In response to a recent post, several readers commented that the word sin has some connection to an archery term for “missing the mark.”
The connection is a tenuous one.
The Greek word hamartia can mean “missing the mark” in the sense that an arrow misses its target. Aristotle used the word in Poetics to mean error that could include mere accident or mistake.
In the context of Greek drama, hamartia is the hero’s tragic flaw. It can be an injury committed through ignorance.
The English word sin, on the other hand, has its roots in proto-Germanic and has always been associated with guilt, crime, and wrong-doing.
When the Greek books of the New Testament were written, Christians were using the word hamartia to mean “moral flaw” and it was in that sense that it was translated into English as sin.
So, while hamartia can mean an accidental lapse, or “missing the mark,” in English sin is sin and sin is bad.
Here are some quotations from newspapers:
… of Afghanistan’s top scholars, killing 14 people shortly after the gathering had declared such suicide attacks a sin (www.wsj.com)
… message seems certain to rankle conservatives.
Francis described man’s destruction of the environment as a sin and accused mankind of turning the planet into a “polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation and filth”. … (www.theguardian.com)