Lawlessness – Part I

The Greek word ἀνομία puzzles me – primarily because of its use in 1 John 3:4.

Most translations translated it as “break the law” but that simply does not fit the context that John is writing in. He’s talking about sin, God and the devil. So I have a theory which needs testing. So if any people actually read this, grab your bible and help me think this through…

My theory is that ἀνομία is not simply a picture of sin as breaking God’s law; but rather it is sin as aligning oneself with the devil. This can bee seen in Matthew and Paul and makes good sense of 1 John:

Matthew: The first occurrence in Matthew is in 7:23, towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount. The two paragraphs of 7:15-20 and 21-23 (and possibly vv24-27 too) are about those who are opposed to Christ. Firstly Christ talks about ψευδοπροφήτης who are clearly opposed to Christ as they are “revenous wolves”, i.e. harmful and dangerous. They’re not just misguided. Then in quick succession (note the asyndeton between 7:20 and 21) Jesus introduces those who prophesy and do miracles in Christ’s name but are not Christs and will ultimately be cast out of His presence. They are explicitly called οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν.

The other three occurrences of ἀνομία in Matthew (13:41; 23:28; 24:12) occur in similar contexts – i.e. contexts regarding opposition to Christ: the parable of the weeds (the enemy (cf. 13:39) who sows weeds amongst the crops); a long list of woes against the Pharisees who “shut the kingdom of heaven” so that people cannot enter (sounds like opposition to Christ to me?!) and lastly in the Olivet discourse where lawlessness is again linked with falseprophets.

So Matthew seems to use the word ἀνομία to mean more than simply sin. Translators don’t often seem to recognise this. The ESV does generally ok, except in 13:41 where it needlessly has “law-breakers”. Rather Matthew seems to link the word with strong opposition to Christ in a way that alignes the lawless one with Satan.

In Part II we’ll examine Paul and John’s use of ἀνομία…


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