I wanted to write about something else entirely but before I can, I feel I must clearly define what I mean by “sin”.
Etymology of sin
Sin is an English word used in translation for words from two distinct languages (Hebrew and Greek) with contributions from at least two more languages (Latin and Old English). As such, the meaning of the word “sin” is highly complex and deserves special attention.
Rather than struggle to cover the grounds others already have, this is a summary taken from Wikipedia:
The word derives from “Old English syn(n), for original *sunjō. The stem may be related to that of Latin ‘sons, sont-is’ guilty. In Old English there are examples of the original general sense, ‘offence, wrong-doing, misdeed'”. The English Biblical terms translated as “sin” or “syn” from the Biblical Greek and Jewish terms sometimes originate from words in the latter languages denoting the act or state of missing the mark; the original sense of New Testament Greek ἁμαρτία hamartia “sin”, is failure, being in error, missing the mark, especially in spear throwing; Hebrew hata “sin” originates in archery and literally refers to missing the “gold” at the centre of a target, but hitting the target, i.e. error. “To sin” has been defined from a Greek concordance as “to miss the mark”.
The takeaway point is that our word – sin – is not a perfect match to the source text. It is close but not exact. You might say, our understanding of sin itself suffers from sin (hamartia).
Sin: Crime vs Weakness
The etymology of sin brings up the first of many doctrinal questions. Is sin a guilty state (as, for example, a criminal) as the Latin suggests, an offence (again criminal) as the Old English offers, or a mistake or shortcoming as the Geek and Hebrew might lead us to believe? Continue reading
Agnosis is the first of the seven principles I listed in an essay I wrote called, “Travellers along the path of The Way of Yeshua”.
It comes from the Greek, and means literally “lacking knowledge”. ἀ- (a-, “without”, “lacking”) + γνῶσις (gnôsis, “knowledge”).
In my essay I wrote:
Man is ignorant and the full truth is inherently unknowable to us. All that we think we know is faulty due to our own limitations. Our own best knowledge, doctrines, and understanding are forever flawed and full of error. We seek to embrace metanoia – a change in our thinking – freely confessing our ignorance and, in doing so, we allow our nature to be changed into the nature of Yeshua.
The concept of agnosis is that there is simply so much that we do not know about The Father and about even ourselves. It follows that as we are finite and God is infinite that we cannot possibly know as He knows.
Many of the other principles flow from this one. Along with love, and trust in Yeshua, you could easily work out the others.
Embracing our own agnosis requires humility. Appreciating our own agnosis keeps us from being proud about what we do know. Agnosis keeps us open to learning from others. Which is why I recommend it for the Church of tomorrow.
Agnosis from the axioms of faith.
The principle of agnosis can be reached from the axioms of faith. The zeroth axiom states that all scripture is good for establishing doctrine.
- Luke 10:21 and Matthew 11:25 show us that there are things that The Father has hidden from us.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.”
- Romans 3:23 tells us that all have erred (sinned) and therefore we are flawed.
Scripture never asks us to understand everything, only to trust Father, and walk humbly in righteousness.
How I intend to use the words agnosis and agnosia.
Sparingly. However, when I do use these words it is always as a reminder (to myself) of the limits of human understanding.
Metanoia, an Ancient Greek word (μετάνοια) meaning “changing one’s mind”.
Metanoia is translated as repent most of the time in English language Bibles. However, reform might be closer to the original meaning. “Reform, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). I think only Young’s Literal Translation renders metanoia this way (read it here).
Metanoia is a fundamental change in thinking and living rather than a confession of sins as repentance is often explained.
How I intend to use the word metanoia.
Sometimes I try to avoid words which bring colour or meaning that they should not have. For example, the word repentance is so heavily charged, so thoroughly defined that it might not be fit for use in a particular discussion of doctrine. Where I wish to specifically refer to the radical change of heart and mind implicit in the original Greek, there I may use this word.