my being correct that hO KOSMOS refers to temple-centric Judaism) the "lamb" refers to Jesus' death to ratify the new covenant in his blood:

KJV Luke 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant [ratified] in my blood, which is poured out for you.

The new covenant provided for the forgiveness of the transgressions of the Jews:

NIV Jeremiah 31:

33“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

So in ratifying the new covenant in his blood he effectively "takes away the sins of the house of Israel" IF I am correct that hO KOSMOS is temple-centric Torah-centric Jerusalem-centered works-centered Judaism. Everything else in John's writings is.

Update 3

In the comments RevelationLad pointed out that:

The lamb in John, ἀμνὸς, is not used in Revelation. The only other NT uses are Acts 8:32 and 1 Peter 1:19.

My response: In Acts, again, he is as yielding as a lamb being sheared of its wool: Mark 15:5 "But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled." This is not the same as the metaphor of Christ being God's Lamb as in John 1:29; it is just a simile.

1 Peter 1:19 alludes to the blood of the covenant:

KJV Exodus 24:8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words."

It appears then that I'm correct that hO KOSMOS is the Jews because the new covenant was made with the house of Israel, not "the world".

I concede that the link to the lamb in Revelation is compromised by the fact that the Revelator uses a different form of the word, weakening the link (not only about literary dependence but it argues against them being the same author).

So, bottom line, John 1:29 appears to be referring to Jesus as the "death introduced by God to seal the deal":

YLT Hebrews 9:16 for where a covenant is, the death of the covenant-victim to come in is necessary,

  • John saw Jesus as the lamb prophesied by Isaiah (cp. Isa. 53:7, 53:11–12). Nov 7 '18 at 2:41
  • As I read it, John did not prophesy a lamb but rather "the Servant of YHVH" who was silent and compliant in his suffering. His "lamb like" feature was his meekness. The one actually called "the Lamb" appears in Revelation but his defining feature is the violence he rains down upon Jerusalem.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 7 '18 at 2:56
  • The lamb in John, ἀμνὸς, is not used in Revelation. The only other NT uses are Acts 8:32 and 1 Peter 1:19. Nov 7 '18 at 6:19
  • In Acts, again, he is as yielding as a lamb being sheared of its wool: Mark 15:5 "But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled." 1 Peter 1:19 alludes to the blood of the covenant: Exodus 24:8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words." It appears then that I'm correct that hO KOSMOS is the Jews because the new covenant was made with the house of Israel, not "the world".
    – Ruminator
    Nov 7 '18 at 12:16
  • Oops, I quoted Acts 8:32 incorrectly. Here it is: [Act 8:32 KJV] 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: But again, the compliance is not identity.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 2 '18 at 12:30

“Sin” (singular) - the condition of separateness from God. It is the opposite of “Holy”.

“Sins” (plural) - those conditions, thoughts, and behaviors (intentional or not) that separate individuals from God.

Yeshua HaMashiach, who is the physical embodiment of Torah, and by following and teaching the true and authentic Torah, who, by proving His Authority by His complete Holiness by signs and miracles, has shown us that He is the only Way, Truth, and Light for us to be removed from our own “sins” as well as the “Sin of the world”.

Yeshua HaMashiach tells us repeatedly that we, and even the entire world, cannot do this, but rather, “with (for) God, all things (and more) are possible”. He tells us that we are not to lean on our own understanding for this, but to trust in Him, thereby trusting He, our Father Adonai, who has sent Yeshua HaMashiach to us for the express purpose of uniting us Him completely - we are to be “Holy”, “called out to be separate” from identifying ourselves with this created corporeal world. We are to pursue and receive the gift of life within the Kingdom of God, “like a deer pants for water.”

  • Sam, thanks for the answer and welcome to the BHSE community! While I recognize many of your quotations from the Bible, I would love to have some citations for your quotations. Also, while I believe you haven't said anything wrong in your answer, I also hope that you can provide suitable evidence for your answer (be that from the Bible, commentaries, other credible sources). Thanks again. Dec 2 '18 at 3:17
  • Hi Sam and welcome to the site. Please take the site tour when you get a chance: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour You wrote that "sin (singular) is separation from God". However, words don't really have meanings apart from their context. Are you saying that the Lamb takes away the "separation from God" from the KOSMOS? If you consult a lexicon you'll find that different authors use words differently. For example, in Romans 6-8, sin is an evil slave driver who cunningly undermines the Jew (and really anyone) from observing Torah. Please show your sources. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 2 '18 at 12:25
  • There are many free resources available here: hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/639/…
    – Ruminator
    Dec 2 '18 at 12:25

I noticed also that the word "sin" in John 1:29 was singular. My understanding of why comes from Paul's letter to the church in Rome. He tells them in Rom. 5:18 that because of the offense of one man (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation. In other words the legal right that God has to punish a person for disobeying His command has passed unto all men. Another way to say it is that the consequence of sin (death) has passed unto all men. Therefore when Jesus was offered as the atoning sacrifice for sin it covered that one sin that Adam committed that made it impossible for us to be reconciled back to God. 1 John 2:2 says the blood of Jesus was shed to take away the sins (plural) of the world and it does for all who will meet the requirements for justification by faith. Jesus didn't die to offer universal salvation to everyone unconditionally, the scriptures are clear that there is something we must do (Rom. 6:17-18).

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