This is a review of those words which Bible translators may employ as alternatives for Repentance and of the Hebrew and Greek words involved. 

Basic to this study is the recognition of the Divine inspiration of the very words of the original in the canon of both Testaments, these being respectively in Hebrew and Greek. However their comprehension; needs the medium of one's native tongue, which in our case is English.  Here a single word for word equivalent is rarely possible; so it is most likely to require two or more words to embrace the full sense when translating between two languages. But having thus allocated an appropriate word to one in the original tongue it may not be used to stand for another; and failure to observe this nullifies the purpose of the Holy Spirit in designedly employing a certain word in the original text. 

Reference to any concordance or lexicon will indicate that Repentance, and its cognate words, represent the Hebrew word NACHAM and a Greek word metanoia. But our first consideration must be the meaning of the English word Repentance; and most dictionary definitions may be summarised thus :- 

The second definition, though of less frequent use nowadays, is probably the older of the two; for it accords well with that same sense for metanoia which Parkhurst's Lexicon states was so used by the Greek historian, Xenophon; and that was many years before the LXX, (the Hebrew/Greek Septuagint translation), was begun. Though not inspired, the LXX is an important guide to how words were understood in those days; so it is noteworthy that it represented NACHAM as metanoia about sixteen times. 

Though now of common occurrence it is questionable whether the first given definition was in use when the LXX was made, or even when the NT was written. It seems to have evolved with the development of ecclesiastical tradition and the prevalence of Latin texts. Certainly a concern has been expressed about the suitability of this definition to convey the sense of metanoia

Among some of those who take the place of being Bible students there is extant the belief that an appropriate equivalent for metanoia is found in the word "Submit". Now the idea of submission is certainly a biblical one; since it is inherent in the phrase "bow the knee", whether before Joseph in Gen.41:43., or before the Lord Jesus Christ in Phil.2:10.. Yet the prefix 'sub' looks suspect as standing for the Greek prefix meta, which means "after", since the suffix expected would be hupo. So the question we now need to ask is: What does the word Submit really mean ? Probably a fair definition of this verb would be: 

The former of these is no doubt of modern usage and the latter is now used less frequently though possibly closer to the basic meaning. 

By consulting the "Greek and English Lexicon" of M. Wright it is noted that for "Submit" the Greek equivalents suggested are hupopiptO and hupeikO. The first is not in the NT and can be disregarded, but the second word does occur just once, in Heb.13:17, where the AV quite properly has "submit". Some translators have the word "obey" here; but reference to peitharcheO in its four occurrences shows that here again the AV is right in translating all of them as "obey". But the AV is wrong to read "submit" in lCor.16:16. ,Col.3:18.,Jas.4:7.,lPet.2:13. and lPet.5:5, where the Greek word is hupotassO, rightly reading throughout in the RV as "subjection". These are not insignificant issues nor quibbles: we are dealing with the inspired text of holy writ. 

So why does the word "submit" properly occur in Scripture only once ?  Is it not because it means a single act in time; whereas the believer on the Lord Jesus Christ is called upon to dedicate himself to Him in irrevocable allegiance not limited by time ?  But the word hupeikO. lays claim to "submit" as its proper counterpart, which thus is debarred from representing any other Greek word. 

Turning now to the OT it will be found that the Hebrew word NACHAM appears in the AV as "repent" over forty times, yet there are as many as sixty places where it appears as "comfort", and both are valid translations. So how can this one word embody such a diversity of meaning ?  It is because it carries a broad basic meaning which calls for the context to narrow it down to a precise sense. 

The following is submitted as the general definition of the verb NACHAM

To become re-adjusted in one's feelings. 

According to its particular context NACHAM can more closely come within one of these three specific definitions :

The definition (a) is represented in Greek by the word parakaleO, which the LXX uses some forty-five times. The authority for this identity is established, by the principle of Divine Interchange, from Jer.31:15. where NACHAM is equatable with parakaleO. in Matt.2:18.. The English equivalent is "comfort", as here and elsewhere; but its meaning also requires the word "beseech", as Matt.8:5. etc. 

The definition (b) is represented in Greek by the word metamelomai which the LXX uses four times for NACHAM. By the Divine Interchange rule the word NACHAM in Psa.110:4. is identified as metamelomai in Heb.7:21.. In 2Cor.7:8. this word in the RV is twice translated "regret", which is its proper equivalent and should also be this reading in the other four NT occurrences. 

The definition (c) is represented in Greek by metanoeO, which the LXX uses some sixteen times for NACHAM. There is no NT example of its being quoted from the OT, but the NT writers were well acquainted with the LXX and would have used the word in just the same sense. It is properly equated in English with "repent" in its original meaning as a change of heart - being not so much a mental process as an emotional one. 

It is thus submitted that the Greek word metanoia, with its cognates, is not properly translated by the second definition of "submit", but that it is properly translated by the second definition of "repent", i.e. a change of heart. 

It is problematic that Scripture states that God cannot repent, yet there are several instances where He is said to do so. On this point Keil and Delitzsch in their Commentary on the Old Testament, with reference to Numbers 23:19, say, "With regard to His own counsels, God repents of nothing; but this does not prevent the repentance of God, understood as an anthropopathic expression, denoting the pain experienced by the love of God, on account of the destruction of His creatures". 

M.S.Lloyd. Glasgow .October 1992 

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