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(sĭn), moon god of Semitic origin, worshiped in ancient Middle Eastern religions. One of the principal deities in the Babylonian and Assyrian pantheons, he was lord of the calendar and of wisdom. The chief centers of his worship were at Harran and at Ur, where he was known as Nanna.


1 in the Bible, one of the wildernesses through which the Israelites wandered when they left Egypt. It is not the same as ZinZin,
in the Bible, wilderness through which the Israelites wandered, SW of the Dead Sea.
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. 2 The town PelusiumPelusium
, ancient city of Egypt, on the easternmost branch of the Nile (long since silted up) and c.20 mi (30 km) E of modern Port Said. It was especially important as a frontier fortress against attacks from the east.
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, which is rendered Sin in Hebrew.


in religion, unethical act. The term implies disobedience to a personal God, as in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is not used so often in systems such as Buddhism where there is no personal divinity. In ancient Israel, besides personal sin there was national sin, usually idolatry; to regain God's favor the whole people had to be purified. Ex. 32–34. Crimes of a few might also be visited on all, but punishment of the criminals could avert this. Joshua 7. Apart from original sinoriginal sin,
in Christian theology, the sin of Adam, by which all humankind fell from divine grace. Saint Augustine was the fundamental theologian in the formulation of this doctrine, which states that the essentially graceless nature of humanity requires redemption to save it.
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, Christianity and Islam have no developed idea of collective sin. As to what constitutes sin, Christian ideas differ. Some Christians divide human acts into good, indifferent, and bad; others regard all acts not positively good as necessarily sinful. Thus, some may think gambling is indifferent so long as no obligation is infringed, while others consider gambling wrong as such. The traditional view, presupposed by Christian asceticism, is that a major way to perfection lies in performing or in refraining from indifferent acts solely to please God. The theory that no act is really indifferent is common among conservative "evangelical" Protestants. For Christians, the effect of sin may be twofold, since a sin is at once a rebellion against the omnipotent Creator, risking punishment (even hellhell,
in Western monotheistic religions, eternal abode of souls damned by the judgment of God. The souls in hell are deprived forever of the sight of God. The punishment of hell is generally analogized to earthly fire.
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), as well as a cause of the interruption of grace, a notion that was popularized in the Middle Ages, notably by the Cistercians in the 12th cent. and the Franciscans in the 13th. It is explicit in Western mysticism and in modern Roman Catholic teaching. Among Protestants it was typical of Martin Luther and John Wesley. In Western theology (particularly Roman Catholicism) sins are mortal if committed with knowing and deliberate intent in a serious matter; other sins are venial. Habitual sin is called vice. Roman Catholics are required to confess individually all mortal sins (see penancepenance
, sacrament of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Eastern churches. By it the penitent (the person receiving the sacrament) is absolved of his or her sins by a confessor (the person hearing the confession and conferring the sacrament).
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). The seven deadly, or capital, sins are pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. The sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance are willful murder (Gen. 4.10), the sin of Sodom (Gen. 18.20,21), oppression of the poor (Ex. 2.23), and defrauding the laborer of his wages (James 5.4). The sin of the angels (specifically of SatanSatan
[Heb.,=adversary], traditional opponent of God and humanity in Judaism and Christianity. In Scripture and literature the role of the opponent is given many names, such as Apolyon, Beelzebub, Semihazah, Azazel, Belial, and Sammael.
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) is pride. The opposite of sin is virtuevirtue
[Lat.,=manliness], in philosophy, quality of good in human conduct. The cardinal virtues, as presented by Plato, were wisdom (or prudence), courage, temperance, and justice.
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, but in Christian practice the opposite of sin is gracegrace,
in Christian theology, the free favor of God toward humans, which is necessary for their salvation. A distinction is made between natural grace (e.g., the gift of life) and supernatural grace, by which God makes a person (born sinful because of original sin) capable of
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, i.e., the merits of Christ's virtues given to humanity. See atonementatonement,
the reconciliation, or "at-one-ment," of sinful humanity with God. In Judaism both the Bible and rabbinical thought reflect the belief that God's chosen people must be pure to remain in communion with God.
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; baptismbaptism
[Gr., =dipping], in most Christian churches a sacrament. It is a rite of purification by water, a ceremony invoking the grace of God to regenerate the person, free him or her from sin, and make that person a part of the church.
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; ethicsethics,
in philosophy, the study and evaluation of human conduct in the light of moral principles. Moral principles may be viewed either as the standard of conduct that individuals have constructed for themselves or as the body of obligations and duties that a particular society
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; purgatorypurgatory
[Lat.,=place of purging], in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the state after death in which the soul destined for heaven is purified. Since only the perfect can enjoy the vision of God (inferred from Mat. 12.36; Rev. 21.
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The concept of sin plays a large role in a number of Easter-related observances. According to Christian doctrine Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross on Good Friday rescued his followers from the consequences of their sins. In the Eucharist, a ceremony that takes place every Sunday in some churches, Christians remember the events surrounding Jesus' crucifixion and recommit themselves to the new covenant, or relationship, with God brought about through these events. Finally, the concepts of sin and repentance have shaped the way in which many Christians observe Lent, the approximately sixweek season that precedes Holy Week and Easter.

Today the word "sin" is commonly understood to refer to an immoral or unethical act. Frequently sin is seen as shameful. Biblical concepts of sin appear to have been broader and somewhat more subtle than this everyday understanding. The Hebrew scriptures, which Christians call the Old Testament, rely on several different words to describe human failings, all of which have been translated into modern English as "sin." For example, these texts often lament humanity's tendency towards 'awon, which means "wickedness" but which evokes the concept of bending or twisting. They also denounce what they see as paša, meaning rebellion or breaking of the law. A third common term for these kinds of errors, hata, signifies missing the mark or straying from the path. They also apply the words šagag, to err or to go astray, and ta'â, to err or to wander. Writing in ancient Greek, the authors of the New Testament, or Christian scriptures, usually describe these same human failings by invoking the concept of hamar- tía, a term used to describe an arrow that misses its target. They also speak of ponerós, evil, adikía, injustice or unrighteousness, parábasis, transgression, and anomía, lawlessness. These words, too, have been translated into English as "sin."

Some contemporary Christian theologians describe sins as those human actions not in accordance with God's loving purposes for Creation. Others understand sin as human failure or refusal to live the life intended for them by God. At the heart of these and other theological definitions of sin lies the notion of human withdrawal from God. Since sin separates people from God, it also distances them from the possibility of salvation. Biblical writers often describe sin in terms of slavery, debt, or death. The Bible repeatedly observes that in spite of its unpleasantness human beings tend to lapse into sin. Selfishness or lack of trust in God usually motivates these lapses. Because sin results in estrangement, or distance from God, the healing of sin requires a process of reconciliation, or restoration of one's relationship with God. Christians call this process redemption. They believe that this process, begun by God, centers around the life, teachings, and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. During his life Jesus taught his followers how to have a closer relationship with God (see also Repentance). Moreover, Jesus offered his own suffering and death by crucifixion as a sacrifice for the sins of his followers (for more on the concept of sacrifice, see Redemption). According to Christian theology, this sacrificial act reconciled humanity and the whole of Creation with God.

Further Reading

Efird, James M. "Sin." In Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dic- tionary. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. Jefford, Clayton N. "Sin." In David Noel Freedman, ed. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. Myers, Allen C., ed. "Sin." In The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987. "Sin." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997. "Sin." In Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002


a. transgression of God's known will or any principle or law regarded as embodying this
b. the condition of estrangement from God arising from such transgression


the 21st letter in the Hebrew alphabet (שׂ), transliterated as S
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005