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What is…

Hebrew: חַטָּאָה or חַטָּאָ —transliteration: khata or chatta'ah

also known as: wickedness, evil, iniquity, perversity, turning away from what is right and good, transgression, wrongdoing

In addition to being a violation of God’s law, “Sin” is also the name of a biblical Egyptian city, a noted area of Sinai wilderness connected to the Exodus (see bottom of this page), the name of a Babylonian moon-god, and a place the idol was worshipped—the Temple of Sin.

Index for this page: • Original Sin • Types of Sin • List of Sins • How to Identify Sin • Penalties for Sin • God’s Remedy for Sin • City of Sin • Wilderness of Sin

Do Not Enter“Sin” is a word used to denote the willful breaking of God’s law—doing evil (or wishing to)—or failure to do what is good and right.

Origin of sin

Sin apparently began with a prominent and proud angel in Heaven, known now as Satan, and it spread to many other angelic beings. It is deduced that this happened soon after the Creation of Earth and Adam, and before the conception of Cain and his younger brother Abel. As a result, Satan and his rebels were cast out of Heaven to Earth. The Son of God watched him “fall like lightning from Heaven” (Luke 10:18). These supernatural beings are treacherous, hate-filled opponents of all goodness and righteousness—relentless adversaries of God and man. Satan’s temptation and deception of Eve, led to the sin of Adam.

This Great Fall from innocence to evil set consequences in motion that man and all creation groan under, to this day. Adam immediately died spiritually, and his body began to inevitably die.

Because God is omniscient and omnipotent, He could have blocked these events from ever taking place. His permitting them, however, in no way makes God the author of sin. It is unknown to us why God allowed these events, however, believers trust by faith in His supreme wisdom and love that this course was necessary and serves an eternally good purpose that brings great glory to God.

How Wicked is Our Sin? (the voice of Paul Washer)
length: 4 minutes

God tells us that, at the proper time, all evil will ultimately be defeated, and the curse of death that it brought upon all living creatures will forever be lifted.

Adam’s sin

Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:1-6) consisted in his yielding to the assaults of temptation and rebelling against God by eating the forbidden fruit. This sin involved in it…

  1. the guilt of disobedience to a positive command

  2. the lack of trust in God’s goodness in what He might do about his mate, Eve—she having been deceived by Satan into disobeying God’s command

  3. the sin of unbelief, virtually believing God was a liar

By this sin, Adam became an apostate from God, a rebel in arms against his Creator. He lost the favor of God and intimate communion with Him; his whole nature became depraved, and he incurred the penalty involved in the covenant of works.

“Our first parents being the root of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature were conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.”

Adam was constituted by God to be the head and representative of all his posterity, as he was also their natural head, and therefore when he fell they fell with him (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:22-45). His probation was their probation, and his fall their fall. Because of Adam's first sin, all his posterity came into the world in a state of sin and condemnation, i.e., (1) a state of moral corruption, and (2) of guilt, as having judicially imputed to them the guilt of Adam's first sin.

“Original sin” is frequently and properly used to denote only the moral corruption of their whole nature inherited by all men from Adam. This inherited moral corruption consists in, (1) the loss of original righteousness; and (2) the presence of a constant proneness to evil, which is the root and origin of all actual sin. It is called “sin” (Romans 6:12, 14, 17; 7:5-17), the “flesh” (Galatians 5:17, 24), “lust” (James 1:14-15), the “body of sin” (Romans 6:6), “ignorance,” “blindness of heart,” “alienation from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18-19).

It influences and depraves the whole man, and its tendency is still downward to deeper and deeper corruption, there remaining no recuperative element in the soul. It is a total depravity, and it is also universally inherited by all the natural descendants of Adam (Romans 3:10-23; 5:12-21; 8:7).

Pelagians deny original sin, and regard man as by nature morally and spiritually well; semi-Pelagians regard him as morally sick; Augustinians, or, as they are also called, Calvinists, regard man as described above, spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 3:14).

The doctrine of original sin is proved by…

  1. the fact of the universal sinfulness of humans

    “There is no man that sinneth not” (1 Kings 8:46; Isaiah 53:6; Psalms 130:3; Romans 3:19, 22-23; Galatians 3:22).

  2. the total depravity of mankind

    All men are declared to be destitute of any principle of spiritual life; man’s apostasy from God is total and complete (Job 15:14-16; Genesis 6:5-6).

  3. its early manifestation (Psalms 58:3; Proverbs 22:15)

  4. the necessity—absolutely and universally—of regeneration (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

  5. the universality of death (Romans 5:12-20)

Sin is “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God” (1 John 3:4; Romans 4:15), in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of the life, whether by commission or omission (Romans 6:12-17; 7:5-24). The moral character of a man’s actions is determined by the moral state of his heart.

The disposition to sin, or the habit of the soul that leads to the sinful act, is itself also sin (Romans 6:12-17; Galatians 5:17; James 1:14-15).

It is “not a mere violation of the law of our constitution, nor of the system of things, but an offense against a personal lawgiver and moral governor who vindicates his law with penalties. The soul that sins is always conscious that his sin is…

  1. intrinsically vile and polluting, and…

  2. that it justly deserves punishment, and calls down the righteous wrath of God.

Hence, sin carries with it two inalienable characters,

  1. ill-desert, guilt (reatus); and

  2. pollution (macula).” —Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons: Outlines of Discourses Doctrinal and Practical


Types of sin

Various kinds of sin are mentioned in the Bible.

  1. “Presumptuous sins,” or as literally rendered, “sins with an uplifted hand”, i.e., defiant acts of sin, in contrast with “errors” or “inadvertencies” (Psalms 19:13).

  2. “Secret”, i.e., hidden sins (19:12); sins which escape the notice of the soul.

  3. “Sin against the Holy Ghost”, or a “sin unto death” (Matthew 12:31-32; 1 John 5:16), which amounts to a wilful rejection of grace. [See: Unpardonable sin]

How to identify sin

  • The 10 Commandments, the the Decalogue
    also see: Why should followers of Christ use The Ten Commandments in evangelism? Answer
  • breaking laws—judicial, moral or natural
  • How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
  • How can I decide whether a particular activity is wrong? Answer
  • What is “the unpardonable sin”? How does sin become “unforgivable?” Answer
  • Is the new morality acceptable in Christian conduct today? Answer

Partial list of sins

  1. sins of omission—failure to do what is good, right, and love
  2. failure to forgive all who have offended you
  3. failure to believe God-given truth provided to you
  4. abominations
  5. adultery
  6. anger (if excessive, protracted, or without cause)
  7. apostasy—abandoning the truth, turning away from God
  8. astrology
  9. backbiting
  10. bigamy
  11. blasphemy
  12. putting a stumblingblock before the blind (Leviticus 19:14)
  13. coveting
  14. cursing a parent (Exodus 21:17)
  15. cursing God (Leviticus 24:10-16)
  16. cursing the deaf (Leviticus 19:14)
  17. cursing the ruler of your people (Exodus 22:28)
  18. dishonoring parents
  19. divination
  20. drunkenness
  21. enchanting
  22. envy
  23. evil-speaking
  24. evil thoughts—dwelling on them and feeding them
  25. fornication
  26. gluttony
  27. hatred
  28. heathen
  29. heresy
  30. idolatry
  31. kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 27:16)
  32. lasciviousness
  33. not loving God
  34. lust
  35. lying
  36. magic
  37. marriage to idolators
  38. murder
  39. murmuring
  40. necromancy
  41. excessive pride
  42. rioting (revelling)
  43. robbery
  44. sedition
  45. slander
  46. soothsaying
  47. sorcery
  48. stealing
  49. striking a parent (Exodus 21:15)
  50. taking the name of the LORD God in vain
  51. theft
  52. touching the holy Ark of the Covenant
  53. uncleanness
  54. witchcraft
  55. DIVINE COMMANDS UNIQUE TO THE HEBREWS—There were various specific commands and ceremonial laws given uniquely to the Hebrews, as a set apart people in Old Testament times. It was a sin for a Hebrew to break these laws.

    For example, they were prohibited from using as food certain animal substances (unclean). The chief design of these regulations seems to have been to establish a system of regimen which would distinguish the Hebrews from all other nations.

    Regarding the design and the abolition of these regulations, the reader will find all the details in Leviticus 20:24-26; Acts 10:9-16; 11:1-10; Hebrews 9:9-14. The laws about uncleanness were removed during New Testament times. Jesus Christ explained what truly defiles a person in Mark 7:18-23.

Penalties for sin

God’s remedy for sin

I became a Christian, but I still struggle with sin. What do I do?
length: 2 minutes


Places called “Sin”

Hebrew: סִין

  • Sin—an important city in ancient Egypt

    also known as: Seyân, Sena, Pelusium, Pelousion, Per-Amun, Peremoun, Peromi

    The Greeks called it Pelusium (Pelousion), which means, as does also the Hebrew name, “clayey” or “muddy,” so called because of the abundance of silt clay found there.

    The prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 30:15) called this city the “the strength of Egypt,” because of its strategic importance and impressive fortifications. This gateway to Egypt was also famous for production of flax (linum) and beer, and was once Egypt’s second most important port, following Alexandria. Both ships and caravans stopped in this busy city, where goods from the Israel, Syria and beyond were sent throughout Egypt by way of the Nile and land routes.

    The modern name for the city’s ruins is Tell el-Farama, which is almost 4 miles long. Archaeologists have made many discoveries here, including a “20-acre fortress with 36 towers, 3 gates, and 7-foot-thick walls.” Much more remains to be uncovered.

  • The Wilderness of Sin—an area of the Sinai Peninsula (Exodus 17:1)

    also known as: Desert of Sin, Ẓin

    The name “Sinai” means “of Sin”—that is, of the moon god named Sin.

    This wilderness is located between Elim and Sinai (Exodus 16:1; 17:1; Numbers 33:11; 3:12). In this area, the children of Israel murmured against God, and, in response, “the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud” (Exodus 16:10), and He provided them with quails and manna.

    Sinai Peninsula, Egypt—satellite view
Article Version: October 5, 2017