Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Meaning of Repentance: Part 5

Regret vs. Repentance
While metanoeo and metanoia are frequent in the New Testament, metamelomai is not; it only occurs six times (Matt 21:29, 32; 27:3; 2 Cor 7:8 (twice); Heb 7:21). Wilkin is correct when he says that “there are no uses of metamelomai in the NT where ‘repentance’ is a good translation. It always refers to regret, remorse, or to a change of mind. It never refers to turning from one’s sins” (Wilkin, “New Testament Repentance,” 19). In fact, only one scholar could be located who referred to these terms as synonymous, but all the rest saw some level of distinction between them. However, the discussion was not altogether clear in the lexicons. For example, Thayer says that metamelomai refers to an emotional change, regret even remorse and metanoeo to a change of choice, entire life. He then proceeds to reject this distinction. He concludes by saying that metanoeo “is the fuller and nobler term, expressive of moral action and issues” (Thayer, Lexicon of the New Testament, 405). Similarly, Abbott-Smith is the lone example of believing in the synonymy of these words. He says that the terms are “synonymous,” and cites Thayer for support (who actually distinguished between the two words)(Abbott-Smith, Lexicon of the New Testament, 287).

Wilkin begins most of his discussions on the meaning of repentance from the meaning metanoia had in Classical Greek, as if that meaning would naturally carry over and should be the assumed meaning. In fact, at one point he refers, etymologically, to “after thought” or “second thoughts.” This can also be seen in Abbott-Smith when he defines metanoia as “after-thought, change of mind, repentance.” Anderson correctly refers to this as the root fallacy and counters this by saying that in the contexts in which metanoeo occur, it must mean more than both “after thought” and “change your mind” (Anderson, “Repentance,” 17). This kind of dependence upon etymology has long been abandoned by scholarship, but it continues to rear its ugly head from time to time.

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