Carl W. Conrad (
Fri, 15 Nov 1996 06:11:55 -0600

At 6:43 PM -0600 11/15/96, KULIKOVSKY, Andrew wrote:
>Fellow Greeks,
>In Ephesians 2:1 we read:
>...., you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which
>you used to live when you .....(NIV)
>Now the word for transgression is PARAPTWMASIN and the word
>for sin is hARMARTIAIS, which raises the question, what is
>the difference in meaning between these two words? I assume
>there is a difference otherwise there wouldn't be any point
>using both words (I guess they could both be used for emphasis
>but there doesn't seem to be any parallelism in the construct
>I checked Louw and Nida, BAGD, NIDNTT, TDNT and none made
>any distinction between these words. A friend suggested that
>PARAPTWMA was a willful sinful action and hAMARTIA was a
>"accidental" non-premeditated sin but I couldn't find
>data to support this - in fact to the contrary - NIDNTT
>suggested that the classical use of PARAPTWMA was for
>unintential wrong-doing.

I don't think there is any significant distinction between these two words;
in the Ephesians passage I think we could speak of either hendiadys
(rhetorical coupling of two words to express a single idea) or deliberate
rhetorical redundancy, like,"Don't blab, don't tattle, don't tell tales out
of school." I think that every one of these words is a metaphor derived
>from some concrete conception of failure to perform as one should:
PARAPTWMA is a "slip," a "mis-step" (from PARAPIPTW, "slip" or "stumble");
hAMARTIA (and the parallel hAMARTHMA) is originally a "missing of the mark"
or "falling short of the goal" (from hAMARTANW, which is used not
infrequently in classical Attic with an ablatival genitive of the objective
that one misses or falls short of; I once tried to work out its etymology
and came up with a questionable combination of alpha privative with the
root MER/MOR/MAR = "part," "portion"; I'm not sure that would account for
the rough breathing, however). In classical Attic it more often than not
DOES refer to unintentional wrongdoing, but since classical Greek moral
value judgment depends upon objective act committed (generally) rather than
intention, there are no allowances made for a good intention resulting in a
bad act. Aristotle even says (Eth. Nic. Bk 1, I think) that if one commits
a crime because he is drunk, he is nevertheless responsible--because he
should have avoided getting drunk. On the other hand, one very interesting
instance of the more "modern" viewpoint is in Oedipus at Colonus: although
20 years earlier Oedipus had blinded himself and left Thebes into a
homeless roaming because of his sense of pollution (MIASMA) of incest and
parricide, as he enters the grove of the Furies in Athens he declares that
there is no pollution in him, that his hAMARTHMATA were PAQHMATA--events
that "happened" to him or that he "suffered" rather than for which he was
responsible. A more fascinating argument for "innocent by reason of
temporary insanity" is offered by the sophist Gorgias of Leontini, who
insists that Helen went off to Troy as an adulteress with Paris either
because (1) gods or fate had predetermined it; (2) Paris seduced her--and
LOGOS can be an irresistible force even on strong character; (3) ERWS
overwhelmed her, and ERWS, sexual passion, is an irresistible force; (4)
OPSIS, the impact of the sight of the body of Paris overwhelmed her
resistance (a variant of #3, of course). This is ample indication of how
"sophistry" got its distinctive sense.

And there are other words. Mt's version of the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:12) has
hAMARTIAS hHMWN. Nietzsche has a nice chapter in _Genealogy of Morals_ on
these terms; it's surprising how many of them derive, like "debt," from the
commerical realm.

So far as I can tell, there is no significant difference between an
OFEILHMA, a hAMARTIA, a hAMARTHMA, and a PARAPTWMA if we take seriously the
Pauline proposition (Rom 3:23): PANTES GAR hHMARTON KAI hUSTEROUNTAI THS
DOKSHS TOU QEOU--if sin is "any want of conformity unto, or transgression
of, the law of God." And I would be inclined to think that the two words
used together in Ephesians 2:1 are being used synonymously for rhetorical
effect rather than with any distinction to be noted between them.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR