Poenitentiam agite

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The Latin term Poenitentiam agite is used in the first of the Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, and variously translated into English as "Repent" or "Do Penance".[1] The phrase was also used as a rallying cry by the Dulcinian movement and its predecessors, the Apostolic Brethren, two radical movements of the Medieval period.[2]

The term is part of the larger quotation from St. Jerome's Vulgate translation of Mt. 3:2 (as said by John the Baptist) and Mt. 4:17 (as repeated by Jesus of Nazareth): Pœnitentiam agite: appropinquavit enim regnum cælorum ("Repent: the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand").[3]

The term is translated from the original Greek command μετανοεῖτε (English transliteration: "metanoeite"),[4] which some post-Vulgate translators (including Erasmus) alternatively render in Latin as "resipiscite" – a translation that favors the connotation of changing one's internal state of mind,[5] rather than the connotation of engaging in external penitential action.[6] The Greek μετανοεῖτε is alternatively translated within the Vulgate at Mk. 1:15 as "pœnitemini,"[7] a translation more similar in connotation to "resipiscite."[1] The translational issue is often used to justify positions on the subject of sacramental penance.

In popular culture[edit]

The shortened rallying cry Penitenziagite exposes two monks as former members of the Dulcinian movement in The Name of the Rose, a novel by Umberto Eco and the homonymous movie by Jean-Jacques Annaud.


  1. ^ a b Campbell, George (1837). The Four Gospels, Translated from the Greek, with Preliminary Dissertations, and Notes Critical and Explanatory, Vol. I. New York: Gould and Newman. p. 358. ISBN 978-0-559-84612-0.
  2. ^ Fra Dolcino Archived 2008-11-19 at the Wayback Machine. Il Grido (in Italian)
  3. ^ See the translations at "Sacred Texts: Matthew Chapter 3". and "Sacred Texts: Matthew Chapter 4". Retrieved 2009-06-18.
  4. ^ "Greek Bible: Mt. 3:2". Retrieved 2009-06-18.
  5. ^ Liddell, Henry George. "A Greek-English Lexicon:μετανοεω". Retrieved 2010-09-07.
  6. ^ McKim, Donald K. (1998). Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-8308-1452-7.
  7. ^ "Sacred Texts: Mark Chapter 1". Retrieved 2009-06-18.