Why “Metanoia” Is So Much Greater Than “Repentance”—And Why That’s Important

Long ago Martin Luther read the Latin translation of the Greek New Testament called the Vulgate. He saw that John that Baptist and Jesus called out to their hearers, “Do penance! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Really? he thought. Did they really call for their hearers to do acts of self-mortification, contrition, confession to a priest, and other acts involved in trying to achieve absolution for sin?

But Luther found that the meaning of the original Greek word metanoia didn’t involve doing any acts of piety. Rather, he found, it meant “change your mind.”

Unfortunately, at least in English versions, the Latin Vulgate has exerted far more influence than it should have. The original Greek word got translated “penitence” or “repentance,” which some would argue wasn’t as far off from “penance” as it needed to be.

What does the “change of mind” mean? And why would I agree with some great thinkers that repentance is not an acceptable translation?

And why do I believe this truth is vitally important for all of us?

An Old Book And A Fresh Way Of Thinking

Recently I was directed to the old book The Great Meaning of Metanoia, by Treadwell Walden. It expanded some things I was thinking when I first wrote about repentance years ago as “coming to your senses.” I’ll be quoting from his book here.

Walden lamented the replacement of metanoia with a word that conveyed the Roman Catholic notion of penitence—that is, if you’re sorry enough, if you confess enough, if you weep enough, if you do such and such things to prove yourself, then your penitence (repentance) is received and you can go on your way.

This does not at all convey the Great Meaning of Metanoia, the Greek word that has been translated “repentance”  in almost every English version of the Bible.

It’s one more thing that contributes to confusion about the gospel.

Greek Words Imbued With New Meaning

Metanoia, Walden points out, was the first cry of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and the first cry of Jesus is translated as, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

But since we’re exploring the word metanoia here, I’m going to use that word instead.

Can we approach the Scriptures afresh? Can we look at them asking the Holy Spirit to clear away any meaning that is not from Him and show us what they really mean?

“Metanoia! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

It is clearly an important word, heralding as it did the Kingdom of God.

. . . Expressions conveying a divine meaning, now most familiar to us, were occasions of astonishment to pagan and Jew alike when they were lifted into connections which transfigured them. Such, we know, were “faith,” “hope,” “love,” “light,” “truth,” “life,” “peace,” “liberty”; such were “redemption,” “atonement,” “righteousness,” “resurrection”; such were “Saviour” and “apostle,” and many more which might be named. And such was “Metanoia.” (p 12)

Metanoia, the Great Harbinger of the Kingdom

Though the word metanoia in the Greek literally means “a change of mind,” this is more than a logical “I see your point.” Or a whimsical “I guess I’ll do something else instead.”

No, there is something deeper about it. This “change of mind” indicates an opening of the understanding that leads to transformation.

“Metanoia” was the great harbinger word of the Gospel, bearing witness to the “Light.” (p 37)

Quoting DeQuincy, a Greek scholar, Walden writes on p 34,

The holy herald of Christ [John the Baptist], and Christ Himself, the Finisher of prophecy, made proclamation alike of the same mysterious summons, as a baptism or rite of initiation, namely, Metanoia:

Henceforth transfigure your theory of moral truth; the old theory is laid aside as infinitely insufficient; a new and spiritual revelation is established. Metanoia! Contemplate moral truth as radiating from a new center; apprehend it under transfigured relations.

And doesn’t it make sense that this would be the introduction of the New Era? “We are showing you a new thing. A new kingdom is entering. Open your eyes, allow your thinking to be transformed, and see it!”

This is metanoia.

Those who had ears to hear would hear.

It wasn’t a word of condemnation. It was a heralding of a New Kingdom. “Prepare your hearts for what is about to come.”

It was proclaiming and calling to that change of mind that I would call “coming to your senses.”

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. And upon them who walked in the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.

Jesus proclaimed, “Metanoia! Come to your senses!”

Take upon you a New Mind, and Believe the Glad Tidings.” (p 60)

It is as if our Lord said to His listeners, “I have come to completely change your world. I am here to change the paradigm. Open your mind, your heart, your eyes. Listen and receive in the deepest places of yourself.”

The Metanoia Jesus Offered

For three years, our Lord Jesus made good on His proclamation/command of “metanoia.” He did new things—miracles the likes of which hadn’t been seen in Israel since the days of Elijah.

He taught in a completely new way. All who heard were astonished. For some, who had ears to hear, the Truth sank in like water on thirsty ground.

Prepare your hearts to receive the rain.

He spoke in parables. He used his miracles as metaphors. He used nature as object lessons. He spoke sometimes in dark statements, sometimes in plain language. But He was always teaching, always leading “those with ears to hear” to the truth proclaimed by His “Metanoia.”

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Beginning and Ending of this New Era. He is the Answer to all the Law and the Prophets. He is the Proclaimer of the Way that Moses could see only in shadow.

Through His words and His works, He demonstrated His worthiness to be the Herald of this New Kingdom. Through His death, resurrection, and ascension He accomplished the ultimate work of this New Covenant.

When Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples’ metanoia entered upon a new stage. Their “sorrow was turned into joy,” as He had predicted.

I once was blind, but now I see.

Now I will set my affections on things above, not on things of this earth.

The Great Transformation

What would be the natural result of “metanoia”? It would be the highest form of faith—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior, not only from sin, but for the new life He promises.

There is Great Truth.

Metanoia, that “coming to your senses,” brings about the revelation, the experience of that Great Truth.

When that Great Truth is experienced, seen, known through Metanoia, then the result is Faith.

There are many who believe they have faith because they have assented to a set of facts and have tried to deal with their sin. But they have not had the great Metanoia of the soul that is the opening of the eyes to who Jesus really is.

Paul did, and he was never the same. On the road to Damascus, Paul was fundamentally transformed. It was this deep-seated transformation that he preached.

Paul, in fact, had an Experience. He saw and heard the Risen Lord. As soon as he did, he was on his face, and there was no turning back. The Metanoia that Jesus proclaimed at the beginning of His ministry, Paul experienced.

Jesus told him, “I now send you to the Gentiles, to  open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light.”


There was none so radically changed as Paul . . . except for others who have turned to Jesus Christ from half-lives of darkness and found their joy in Him.

Was it a “change of mind” that Paul experienced? Yes, absolutely.

Was he sorry for his sins and wanting to change his ways? Naturally.

This “change of mind” illuminated and affected his entire self, his deepest nature, never to be the same, ever again.

This “change of mind” explains at least in part the energy and enthusiasm with which Paul accomplished all he did. This “change of mind” explains the raptures he experienced when describing the risen Lord of glory.

It was a “change of mind” that took root in the deepest places of the being.

The “Repentance” Translation Fail

All that I wrote above, much of it based on Walden’s book, is the same conclusion I had come to back when I wrote that first blog post about the word metanoia, translate “repentance” in the Bible. This is why I paraphrased Jesus as saying, “Come to your senses!”

But where does the word “repentance” come from?

While Metanoia is Greek, “repentance” comes from the Latin word poenitentia, from poena, pain. This means, according to Walden (p 14),

Suffering in view of being liable to punishment; hence grief over an act for which satisfaction might be demanded.

It would be fair to allow it also a secondary signification; suffering in view of the badness of the act itself, without regard to its consequences.

The prefix re, “back” or “again,” adds to this the idea of looking back, or looking again, with sorrow upon what has been done amiss.

The word thus intensively communes with the past, and represents an emotion only.

If you find history and etymology as fascinating as I do, you may be interested to read Walden’s account on pages 108-122 of the journey involved in subsituting repentance (a word focusing on pain) for metanoia (a word focusing on the mind or understanding).

Walden observes the three English words that come from the Latin word that emphasizes the pain you feel (or inflict on yourself) because of your sin.

Penance—discipline, something you do to get in God’s favor again.


Repentance—doing either or both of those, to result in a changed life.

He saw this word as having almost no overlap with metanoia. From pages 124-25:

And so it [the word repentance] will always stand for what it originally was, and so it will always reverse the theory and the action of the Gospel. Its misleading tendency can never be expounded out of it.

It will always give the Gospel a legal aspect;

it will always, therefore, dim the near Fatherhood of God in setting Him upon a distant judgment-seat;

it will always put Christ in a wrong relation to both God and man;

it will always proclaim that man must be purged from sin by his own self-condemnation and by his formal discharge from a Divine Tribunal, and not set free, first and essentially, through that renewal of his nature under the knowledge of God in Christ and the inspiration of the Spirit, by which only the strength of sin is undermined and the creative work of God in the soul resumed.

A paraphrase from pages 125-26, in which Walden expresses some reasons the word repentance can never adequately substitute for the word metanoia:

Imbedded in this word is undying legalism. It contains undying reminiscence of vengeance, punishment, and expiation.

It carries an undying suggestion that the Change of Mind is only a change of will wrought by fear.

With undying determination it presents a theory of radical corruption in which tears are an all-powerful cleansing agent.

This Roman word is a creature of the law and has erected a judgment-seat in the heavens and earth. It has put upon the face of God the frown of outraged justice. It has lowered the great and graphic metaphor that pervades the New Testament.

And it has done all this simply for convenience in an age and to a people who are penetrated with legal ideas.

And again (p 100),

Its intense look of sorrow may be and has been softened by Christian use into the expression of a pensive sense of unworthiness and guilt, and of a consequent mental determination which changes the character, the conduct, and the life.

And indeed, though his book was written in 1895, I have to say that the meaning of the word has changed not at all since then. I’ve read material from modern luminaries that express this same sentiment.

Contrasting “Repentance” with “Metanoia”

Walden continues to press his point that this word falls so far short of the true meaning of  metanoia as used in Scripture. From pages 105-106:

The note of [repentance] is not of emancipation, but of condemnation. . . . The working of it is not joyful, but sorrowful. Its face is turned in horror towards sin, not in rapture towards righteousness. . . . It flees the evil in fear of “penalty”—of the punitive action of God or of its own conscience. . . .

In its effective operation it can take hold of the Mind, change the mental attitude, determine the mental purpose, but it can never alone renew the whole spiritual constitution of the Mind. . . .

What is lost when the word repentance is used in place of metanoia? Walden says on page 24:

The all-encompassing grandeur of an announcement which takes in the whole of life and calls upon man

— to enlarge his consciousness with the eternal and the spiritual, — to live on the scale of another life, — to let his character grow under this great knowledge, — to let his conduct fall into the lines of the revealed divine will —all this is lost.

“Repentance” is always about turning from sin. “Metanoia” is about the change from being blind to seeing, so that we deeply know who and what God really is and who we really are.

This metanoia is the reality of conversion.

As Walden observes (p 15), Metanoia can encompass this “penitence,” but the terms are by no means equal. Metanoia is a far greater concept.

The way I see it, penitence/repentance starts in the intellect (there is a punishment for this thing I did) and moves to the emotions (that makes me scared and sorry that I did it).

Metanoia, though—the concept preached in the New Testament—is more like starting with blind eyes and moving to eyes that see.

I once was blind, but now I see.

Everything is different.

Come to your senses.

Quoting on p 93 from Matthew Arnold’s work “Literature and Dogma”:

We translate it “repentance,” a mourning and lamenting over our sins; and we translate it wrong.

Of “Metanoia,” as Jesus used the word, the lamenting one’s sins was a small part; the main part was something far more active and fruitful, the setting up an immense new inward movement for obtaining the rule of life. And “metanoia,” accordingly, is a change of the inward man.

It is as far greater than “weep and wail so that God might have mercy on you” as an eagle is greater than a sparrow.

Though turning from sin is part of the Christian life, it is only a small part of what metanoia is about. In fact the New Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed with His call for “Metanoia” was and is a kingdom in which the power of sin is destroyed.

It means a movement of the whole mind forwards, to which a looking backwards is only incidental (p 15).

Peter, Zacchaeus, and the “woman who was a sinner,” all were aware of their sinfulness before the Holy One of God, and that will be true for everyone who comes to Him. But what He invites us to is beyond the constant cycle of awareness of and forgiveness of sins. He invites us all to Metanoia.

A Whole New Way of Thinking

When we talk about “metanoia” as simply being sorry for sins and asking for forgiveness, is this not making the gospel too small?

Our Lord Jesus was welcoming all who would hear, all who would see, into nothing less than a new life.

Not a new life of A New List of Rules, but a new life of Everything is Different. To paraphrase from page 137:

The real power of the new life lies in looking forward, not backward.

It lies in faith, not fear.

In knowledge, not sorrow.

It is an awakening to righteousness and therefore a sinning not. . . .

Metanoia is a word profound enough to describe the mightiest motive that could energize the nature of man, that is, the personal power of the Son of God.

It expounds the mightiest influence that could enter his inmost being to the upbuilding of his character and life, namely, the inspiration of the Spirit of God.

A New Reading of Scripture—Some Examples

Jesus’ first cry

I’ve mentioned this a few times already, but as His first “announcement” to His hearers, it’s incredibly important. Here’s a quote from another blogger on the same subject:

Was the major proclamation of Jesus and the apostles “Repent! Feel sorry for your sins!”? Or was it “Metanoia! Think a new way!”? Do you see what a difference these two words make?

John’s baptism

John’s baptism, we read in our Bibles, was a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” We think then, that the people were sorry for their sins and afraid of God’s judgment.

But that isn’t what it says. John’s baptism was a “baptism of metanoia.”

It was a baptism signaling, heralding the transformation of life that was to come. Those who were baptized signaled their desire to enter into the new way that this wilderness prophet was heralding.

John’s baptism was for the “sending away” of sins—“the natural effect is to set the soul free from the bondage of the disposition to sin.” (p 49)

When metanoia becomes a reality in the life, sins are sent away. They no longer have power over us.

And now the difficulties with “Why would Jesus receive a baptism that was all about being sorry for sins?” falls away. That wasn’t what it was about at all.

The baptism of Jesus was about this transformation of life that Jesus would also be calling His listeners to—and not only would be calling them to, but would provide.

The Great Commission

Luke 24:47 says, in typical translations, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins shall be proclaimed in His Name.”

But like John’s baptism it really says something so much bigger.

“And Metanoia unto the sending away of sins shall be proclaimed in His Name.”

Listen. Do you have ears to hear?

Paul’s Preaching to the Gentiles

Paul said about the people he preached to that he “declared . . . that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20).

Do you immediately think “they should be sorry for their sins” and “they should do deeds that show they’re truly sorry”?

In fact, “repentance” as penitence, always has sin in view. But there is no “repentance from sins” in the Scripture.

Instead, you can read it this way: Paul “declared that they should come to their senses, receive a whole new way of thinking and being, and then produce the fruit that comes from such a transformation.”

THIS is in line with what we know about the Christian life. It is not simply a cycle of sin, repent, try harder, sin, repent, try harder, which is what is preached in so many churches.

Metanoia has in view the mind and understanding, the spiritual eyes, the heart, the life. Yes, sin will be gotten out of the way so we can see, know, and experience our Lord Jesus and His power in our lives. But when there is a new awareness, a new experience, a person’s life will change without striving.

Open my eyes, O Lord. Metanoia.

You’ve Seen the Lack

You have perhaps seen some of these things in the church you came from. You may not have grasped—as I certainly didn’t—how much the import of the word repentance, as substituted for metanoia, played a part.

Listen to what Walden says about the churches of his day, still so true over 125 years later (pp 21-23).

Despite himself, the reader hears the “Repent ye!” of John the Baptist and of the Saviour, like a cry, a note of danger, full of terror, amid which the hearts of the people stood still, instead of what it really was, the invocation of a mind, heart, and life which should befit such a glad and glorious “change” as the kingdom of heaven on earth. . . .

This supposed appeal to the impenitent nature only has been taken up as the burden of all preaching, all spiritual counsel; an appeal in their hands often wrought up with terrific penal imagery; and then the fright which has ensued and its consequences have been accepted as the change of heart. . . .

There is a tendency to regard an emotional condition, a general passion of religious feeling, however induced, as the seat of efficacy with God, and as the only safe and promising state in which to being and continue the Christian life.


Fear has no genuine ethical power. Sorrow has no sure ethical consequence. Excitement of any kind can bear, of itself, no ethical fruit. . . .

You See the Possibility of Abundance

Since Jesus cried out, in effect, “Come to your senses! Change your understanding! You blind eyes, see! You deaf ears, hear!” then can we see that this metanoia is far bigger than only being sorry for our sins?

If you came out of abuse of any kind, you may have longed for your abuser(s) to “repent”—to be sorry for their sins.

And at the same time you may feel frustration that the “repentance” you want to see is too easy to fake in the short term.

But even when you need to walk away from hard-hearted imposters, the metanoia that Jesus talked about and that the apostles talked about—we can desire to embrace that personally.

In fact, if you grew up in a rule-centered church, an authority-driven church, a penitence-oriented church, you may be longing for something more. Maybe you want to cry out for metanoia too.

Though I didn’t fully understand this concept of metanoia and how much greater it is than “repentance,” through the years I did cry out for the Lord to open my eyes and help me know Him. Through the years, through a series of epiphanies (several of which I’ve written about), He has done that, and He continues to do that. Sometimes that has included sorrow over my sin. Sometimes it has not.

“Lord, I want to really know You. Give me the changing of the mind, the opening of the understanding.”

Grant me metanoia.

When the metanoia of God happens within us, then the dream goal of being fully satisfied with Him is accomplished within us. So many of the teachings of the gospels and the epistles will be filled with new and deeper meaning.

Our understanding of the entire New Testament—the unfolding of the New Covenant in which we live—will be transformed when we understand what Jesus was crying out when He called out, “Metanoia!”

It can be a journey, yes. Especially if we’re unlearning what has been engrained for decades. But we can anticipate that eventually we will fully understand with Paul what he joyfully proclaimed so many places in the New Testament, like this one in 2 Corinthians 4:6.

“God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”


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9 months ago

YES! That is why the gospel is such good news! That is why we are in awe of a Saviour who came to satisfy His Father by bearing our sin on the cross, so we can be welcomed into His family and live a full, abundant life. I love this so much, Rebecca.

Lisa Cadora
Lisa Cadora
9 months ago

My goodness, I can’t express how grateful I am for this insight and explanation!
I have long recognized that though we hear about grace and forgiveness, there is never a next thing. It’s always about looking inward at your inadequacy, your selfishness, your lack of gratitude for what God has done in order to confess and set up a program of “repentance.”
I remember asking early on “What’s next?” after formally accepting Christ’s forgiveness for my state of “total depravity,” and being looked at like “What?” It seemed that what was next was a life of compulsively confessing my sins!

Terra Edwards
Terra Edwards
9 months ago

Yes! Thank you for this! There is no courtroom if there is no law! Christ is the end of the law. He calls us out from under the fig tree (“when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”). It is “no longer the season for figs.”

Life itself is so much better.

Last edited 9 months ago by Terra Edwards
Terra Edwards
Terra Edwards
9 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca Davis

No, I don’t. I can’t give you information other than as I contemplated the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, Nathaniel’s calling and Adam and Eve using fig leaves for covering – it spoke to me in this way. Also, the law is connected with a curse in other places in scripture. It matches my personal experience and is simply a personal thought that it is symbolic. I have read nothing from anyone else saying this.

Melissa Carter
Melissa Carter
9 months ago
Reply to  Terra Edwards

I never stopped to consider that without the law, there is no courtroom. The requirements of the Law have been met; there remains no need for continued sacrifice (per Hebrews). How does that perspective adjust our presentation of the gospel and the way we see this life and the next? And what does it make of The Great Throne Judgement?

Terra Edwards
Terra Edwards
9 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca Davis

Yes, maybe a better way to say it would be “there is no courtroom if we are dead to the law.” You can’t take a dead person to court.

Last edited 9 months ago by Terra Edwards
Wild Honey
Wild Honey
9 months ago

“Treadwell.”THAT’S a name we need to bring back.

More on topic, I think the problem is more that we’ve focused so much on the first half of the meaning of repentance (feel badly) that we’ve neglected the second half (so that you’re inclined to do better). Like the literal dictionary definition of “gossip” and “slander” that have been twisted by some theologians to quell dissent among the pew peons, the literal dictionary meaning of “repentance” has been rendered incomplete, as well.

Kinda like the nuance between “guilt” and “shame.”

Guilt is a simple acknowledgment that I’ve done something wrong, and prompts me to do better in the future. Like the realization that I’ve overreacted to my exuberant four-year-old prompts me to do a better job of controlling my temper in the future. This is a HEALTHY response to wrong-doing. It’s the feeling we wish more bullies and narcissists would feel and respond to.

“Shame” is when it goes a step further to the “I’m worthless, I’ll never get this right, there’s no hope for me, I’m an abject sinner” self-loathing, self-focus that turns our eyes away from Jesus (which is what the devil wants, isn’t it?) and onto ourselves.

Does that make sense? Yes to guilt, because that leads to growth/transformation. No to shame, because that turns our focus away from Jesus and onto ourselves.

Wild Honey
Wild Honey
9 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca Davis

Sorry, don’t think I’m being clear. I don’t think a feeling of “guilt” precludes a “new way of thinking.” I think it’s simply a realization that the old way of thinking was wrong/false/not true. Repentance (IMO) is then the process in which one is prompted to find the new/better/correct way of thinking.

I also agree that repentance is not JUST saying “I was wrong/in darkness,” but ALSO should be followed up by “how can I do better next time?”

Asking out of honest curiosity, do you think there’s a different English word that translations should use instead of “repentance?” I mean, there’s a lot of big theological concepts in the Bible, but if translations went around using the Greek terms for all the big concepts, it would quickly become clunky and difficult for non-academically-minded readers. Asking as someone who’s studied Greek, and realizing it’s rare to have a non-clunky word-for-word translation 🙂

Or, speaking as a spiritual abuse survivor, are you saying SURVIVORS need a “new way of thinking” to get out of the darkness they were in, but that they don’t need to feel guilty or repent? In that case, I’d wholeheartedly agree.

Sorry, I’m just really confused.

Melissa Carter
Melissa Carter
9 months ago

As I contemplate further…

In the abuse advocacy world, there is so often heard a cry for “repentance!” But I’m hearing you say, and concur, that repentance is not the goal. Metanoia encompasses not just repentance but the fruit of a transformed mind. THAT is what victims/survivors and their advocates are calling for. “Allow the light of the gospel to so penetrate your entire being that there is a complete transformation in thought and action, so that what was once darkness becomes light because the Light has penetrated and dispelled the darkness.”

The nuance of metanoia is essential to understanding the call to repentance. I’d love to see our language adapted to reflect that nuance.

9 months ago

Thank you, Rebecca. I have been “knowing” this for a number of years now. I’ve been done with experiencing the frustration of repentance, knowing I would “commit” the same “sins” again and need to continue the spiritually exhausting cycle which kept me in a groveling state of sin management (thanks to being raised in a very conservative denomination.) A pastor I later followed, once taught “Love more, sin less.” It helped me see that it is up to the Spirit to produce change in me, and not my effort (works.) THAT is freedom. I’m done with churches who preach a gospel that really isn’t good news. Instead, I’ve been listening speakers who suggest that what the biblical repentance really means isn’t changing my mind about my sin or behavior, but about who God is, and who I am.
I am sitting here a bit overwhelmed at the weight (or weightlessness) of all this. Your writing puts it so succinctly and confirms my ache to believe in this new (ancient) way to hear the true gospel. This is truly good news. This is the freedom Christ offers.

9 months ago

Yes, this brought sweet tears from a deep inner place.

My salvation experience ( when i was five or six) was very fear based… as it originated from the very abuser who stood in the pulpit preaching each week . The image was always like a task master whipping the fear of Hell into me so repentance would be my cry…like breaking a horse.

The Lord has challenged that picture in me before, but its been a hard one to parse out since it had a kernel of truth. I recognized the truth that i did need forgiveness of my sin and my soul was separated from a holy God bc of sin… but i couldn’t understand the severity of punishment he taught at that tender age… unless i was responsible for the horror occurring in my life. Could i ever be sorry enough to appease a holy Judge???

Its been impossible to include the kindness and gentleness of the Jesus im now experiencing into that old picture. But replacing the picture with something totally different… that seems possible.

Another author is writing about Metanoia in a new book he is writing and has been talking about some of these ideas on his monday webinars. So incredible that the Lord affirms belief shifts for me in more than one way… HE KNOWS ME and what my heart needs SO WELL❤️❤️❤️❤️

Thank you Rebecca for this beautiful picture of metanoia ” more than repentance” which brings me such hope that our Lord Jesus really does want us free from effort the old system demands and making HIS FREEDOM and delight our new life- a very different system from the law.

9 months ago

Yes!!! I, too, have learned the power of ‘changed thinking’ brought about by Jesus and His Word. HE is the one who changes the way we think. And our actions are a result.
Thank God my tears are insufficient but His blood is all-sufficient.
AND let’s give the religion of sin-management the boot!!!!

9 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca Davis

I so appreciate you. I’ve been learning a lot of the things you blog about, and until I found your blog, I thought I had a big job to do- blogging about all this truth. But now I can just link my readers to you!!! I’ve mailed your three books to three friends. And blogged about them recently. A pastor is reading them. She’s teaching the womens group how to properly study the Bible. Yah!! You are maki n a difference!!

Toni Stringer
Toni Stringer
9 months ago

I am enlightened and THIS is “the more” that I’ve been looking for… it changes everything….❣️❤️ Thank you.
I had just prayed Lord…. What can I give my mother who will be 91 at the end of this month….what can I impart to her? She’s still teaching your Word as best she understands it….
so now I will
print this out and give it to her as a gift to study, ponder, receive and share with others.
Behold ALL things have become NEW!…..
I will have “metanoia” put on top of her cake…. This should be interesting….
thank you !

Amy Morris
Amy Morris
9 months ago

Thank you for sharing this, Mrs. Davis! I have lately been trying to dig into what is truly meant by repentance, so this is very timely. As a sensitive personality, the word repentance has been a form of torment for me for a long time. I am starting to see that it may not mean what I’ve been taught my whole life and that makes me so hopeful!

Catherine Curtis
Catherine Curtis
9 months ago

That is far more exciting than just ‘stop being naughty”. So much more filled with life. It makes much more sense coming from The life giver.
Thank you for all your hard work.

Dana Lange
Dana Lange
9 months ago

Oh Rebecca, HALLELUJAH! Thank you for taking the time to explain what, I believe, so many evangelicals have stubbled at; me being one. I’ve tried for years to keep a firm hold of what Jesus calls us to: “metanoia”; but the spiritual battle for the mind is real and misunderstanding/mishandling of words certainly creates confusion and sadly, spiritual abuse. Let us continue to take the helmet of salvation. Oh how free we are in Christ! And the joy of the Lord is our strength! Amen.

9 months ago

I know this is not how you are talking about this, but this is just a way I saw metanoia misused.

In a former abusive church environment,I felt the concept metanoia was used to say that repentance was changing your mind set, so there was no feeling sorry or being repentant of wrong doing, but just a turning away from the wrong thinking to do a different action. But the twist I saw was that what you were changing your mindset too wasn’t always a good thing. It was more changing your mindset to line up with their take on spiritual authority, or however they were teaching things. There also was no “sorrow” on their part for treating people wrongly, though I believe they felt that they are the ones in the right and everyone who disagrees with them is in the wrong; therefore, those not thinking like they were needed to repent, needed a new mindset.

9 months ago

Isn’t it just so beautiful? Isn’t *He* so beautiful? It’s all so different than we’ve been taught. Thank You, God, for setting us free!

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10.

9 months ago

I also like the Hebrew concept of Teshuvah. Might be something to look into.

Yes, Metanoia is more than just changing actions, but a whole upheaval of our thinking. A churning up of the soil of our souls, and a paradigm shift. A constant turning over of our lives to God.

9 months ago

I’m also noticing that survivors of trauma and abuse have more deep “soul work” to do than the average person. There are wounds, scars and deficits deep within them, that require an extra measure of grace to overcome. I always wondered, when I looked at my Christian peers who weren’t from trauma, they didn’t seem to struggle so deeply. Their process of sanctification seemed so much smoother than mine. I realized, that they probably didn’t have as much work to do as me.

9 months ago

conversion (n.)
mid-14c., originally of religion, “a radical and complete change in spirit, purpose, and direction of life away from sin and toward love of God,”
This definition of ‘conversion’ is from the Online Etymology Dictionary. The word conversion seems a more complete and accurate translation of metanoia than repentance.

9 months ago

…thanks for a thought-provoking article. It made me do Google research and I found a good sermon on metanoia. Here’s the link:


8 months ago

Love your work Rebecca!

This word “metanoia” has come to my attention 2 more times since I read your post over a month ago in fascinating ways that only God could orchestrate… one was because I was researching Erasmus re his translation for a different reason & came across this article just a few days after reading your post!!! I think He’s trying to tell us something, that maybe it is really important for us, His people, to understand the greater meaning!

FYI: Luther was actually inspired by Erasmus translation published in 1516, especially his insight on “metanoia” – it is said: Erasmus laid the egg Luther hatched…

Erasmus’ Greek New Testament changed history 500 years ago • Biblical Recorder (brnow.org)

‘The egg Luther hatched’In Germany, Luther studied the first edition of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament as he formulated his “95 Theses,” the document widely credited with launching the Protestant Reformation in 1517 by articulating a series of grievances against the Roman Catholic Church. The first three theses drew on Erasmus’ translation of the Greek word metanoeite, in Matthew 3:2 and elsewhere, as “repent” rather than the traditional Catholic rendering of “do penance,” which supported the sacramental system.
Erasmus, George said, “uncovered” that the Greek word referenced “a change of heart, a conversion of life” and “not just an act you do, a good work you perform.”
“Luther got that, and he used Erasmus’ Greek New Testament to give a whole different understanding of what repentance and penance was about,” George said. “And that’s what triggered the Reformation.”
Though Erasmus never left the Roman Catholic Church, it has been said since of the Reformation for five centuries, “Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched.”

8 months ago

PS… Erasmus did NOT translate “metanoiete” into the Latin repent, but as resipiscite – Wiktionary… which is fascinating… Luther was the one to first use “repent” in his German translation…

in link below: see bottom of right column in p126, 3rd full line from the bottom for Erasmus Latin translation “resipiscite” in Matthew 3:2…
1519 Erasmus Greek Latin NT (bibles-online.net)

8 months ago

PSS… I’m still learning as well! Erasmus used different words in each of his 3 publishings!!! wow, what an amazing journey “metanoia” represents!

The uses of resipiscere in the Latin of Erasmus: in the Gospels and beyond. – Free Online Library (thefreelibrary.com)

But what word did Erasmus use instead? If poenitentiam agere did not capture the force of metanoein, what could? Erasmus acknowledges several options, and his final choice was ultimately different in the 1516, 1519, and 1522 versions. In his first edition, he chose poeniteat vos, while in his notes to the next, he considered poenitemini. (10) Both of these are derived from the same root, and are very close to the “repent” of so many English versions. In his notes to the 1519 edition, Erasmus maintains that both words originate in pone tenendo, or “comprehending afterwards.” (11) He argues that words derived from this root are appropriate as equivalents for metanoein, which draws its force from the idea of contemplating sins already past. (12) Erasmus seems to have had this reasoning in mind later, in the 1522 edition, when he chose a variation slightly closer to the Vulgate rendering: poenitentiam agite vitae prioris, or “repent of your former life.” (13) But in the end, none of these represents Erasmus’s most controversial choice. The most daring rendering is found in the 1519 edition. Here, Erasmus expresses the biblical idea of repentance with a word not derived from pone tenendo, a word that seems unusual or even inappropriate at first sight. In the second edition of Erasmus’s Novum Testamentum, the Greek original is translated with the Latin resipiscere. (14) EOQ

Marlita S
Marlita S
8 months ago

I point to my time of becoming a Christian some sixty years ago as a child when an invitation was given in Sunday School. I have been part of an “evangelical” church until the past couple of years when I have been going to a “liturgical” church-where the lectionary is followed.

The passage with this verse was preached about a couple of weeks ago (during Lent I recollect). My take away and as best as I can remember what the Reverend said was that, repentance here meant: to see things from God’s perspective; to think towards things in His way. A few months before that he spoke of repentance as being an invitation rather than a judgement.

I was suspect of these statements as they did not reflect the tone of what I heard in my more familiar environment and was concerned that a “liberal” interpretation was possibly being taught. However, this word “repent” has been a mystery to me for a long time and more recently something I have been stumbling over in understanding, so this “new” concept got my attention to be considered. (Talk about reconsidering and changing one’s mind!) I do wish his sermons were longer and that he would flesh out these nugget sentences more.

With these things going on, it was therefore particularly personal to read your blog on this. God has used it to give me some understanding about it. I see that others question and struggle with this too. Please be encouraged to know of this instance the matter of repentance IS being preached about in an accurate way.

Truly God does want us to know Him and His truths.

Daniel Newman
Daniel Newman
7 months ago

This is so GOOD, so GOD, it is changing my heart as I read it and the Father is speaking to me so marvelously!


[…] we ultimately came to an understanding of a more linear concept of God’s plan—one in which the Old Covenant with all its physical stipulations was completely fulfilled in the New Covenant in …. It gave our reading of the Bible greater unity and unfolded God’s plan in a fully […]

Gary Hoch
2 months ago

I love your post. For years I struggled with certain things said in the scriptures to the point of not being able to embrace them. Except for in a rather morbid I-have-to fashion. “There must be something wrong with me” I’d think. What’s wrong with me? This is rejecting God’s Word! It’s taken me decades to begin to wonder if perhaps God Spirit in me was rejecting some religious human’s perversions of His Word. Even His so-called “authorized” ones!

In the garden the serpent made his line of expertise clear: twisting what God says. If he can get us to believe his perversion, he can pervert us. More importantly, pervert how we think God must be. He also immediately proved his craft of influencing humans to join him in changing God word. Eve declared in effect “God said don’t even dare touch the tree either”. I don’t think snakes are particularly creative. Pretty sure the same tactic used on Adam and Eve is the same used ever since: get them to believe God really hath said something He never thought about saying. Like REPENT.

My point is the evil one both twists and influences people to twist God’s words. We shouldn’t think religious leaders translating bibles are immune. His enticements to twist are always subtle. Always appealing to the image of a god who is much more like he is: abusive. Rather than one who is reflective of a supreme being so in love with us, so for us, so filled with good news towards us, that He would go to unimaginable extremes to win our hearts back to Himself.

At 64, I’ve never had children. If I had a little boy of my own, of my being, who was part of me, and he became lost from me…and especially if he was lost and in danger…no one can imagine the rage of love that would consume me and the extent I’d go to to recover him and cover him with healing. And do you think for one minute I’d predicate whether or not I’d move heaven and earth to insure his recovery on whether or not he was or was not sorry for any part he’d played in his being separated from me? How we paint God to be less than human. All I’d care about is getting him in my arms safe and sound. And should I be the wealthiest most powerful man on earth and this happened! Watch out! All hell would break loose until I recovered my child.

Imagine a heart, a Father’s heart, that has something so amazing that it cannot bear not sharing it. Imagine the “it” is not an “it” but everything He, Father is. (All that I have is yours, He said to the older brother). He knows He is everything we desire, whether we yet know it or not. He knows, because He made us to fit perfectly into His perfect love. He is everything we desperately need to be safe and fulfilled and known as wonderful and loved children of the most glorious Father in the Universes of Universes. That’s Our Father Who art in Heaven. That’s our Father’s heart. That’s Who Jesus came to reveal. That revelation won Him the cross of a blasphemer as it often still does today in the world of religion hell bent on lifting the power of sin above the power of the love of the Father. Go on a journey to see exactly how far the east is from the west. You’ll never return. Nor will your sin.That’s the Power of The Father’s Love for you and me through the Work of His Son our Savior/Friend-like-no-other and His Spirit.

Joe Conaghan
1 month ago

Great blog and thanks for posting this!

All along John the Baptist wasn’t saying what we’ve been told he was saying. When he cried out “REPENT for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” he was saying something so positive. Change your mind generally, but even more deeply, to be prepared to undergo a radical mental transformation as relates to their understanding of right standing before God. It was a herald that puts the hearer in the correct frame of mind of expectation so that when she or he hears the unfathomably glad tidings of great joy that by simply believing in Jesus for the everlasting life He promises (Jn 6:47), we have it! The mind is blown when eternal life is received, not earned, as free and clear gift. And all to the praise of His glory!!!

I read Treadwell Walden’s book and it was really good even if a little hard to read. I find it shocking that at no point in time since the Vulgate rendered this beautiful word “metanoia” into what could arguably be considered its antonym, “repent”, that no succeeding version attempted to right this criminal wrong. Perhaps it will take a very brave person to take the NKJV or KJV and up-version them by replacing every instance of metanoia as “repent” with something akin to “awake” or the paraphrase of “change your mind”. Thoughts?

Joe Conaghan
26 days ago
Reply to  Rebecca Davis

I also like “come to your senses”. It seems that Jesus was trying to tell us the definition of the word, metanoia, in the parable of the Prodigal Son when he “came to himself”. Are you aware of ANY current English Bibles that use something akin to “awake” for the places where “metanoia” appear?

Joe Conaghan
23 days ago
Reply to  Rebecca Davis

IMO, first person to undertake the effort to produce this new version/translation will receive great reward in heaven. It could just be the NT first and then the OT could be tackled later. Oh and btw, whoever does it will probably die at the hands of a works-based salvationist who thinks they are doing the will of God. The words “repent” and “repentance” are precious and very useful tools to the slave masters of religion under whose curse we all lived before seeing the light by God’s grace.

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