Original Research

The conceptualisation of sin in the Gospel of Matthew

Marius J. Nel
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 51, No 3 | a2097 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i3.2097 | © 2017 Marius J. Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 February 2016 | Published: 27 February 2017

About the author(s)

Marius J. Nel, Department of Old and New Testament, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


This article focuses on the conceptualisation of sin in the Gospel according to Matthew. It builds on the work of Nathan Eubank who describes the sin of Israel as a debt to be repaid by analysing other Matthean metaphors of sin as a substance, stain and stumbling block. The article argues that the replacement of the conceptualisation of sin as a burden by that of a debt in Second Temple Judaism has not fully occurred in Matthew. It also argues that the metaphor of sin as a burden is not the same as that of a stain, for the latter evokes the complex relationship between sin and impurity. It is suggested that Matthew’s use of specific metaphors for sin was not just due to Aramaic linguistic influences on Second Temple Judaism, but also to the socio-historical context in which his Gospel originated. In this regard it is important to note that Matthew’s conceptualisation of Israel’s sin as a debt not only refers to their sin in the period before the birth of Jesus, but also to their rejection of him as the Messiah.


Sin as burden; debt; Matthew


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