Friday, June 22, 2012

There is More to Repenting than Regret

According to the KJV, Judas repented. So much for the KJV being the Word of God.

Τότε ἰδὼν Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ὅτι κατεκρίθη μεταμεληθεὶς, ἀπέστρεψεν τὰ τριάκοντα ἀργύρια τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις.
Matthew 27:3

The blog has been silent for a couple of weeks now because Sandy and I have left Fairbanks, Alaska, and are now busy setting up our home in Tauranga, Aotearoa1. For me this means finding a new job in a new town; which is proving somewhat difficult. As a lot of you know, this is not the best time to be looking for work.

Naturally, what I’ll end up doing is whatever God wants me to end up doing. I’d like to get a job teaching the Bible—it’s the only thing I really enjoy doing—but for that reason alone, I think God will have me doing something else entirely. Our lives in this world are not meant to be smooth, comfy and fun. So, if I want to teach—and I do—then I’ll either have to find a Church where I can teach, or else set up a home Bible study.

Once I set up a home, of course.

Oh, well, at least I can satisfy my urge to teach a wee bit with these blog posts. God bless the Internet!

This is from a fascinating old book I found online called The Four Gospels translated from the Greek with Preliminary Dissertations and Notes Critical and Explanatory, by George Campbell:
I shall now offer a few remarks on two words that are uniformly rendered, by the same English word, in the common version2, between which there appears notwithstanding, to be a real difference in signification. The words are μετανοεω (metanoeo)3 and μεταμελομαι (metamelomai)3, I repent. It has been observed by some, and, I think, with reason, that the former denotes properly, a change to the better; the latter, barely a change, whether it be to the better or to the worse; that the former marks a change of mind that is durable and productive of consequences; the latter expresses only a present uneasy feeling of regret or sorrow for what is done, without regard either to duration or to effects; in fine, that the first may properly be translated into English, I reform; the second, I repent, in the familiar acceptation of the word.
To clarify a bit, there are two different Greek words translated “to repent” in the KJV: metanoeō (μετανοέω) and metamelomai (μεταμέλομαι). The first one denotes a turning from sin leading to a positive change of character and is better understood as “to reform”; the second simply expresses a feeling of regret but does not indicate any change of character, which comes closer to the mechanical sense of “to repent”—a turning away from one’s sin—but not the full spiritual sense of repentance leading to regret, repudiation and reformation.

Ah, the KJV translators and their synonyms—we’ve been down this unhappy road before. Just like the results of pistis being translated “faith” and “belief”, or eklektos written “chosen” and “elect”, how has the doctrine of Christ been distorted because single Greek words that form the basis of important theological concepts have been rendered by two or more English words in the King James Bible? Now we have two distinctly different Greek words being translated into a single, theologically important English word: repent.

The full differences between the two words for repent is understood by looking at their lexical meanings and, what is just as important, examining their usage in Scripture.

Metanoeō is made up of the root words for “after” and “mind”. Combined, the sense is “to change ones mind afterwards”. Metamelomai is made up of the root words for “after” and “care”; the combined sense being “to care about something afterwards”. The former indicates an actual change of the state of one’s mind with regards to an action; the latter, a change of the feelings towards an action.

We only need to look at this one example of how these two words are used in the NT in order to put their doctrinal differences into perspective: Whenever we are ordered to repent in the NT, the word metanoeō is used; never metamelomai.

Now let’s take a look at Matthew 27:3-5 from the KJV:
3Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What [is that] to us? see thou [to that]. 5And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
What we have here is Judas repenting then, two verses later, hanging himself, which presents a bit of a theological conundrum, because the clear message of the Scriptures is that if we repent and believe, we will be forgiven and saved (Matt 9:13; Luke 8:12, 13:3, 17:4; Acts 2:37-38, 3:19, et al). Here, Judas clearly believes, since he called the Lord “the innocent blood” and he repents. Yet Jesus Himself tells us that Judas, the “son of perdition”, was lost in John 17:12.

This has puzzled many in the past and still leaves an opening for idiotic speculation today—see here and here—but once we look at verse 3 in the Greek, the conundrum is quickly solved.
Τότε ἰδὼν Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ὅτι κατεκρίθη μεταμεληθεὶς, ἀπέστρεψεν τὰ τριάκοντα ἀργύρια τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις.
As you probably guessed already, the word in red is the word metamelomai, not metanoeō.

So, as we see from the original Greek text, Judas merely had a change of feeling regarding his sin; he regretted what he’d done. He did not, however, have a change of mind (a change of “heart”—see this blog post), a reformation of his character from seeing the sinfulness of his actions.

Yep. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: Beware of English-only Bible studies!


1. This is the Maori name for New Zealand. It means “Land of the Long White Cloud”.

2. This means the King James Bible—also commonly referred to as the Authorized Version (AV).

3. Transliterations of the Greek have been added; they were not in the original.


  1. Hi Jim this is great stuff. When are those bible colleges in tauranga
    Going to realize they have a gifted teacher in the area? And when are you and sandy coming up north? You are welcome to stay at mine and I won't make you eat anything out of my kitchen!

    1. Thanks for that, Trish. No idea when we can make it up north, but hoping soon. Actually, the way things look around here, I might end up having to combe back up there for my old job. Either way, it's good to know there's a bed-&-no-breakfast place that'll take us in!

      Great to hear from you again and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.