Repent?

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog.  It’s not that I haven’t been “ruminating”.  It’s that I have been thinking of too much!  Sometimes it’s hard to determine what to write what is from God’s heart rather than mine.

I was thinking that certainly since this is Easter, I should write something pertaining to the crucifixion, and try as I might (since there is so much to say),  I just couldn’t put it together.  I kept hearing in my heart that I needed to write about repentance.  So that is what this blog entry will be about.

There seems to be a difference of opinion on the origins of the English word “repent”.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the English word “repent” is a verb that first appeared in the late 13th century.  It means:

“To feel regret for sins or crimes,” from Old French repentir (11c.), from re-, here probably an intensive prefix, + Vulgar Latin *penitire “to regret,” from Latin poenitire “make sorry,” from poena (see penal). The distinction between regret (q.v.) and repent is made in many modern languages, but the differentiation is not present in older periods. Related: Repented; repenting.” 

Miriam-Webster differentiates between the origin of the verb and the adjective.  Whereas they agree with the Online Etymology Dictionary as to the origin of the verb, they indicate the origins of the adjective as follows:

Definition of REPENT

 : creeping, prostrate <repent stems>

Origin of REPENT

Latin repent-, repens, present participle of repere to creep — more at reptile

First Known Use: 1669

At any rate, either of the English definitions carries with it a picture of sorrow and grief, and of penance.

The word translated as “repent” or “repentance” is used 52 times in the New Testament.  The Greek root word is metanoeó.  It originates from the words “meta”, which depending on the context, means “changed after being with”, and “noieo”, to think.  So it literally means “think differently after,” “after a change of mind”.  “A change of heart” has been suggested as a good modern translation. 

But I am more inclined to stay with the literal translation of “change of mind,” simply because I don’t think that emotion is a part of the central idea.    The word metanoeó is used in many contexts, from changing one’s mind on what to have for lunch, to changing your mind about eternity.  But the change is made after something, whether it be based upon new knowledge or an experience. 

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 

Matthew 11:20-21

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Corinthians 7:9-10

Here, Paul indicates that the godly grief (which was in response to the information they received in Paul’s first letter to them, correcting their errors) produced the repentance. That would indicate to me that the “change of mind” or “thinking” that resulted is not the same thing as grief.  Good news that brings rejoicing can change your thinking as well.

I think we may be in error to associate the word translated as “repent” as always being associated with sackcloth and ashes.  As I read the word of God, I see so much that makes me rejoice into a new way of thinking.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Luke 2:10

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17

Haven’t we been conditioned to interpret Matthew 4:17 to read as “Uh-oh, God is here.  We’re toast.”? 

Compare that to the message of “Change your way of thinking, the kingdom of heaven is here”.  

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

Matthew 11:2-6

I don’t see Jesus saying “I’m here, you’re toast” in this passage.

Perhaps the concept of “repentance”, or “changing your thinking”, should be defined as aligning your thinking with God’s words, rather than focusing on whichever emotion was felt when you changed your mind.

Anyway, more thoughts on this to come in the future. 

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1 comment
  1. I agree Linda, I would rather choose to stay with the Greek meaning then the English band-aid if you will. Plus even since the original meaning, it has morphed again into turning from sin, or repent = repent from sin. I cannot quote my source, but one told me that Tyndale used those words in translating from the Latin into English, and made new words to soften the idea of penance and penitence which the Roman Catholic church had attached it’s own meaning to.

    Some may indeed feel sorry when they realize their sin, and what the Lord has done. Some may feel joyous. Some may believe and trust in Him, and whatever feelings may follow. But you are right, we should not attribute what may have happened in our experience to what the word means.

    Dr. Hank Lindstrom (who is with the Lord now) did some good videos on repentance and metanoeo/metanoia, see bibleline.org I believe it is, and also cleargospel.org, Ron Shea, has a very good series on repentance. God bless.

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