Meaning of repentance in the Bible

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Meaning of repentance in the Old Testament

Repentance in the Old Testament is Nacham which means to be sorry. It is a lifestyle and a ritual because sin has no place in God’s people. They must therefore turn away from it and turn to God. (Ezekiel 18:30; Isaiah 45:22 ; 55:7 ; Joel 2:12-13)

Meaning of repentance in the New Testament

Metanoia and Metanoe found 24 and 35 times in the Greek NT

The Greek word for repentance in the New Testament has two English translations, (noun) metanoia (cognate verb metanoeo). Another word used is metamelomai. The opposite would be ametameleto (no regret), mentioned twice. [See verses]

Metanoeo (noun: metanoia) is a combination of two words (Meta = change and Noeo = mind) that translates to changing one’s mind or changing one’s attitude to something. Both words have nothing to do with feelings (such as feeling sorry).

Metanoia (Mental)

  • A noun that means “a change of mind.”
  • Metanoia and Metanoeo are found 59 times in the Greek NT.
  • Its verbal counterpart is metanoeo which means to change your attitude toward something.
  • Metanoeo is a compound verb, which means that it is composed of two words (meta or change and mind or noeo).
  • Both words do not mean to “feel sorry for sin,” they have nothing to do with emotions. 
  • Translated fifty-eight times in the NT

Metamelomai (Emotion)

  • A verb that expresses an emotional change.
  • Metamelomai found only six times in the Greek NT.
  • To feel sorry, regret, or feel sorrow.
Meaning of repentance in the Bible: Metamelomai expresses “emotional change,” while metanoeo deals with a change of “mental decision or attitude.”

View paper on repentance by Bill Wenstrom.

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