of the 

 St. Mary Magdalen and the Monk
Brev.Martin of Aragon, BNF R
OTH 25293, p.54v


 THE  English words repentance and conversion (and their cognates) are generally used to translate three different Greek words:

1) epistrophē/ἐπιστροφή: conversion in a physical sense; turning around, turning back, returning.

2) metameleia/μεταμέλεια:  repentance at an emotional or affective level; regret, being sorry, changing of purpose, changing one’s mind.

3) metanoia/μετάνοια: repentance, change of heart, turning from one’s sins, conversion. (of these three terms, this is the one most commonly used in the New Testament)



The following is adapted from:
H. G. Liddell, R. Scott, H. S.Jones, & R.McKenzie, (Clarendon, Oxford University Press: Oxford;  New York, 1996)




THE VERB, epistréphō, ἐπιστρέφω

1. turn about, turn round, put an enemy to flight, wheel about, wheel through a right angle; whirl, of ships, put about, of a wild boar, turn upon the hunter, of an illness, recur.

2. turn towards,

3. turn or convert from an error, correct, cause to repent, warn, coerce, to be converted, return, (Matt.13.15, Luke.22.32) Philos., cause to return to the source of Being

4. curve, twist, to be distorted; of a tree, crooked; of the sun, revolve.

3. turn the mind towards, pay attention to, regard,  return to oneself, pay attention

THE NOUN, epistrophē, ἐπιστροφή

1. turning about, twisting,

2. bending of a bow

3. curve, winding of a bay, of a river, (b) turn of affairs, reaction, counter-revolution, (c) attention paid to a person or thing

4. moving up and down in a place, men who have no business here,

5. intentness, vehemence, (b) gravity of deportment,

6. correction, reproof

7. conversion, Acts.15.3

8. in Philos., return to the source of Being

9. in Logic, conversion of a propositon





THE VERB, metamelomai, μεταμέλομαι

1. feel repentance, regret [Mat 21:29;of Judas, 27:3]

2. repent at a thing,

3. change one’s purpose or line of conduct.

THE NOUN, metameleia, μεταμέλεια

1. change of purpose, regret, repentance,




THE VERB, metanoéō, μετανοέω

1. perceive afterwards or too late, opp. προνοέω,

2. change one’s mind or purpose, change one’s opinion and think that it is not .

3. repent

THE NOUN, metanoia, μετάνοια

1. change of mind or heart, repentance, regret


The following is adapted from:
of the
G. KITTEL, tr. G. Bromley, (Eerdmans, 1963)


 EPISTROPHĒ /πιστροφή


1. In CLASSICAL GREEK. [...] means “to convert,” “to change” (someone); “to turn to,” “to turn against […]

2. In the OLD TESTAMENT. […]

[A] In narrative the verb denotes movements, turnings, changes of place. Sometimes it can mean “give back” or “repay”; “to turn to someone,” “to bring to someone’s side” (1 Ch. 10:14; 12:24) […] The bringing back of the people from captivity in Babylon is an act of divine grace to which there corresponds the “turning” of the people to God and its “conversion” from sins,  The desire to “return” to Egypt shows how stiff-necked the people is  and corresponds to the “turningto evil.

[B] Acc. to Jer. 2:27 the apostate people turns its back on Yahweh, cf. Bar. 2:33 (vl.). […] . The prayer of the righteous is orientated exclusively to the possibility that God might “turn again” to His people, Ps. 89:13, cf. 6:5; 13:7; 125:4. This explains the simple request: “Convert us(Ps. 79:4, 8, 15, 20) at least in the Septuagint […]. In Ps. 19:7 again the Septuagint has in mind an alteration of the state of the soul under the influence of the Law and this has to be calledconversion,” […]

3. In the NEW TESTAMENT. epistrephō/ἐπιστρέφω occurs 39 times and the noun epistrophē/ἐπιστροφή once. Half the instances are in Luke’s writings. Again about a half have a spatial reference and denote physical movement

Luke 17:4 links outward and inward turning:

3TAKE heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents  [metanoēsē], forgive him;  4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns [epistrepsē] to you seven times, and says, “I repent, [metanoō]” you must forgive him.

 3 προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς. ἐὰν ἁμάρτῃ ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἐπιτίμησον αὐτῷ͵ καὶ ἐὰν μετανοήσῃ ἄφες αὐτῷ· 4 καὶ ἐὰν ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ καὶ ἑπτάκις ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς σὲ λέγων͵ Μετανοῶ͵ ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ.

Here epistrephō/ἐπιστρέφω and metanoeō/μετανοέω are closely related. The turning to the injured party is a making of contact, a renewing of personal relation; to this is added the necessary change in inner attitude. [...]

d. In the revelation to Zacharias concerning the precursor John (Lk. 1:16 f.) there is reference in a fully OT sense to the leading back (conversion) of many sons of Israel to the Lord their God. At the same time a sign of the age of salvation is given; the disruption of the people will be ended with the turning of the fathers to the sons in love, cf. Mal. 3:24 […]. In Luke 22:32 […]  we find it in a saying to Peter. By reason of the intercession of Jesus Peter’s faith will not wholly fail when he falls. He can turn back to Jesus, or rather the Risen Lord will lead him back by His revelation, so that he can then strengthen the brethren by preaching the resurrection.

The verb is employed transitively in the direction to the community in James 5:19 f. This refers to the bringing back of the erring member by the Christian brother. He who accomplishes this restoration has saved a soul from spiritual death and by his act made good his own sins (or those of the other?).[...] The twofold content of the Christian concept of conversion is clearly expressed here. It relates to both Jews and Gentiles, though one is to think especially of the latter. Acts 14:15 speaks of “turning aside” from vain idols. [...]  In  Acts 26:20 Paul tells how he carried out his commission:

[I] declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles,

 ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἐν Δαμασκῷ πρῶτόν τε καὶ Ἱεροσολύμοις͵ πᾶσάν τε τὴν χώραν τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπήγγελλον
that they should repent (metanoein) and turn (epistrephein) to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.(metanoias). μετανοεῖν καὶ ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν ἄξια τῆς μετανοίας ἔργα πράσσοντας.

Here repentance precedes turning to God, and both are confirmed by corresponding works. Conversion is thus a change in which the main concern is turning to God. […]

Bertram Georg Bertram, Giessen (Vol. 1–5, 7–8).


 METAMELOMAI /μεταμέλομαι


1. Metanoein/μετανοεῖν and metamelesthai/μεταμέλεσθαι are distinct in classical Greek:

[A] metanoein/μετανοεῖν means a change of heart either generally or in respect of a specific sin,

[B] whereas metamelesthai/μεταμέλεσθαι means “to experience remorse.”1

 [A] Metanoein/μετανοεῖν implies that one has later arrived at a   different view of something (nous/νοῦς), [B] metamelesthai / μεταμέλεσθαι that one has a different feeling about it (melei/μέλει). But it is easy for the two ideas to come together and even merge, since a change of view often carries with it an uncomfortable feeling. [. . .]

2. [. . .] WHEN “remorse” is ascribed to man, there is an obvious difference from repentance (metanoein/μετανοεῖν), though the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) does pay tribute to the Hellenistic attempt to assimilate metamelesthai/μεταμέλεσθαι, and metanoein/μετανοεῖν  (cf. Jer. 4:28; 20:16). Remorse does not have to be pleasing to God. It can be simply a change in mood (Ex. 13:17; 1 Macc. 11:10). It is often the natural result of imprudent and unjust action (Sir. 33:20;Prv. 5:11; 25:8).

In remorse (metamelesthai/μεταμέλεσθαι) a man sees the bitter end of sin,

in repentance (metanoein/μετανοεῖν) he breaks free from it.

 Remorse comes of itself at the end of a sinful and foolish way. But a man is called to repentance by the one who brings the divine Word (μετανοετε, Mk. 1:15).

3. The least frequent of these three terms in the New Testament.  Used only four times:

Matthew 21:29 “And [the second son answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went.” (ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· οὐ θέλω, ὕστερον δὲ μεταμεληθεὶς ἀπῆλθεν.)

 Matthew 27:3 “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.” (Τότε ἰδὼν Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ὅτι κατεκρίθη, μεταμεληθεὶς ἔστρεψεν τὰ τριάκοντα ἀργύρια τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ πρεσβυτέροις)

 2 Corinthians 7:8 “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.” (Ὅτι εἰ καὶ ἐλύπησα ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ, οὐ μεταμέλομαι· εἰ καὶ μετεμελόμην, βλέπω [γὰρ] ὅτι ἡ ἐπιστολὴ ἐκείνη εἰ καὶ πρὸς ὥραν)

 Hebrews 7:21 “Those who formerly became priests took their office without an oath, but this one was addressed with an oath, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, `You are a priest for ever.’“(ὁ δὲ μετὰ ὁρκωμοσίας διὰ τοῦ λέγοντος πρὸς αὐτόν· ὤμοσεν κύριος καὶ οὐ μεταμεληθήσεται· σὺ ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.)


 METANOIA /μετάνοια





[...] the verb metanoéō/μετανοέω [1] can first mean “to note after, later,” often with the implication “too late,” [2.] It can then mean “to change one’s mind (nous/νος),” which, in view of the many senses of nous/νος , might mean “to adopt another view,” “to change one’s feelings,”  [3.] From sense 2., if the change of mind derives from recognition that the earlier view was foolish, improper or evil, there arises the sense “to regret,” “to feel remorse,” “to rue,”

[...] the noun metanoia/μετάνοια [can mean]: [1] change of mind.” This may affect the feelings, the will, or thought. It is seldom a function of the intellect alone, [2] The second is “regret,” “remorse.” This expresses dissatisfaction with thoughts cherished, plans followed, acts performed etc. In the dissatisfaction there may reside no more than the wish that these things had not been thought, willed, or done, even. though good,

IN pre-biblical and extra-biblical usage metanoéō/μετανοέω and metanoia/μετάνοια are not firmly related to any specific concepts. At the first stage they bear the intellectual sense of “subsequent knowledge.” With further development both verb and noun then come to mean “change of mind,” “repentance,” in an emotional and volitional sense as well. The change of opinion or decision, the alteration in mood or feeling, which finds expression in the terms, is not in any sense ethical. It may be for the bad as well as the good. IN the latter case, when metanoia/μετάνοια denotes a change in moral judgment, regret for wrongs etc. which have been committed, the reference is always to an individual instance of change of judgment or remorse in respect of a specific act which is now no longer approved. For the Greeks metanoia/μετάνοια never suggests an alteration in the total moral attitude, a profound change in life’s direction, a conversion which affects the whole of conduct.[…]

THE Hellenistic philosophers use metanoia/μετάνοια predominantly in the intellectual sense, though the ethical element is also included. By a penitent alteration of judgment, by reconsideration, e.g., by the correction of a mistaken view, the fool becomes a wise man, On the Stoic view however the wise man is above a metanoia/μετάνοια . This would not show him to be in harmony with himself. It would represent him as the victim of error, which as the opposite of the virtue of wisdom is beneath the dignity of the sage. These ideas do not constitute a bridge to what the New Testament understands by metanoia/μετάνοια.





In the Septuagint, as in secular Greek., metanoéō/μετανοέω and metanoia/μετάνοια are comparatively rare[…] μετανοέω thus approximates to epistrephō/ἐπιστρέφω == suwr/שׁוּב  “to go back again,” “to turn,” “to convert.”, the Old Testament term for religious and ethical conversion. In […] prophetic passages it also refers not merely to the individual case of penitent change of mind but to an alteration in total attitude, to the relation to God which embraces the whole of life, to a change in nature which results from a reorientation brought about by God (Jeremiah. 38:18 f.).

In the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha […] the terms metanoéō/μετανοέω and metanoia/μετάνοια signify the OT religious and moral concept of conversion.  Echoes from the prophetic call for conversion are heard again. The core is a total change in the relation to God as a gift and task from God. […] Conversion is the presupposition of deliverance (Sir. 17:24; Vit. Ad. 4:6; cf. 4 Esr. 7:82). It is an external achievement of man which is necessary to salvation and whose achievement can be promoted by customary or selected cultic and ritual forms, e.g., penance or penitential exercises to pay for offences committed or specific sins. Thus we find prayers of lamentation (Test. S. 2:13), confession of sin (Ps. Sol. 9:6 f.; Prayer of Man. 9 ff.; Test. G. 6:3; Apc. Mos. 32) accompanied by self-imposed punishments of varying severity, fasting , asceticism etc. (Test. S. 3:4; R. 1:9 f.; Jud. 15:4; 19:2; Apc. Mos. 32; cf. Vit. Ad. 4 ff., 17). A […] zeal for penance [i.e penitential ACTS] tends to crowd out the great concept of a conversion embracing man’s whole being[…]





[§ 1] IN the teaching of Jesus according to the Synoptists metanoéō/μετανοέω is again the imperative which is indissolubly bound up with the indicative of the message of the Kingdom (Mk. 1:15; Mt. 4:17). But Jesus does not merely repeat the call of the Baptist. He modifies and transcends it by making conversion a fundamental requirement which necessarily follows from the present reality of the eschatological Kingdom in His own person. To call to conversion is the purpose of His sending (Lk. 5:32). His preaching of conversion far surpasses even the most powerful of such preaching before (Mt. 12:39 ff.). The miracles which Jesus performs are also a summons to conversion (Mt. 11:20 ff. par.; cf. Lk. 5:8). metanoia/μετάνοια, related to the will of God which He proclaims, is the way of salvation indicated by Jesus. It is a way which must be taken, not the theoretical description of a way.[...]

[§ 2] JESUS transcends the OT proclamation of conversion (cf. Lk. 16:30 f.) and especially the conversion piety of Judaism. In view of the coming of the Kingdom the traditional Jewish forms of expressing [conversion] e.g., feelings of remorse, gestures of sorrow, works of penance or self-mortification (cf. Mt. 11:21 par.), have no value. God’s definitive revelation demands final and unconditional decision on man’s part. It demands radical conversion, a transformation of nature, a definitive turning from evil, a resolute turning to God in total obedience (Mk. 1:15; Mt. 4:17; 18:3).

[§ 3] HE who does not convert falls under divine judgment (Mt. 11:20 ff. par.; Lk. 13:3, 5; 19:40 ff.; 23:28 ff.). This conversion is once-for-all. There can be no going back, only advance in responsible movement along the way now taken. It affects the whole man, first and basically the centre of personal life, then logically his conduct at all times and in all situations, his thoughts, words and acts (Mt. 12:33 ff. par.; 23:26; Mk. 7:15 par.).

[§ 4] THE whole proclamation of Jesus, with its categorical demands for the sake of God’s kingdom (the Sermon on the Mount, the sayings about discipleship), is a proclamation of metanoia/μετάνοιαeven when the term is not used. It is a proclamation of unconditional turning to God, of unconditional turning from all that is against God, not merely that which is downright evil, but that which in a given case makes total turning to God impossible (Mt. 5:29 f., 44; 6:19 f.; 7:13 f. par.; 10:32–39 par.; Mk. 3:31 ff. par.; Lk. 14:33, cf. Mk. 10:21).

[§ 5] AS distinct from all forms of eschatological enthusiasm, or moralism, or casuistry, the demand for conversion is the one and only imperative in Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom of God. It is addressed to all without distinction and presented with unmitigated severity in order to indicate the only way of salvation there is. It calls for total surrender, total commitment to the will of God: God, be merciful to me, a sinner (Lk. 18:13). It is a conversion to the God who seeks out sinners rather than the righteous (Lk. 15:7, 10, cf. 17ff.; 5:32; 13:3, 5).

[§ 6] JESUS brought out the radicalism of His summons to conversion in His mortal conflict with the Pharisees. In the preaching of Jesus faith grows out of conversion (Mk. 1:15), not as a second thing which He requires, but as the development of the positive side of metanoia/μετάνοια, the turning to God. Conversion as Jesus understands it is not just negative. It is more than a break with the old nature in face of the threat of eschatological judgment. It embraces the whole walk of the person who is claimed by the divine lordship. It carries with it the founding of a new personal relation of the person to God, i.e., of faith. “To convert,” “to be converted,” embraces all that the dawn of God’s kingdom demands of the person.

[§ 7] BUT this unconditional requirement is not met by one’s own achievement. In Mt. 18:3 Jesus shows from the example of the child what “to convert,” “to become another person,” means for Him:

UNLESS you turn (straphēte) and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. ἐὰν μὴ στραφῆτε καὶ γένησθε ὡς τὰ παιδία͵ οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.

[§ 8] TO be a child  is to be little, to need help, to be receptive to it. He who is converted becomes little before God, ready to let God work in him. The children of the heavenly Father whom Jesus proclaims  are those who simply receive from Him. He gives them what they cannot give themselves (cf. Mk. 10:27 par.). This is true of metanoia/μετάνοια. It is God’s gift, and yet it does not cease to be a binding requirement. It is both these at one and the same time; it is this so unconditionally as to rule out any calculated playing off of the one aspect against the other . Behind the call for conversion which Jesus issues with His announcement of the rule of God there stands the promise of the transformation which He effects as the One who brings in this rule (cf. Mt. 11:28 ff.). If the water baptism of John, whose divine commission Jesus recognised (Mk. 11:30 par.), effected the conversion of those who awaited the fulfilment of salvation (Mt. 3:11), the spiritual baptism which Jesus gives in the full might of the Consummator of the world is none other than the impartation of divine power which creates persons who are subject to the divine rule, i.e., converted persons. For all its [apparent] severity the message of Jesus concerning metanoia/μετάνοιαdoes not drive us to the torture of penitential works or to despair. It awakens joyous obedience for a life according to God’s will. […]


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