James says: “So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.” ‭‭James‬ ‭5:16‬

& 1st John 1:9 says: “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭1:9‬

My question is: “Why should we confess our sins to one another, especially since our sins can be embarrassing & harmful to other believers?”. {James 5:16}

To ask from another angle: If 1 John 1:9 exists as instructions to primarily confess our sins to God for forgiveness & cleansing, what’s the purpose of James 5:16? To defile the church? I’m confused.

  • 1 John 1:9 does not say 'confess our sins to God'. John just says 'confess our sins'. You have created a dichotomy by adding words to the text.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 8, 2021 at 4:55
  • @ Nigel J In your case, you’re actually incorrect. If you read 1st John 1:5-10, given the context, God is the One we do in fact confess our sins to. Go read it & you will find the accuracy. My confusion in the O.P. rests squarely with being confused why we as believers have to “confess our sins to one another” when we already confess them to God. So I’m confused with James primarily.
    – Cork88
    Oct 8, 2021 at 5:08
  • As suggested, I have examined the text you reference, in both the English and the Greek, and I can find no pace where John tells us whom to confess our sins to. Indeed, it is very accurate in its wording. Whomever we sin against, we are to admit our wrongdoing, that we may have fellowship.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 8, 2021 at 5:33
  • The text itself, echoing Matthew 5:23-24, seems primarily concerned with sins committed against other persons, as can be easily glimpsed from its surrounding context; see also Luke 15:18, 21. Despite being aware of constant divine and angelic oversight of all our deeds and thoughts, one only feels ashamed of them when confronted by other humans, thus providing the needed motivation to change one's behavior.
    – Lucian
    Oct 8, 2021 at 12:43
  • @Cork88 Sins are wounds on soul, and as I want to show my physical wound to a doctor to heal, so also, when I commit a sin, say, of watching pornography, this sin and guilt torment me, but I know that my loving Christian friend will not be wrathful against me for my sin, but compassionate, and he will pray to God together with me this sin to be forgiven and the wound of the soul become whole, the two being the same thing. I do not think that my physical wound will disturb a doctor, so I should not think that my soul's wound disturbs Christ or a priest, authorized by Christ to absolve sins. Oct 8, 2021 at 13:02

1 Answer 1


Actually, the Greek text for James 5:16 is mistranslated. The word for "sins" in 1 John 1:9 and in James 5:16 is not the same Greek word.

In James, the word is παράπτωμα (G3900, paraptoma), a neuter noun which would be better translated as "faults." When we have wronged someone else, it is most often appropriate, and necessary, to confess our wrong to that person and to reconcile with him or her.

In John, the word is ἁμαρτία (G266, hamartia) a feminine noun which is, appropriately, translated as "sins."

You may view each of these Greek words, the verses that use them, and their definitions at BlueLetterBible HERE (paraptoma) and HERE (hamartia).


The two verses reference two separate concepts, and indeed, we are to confess our sins to God--who only can forgive them, while confessing our faults or wrongs done against others to those individuals.

  • I never knew of this mistranslation, is this a Text critic issue? (Textual Criticism)
    – Cork88
    Oct 8, 2021 at 5:17
  • I'm not sure what you mean by "Textual Criticism" in this context, but it is an issue of the underlying manuscripts. The Majority Text, from which the KJV was translated, is correct, showing two different Greek words here. The minority texts have changed the word in James. The minority texts were in the keeping of the Catholic church for thousands of years, and were edited by them, such as the Codex Vaticanus; and the Catholics have a vested interested in promoting the confession of sins to the priest, as this is part of the church religious practice and doctrine.
    – Polyhat
    Oct 8, 2021 at 5:21
  • @ Polyhat This makes all the more sense now, especially with the “minority texts”. By Textual Criticism I meant: “ the process of attempting to ascertain the original wording of a text” -Source/Google. Textual criticism has to do with manuscripts too, to which you briefly mentioned. I noticed the MEV (Modern English Version) has the proper wording of James 5:16 as you argued; but of course I brought up the MEV just now. Good info, thanks!
    – Cork88
    Oct 8, 2021 at 5:27

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