Meaning of repentance in the Bible

Meaning of repentance in the Old Testament

Repentance in the Old Testament is nâcham (נָחַם), which can be translated into comfort or comforted, compassion, or regret. It also connotes “to be sorry” or to repent.

The word ‘repent’ occurs approximately 45 times in the Bible, encompassing personal lifestyle changes and ritual practices. As God’s people, they must live righteousness and turn to God to remove the guilt of sin through animal sacrifice (Ezekiel 18:30; Isaiah 45:22; 55:7; Joel 2:12-13).


Meaning of repentance in the New Testament

The Greek word for repentance in the New Testament (NT) has two popular English translations: (noun) metanoia (cognate verb metanoeo) and metamelomai (emotions). The opposite word is ametameleto (no regret). Both words are found 24 and 35 times in the Greek NT [See verses]

Metanoia (Mental)

Metanoeo (noun: metanoia) is a combination of two words (Meta = change and Noeo = mind) that translates to changing one’s mind or attitude toward something (Matthew 3:2). However, it can also convey remorse or regret (metanoēsē; Luke 17:3, 4).

According to the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by Friberg, Friberg, and Miller, metanoia is primarily used to denote a religious and ethical change in one’s thinking about one’s actions.

Eugene Nida and Johannes Louw, authors of the Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, based on Semantic Domains, the word denotes a change of mind leading to a change of behavior that involves a complete transformation of thought and attitude regarding sin and righteousness. (Mark 6:12; Romans 2:4).

In other words, metanoia is to change one’s own thinking or mindset, which leads to a changed behavior.

  • Metanoia is a noun that means “a change of mind.”
  • Metanoia and Metanoeo are found 59 times in the Greek NT.
  • Metanoeo is also a compound verb. It’s a compound word for meta or “a change and mind” or noeo.
  • Metanoeo is a verbal counterpart of metanoia, which means to change your attitude toward something.

metanoia is to change one’s mindset.


Metamelomai (Emotion)

Metamelomai is a verb that expresses an emotional change. A sorrow or regret about our sin, found only six times in the Greek NT. For example, Judas had metamelomai after seeing Jesus was condemned (Matthew 27:3).

According to a Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature by Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, and Bauer, it signifies feeling regret or repentance.

A sorrow or regret about one’s sin.

Meaning of repentance in the Bible: Metamelomai expresses “emotional change,” while metanoeo deals with a change of “mental decision or attitude,” critical to preaching and the understanding of the Gospel. Read Repentance by Bill Wenstrom.
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