The Invention of Sin

Free Public Lecture

The Invention of Sin

Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A
Elisabeth Murdoch
Spencer Road


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What if English lacked the word “sin,” with its religious connotations and Judeo-Christian heritage, and had only words like “fault,” “error,” “crime” and the like? For this is the precise case with the ancient Greek word hamartia – a perfectly common term meaning “fault” (as in Aristotle’s famous “tragic flaw”), but which, when it appears in English translations of the Bible, is almost invariably rendered as “sin.”

Is there something in the Biblical context that justifies the use of a special word in English? How do we know that hamartia should be translated differently in pagan and Judeo-Christian contexts?

In this lecture, Professor David Konstan addresses the question of when, how, and whether error and wrongdoing acquired the specific sense that we associate with the word “sin".


  • Professor David Konstan
    Professor David Konstan, Professor of Classics at New York University