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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating at the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.”

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of The New Testament, finds it necessary to examine separate and apart from the word ‘amartia/sin’, the term ‘amartolos/sinner’ as an adjective.  Having defined sin as ‘a power hostile to God’— sinner now becomes a value judgement from the human standpoint.  Although much speculation about her background and character has been projected, it is ‘A Sinful Woman Forgiven’ who is the now ‘Jesus Faith’ revelation in Luke’s Gospel.

There are only 3 known instances of the word ‘amartolos/sinner’ in Classical Greek.  For Aristotle, his only use of sinner is in reference to “slaves of bad character”. Again, in Lycaonian inscriptions from Imperial Rome, it is used in ‘curses on the violators of graves’.  I am reminded of the historical plundering of the Pharoah’s tombs, yet knowing the wealth stored in those graves I can readily see how this grave robber can be judged a sinner.  For the Stoics, it is not derogatory in use but of a man’s ‘stumbling from one failing to another’ perhaps into worthlessness.  We have all often wondered about the family member or friend or acquaintance who seems to have this curse— ‘can’t do nothing right’!

New Testament use of ‘amartolos/sinner’ is clearly defined by it’s Old Testament meaning and usage.  94 uses of ‘sinner’ in the OT— 68 of which are found in the Psalter alone.  A clear picture of ‘the sinner’, then, can be ascertained from the Psalmist.  He is the opposite of the ‘pious, righteous and godly’.  He breaks the commandments and trusts in his own power and wealth and understanding.  There is often a complete dismissal of God in his life.  As ‘The Law—Torah’ becomes the ‘center of life’ for the OT believer, the study of and devotion to Torah is what ‘keeps from sin’.  So important to the Psalmist is this understanding, that the very FIRST PSALM opens this wisdom book by saying: “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners…  But his delight is in The Law of The Lord and in this law does he meditate, DAY and NIGHT!”

There is a strange phenomenon where man has historically labeled the term ‘sinner’ on a woman of ‘ill-repute’… all related to illicit sexual activities.  The sin, for me, lies in the fact that men initiate, set in motion, and systematize this entire area of life, which for them is never seen as ‘Sin’.  Purposed for their own personal self-service and pleasure with no regard for what happens to the life of women and children stolen, enslaved, and trafficked for the mindlessness of men.  In 2022 statistics reveal the levels to which, what we now call ‘Sex Trafficking’ as an INDUSTRY, has grown.  There is a now estimated $99Billion dollars attached worldwide; without ever really knowing how to ever evaluate this “what’s done in the dark” house/world of… SIN…  It is reported that in some parts of the world children make up as high a 100% of the victims.

It is no small thing that ‘this woman who was a sinner’ dared to enter the house of a Pharisee!  Had she been to the synagogue?  Probably not.  Had she been studying and meditating on the Law day and night?  I think that would be a no.  Was she pious?  Righteous?  Godly?  Could never be in this house— a woman?  In this environment, she was indeed worthless.  She did not know Torah… she knew nothing— all based upon a value judgement from the human (Pharisaic) standpoint!  She knew this—   I am looking for Jesus.  I want to anoint him with my alabaster jar of ointment!

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