Made Sin or Made a Sin Offering
(The False Dichotomy)
By Curt Wildy
Due to the importance of Bill Ingersoll’s second comment I want to respond to it in a post. Bill stated:
Thank you for your thoughtful response. The Hebrew word “chataah” is translated “sin”/”sin-offering.” The Hebrew word “chataah” is translated “hamartia” in the LXX and it is used in 2 Cor 5:21. Several modern English translations actually translate “hamartia” as “sin-offering” in 2 Cor 5:21: “For the One not knowing sin, He made a sin offering for us, that we should become the righteousness of God in Him.” Eph 5:2: “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour,” and Heb 10:10: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” John Gill: “He was made sin itself by imputation. The sins of all his people were transferred unto him … and placed to his account. He sustained their persons and bore their sins. And having them upon him, and being chargeable with, and answerable for them, he was treated by the justice of God as if he had been not only a sinner, but a mass of sin.” Albert Barnes: “But all such views as go to make the Holy Redeemer a sinner, or guilty, or deserving of the sufferings which he endured, border on blasphemy, and are abhorrent to the whole strain of the Scriptures. In no form, in no sense possible, is it to be maintained that the Lord Jesus was sinful or guilty.” Adam Clarke: “The Septuagint translate the Hebrew word by hamartia in 94 places in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where a sin-offering is meant; and where our version translates the word not sin, but an offering for sin.”
I want to first thank Bill for his response and for the edifying nature of it. I appreciate the method he took which is to show the key biblical words at issue and how they are used in relevant places in the Old and New Testament. There are several troublesome current and/or former “pastors” that I can think of that do not seem to be capable of this type of honest discourse.
Concerning Bill’s comment, I want to address it point by point but will need to do so in a modified order. Firstly, Bill quoted John Gill as follows “He was made sin itself by imputation. The sins of all his people were transferred unto him … and placed to his account. He sustained their persons and bore their sins. And having them upon him, and being chargeable with, and answerable for them, he was treated by the justice of God as if he had been not only a sinner, but a mass of sin.” Please see my article titled John Gill’s view of the nature of imputation was not merely legal. In this, and in similar articles, much evidence was put forth to show that contrary to the writings of some, John Gill’s view of imputation was not the one held today by those who hold to a “strictly legal” view of imputation.
Secondly, Bill quoted Albert Barnes as stating “But all such views as go to make the Holy Redeemer a sinner, or guilty, or deserving of the sufferings which he endured, border on blasphemy, and are abhorrent to the whole strain of the Scriptures. In no form, in no sense possible, is it to be maintained that the Lord Jesus was sinful or guilty.” This comment from Barnes is a mere assertion without any (provided) proof-text to support it. Now, it could be that Barnes went on to explain/support his argument but nothing was provided in the comment to evidence this. As to the substance of the statement, I readily agree that the Lord Jesus Christ was NOT a sinner. A sinner is one who commits sin (I believe categorising sins as those of commission and those of omission generates a false distinction in that we commit sin when we omit doing what we ought). The Lord Jesus Christ never actively or passively sinned in thought, word, nor deed. He is the Lamb without spot or blemish. However, and this is a big however, the Lord absolutely became guilty and deserved the punishment He received. He willingly became guilty of our sins and he justly deserved the punishment for our sin as He bore it in absolute faithfulness to the Father. To argue otherwise is to make God the Father unjust in the execution of His wrath against the Lord Jesus, our Great Shepherd smitten with the Father’s sword.
What is Christ (or, more accurately, the Christ)? Is Christ solely God the Word made flesh in His office of Messiah? Clearly when God the Word was made flesh, when Jehovah the Anointed Saviour took upon Himself human flesh, mankind saw in physical form the Christ. However, Christ is spoken of in the Bible as a united being — both Head and Body. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:12 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ.” We see in this verse that their is a union, what is commonly called an eternal vital union between Christ (as Head) and Christ (as His body), the two are inseparably and eternally one. The elect were chosen in Christ from eternity and our life (which was in Him and is Him) was always in and with Him. Though we were lost sheep, we were always sheep and thus always in Christ. When the Lord was made sin (not just a sin offering) he took upon His very self our sin. The greater purpose of His earthly flesh was to house the sin that was made to meet upon it – yet (once again) the Lord bore this sin without sin of His own, i.e. without sinning Himself. In His (fleshly) body was made to meet upon Him the sin of His elect body. If we are one with Him then our sin was His and His righteousness ours. We were His sin and He is our righteousness. He never succumbed to it but He owned it and carried it per the significant list of Greek and Hebrew words I addressed in the Substitution post and elsewhere.
The Lord Himself, in his own body, bore our sins. Some will try to explain it away by quoting men who never address the scripture properly; however, this langauge is the language of emphasis, designed to make clear the literal nature of it. No matter what men merely assert otherwise, this is the truth, and the naysayers cannot prove otherwise from the original biblical language nor the language usage. Many will quote other men, few will quote the actual scripture to the degree that is necessary. Moreover, in my wine posts, my Genesis 3:22 post, etc., I discussed how 2 Corinthians 5:21 tied-in to this actual and literal bearing. There are so many arguments, biblical arguments, to consider that there should be no reason at all to rely on the empty assertions of men. Such reliance is nothing short of mental and spiritual laziness.
Thirdly, in my first response comment, I argued that “if we rightly understand God’s use of biblical parallelism then we can rightly affirm that the correct term is sin and not sin offering. Otherwise, we would need to read 2 Corinthians 5:21 as “For he hath made him [a] sin offering [G266 – hamartia] for us, who knew no sin offering [G266 – hamartia]; that we might be made the “righteousness offering“of God in him.” This was never addressed. I understand Bill’s chataah argument but it does not negate the fact that hamartia (alone) in the New Testament is always sin and never sin offering. This does not mean that the Lord was not an offering for sin, clearly the Bible teaches this, but sin offering alone is not what is in view in 2 Corinthians 5:21. The clear language ties-in sin with sin and then sin with righteousness — the offering aspect is not in primary view.
Fourthly, Bill wrote ““chataah” is translated “sin”/”sin-offering.” The Hebrew word “chataah” is translated “hamartia” in the LXX and it is used in 2 Cor 5:21.” In response, let me first state that Chatta’ath (Strong’s H2403) is more often translated as sin than sin offering (in the AV/KJV it is sin x182, sin offering x116, punishment x3, purification for sin x2, purifying x1, sinful x1, and sinner x1). Chatta’ath originates from the root word chata’ (Strong’s H2398) which is primarily translated as sin and means “to sin, miss, miss the way, go wrong, incur guilt, forfeit, purify from uncleanness.” Chata’ is translated in the AV/KJV as sin x188, purify x11, cleanse x8, sinner x8, committed x6, offended x4, blame x2, …, sinful X1, trespass X1.
Bill wrote “Several modern English translations actually translate “hamartia” as “sin-offering” in 2 Cor 5:21…” Those modern translations are going against the fact that hamartia (in the AV/KJV) is translated as sin x172, sinful x1, and offense x1 and never as sin offering. The The AV/KJV translators translated sin offering (or offering for sin) as peri hamartias in the New Testament (see Hebrews 10:6,8,18) and never as hamartia. Though peri means of/about/around, the New Testament translators used peri hamartias to represent a sin offering and hamartia to represent sin to distinguish the two. In light of all of this, just as chataah/chatta’ath was translated as both sin and sin offering, the same is accurate for hamartia and yet peri hamartias became the primary term to denote sin offering in the Greek. We see this hamartia / peri hamartias distinction often, but not exclusively, in the Septuagint (which was written in the second or third century BC… well before the New Testament). Bill quoted Adam Clarke as stating “The Septuagint translates the Hebrew word by hamartia in 94 places in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where a sin-offering is meant; and where our version translates the word not sin, but an offering for sin” The problem with Mr. Clarke’s statement is that it does not make clear that hamartia [Strong’s G266] is found over 340 times in the Septuagint and is far more often translated as sin than it is as sin offering. So hamartia can be used to justify the use of the word sin in Second Corinthians 5:21 just as much, if not more so, than sin offering.
Note that Mr. Clarke went on to state “…But that it may be plainly seen that sin-offering, not sin, is the meaning of the word in this verse, I shall set down the places from the Septuagint where the word occurs; and where it answers to the Hebrew words already quoted; and where our translators have rendered correctly what they render here incorrectly [followed by a list of verses]..” Though this additional quote may not seem important, it really is quite important. As you can check for yourselves here http://biblecommenter.com/2_corinthians/5-21.htm, Mr. Clarke lists verses wherein hamartia is supposedly translated as sin offering when in fact the correct term is peri hamartias (“περι αμαρτιας”). You can determine this by running a search for peri hamartias here: http://bibledatabase.org/cgi-bin/bib_search/bible.cgi – In 62 overall verses, peri hamartias, and not the plain hamartia, is the term that the Septuagint translators used for sin offering. This is important to note because it shows that a large bulk of the Septuagint does not use hamartia alone to denote an offering for sin but adds the Greek word peri. At least 50 of Mr. Clarke’s “94 instances” pertain to peri hamartias and not just hamartia alone. This drops the number down to 44 instances wherein hamartia equates to an offering for sin. Clearly 44 instances out of over 340 total hardly proves that hamartia should be translated sin offering in 2 Corinthians 5:21. You would need to address the remaining nearly 300 instances to make such a case–especially given that the bulk of those relate strictly to sin and not a sin offering.
Fifthly, the reason why the same word can be translated as both sin and sin offering is because the sin offering was made sin. The various sacrifices were not literally made sin because they were neither human nor divinity in human flesh (thus, explaining the need for the countless repetition of such sacrifices and the great number of animals sacrificed to reinforce the type/symbolism). Christ, the God Man, being fully human and fully divine, was made sin and thus — once and for all — put away sin for His body (which was our sin, the sin of His people). I can rightly say that He put away His sin because, in other posts, I have shown where the Lord called our sin “my sin” (referring to Himself for He took what was ours and made it His own). Remember, what was symbolic in the Old Testament was realised in the New Testament in actuality. So we can easily and readily say that Christ was an offering for sin, as He was literally made sin — in like manner as to how the animal sacrifices were an offering for sin, as they were symbolically/typologically made sin. Again, what the animal sacrifices could not actually do but could only represent Christ doing, the Lord Jesus literally did (being fully capable in His divinity and perfect humanity as He was made sin and carried that sin off forever fulfilling the type of the scapegoat). So though we see in Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour,” and Hebrews 10:10 “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” that the Lord Jesus was indeed the offering for the redemption, propitiation, justification, and sanctification of the elect, we can rest assured that He became that offering by being made sin as He took upon Himself the sin of His people.
Christ is the offering for His people because He was made sin for His people and He was made sin for His people to be the all-sufficient offering for His people. As I have stated before, the Lord Jesus willingly bore (anaphero / cabal) our sins in His own body. In bearing our sins, the Lord literally took them upon Himself, carried them (‘abar), and endured them (cabal / nasa’) until His propitiatory work was finished on the cross. The sin that He took and bore literally and truly met Him, arrived at His borders (i.e. His person), and then impinged and encroached upon Him (paga’). Our sin truly overtook Him and took hold of Him (nasag), as they encompassed Him (aphaph), fell upon Him, and struck Him (with real impact), so as to kill Him (paga’). As a result, His soul was made guilt/guilty/sin/trespass (asham – Isaiah 53:10) as He was profaned, polluted, and defiled (chalal) — not in Himself (for He remained without sin of His own doing) — but in light of the sin that He willingly bore. It was in this sense of knowing sin/evil that Adam became like Christ as covered in my Genesis 3:22 post.
Hopefully the above will address some concerns or else give some ‘food for thought.’ As for me, quite often when I come back to this topic of Christ being made sin, I see something new – some additional piece of evidence to support this vital truth. So I am always thankful to have a reason to look deeply into this matter and to contemplate the great redemptive work of our Lord. Nonetheless, do not take my word on these matters; do not take the word of those who speak against absolute substitution; instead, search the scriptures for yourselves to see if these things be true. May God give us all the light that unifies.
To God be the glory, Amen.