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The best definition of true Biblical repentance I can think of is that given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Q. 87. What is repentance unto life? A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.[183]

Maybe it's just me, but the Roman numeral chapter numbers for the Hebrew Bible references don't seem very easy to read. Are there any objections to changing them to everyday Arabic numerals? Wesley 20:57 19 May 2003 (UTC)

Please do! RK
Yes, that's been my general policy. The Roman numeral chapter numbers seem to have been the preferred style until about the 1960s, which is why much of the out-of-copyright material available to us uses the old-fashioned notation. SCCarlson 04:09 20 May 2003 (UTC)
Ok, I changed the biblical references, but not the ones to the Midrash, mainly because I was less sure of what the convention is with those references. If it's the same, so that "xiv. 23" becomes "14:23", I'd be glad to do those as well. Wesley 20:56 20 May 2003 (UTC)

Issue: Is repentance a feeling, an act, or both? A previous version of this article defined repentance as a feeling, but it got changed to refer to an act on the grounds that guilt is a feeling. However, the meaning of repentance as a feeling is documented in both specialist and general-purpose dictionaries and is supported by the Greek and Hebrew antecedents. The dictionaries document a definition for the act too, so perhaps repentance ought to be defined as encompassing both a feeling and an act. Thoughts? SCCarlson 04:09 20 May 2003 (UTC) SMA bitch😂

Here are a few excerpts from Protestant documents
  • Augsburg Confession (1530): "Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance."
  • 39 Articles: "The Repentance required by Scripture, is a change of mind toward God, and is the effect of the conviction of sin, wrought by the Holy Ghost. The unconverted man may have a sense of remorse, or of shame and self-reproach, and yet he may have neither a change of mind toward God, nor any true sorrow; but when he accepts Christ as his Saviour, therein he manifests a change of mind, and is in possession of repentance unto life. The sinner comes to Christ through no labored process of repenting and sorrowing; but he comes to Christ and repentance both at once, by means of simply believing. And ever afterwards his repentance is deep and genuine in proportion as his faith is simple and childlike."
  • Heidelberg Catechism: "Repentance is the putting to death of the old man and the bringing to life of the new man (Q 80)"
  • Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q87): "Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience. "
In sum, these all show a connection between "feeling" and "act" as two parts of the same thing. Remorse without change is not repentance. Mkmcconn 14:31 20 May 2003 (UTC)
Mkmcconn, I don't think these quotes show this, unless you define accepting certain religious beliefs as an "act". Some of quotes above make clear that the Christian view of repentence is the rejection of incorrect beliefs, and the acceptance of correct beliefs towards Jesus. As a non-Christian, I find this nearly incomprehensible. Jewish theology holds that repentence, although it may start with a feeling or belief, must involve a physical, real-world action. Nothing that we think truly matters, unless we translate those thoughts into real world actions. If I steal money from someone, feeling bad about it and praying to God (or Jesus) is not repentence. In fact, according to Jewish dogma it would be a sin to pray to God for forgiveness. Rather, repentence requires going to the victim, apologizing to him, and returning the money. All the prayers in the world to God or any other deity won't help the victim. I guess Christians use the same word (repentence) to describe something totally different (an apology to God, and a committment to worship Jesus.)
In Christianity, repentance certainly goes further than an apology to God, intellectual acceptance of certain beliefs or creeds, and a commitment to worship God. It does include both outward and inward change. In the Gospels, we have Zaccheus as a model of repentance, who did just what you suggest, and returned even four times what he had stolen. We also have the prodigal son as a model of repentance, who simply returned to his father, not expecting to regain his former position in the household but who was welcomed back. And we have the prostitute who both anointed Jesus' head with expensive perfume (perhaps from profits of her trade?) and washed his feet with her abundant tears, expressing both feeling and "real world" action. If my sin is hatred of my neighbor rather than theft, should I not repent of my hatred? How can I repent with "real world" actions? If I do kind deeds for my neighbor's benefit out of a sense of duty or obligation, but continue to harbor hateful thoughts towards him, then I clearly have not fully repented of my hatred. Clearly if I have been acting hatefully towards my neighbor, my repentance needs to include both internal and external changes in me for me to be healed.
The topic certainly bears further research; a great deal has been written about repentance through the ages, and it has been discussed and practiced in many different ways. I think in some cases, writers have used the word "repentance" to refer to the effects of repentance as well; if so, this would only add to the confusion unless these writings are handled carefully. Wesley 18:50 20 May 2003 (UTC)
Christianity, with some uniformity, cannot separate "belief" and "act". The schemes by which they are conceptually held together vary significantly, but the key to all of them is in "Christ as the righteousness of the Christian". He is the Christian's deliverance from both, the penalty of sin and the power of sin: He accomplishes salvation. So, repentance in Christianity is counting ourselves dead to sin but alive to God, through faith in the resurrection of Christ.
All Christians believe this, however it is expressed emphatically in Protestantism to the bewilderment of Catholics and also even to the confusion of some Protestants themselves (see antinomianism). Belief is not merely "assent to dogma" or isolated acts of piety, but rather, the Godward direction of life. As unbelief is life turned away from the truth of God toward sin, so faith is life turned toward God away from sin. Belief, in short, is a life of repentance. "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6)
The prominent place that the catholic traditions give to Baptism and the Eucharist testifies to the same thing. It says, "We are not the source of our own righteousness: the principle by which we are reconciled to God and to our neighbor, is Christ given to us." He is "given" not as mere intellectual content, but as the active principle of life granted to us, to deliver from sin. If theft is a violation of God's commandment, how much more is it a denial of Christ not to restore what has been stolen? "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2)
Mkmcconn 19:26 20 May 2003 (UTC)

It seems, then, we are using the same word to describe two different topics. (A) You are using the word repent to refer to acceptance of Christian dogma. Religious Jews use the word teshuvah ("return") to mean a similar thing; i.e. the acceptance of Jewish law and theology as a basis for living one's life. Many people translate teshuvah as "repent". (B) However I am also talking about a different topic: repenting for a sin done against another human being. Specifically, trying to right what was once wronged. Jews also refer to such actions of restorative justice with the word teshuvah. It seems to me that topics (A) and (B) in some cases may be related, but they also can be totally divorced. We need to make clear how different people use these words to mean different things. RK

You're right that faith and repentance need to be distinguished; and not all groups make the same distinctions. "Who distinguishes well, teaches well"; and no one thinks that all teachings are equally good. However, if you care to represent what Protestants have historically taught about "repentance" it is expressed by the documents quoted above. In that view, it cannot be self-redemption (that is, literally my accomplishment); my repentance is the work of God through Christ, or it is same-ol' same-old.
Re: your comment, I'm probably being too literal here, but belief "totally divorced" from the service of our neighbor is of no benefit, as it is not belief. "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." God is neither increased by our services, nor diminished by our sins. If on account of robbery of my neighbor God is blasphemed, it impoverishes me, because Christ is denied. The service of God implies the benefit of my neighbor as of myself. If my wrongs against my neighbor are my offense against God, then repentance toward God means, so far as it is up to me, reconciliation with my neighbor. Belief and repentance are distinguishable, but they really can't be "totally divorced".
Mkmcconn 22:16 20 May 2003 (UTC)

I have a couple of concerns about the accuracy of some passages in the article: SCCarlson 06:14 21 May 2003 (UTC)

Repentance is the act in which one tries to right a wrong, or gain forgiveness from someone that they did wrong towards.

According many dictionaries, the most common meaning of repentance is a mental state: the feeling of remorse one gets over one's past actions. A mental state component is supported by both the Hebrew nicham (feel sorrow) and Greek metanoia (change mind), which are cited in the article. As such, the article begins with contradicting information. SCCarlson 06:14 21 May 2003 (UTC)

The full meaning of repentance in the Hebrew Bible is indicated in the Hebrew term teshuvah (lit. "return").

This sentence implies if not states outright that the Hebrew term teshuvah, whose root is shuv, as attested in the Hebrew Bible relates to the theological concept of repentance. Actually, it does not; that is a later development of the word. As attested in the H.B., teshuvah merely means a return trip or answer (e.g. and his return was to Rama 1 Sam. 7:17; at the return of the year (i.e. spring) 2 Sam. 11:1 (|| 1 Chron. 20:1), 1 Kgs. 20:22, 26, 2 Chron. 36:10; and answer Job 21:34 34:36). SCCarlson
Showing that the word teshuvah is sometimes used only in its literal sense of "return" does not necessarily mean that the theological concept was added later. Unless of course the above references comprise a comprehensive survey of occurrences of teshuvah in the Hebrew Bible. Wesley
This fact about teshuvah is noted in the standard reference works, including TDNT; and, yes, the list of occurrences taken from BDB is exhaustive. Since this sentence apparently came from the Jewish Encyclopedia, it is possible that a fairly weak sense of indicated was intended (e.g. the current term covers the full meaning of repentance in the HB by various words), but I think this sense would be lost on the average reader.
It's clear that we need to be attributing interpretations and claims, and not be doing original scholarship or interpretive work. With that in mind, I'm going cut a lot of the verse interpretation in the Christian section because it looks like original work, but leave the scripture passages in, for now at least. We might want to incorporate some or all of the quotations Mkmconn listed above, since they document how some prominent Reformers have talked about repentance. Overall, I think the Jewish section is mostly doing a good job of giving sources for the Jewish theology of repentance. Wesley 19:59 21 May 2003 (UTC)
Yes, feel free to hack away it. That part needs a lot of work. My theological dictionaries really like to associate repentance with conversion, which I was actually a bit surprised by, because I thought that repetance still plays a role for those after they convert to Christianity. SCCarlson 01:19 22 May 2003 (UTC)
Conversion in the sense of repentance, isn't necessarily a "one time" thing - it can be thought of as a way of life (as Paul writes, "I die daily"). The present pope somewhere wrote that we must be continually converted unto God. I thought, when I read it, "what a fine, Calvinist thing to say!" ;-) Mkmcconn 05:28 22 May 2003 (UTC)
That's funny; sounds Orthodox to me. :-D Repentance on an ongoing basis is necessary for Orthodox Christians, too. Wesley 14:45 22 May 2003 (UTC)
Tell me you're not Orthodox with a username like Wesley :-p DDerby 05:21, 11 Apr 2005 (UTC)

A simple definition...[edit]

The simplest definition of repentance is to TOTALLY turn away from those things that displease God.



To think like a human being means I am blind and I do not think right.

To think like a human being means I am a sinner.

What I thought was good to do now I am discovering it was not.

Repentance is to change your way of thinking.

I repent when I discover I am thinking like a human being not like God.

Now I am open for new information.

Now God can help me.

I am receiving new knowledge new belief and that results in new action.

But the discovery to change my way of thinking is coming from God I can’t get credit for it.

I thank God for showing me I am a sinner I am blind.

Repentance is a continuous prosess.

--Gh K



Just a thought: since repentance is found in Judaism and Islam as well as Christianity, perhaps the opening paragraphs ought to to quote the gospel of Luke. CaliforniaKid 00:41, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Repent, or be ...[edit]

...flamed!! Just couldn't resist. Pardon! Said: Rursus 11:22, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

Just a point of accuracy - it wasn't Paul, the "well-educated former Pharisee" who chastised Simon the Sorceror, it was Peter the yokel fisherman from Galilee! (Acts 8: 20 - 23)( 07:28, 1 July 2007 (UTC))

Repent after remorse? Repentance not a geniune emotion?[edit]

If I understand the pages on remorse and repentance right, remorse is an emotion, and repentance is a religious concept - possibly actively choosen by men after remorse - possibly inevitably following, or going with, remorse in some religions - but not an emotion in itself, least not one different from remorse. Thus I suggest to remove "repentance" from the "list of emotions" navigation box, and add a small section pointing to "repentance" as a religious concept related to the emotion, to the page describing "remorse", and vice versa.

If I got something wrong, please correct me. --Purodha Blissenbach 11:29, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Repentance/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Lacks references, and reference citations, and could benefit from expansion of sections. Badbilltucker 17:07, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 17:07, 4 January 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 04:10, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

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