What is Repentance?
Repentance is a change of thought to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God, and resolving to live a more responsible and humane life. It typically includes an admission of guilt, a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.
In Biblical Hebrew, the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: שוב shuv (to return) and נחם nicham (to feel sorrow). In the New Testament, the word translated as ‘repentance‘ is the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia), “after/behind one’s mind”, which is a compound word of the preposition ‘meta’ (after, with), and the verb ‘noeo’ (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by ‘after’ and ‘different’; so that the whole compound means: ‘to think differently after’. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind accompanied by regret and change of conduct, “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”. A description of repentance in the New Testament can be found in the parable of the prodigal son found in the Gospel of Luke (15 beginning at verse 11).
In the Hebrew Bible
In the Hebrew Bible, repentance generally leads to salvation. In some cases, individuals or nations repent of their sins and are spared God’s judgment. Sometimes the punishment avoided is destruction in this life, sometimes it is damnation. In the book of Jonah, the prophet initially chose to disobey God’s command, and then he repented and became obedient. However, Jonah returned to disobedience when he hoped for the destruction of the city of Nineveh. In the Book of Job, Job never repented of any particular sin or activity when he went through his major dilemma. The Hebrew term teshuvah (lit. “return”) is used to refer to “repentance”. This implies that transgression and sin are the natural and inevitable consequence of man’s straying from God and His laws, and that it is man’s destiny and duty to be with God. The Bible states that God’s loving-kindness is extended to the returning sinner.
The Torah (five books of Moses) distinguishes between offenses against God and offenses against man. In the first case the manifestation of repentance consists in: (1) Confession of one’s sin before God (Lev. 5:5; Num. 5:7), the essential part being a solemn promise and firm resolve not to commit the same sin again. (2) Making certain prescribed offerings (Lev. 5:1-20). Offenses against man require, in addition to confession and sacrifice, restitution in full of whatever has been wrongfully obtained or withheld from one’s fellow man, with one-fifth of its value added thereto (Lev. 5:20-26). If the wronged man has died, restitution must be made to his heir; if he has no heir, it must be given to the priest who officiates at the sacrifice made for the remission of the sin (Num. 5:7-9).
There are other manifestations of repentance mentioned in the Bible. These include pouring out water, which symbolizes the pouring out of one’s heart before God; prayer self-affliction, as fasting; wearing sackcloth; sitting and sleeping on the ground. However, the Prophets disparaged all such outer manifestations of repentance, insisting rather on a complete change of the sinner’s mental and spiritual attitude. In Isaiah 55:7, the Bible states that repentance brings pardon and forgiveness of sin. Apart from repentance, no other activities, such as sacrifices or religious ceremonies can secure pardon and forgiveness of sin.
Rabbinic Jewish literature contains extensive discussions on the subject of repentance. Many rabbinic sources state that repentance is of paramount importance to the existence of this world, so that it was one of the seven provisions which God made before the Creation (Talmud Bavli, tractates Pesahim 54a; Nedarim 39b; Midrash Genesis Rabbah 1). “The Holy One, blessed be His name, said to Elijah, ‘Behold, the precious gift which I have bestowed on my world: though a man sins again and again, but returns in penitence, I will receive him'” (Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 28b). “Great is repentance: it brings healing into the world”; “it reaches to the throne of God” (Hosea 14:2, 5); “it brings redemption” (Isiah 59:20); “it prolongs man’s life” (Ezekiel 18:21; Talmud Yoma 86a). “Repentance and works of charity are man’s intercessors before God’s throne” (Talmud Shabbath 32a). Sincere repentance is equivalent to the rebuilding of the Temple, the restoration of the altar, and the offering of all the sacrifices.
Sincere repentance is manifested when the same temptation to sin, under the same conditions, is ever after resolutely resisted. “He that confesses his sin and still clings to it is likened to a man that holds in his hand a defiling object; though he batheth in all the waters of the world he is not cleansed; but the moment he casteth the defiling object from him a single bath will cleanse him, as it is said ‘Whosoever confesses and forsakes them [his sins] shall have mercy'”.
According to Jewish doctrine, repentance is the prerequisite of atonement. Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, derives its significance only from the fact that it is the culmination of the ten penitential days with which the Jewish religious year begins; and therefore it is of no avail without repentance; (Midrash Sifra, Emor, 14.). Though man ought to be penitent every day (Mishna Avoth Chap 2, 10; Talmud Shabbath 153a), the first ten days of every year are the acceptable time announced by the prophet (Isaiah 55:6): “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near” (Talmud Rosh Hashan 18a; Mishneh Torah Teshuva 2:6). Repentance and the Day of Atonement only absolve one from sins committed against God; from sins against another person they absolve only when restitution has been made and the pardon of the offended party has been obtained (Talmud Yoma 87a; Mishneh TorahTeshuva2:9).
No one need despair on account of his or her sins, for every penitent sinner is graciously received by God. (Jeremiah 31:9). Jewish doctrine holds that it is never too late, even on the day of death, to return to God with sincere repentance for “as the sea is always open for everyone who wishes to cleanse himself, so are the gates of repentance always open to the sinner”. Jewish doctrine states that the hand of God is continually stretched out to receive a sinner. One view in the Talmud holds that a repentant sinner attains a more exalted spiritual eminence than one who has never sinned (Talmud Berakhoth 34b.) It is a sin to taunt a repentant sinner by recalling their former sinful ways. Repentance occupies a prominent position in all the ethical writings of the Middle Ages. Bahya ibn Paquda devotes a special section to it in his ‘Hovot ha-Levavot”, “Gate of Repentance.” Maimonides devotes the last section of “Sefer ha-Madda'” in his Mishneh Torah to the subject. One of the most significant medieval works on Repentance is “Shaarei Teshuva,” the “Gates of Repentance” by Rabbeinu Yona of Gerona.
The word tawbah (repentance) in Arabic literally means ‘to return’, and is mentioned in the Qur’an. In an Islamic context, it refers to the act of leaving what Allah Has prohibited and returning to what He Has Commanded.
The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance “Repentance Dharma” is one of the “Eighty-Four Thousand Dharma-Doors” in Buddhism, and yet it is one of the most important and expedient dharmas. It enables people to reform to a new proper path of life.
In Hawaiian Tradition
Hoʻoponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, combined with (repentance) prayers. Similar forgiveness practices were performed on islands throughout the South Pacific, including Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand. Traditionally hoʻoponopono is practiced by healing priests or kahuna lapaʻau among family members of a person who is physically ill. Modern versions are performed within the family by a family elder, or by the individual alone.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia