Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Meaning of Repentance: Part 3

Matthew 12:41 is another important passage (but often overlooked) for understanding the New Testament concept of repentance. Jesus is discussing Jonah and the Ninevites. His description of the Ninevites includes that they “repented at the preaching of Jonah.” Jesus uses metanoeo to describe their actions; what does the book of Jonah say? “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God” (Jon 3:5). (The LXX used empisteuo.) This belief of the Ninevites was then demonstrated by a call for a fast and putting on sackcloth (3:6) and ashes (3:7), followed by a declaration by the king for people to turn from their wicked ways. (The word used for "turn" in the LXX was not metanoeo but apostrefo.) Therefore, what Jesus calls “repenting,” the book of Jonah describes as believing and turning. This provides more evidence that Jesus’ use of metanoeo includes more than a change of mind, but includes a turning and relates to believing.

Furthermore, this linking and interdependence of believing and repenting can also be seen in Luke 5:32: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” The idea of turning can also be seen in Luke 17:4: “And if he sins against you seven times a day and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ (then) forgive him.”

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