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THREE WORDS – TWO MEANINGS
BACHAR – GENEA – HAMARTIA

by Jacques More

In English a number of words that look and sound the same have a different meaning which is discernible only by the immediate context. Two that immediately come to mind are the words "table" and "chair". Consider this sentence:

The Chair of the meeting was sitting on the most comfortable chair at the head of the table and, as he opened the book in front of him, turned to its table of contents.

Twice the word "chair" and the word "table" appear: each of these 4 total occurrences provide a different meaning which are dependent on the immediate surrounding words for ascertaining which of the two meanings of "table" or "chair" the writer wished understood.

This article will look at 3 words from the bible's original languages: one from the Hebrew (Heb.) of the Old Testament (OT) and two from the Greek (Gk.) of the New Testament (NT). Each of those 3 words will be shown to have 2 meanings each, just like our English language examples.

A little background history
First let's give a little background to the main source material for this presentation: the Septuagint (LXX).
        The OT of the bible was first written in Heb. except for a few portions in Aramaic (Portions of Daniel and Ezra plus a verse each in Jeremiah and Genesis). Then, the Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great conquered the world of his day as prophesied long before in Daniel. Then, his empire was split into 4 minor Greek kingdoms, so that Greek then became the main language for trade, commerce and administration. In Alexandria a library was being assembled of the great works of the world and the Hebrew (OT) bible was organised to be translated into Gk. for that purpose. Since tradition involves over 70 Hebrew scholars in the translation, this work has been named since as the Septuagint (LXX): it is a Greek, at times very literal translation and, in other places a very liberal paraphrase, of the Heb. OT. This is the version of the OT bible which we read quoted in the NT by Jesus in the gospels and the apostles in their letters. It is the version of the OT the first Christians read for about 3-400 years until Latin then became more prominent in the Roman Empire. Then, Latin versions of the OT and NT came more into vogue from the 4th century onwards. Jerome was then asked to do an official Latin version and with his knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Latin he proceeded to do so. At first he translated the (Gk.) LXX into Latin for the OT, but as he began to compare with the original Heb. and found it inaccurate in places, so all credit to him, he then decided to do his Latin OT as a translation from the Heb. We now have a more true to source OT than the first Christians, but the disadvantage is we lose the emphasis some passages of the NT give, since they assume the LXX approach to the text is being understood. This loss of the LXX use is also relevant to words with two meanings. Most bible translators have been reliant on dictionaries and lexicons of the Heb. or Gk. words as their source of meaning for words (Robert Young's Literal Translation a welcome exception), but sadly, these do not always reflect the use – the meaning/s given in the LXX – which, as mentioned, was the main OT bible for a number of Christian generations: Hence this article to highlight 2 meanings for 3 words.

The words I wish to highlight with 2 meanings each:

The Heb. BACHAR meaning either "to choose/chosen" or "excellent/preferred"
The Gk. GENEA meaning either "generation" or "posterity/grouping/a (certain) people/race"
The Gk. HAMARTIA meaning either "sin" or "sin offering"
Note that I am using the English transliteration rendering of the Heb. and Gk. letters. as used by Robert Young in his analytical concordance.

BACHAR (Heb.)

Now by far the major meaning for BACHAR is "to choose" X77 (KJV) and "chosen" (also) X77 – James Strong numbering – but we have good examples in the English (Eng.) translated from the Heb. that shows the (other) minor meaning:

His legs are pillars of marble set on bases of fine gold. His countenance is like Lebanon, excellent [BACHAR (Gk. EKLEKTOS LXX)] as the cedars.

Song of songs 5:15

This idea of "to be chosen/preferred/excellent" is found well in the Gk. LXX translation of the Heb. BACHAR and rendered by words like NEANIAS X4 "young man" – someone in their prime/good soldier material; DUNATOS X4 "Strong/mighty/able"; NEANISKOS X1 "young man/boy"; EKLEKTOS X8 "excellent/the best". By far the fastest way to show 2 meanings are present is by both meanings being in the same sentence, just like our first example with the "table" and "chair" dual meanings. For BACHAR a good verse like this is,

Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him, so he selected [BACHAR (Gk. EPILEGÓ LXX)] some of the best troops [BACHAR (Gk. NEANIAS LXX)] in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans.

2 Samuel 10:9 NIV

The parallel passage in Chronicles is:

Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him, so he selected [BACHAR (Gk. EKLEGÓ LXX)] some of the best troops [BACHAR (Gk. NEANIAS LXX)] in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans.

1 Chronicles 19:10 NIV
cf. BACHAR/NEANIAS 2 Samuel 6:1; 10:9; 1 Kings 12:21

Single examples of the minor meaning:

Also, he took six hundred choice [BACHAR (Gk. EKLEKTOS LXX)] chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them.

Exodus 14:7

And from their cities at that time the children of Benjamin numbered twenty-six thousand men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who numbered seven hundred select [BACHAR (Gk. EKLEKTOS LXX)] men.

Judges 20:15
cf. 20:34

So Saul took three thousand able young men [BACHAR (Gk. EKLEKTOS LXX)] from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

1 Samuel 24:2 NIV
cf. 26:2

Once you spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: "I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have raised up a young man [BACHAR (Gk. EKLEKTOS LXX)] from among the people.

Psalm 89:19 NIV

My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold, and my revenue than choice [BACHAR (Gk. EKLEKTOS LXX)] silver.

Proverbs 8:19

Abijah set the battle in order with an army of valiant warriors, four hundred thousand choice [BACHAR (Gk. DUNATOS LXX)] men. Jeroboam also drew up in battle formation against him with eight hundred thousand choice [BACHAR (Gk. DUNATOS LXX)] men, mighty men of valor.

2 Chronicles 13:3
cf. 2 Chron.13:17 & 25:5

When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered Judah and Benjamin–a hundred and eighty thousand able young men [BACHAR (Gk. NEANISKOS LXX)]–to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam.

2 Chronicles 11:1 NIV

The importance of recognising the 2 meanings of BACHAR is in how we then view the Gk. word EKLEKTOS, since EKLEKTOS is the only word read in the early church where now in English we read "elect" (also incorrectly translated as "chosen"). BACHAR's second meaning removes doubt which had suggested that EKLEKTOS was still valid as to be used for "chosen/elect": indeed, there is no reasonable ground left, but to view EKLEKTOS as "excellent/the best" (cf. Deleting ELECT in the bible – 544 pages PB/fixed page eBook).

GENEA (Gk.)

Now by far the major meaning for GENEA is "generation". Perhaps the only passage that shows both this major meaning and the minor meaning of "posterity/grouping" is seen in the LXX with Esther 9:28.

that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation [Heb. DOR (GENEA LXX)], every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants [Heb. ZERA (GENEA LXX)].

Esther 9:28

As you can see the LXX translator into Gk. fully saw the 2 different meanings for GENEA from two different Heb. words.

Single NT examples of the minor meaning:

That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation [GENEA], among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Philippians 2:15 KJV

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind [GENEA] than are the people of the light.

Luke 16:8 NIV

In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants [GENEA]? For his life was taken from the earth.

Acts 8:33 NIV

The preceding are three examples from a minority of places from either one of the KJV or NIV. The LXX is much richer in informing us of the minor meaning of GENEA [NB. The English quoted that follows is the translation of the Heb. words in the bible version indicated: those Heb. words, as translated, are given in the LXX by GENEA]:

People of his time NIV (Genesis 6:9); in the order of their birth NIV (Genesis 25:13); your kindred NKJV – relatives NIV (Genesis 31:3); kindred NKJV – family NIV (Genesis 43:7); (their) people (Leviticus 20:18); Descendants NIV (Leviticus 23:43); Descendants NIV (Leviticus 25:30); possession of his fathers NKJV – of their ancestors NIV (Leviticus 25:41); Posterity NKJV – descendants NIV (Numbers 9:10); kinsmen NKJV – kindred KJV – people NIV (Numbers 10:30); Descendants NKJV/NIV – children KJV (Numbers 13:22); Descendants NKJV/NIV – children KJV (Numbers 13:28); Descendants NIV/NLT (Joshua 22:28); Descendants NKJV/NIV – seed KJV (Esther 9:28 see above); the company of the righteous NIV (Psalm 14:5); (Offspring) LXX only (Proverbs 22:4); this evil family NKJV – evil nation NIV (Jeremiah 8:3); the families NKJV – the peoples NIV/NLT (Jeremiah 10:25)

The importance is in the missing out this emphasis from the use of most NT translators and this has "fixed" for many the idea that "generation", the major meaning, is the only relevant understanding in:

Assuredly, I say to you, this generation [GENEA] will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled.

Matthew 24:34
[And the parallel passages of Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32]

Whilst the prophet Jeremiah already indicated another truth and points to the NATION of Israel being in view – the people/the race = GENEA:

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name):
"If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever."

Jeremiah 31:35-36

And since that is the minor meaning of GENEA, it is more likely the correct one for the parallel prophetic utterance [the same truth] which Jesus makes:

Truly, I say to you, this nation [GENEA] will by no means disappear till all these things are fulfilled.

Matthew 24:34 JM

Another example of the need for this second meaning for GENEA as seen by the immediate context is:

Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation [GENEA], how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me."

Matthew 17:17
[And the parallel passages of Mark 9:19 and Luke 9:41]

The preceding verse reveals who is in view:

So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.

Matthew 17:16
[And the parallel passages of Mark 9:18 and Luke 9:40]

The unbelieving disciples are in view (remember Peter, James and John were with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration while this father pleaded with the other disciples – Matthew 17:1). So with the minor meaning relevant by that context Jesus is saying that His group of guys were unbelieving:

O faithless and perverse lot [GENEA], how long shall I be with you?

Matthew 17:17 also Mark 9:19 and Luke 9:41 JM

The NASB and YLT give a good example of the second meaning in Peter's 1st letter:

But you are A CHOSEN RACE [GENEA], A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE for God's OWN POSSESSION . . .

1 Peter 2:9 NASB
[See also the YLT's correct rendering of EKLEKTOS as "choice" race]

(cf. Serious Mistranslations of the Bible with a separate chapter and appendix on GENEA – 352 pages PB/flowing eBook)

HAMARTIA (Gk.)

The deal with this word is not so much a matter of a major and a minor meaning in use, but pretty much two equal "major" meanings. Not unlike the Heb. word CHATTATH which is the main word it translates in the LXX.
        CHATTATH is found X182 translated as "sin" (KJV numbering by Strong – Young has 169) and X116 as "sin offering" (=Young). CHATTATH is thereby equally meant for either "sin" or "sin-offering": which meaning is totally dependent on the immediate context and a reasonable hermeneutic applied.
        This CHATTATH is mostly translated by the Gk. HAMARTIA, so that "sin" from CHATTATH is given by HAMARTIA X147 in the LXX and "sin offering" X108 in the LXX – This is my accounting using Morrish's concordance of Gk. words in the LXX and the LXX itself for the Psalms and Jeremiah variances. So, it is wholly without dispute the most commonly used Gk. word to translate the Heb. word CHATTATH is the Gk. word HAMARTIA for both meanings.

Perhaps the best place where both meanings are found in the Heb. with CHATTATH and in the LXX with HAMARTIA is Leviticus 5:6

and he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD for his sin [Heb. CHATTATH] which he has sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering [Heb. CHATTATH]. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin [Heb. CHATTATH].

Leviticus 5:6

Remember, this quote just above is the English directly from the Hebrew.

The LXX translation of the Heb. gives us – Note the *sin* X3 and the *sin-offering* X1:

KAI
and

OISEI
brings

PERI
about/for

HÓN
the

EPLÉMMELÉSE
transgressions

KURIÓ
to Lord

PERI
about/for

TÉS
the

HAMARTIAS
*sin*

HÓN
the

HÉS
which

HÉMARTE
sinned

THÉLU
(a) female

APO
from

TÓN
the

PROBATÓN
sheep

AMNADA
(a) lamb

É
or

CHIMAIRAN
young she-goat

EX
out of

AIGÓN
goats

PERI
about/for

HAMARTIAS
*sin-offering*

KAI
and

EXILASETAI
shall make atonement

PERI
about/for

AUTOU
him

HO
the

HIEREUS
priest

PERI
about/for

TÉS
the

HAMARTIAS
*sin*

PERI
about/for

AUTOU
of him

HÉS
which

HÉMARTE
sinned

KAI
and

APHETHÉSETAI
shall be forgiven

AUTÓ
to/for him


the

HAMARTIAS
*sin*

Leviticus 5:6 LXX – JM Interlinear

Remember, the LXX is the Greek translating the Hebrew.
Here is Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton's English translation of the LXX:

And he shall bring for his transgressions against the Lord, for his sin [HAMARTIA] which he has sinned, a ewe lamb of the flock, or a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering [HAMARTIA]; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin [HAMARTIA] which he has sinned, and his sin [HAMARTIA] shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 5:6 LXX translated

So, with this numerous rendering of BOTH meanings for the Heb. CHATTATH – "sin" or "sin-offering" – mostly and numerously given by the Gk. word HAMARTIA, the NT writers who wrote in the same Gk. knew well that HAMARTIA was fully understood as either "sin" or "sin-offering".
This is helpful for this passage in particular in the NT.

For He made Him who knew no sin [HAMARTIA] to be sin [HAMARTIA] for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

The scripture is clear that Jesus is a sin-offering in numerous places, just like a lamb in the Leviticus passage above, as is also expressly stated by John the Baptist:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,
"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

John 1:29

In the flow of words of 2 Corinthians 5, since HAMARTIA can equally mean either "sin" or "(a) sin-offering", is it not reasonable therefore that Christ is meant here as "a sin-offering" for us, and not (becoming) "sin"?
       Of course it is.

For He made Him who knew no sin [HAMARTIA], a sin offering [HAMARTIA] for us, in order that we may become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 JM


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Ref. M.040

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