Human: Something More Than Sinful
What are the top 10 most common words in the Bible? Take a guess!
If you guessed words like the, and, to, for, at, in, and of, then you would be correct! But that’s not exactly what my question is about. So, take out all the prepositions, pronouns, and articles. Now, guess again at the top 10 most common words in the Bible.
After you have guessed, check out the tabs below to see the actual answers. You can even look through the tabs to see the Top 50 most common words in the Bible!
What are the top 10 most common words found in the Bible?
(excluding prepositions, pronouns and other short articles)
After you have checked out the most common words in the Bible using the tabs above consider this:
What words do not show up among the Top 10 or Top 50? Are any of the words you guessed in your Top 10 missing from the Top 50? What surprises you?
As I have tried this, I find that lots of folks are surprised that words like faith, grace, praise, sin, evil, heaven, and death do not show up in the Top 10 or Top 50. In fact, you have to go to the top 100 words to get in words like evil, death, and sin!
Think about this: If you want to know what the Bible is about, then pay attention to what it most often talks about. When you take those Top 10 words at face value, you discover that the Bible is about God, people, and Jesus. Sounds pretty right on target if you ask me.
Now let me share some word phrases which never occur in the Bible:
- “Original Sin”
- “The Fall”
- “Total Depravity”
Now I have obviously picked these for a reason (more on that later). But isn’t this interesting!?!
Christians have been promoting these ideas as if they are the primary motif in the Bible, that is:
- that humans are imbued with original sin,
- that the words “The Fall” define the story of Adam and Eve and that “The Fall” is so important that it be capitalized when written, and
- that “The Fall” somehow rewrites human existence as one of total depravity.
And yet none of these phrases occur in Scripture! In fact, just to prove it, read Genesis 3. Seriously, click here and read it. (And remember that any bold heading you see are additions, not part of the Bible itself.) Nowhere in Genesis 3 will you find the words fall, sin, or depravity…and certainly not the phrases Original Sin, The Fall, or Total Depravity!
Theological and scholar Peter Enns talks about the absence of these ideas from the story in Genesis 3. He says that the consequences for Adam in the so-called Fall story are “(1) growing food will be hard work, and (2) death will be a fact of life.” Nothing else. There is no “Thirdly, from henceforth all humanity will be stained by your act of disobedience, born in a hopeless and helpless state of sin, and objects of my displeasure and wrath.” If Genesis said that, then maybe you’d have a case for original sin. But it doesn’t.
In fact, never in the Old Testament is Adam blamed for sin that occurs. Not for Cain’s sin. Not for the sin that led to the flood. Not for the kings who sin against God. Not for anything! Instead, at every point in scripture people have the opportunity, the choice, not to sin. They end up sinning…and still Adam is never the cause.
Likewise, the Old Testament never says that humanity is under God’s condemnation simply by being born or that we are helpless to do anything about it. Quite the opposite! Throughout the Bible, the Israelites are most certainly capable of not sinning. That’s the whole point of the law: follow it and be blessed, disobey the law and be cursed. The choice is clear and attainable as God lays it out over and over again.
None of this means that sin isn’t real. It is certainly in the Bible. Just not Original Sin.
How about let’s take a closer look at what God actually said:
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness… (Gen 1:26a)
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and take charge of it… (Gen 1:28a)
And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. (Gen 1:30b-31)
So let’s see: God creates human beings in God’s own image. We humans are imbued with God’s image, God’s imprint, God’s indelible mark. There is nothing about being created sinful. Nothing about being imbued with evil. In fact, the passage closes with God looking out upon everything God had made and calling it – calling us, humans – good. And not just good like the rest of creation on the first 5 days. But now that humans have been created it is very good.
So if anything is original, it is goodness, not sin!! You have been created with original goodness. Created by a good and loving God. Created in the image of God. Created to be fruitful. Created to fill the earth and to take charge.
Sounds pretty amazing to me. Sounds like a calling from God for a particular purpose in the world. Sounds pretty…well, good!
Now I am not dismissing sin. It does come into play around the 60th or so most common word in the Bible…after words like life and love and servant and call. But when we look at what the Bible is about, I propose that we Christian start making it clear that it’s a book about God, about our Lord, about people and the earth and how God sent his son Jesus to the earth because he loves us, to show us how to live and how to love and what it means to be a servant, to call us to the kind of life that God created us to live. These words, these ideas (in italics) are the most prevalent in scripture!
Yes, sin comes into play. And we will get there. But that is not the dominant theme. That is not the overarching message. The Bible is about something more than sin. God’s creation, God’s purpose is so much more than sin. You and every other human being are so much more than sin. You and God and this creation are good!
I want to address sin a bit more. Christians, churches, pastors – I think we talk so much about sin because it is compelling. If I believe I am originally sinful, then I will want to overcome that. I will want to deal with that because it is bad, evil, not good. I want to be good. And if I believe that Jesus came to bridge this divide that sin creates between me and God, and that is the only way to deal with sin, then I have but one option: believe in Jesus and follow him. It’s a nice package to get people to convert to Christianity. A nice institutionalized religious box to make Christians and grow a church.
And I am not dismissing how Jesus comes to save us from our sin. But brothers and sisters, the Bible does not begin here. In fact, some of the way Christians have been sharing the God’s Word have misrepresented the Bible – certainly misrepresented Genesis and God’s act of creating human beings in original goodness.
The picture painted by sin is only part of the story. It’s not the first part of the story. And it’s not the final part of the story. Sin is a part of living. We deal with it daily.
Sin is a small little English word to describe a whole lot. In the Bible there are dozens of different words that could be translated sin. Why not just one word? Because we are not talking about one thing that is so simple as to be captured in one word. We are talking about many ways of living in which we go astray, wander from God way, miss the mark, go the wrong direction, intentionally disobey, unintentionally wander off, forget to do something, don’t even know we should do something, haven’t yet figure out God’s good way, etc etc etc. And the Bible has a word for every one of these!
Just as the Bible doesn’t reduced sin to one thing, neither should we. And just as the Bible doesn’t begin with sin, neither should we.
Instead, we begin with God and with humans and with the earth and with goodness. And we realize that we are not perfect, we are good. And even the good makes mistakes. Sometimes the good wander off. Sometimes the good go stray. Sometimes the good get lost and miss the mark. And so even the good need guidance. Even the good need help. Even the good must get back on track, get right, make amends, ask for forgiveness, turn in a new direction and be redeemed. Jesus does all these things – and more!
That Jesus brings salvation and redemption from sin is wonderful and amazing and a gift that no one should turn away. Believe, trust, follow and be redeemed! But know that you are more than sin! You are good! Very good, as God said!
So, let us not reduce Jesus to atonement for sin. Because God did not make us in sin. God made us good. And Jesus show us the way to continue to grow towards goodness. Jesus leads us to greater good if we will but follow him – his life, his teaching, his way.
Let us stop scaring people to Jesus. Let us stop manipulating people to the cross of Jesus by changing the message of the Bible to fit a conversion tactic. Let us be the good that God created us to be by following Jesus deeper into God’s good way.