Did you ever wonder why the bible uses different words for wrongdoing like sin, trespass, transgression or iniquity? Each of these words reveals a deeper falling into the sinful condition and iniquity is the lowest one.
Matthew 24:12 (KJV)
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Matthew 24:12 (NKJV)
12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Iniquity or Lawlessness?
The Greek word is ἀνομία anomia. It means illegality, in other words, a violation of law or wickedness. It includes the end-impact of law breaking – in other words, its negative influence on a person’s soul (status before God). The Textus Receptus Greek New Testament has this word appear 15 times. It is translated in English in the KJV as iniquity 12 times, unrighteousness once, and transgress the law once.
The English word lawlessness means “contrary to or without regard for the law.”
The English word iniquity means “gross injustice : ‘wickedness’ or a wicked act or thing : ‘sin'”
When I researched this, I noticed that the KJV has the English word iniquity appear in the New Testament 15 times. The NKJV has the English word iniquity only appear 7 times. The KJV never has the word lawlessness appear. Why the differences?
The KJV is translating two different Greek words as iniquity. The NKJV has chosen not to translate ἀνομία anomia as iniquity at any point in the translation while the KJV translates it as iniquity 12 times. The NKJV actually does translate another Greek word, ἀδικία adikia, as iniquity though. It is defined, in legal sense, as injustice and, in the moral sense, as wrongfulness in one’s character, life or act, according to Strong’s. It is very similar to the definition of anomia. The KJV translates Adikia as unrighteousness 16 times, iniquity 6 times, unjust twice, and wrong once.
Here is the strange thing. The NKJV also translates παρανομία paranomia as iniquity (as the KJV does also) which happens to be a variation of anomia. This Greek word only appears once in 2 Peter 2:16 where it states: “But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” In this instance, it departs from the idea of anomia as being distinctly lawlessness. It would seem that the NKJV is trying to make a distinction between anomia and adikia in all other places besides this one. I found that this is actually a common practice to do in modern translations. “Is that a good practice?” I wondered.
According to Gotquestions.org, “The Bible uses words such as iniquity, transgression, and trespass to indicate levels of disobedience to God. They are all categorized as “sin” of course, but each one gives us a different understanding of sin. Iniquity is the most deeply rooted. ” Iniquity, they say, refers to a premeditated choice; to commit iniquity is to continue without repentance.” “David’s sin with Bathsheba that led to the killing of her husband, Uriah, was iniquity (2 Samuel 11:3–4; 2 Samuel 12:9). In David’s psalm of repentance, he cries out to God, saying, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2).”
The word for “lawlessness,” which the modern translations are using for anomia, is often translated as “iniquity” in the KJV or the even older Geneva bible. Again, according to Gotquestions.org, when discussing this newer English translation of the word as lawlessness, states, “The word for “lawlessness” in the Bible is often translated “iniquity.” According to the Bible, the root of all lawlessness is rebellion.” Translating this word as iniquity gives us the deeper understanding of anomia. Earlier, I stated that anomia includes the end-impact of law breaking – in other words, its negative influence on a person’s soul (status before God). Since adikia and anomia both refer to this deepest sin of iniquity, I have to wonder, why are we making a separate distinction with anomia and adikia today?
It would seem, somewhere along the way, a translator has chosen to make a distinction between this word anomia as only dealing with lawlessness. All of the modern translations followed suit. So, the NKJV goes along with the ESV and the NASB and creates a separate distinction for this word than had been previously established as iniquity with the KJV and the Geneva Bible. So, is adding another word for sin into the mix a good idea? I guess I will leave that with the reader to consider.
The one thing I would like for us to take away from all this is that the worst sin we could find ourselves in is to be in a place of complete lawlessness and, when you are in that state, know that you are in deep iniquity. If you are in that state, you need to turn to God as soon as possible. You have almost went to the place of going too far.
“God forgives iniquity, as He does any type of sin when we repent (Jeremiah 33:8; Hebrews 8:12). However, iniquity left unchecked leads to a state of willful sin with no fear of God. The build-up of unrepentant sin is sometimes pictured as a “cup of iniquity” being filled to the brim (Revelation 17:4; Genesis 15:16). This often applies to nations who have forsaken God completely. Continued iniquity leads to unnatural affections, which leads to a reprobate mind. Romans 1:28–32 outlines this digression in vivid detail. The sons of Eli are biblical examples of reprobates whom God judged for their iniquities (1 Samuel 3:13–14). Rather than repent, Eli’s sons continued in their abominations until repentance was no longer possible.” (GotQuestions.org)
Iniquity. May we all understand what it is… and then….
May all of us keep as far away from it as possible.