The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel.

Mark 1:15

Repentance stems from Latin repenitire. While re- can be at times used to bring intensity, it does so by saying that something is repetitive. Re- means once more, again, anew, back to the original place.

Penitire comes from poena, which is the root of the English penal and means punishment, penalty, sentence. Penitire means to regret.

Thus, to repent means to regret over and over again.

The word repent has come in when the bible was translated into Latin, and it was in the heads of the first translators of the bible due to their inheritance and imprint. Remember that at that time, only the Latin bible was taught.

So, let’s go back to the Greek. The word used in Greek is metanoeo, the verb behind metanoia.

This word too is a contraction. We use the preposition meta frequently, and it has taken on the meaning of on a more abstract level. Originally, it meant amid, in the midst.

Noeo is the verb behind noos, which is the mind, and means to observe, to perceive.

Metanoeo could be translated to put in the center of your attention, or to make something the object of your conscious thinking.

And suddenly, it is not about punishment, not even about sin any longer.

A better translation, without the baggage of Latin and Catholic theology, would therefore be:

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: make this the focal point of your thinking and believe the good news!

Mark 1:15

Well, it was not only latin that connected metanoia with sin. It was this verse as well:

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

Mark 1:4

This speaks of John the Baptist shortly before Jesus comes on the scene. Here, the baptism seems to be one of again and again regretting. Regretting what? Since the baptism was for the remission of sins, the regret must have been about sins also.

The baptism of John was one of regretting sins again and again. We can see the repetitiveness in the baptism culture of the Essenes.

This baptism was for the forgiveness of sins. Remember the theology of the time: sacrifices only postponed the payback for the sins for another year. The repetitiveness of the necessity of baptism seemed logical, therefore the use of the word repentance.

Again, the word used here in the Greek is metanoia, this time as a noun.

With our new understanding of the word, how about this translation:

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism as means to put forth the forgiveness of sins as our focal point.

Mark 1:4

But there is more.

Hamartia is translated as sins here. It is plural, and therefore translated as sins.

In an earlier installment, I have shown that hamartia does mean to have no part.

Sin is to believe to have no part. It is the believe that God is not letting us have part in everything, thus withholding something from us which we have to attain to be like him.

Sins are the outflow from that belief.

The word for remission or forgiveness, aphesis, actually means to cause to stand away from.

Let’s give translation another try.

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism as a means for us to make it our priority that we let go of the belief we have that we have no part in God.

Mark 1:4

Let me give you an example of repentance theology at work:

I live in a Swiss town at the German border that has the only bridge to Germany for miles on both sides.

During WWII, this bridge was closed and Jews were not let in, even when it became known what was happening to them in Germany. The area on the German side was one of the first to be “clean of Jews”.

Since I live here, the same churches have organized multiple prayer sessions, walks, and meetings to repent for the sins of that time.

This stems from several beliefs, one of which is the deep seating of repentance. It also is seated in a theology that believes that our wrong doings give food and authority to spiritual beings that exist outside of us in their own right, these beings being subject to us and us having authority over them, if we repent from our sins and accept our identity.

There is some truth in that, but it is so twisted due to a confused externalizing belief system.

Spirits are no beings per se, they are mindsets that gain power over us by us entertaining them. Once a mindset becomes shared belief, it becomes powerful in its own right because changing one’s own mind does not eliminate it in others. Peer pressures, imprint, and cultural construction are so powerful especially when they are sustained over generations.

The repetitiveness of repentance therefore has us feed the mindset of guilt and shame over what has happened over and over again. It prolongs the lifespan of the “spirit,” feeds it, and renews its power.

And as for identity, probably the only correct point in this belief system: we are the sons of God, we are the ones receiving and reflecting him, and we do so not by perpetuating the war between good and evil–as this is from the wrong tree and the problem in and of itself–, but by reflecting the mindset of God:

You are a part, an essential part. You belong, no matter what.

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: make this the focal point of your thinking and believe the good news!

Mark 1:15