In Matthew's account of the Last Supper, Jesus speaks about the significance of His blood:

for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28 ESV)
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν

"Forgiveness" is ἄφεσις. It could also be translated as "release" (cf. LXX-Leviticus 16:26 NETS). Paul uses this word in the letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7)
ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Colossians 1:14)
ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν

What I find surprising is in Romans, where the Gospel is so thoroughly laid out, Paul never uses ἄφεσις. He does use ἀφίημι, the verb from which ἄφεσις is derived (cf. 1:27, 4:7). The second is aquoted from Psalm 32:

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered
(Romans 4:7)
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1)

In what way does Paul explain ἄφεσις in Romans? And why does he avoid the direct use of a term which seems to be straight forward and basic to the Gospel?

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    Can you prove that aphesis is from apo + iemi ? There is also a and phero (an unburdening). And also a and phiemi (an 'unsaying'). Up-voted +1. Also, remission is a matter of sins (plural) not sin itself which is eradicated by the death of Christ, not (precisely) by his sufferings (prior to death) : he bore our sins in his body.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 18:43
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    @NigelJ I took the etymology from Strong. Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 17:55
  • Afiemi is verb form of the same noun afesis. There's no need for him to repeat particular words to convey the letter. He prefers apolytrosin or lytrosin Redemption. From λύτρον ransom, root λυω that is to release.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 7:14
  • @NigelJ This is perhaps why the early Church tied the power of the priest came from the authority to bind and loose burdens (Jn 20:23; Mt. 23:4; Mt. 16:18, 18:18, cf. Isa. 22:22), whereas it is not at first immediately evident how one is taken for granted to refer to the other. That is, they tied the power to forgive confessed sins to the power to bind and loose. Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 17:54

1 Answer 1


Paul does use the term ἄφεσις in two letters.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness [τὴν ἄφεσιν] of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (Eph. 1:7, ESV)

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness [τὴν ἄφεσιν] of sins (Col. 1:14, ESV)

Paul uses ἀφίημι five times in his letters. The New Testament has ἀφίημι 141 times, and a:ἄφεσις 17 times. This isn't the only word for forgive; nor does it always mean forgive. For example:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving [χαριζόμενοι] one another, as God in Christ forgave [ἐχαρίσατο] you. (Eph. 4:32, ESV)

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving [χαριζόμενοι] each other; as the Lord has forgiven [ἐχαρίσατο] you, so you also must forgive. (Col. 3:13, ESV)

Thus, it doesn't seem you can draw a conclusion based on Paul's use of ἀφίημι in Romans. Paul often used the term justified.

For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified [δικαιούμενοι] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Rom. 3:22–24, ESV)

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