A situation that has arisen because of sin committed against God or one’s neighbor. In the OT guilt is depicted as a burden or weight that can crush a person (Ps 38:4; Ps 38:6), as a cancer that can destroy a person from within (Ps 32:3-4), and as a debt that must be paid (Lev 5:1-6:7; Num 5:5-8). For the biblical writers, however, guilt is not understood primarily as an inward feeling of remorse or a bad conscience. Indeed, people can be guilty without even being aware that they have done anything wrong (Lev 5:17-19). Rather, guilt arises because people are responsible and accountable for actions that break apart relationships (with God or others) through sin. Further, guilt can be both collective (Josh 7) and individual (Ps 51). The basic meaning of guilt in the NT is “deserving of punishment” (Matt 26:66; 1Cor 11:27; Jas 2:10). According to Paul, all human beings are guilty before God (Rom 1:18-3:20). In both the OT and the NT, it is only because of God’s grace that guilt can be set aside through God’s forgiveness.

Ps 38:4

4For my iniquities have gone over my head;
they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.

Ps 38:6

6I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all day long I go around mourning.

Ps 32:3-4

3While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the h ... View more

Lev 5:1-6:7

1When any of you sin in that you have heard a public adjuration to testify and—though able to testify as one who has seen or learned of the matter—does not spea ... View more

Num 5:5-8

Confession and Restitution
5The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:6Speak to the Israelites: When a man or a woman wrongs another, breaking faith with the Lord, that p ... View more

Lev 5:17-19

17If any of you sin without knowing it, doing any of the things that by the Lord's commandments ought not to be done, you have incurred guilt, and are subject t ... View more

Josh 7

The Sin of Achan and Its Punishment
1But the Israelites broke faith in regard to the devoted things: Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe ... View more

Ps 51

Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon
To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
1Have mercy on me, O Go ... View more

Matt 26:66

66What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

1Cor 11:27

Partaking of the Supper Unworthily
27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and ... View more

Jas 2:10

10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

Rom 1:18-3:20

The Guilt of Humankind
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth ... View more

 NEH Logo
Bible Odyssey has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.