Is the Bible better without sin?

At its core, all sin is a rebellion against God, or to use another classic word - idolatry. That's why the Ten Commandments start with "You shall have no other gods but me" and when a lawyer asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the law he replied "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind". Therefore, sin is first and foremost God-centered. Bruce Milne aptly writes that "Sin means directing our worship to that which is not God. At the heart of sin is that which de-gods God; sin is our rebellious refusal to let God be God."

Read also

"Sin is too important to be called just sin" (Bible Society)

If you are interested in the subject, consider reading a great mini-book from Birgitte Stocklund Larsen (former Secretary General of the Bible Society) entitled "When the Bible is Translated ":


"There are many words whose meaning we do not fully understand. I myself have had my share of struggles with the beautiful Danish language. And just when you think you've got the day-to-day down pat, there's a sea of old words buried in the language graveyard. If you don't interpret the words correctly, it can become total galimatias, if you know what I mean.

Who is a Laban? Or a slubbert? You may know a bandit and a sneak, but what about a bully or a spitfire? Is a scoundrel worse than a rascal? Or how is a canker different from a jar? And then there's fringe, fusspot, cream puff, flea and flab. 

It doesn't get any easier when you sing hymns with lyrics like: 

The river that can iceberg melt,

Which can blood guilt wash off!

During the pandemic it is extra important to wash your hands, but such advice could easily be misunderstood and there would be consequences.  

One of these difficult words is precisely the word "sin". [Special font]

Sin is unmistakably linked to the Bible and the Christian narrative. But, excuse me, if you're like most Danes there's a good chance you don't quite understand what's meant by the word. The Bible Society writes that "Sin today is typically and somewhat simplistically about sex and chocolate." And if they're right, sin isn't what it used to be. Little half-banned delicious pleasures are not what was primarily in mind when the Bible was written. And as a result, most people aren't very well equipped to understand what's behind the word. That's exactly why you need to listen carefully.

As a solution to the problem, it has been decided to eliminate the problem. In the latest Bible translation, the Bible 2020, "sin" was removed. Isn't that brilliant? Get rid of it, now that people don't understand it anyway! 

Instead, the 2020 Bible is filled with substitute words that, in line with the finest research, are as close as possible to the original meaning behind the text.

For example, when the Jewish people made themselves a god of gold and betrayed God, the Bible originally says that "people have committed a great sin". Whereas in the 2020 Bible it says "people failed you [God]". In another passage, the Authorized Bible says that if Christ has not risen from the dead, "then you are still in your sins," while the 2020 Bible writes that, "then you are still caught up in your selfishness." 

In the last example, we were originally warned that if you don't do good, " sin lurks at your door", while in the 2020 Bible we read that if we don't do right, " evil lurks".

To give you the full picture, here is a selection of different ways the word "sin" was translated in the Bible 2020:

  • Offences
  • Law Crimes
  • Error
  • Error steps
  • What
    • forsakes God
    • creates distance to God
    • separates us from God
    • is resistance to God
    • God does not want 
  • Selfishness
  • Selfishness
  • (and not least) Evil

This is a brilliant piece of work, which makes a difficult concept like sin suddenly understandable to most people. To try to make it even easier, we could divide all these translations into four categories. Either sin can be considered as being an Action, Attitude, Relationship, or for lack of a better word - a Thing [Evil]. 

But while we're celebrating this new glorious translation, remember one thing:

Although the creative approach we find in the Bible 2020 is its blessed strength, it is also its dangerous weakness. It is fitting to remind ourselves that the devil is in the details.

The word sin is full of meaning and when "sin" is translated with the word "self-centeredness", a lot of the breadth and depth of the word is lost. Being a thug caught up in selfishness is not nice, but selfishness alone is nowhere near as serious as sin in all its nuances. And it is precisely these nuances that the Bible's authors originally intended in what they wrote. And so while there is gain in totally replacing the word sin, there is also a serious loss associated with this decision. In one way this translation makes more sense, while in another way it makes less sense. 

It is not a problem as such. Here we just have to remember another old saying: there are no roses without thorns.

The 2020 Bible is great for those who find sin a little mysterious and sin a little hard to understand. And once you've got that part down, be sure to discover other translations that will add a whole new dimension to your Bible reading.

Watch this short video in which Peter Makovíni discusses how the Bible 2020 rewrites the concept of sin.

ABOUT PETER MAKOVINI: Peter studied theology and intercultural communication at Harvest Bible College (Australia) and received his Master's degree in Information Architecture from Aalborg University. Today he works as a teacher at Mariager Højskole and is a member of the Bible Society's Board of Representatives.

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