I have listed the seventeen biblical occurrences of αφεσις recorded in Young’s Concordance and have tabulated the translation of the word in six different versions, namely The Wycliffe (1388), The Vulgate (1592), Tyndale (1534), the AV (1611), Young’s Literal (1864), The Bagster Interlinear (1887) and J N Darby (1884).
[* See below for PDF location.]
Largely, it is translated ‘remission’ or ‘forgiveness’ but in Luke 4:18, in which Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61: 1-2, translators have chosen, I would say, not to define the word as it will be used in transition from Hebrew prophecy into New Testament reality, but have preferred to translate two Hebrew concepts (by ‘deliverance’ and ‘liberty’) as a Greek quotation of the prophet’s words.
The Septuagint, notably, uses αφεσις in relation to αἰχμαλώτοις in Isaiah 61:1, as does Luke in 4:18.
Scripture uses αφεσις in all seventeen places and Jerome uses ‘remissionem/remissio’ throughout the Vulgate but English translators have chosen to, sometimes, use ‘forgive’ which copies the Dutch vergeven and/or the German vergeben (OED) and the meaning ‘stop feeling angry’ (OED), in my own view, neither expresses the Hebrew concepts of Isaiah 61: 1,2 nor the meaning of αφεσις in Greek.
‘Forgiveness’ appears only once in The Wycliffe, perhaps indicating that by 1388, it had not, yet, become as much used as the word ‘remission’.
My edition of Liddel & Scott is the one thousand page 1854 American volume in which it is suggested that the derivation of αφεσις is απο-ιημι. But Strong cites the derivation of αφεσις (859) as αφιεμι (863). And there is a possibility that it is from α-φερο, although Liddel & Scott, whilst being abundant in cataloguing φερο - devoting a whole page to it and giving it a variety of meanings which, generally, suggest the conveying or carrying of something adverse or burdensome - do not list αφερο at all.
It may be that απο-ιημι underlies αφιεμι , which in turn underlies αφεσις. And in the background is the word φερο; which adds meaning without being a direct derivative. But it is also possible that αφιεμι is a direct negative of φεμι, in which case αφεσις is a matter [Young and L&S] of ‘un-saying’ something, thus releasing an obligation. Which would be very close to, and an enhancement of, the meaning of αφερο, ‘unburden’, if such a word ever existed.
Liddel & Scott make it clear that the usage of αφεσις in non-biblical literature is, sometimes, a matter of release, both of horses from a starting post and of waters from a sluice gate. The result of αφεσις, therefore, appears to be - in those particular usages - a gushing out, a pouring out, a rushing forth.
The fact that Luke uses αφεσις, twice, to convey two slightly different concepts in the Isaiah quotation, agrees with the idea that αφεσις is a broad concept which encompasses other, subsidiary meanings.
So my Question is - what English word can be used to convey, consistently, the word αφεσις ? for ‘remission’ refers to things, not persons, and Luke 4:18 makes it very clear that, although (twelve times, listed by Young) the expression ‘the aphesis of hamartia’ is stated in the bible, nevertheless the effect of αφεσις is upon persons.
Does the ‘un-saying’ of sins then ‘unburden’ the recipient; and thus αφεσις, with its varied heritage, expresses both concepts within one word ? And what word in English would do such a thing ?
If no word can be suggested, then I would be minded, in the future, to transliterate the Greek and thereafter use ‘aphesis’, without italics, as an English word; and to simply bear in mind the wealth of association that is clustered around it.
- Click below for the 'aphesis table' :