Following on from both of the two recent questions regarding the inheritance or transmission of 'original' or 'inbred' sin, from generation to generation, I am interested in the Trinitarian, Protestant, Reformed view of how this sin is dealt with in the righteousness of God, in Christ.

For he hath made him sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV (italics removed)]

I am aware that, on what, for the moment, I may call 'the fringes' of Reformed Protestantism (this is anecdotal, I cannot link) there is a view that this was a 'creative act of God'. They say he 'created' sin within Christ during crucifixion when Jesus offered himself as the Sin-bearer.

This has significant implications, not the least of which is the fact that such a 'creative act' seems not to actually involve the sin of the world since it is the 'creation' of 'new' sin.

Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. [John 1:29, KJV]

The verb used in the original is ποιέω (poieo) Strong 4160 which has a very broad spectrum of concept covering both of our English words 'make' and 'do'. It can be viewed, in its entire spectrum of meaning and usage, as 'effect' or 'effectively cause'.

Thus God 'effected' sin in Christ at Golgotha. My understanding of this is that he, as God Almighty, saw it to be so. He viewed the sin of the world as being within the Christ. Thus, in the view of the Judge of all the world, it was contained : contained within Christ's humanity as he suffered.

Thus when Jesus Christ died, sin was removed within himself, within his own humanity.

Effectively, sin was destroyed in him, when he died, and was righteously removed from the world, as to the liability of its having been introduced.

... our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed [Romans 6:6, KJV]

Is this (the effective causing of sin) the understanding of the generality of the Trinitarian, Protestant, Reformed view?

Or is what I have experienced, on the 'fringes' (the 'creation' of sin), the general view?

Or is there another, generally held view altogether (among Trinitarian, Reformed, Protestantism) which I have not, here, covered?

EDIT NOTE : I have deliberately removed the italics from the KJV quote of 2 Corinthians 5:21 - 'to be' [sic] as they are not in the Greek text and they change the meaning. 'Made' sin and 'made' to be sin are two different things conceptually. There is no copular verb in the text in that place, in the TR.

1 Answer 1


It is true that very often Harmartia is used to mean sin or offence in the new testament. It could be exactly what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 5:21 as well, even though this has caused no small difficulty in understanding down through the centuries for individuals as much as for entire theologies. There are so many references to Jesus taking away sin, suffering for our sin, condemning sin in the flesh, etc. To my knowledge this is the only place that looks like it is being said that God made Jesus to BE sin and just that alone should raise some eyebrows...and it has!

But there is another possibility that so nicely harmonizes with the rest of scriptural revelation that it is hard to ignore. In the Septuagint in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers the Greek harmartia is used over 90 times where the Hebrew text has 'sin offering'. Since the Septuagint was written 250 years prior to Christ it is entirely possible that the Corinthians were familiar with it. After all, Paul would usually go first to the synagogue with the gospel and there were certainly Greek speaking Jews in Corinth. Often, when the New Testament refers back to the Old, it pulls from the Septuagint and this could easily be one of those times. If so then Paul is saying that "God made him, who knew no sin, to be a sin offering for us" and this takes away all the theological angst. Below is a part of Adam Clarke's commentary:

For he hath made him to be sin for us - Τον μη γνοντα ἁμαρτιαν, ὑπερ ἡμων ἁμαρτιαν εποιησεν· He made him who knew no sin, (who was innocent), a sin-offering for us. The word ἁμαρτια occurs here twice: in the first place it means sin, i.e. transgression and guilt; and of Christ it is said, He knew no sin, i.e. was innocent; for not to know sin is the same as to be conscious of innocence; so, nil conscire sibi, to be conscious of nothing against one's self, is the same as nulla pallescere culpa, to be unimpeachable. In the second place, it signifies a sin-offering, or sacrifice for sin, and answers to the חטאה chattaah and חטאת chattath of the Hebrew text; which signifies both sin and sin-offering in a great variety of places in the Pentateuch. The Septuagint translate the Hebrew word by ἁμαρτια in ninety-four 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. Had our translators attended to their own method of translating the word in other places where it means the same as here, they would not have given this false view of a passage which has been made the foundation of a most blasphemous doctrine; viz. that our sins were imputed to Christ, and that he was a proper object of the indignation of Divine justice, because he was blackened with imputed sin; and some have proceeded so far in this blasphemous career as to say, that Christ may be considered as the greatest of sinners, because all the sins of mankind, or of the elect, as they say, were imputed to him, and reckoned as his own.

Also from the Benson Commentary:

For he made him, who knew no sin — A commendation peculiar to Christ; to be sin — Or a sin-offering rather, (as the expression often signifies both in the Old Testament and the New;) for us — Who knew no righteousness, who were inwardly and outwardly nothing but sin, and who must have been consumed by the divine justice, had not this atonement been made for our sins; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him — Might be accounted and constituted righteous by God, or might be invested with that righteousness; 1st, imputed to us; 2d, implanted in us; and, 3d, practised by us; which is, in every sense, the righteousness of God by faith. See note on Romans 10:4; Php 3:9.

Barnes' Notes On the Bible:

For he hath made him to be sin for us - The Greek here is, 'for him who knew no sin, he hath made sin, or a sin-offering for us.' The design of this very important verse is, to urge the strongest possible reason for being reconciled to God...To be sin - The words 'to be' are not in the original. Literally, it is, 'he has made him sin, or a sin-offering' ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν hamartian epoiēsen

Matthew Poole's Commentary:

Our sins were reckoned to him; so as though personally he was no sinner, yet by imputation he was, and God dealt with him as such; for he was made a sacrifice for our sins, a sin offering; so answering the type in the law,

  • @Adam Clarke considers it blasphemous in his commentary. On the day of atonement there is a scapegoat who has transferred to it the sins of the nation and is sent to carry them outside the camp and there is another goat who is slaughtered to make atonement. Jesus typifies both of these and neither goat becomes sin or a sinner but is merely the vehicle by which God removes and propitiates sin. Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 12:47
  • So it is being said that Christ was 'made a sin offering'. But the Greek does not support that. This is not Hebrew. It is Greek. The fact that the sin-offering was called 'sin' would actually support the concept of Christ being 'made' sin at Golgotha.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 12:58
  • @NigelJ That word is used many, many times in the Septuagint to mean both sin and sin offering. BTW, I've added a few more quotes into my answer to show that this is not just my idea:) Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:03
  • @NigelJ BTW I do have a way that helps me understand what is meant if 'sin' IS meant rather than 'sin offering' but I've never seen or heard it anywhere else so I don't toss that idea around. Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:06
  • I would personally be interested in the idea which you choose not to publicise. I do not regard the Septuagint as 'scripture'. Certainly not infallible. So a good translation, but not to be relied upon absolutely. And when doctrine is in view, one wants to go back to the Hebrew to be certain of subtleties. My profile has a website. The website has an email address. If you wish. Regards.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:16

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