SEED & BREAD
MetanoeO - PROBLEM PASSAGES
(Originally published 10 Aug. 79)
It is taken for granted that the reader of this study has already
considered what has been said in leaflets that have preceded it (Issues
No. 106 and 107). In declaring that the words submit, yield and ease
will honestly translate every occurrence of metanoeO and enlighten the
passages in which this word is found, certain problems are created in
some verses which are easily solved once they are carefully considered.
It is now being declared by many that the word metanoeO means "turn ye."
This idea has received much acceleration due to its incorporation into
The Living Bible, a rewriting of Godís Word which presents Ken Taylorís
concept of what the Bible says. "Turn from your sins, and turn to God,"
is Taylorís concept of the ideas contained in metanoeO. And even though
this is very good advice, it bears no resemblance to what John and the
Lord Jesus said.
If Jesus had meant "turn from your sins and turn to God," the word he
would have used is epistrephO, a word of frequent occurrence in the New
Testament, and the word Theos (God) would also have been used. If in
Matthew 4:17 Jesus Christ had meant to say "turn ye" or "reverse
yourself," he would have used the word epistrepheO, or, maybe strephO.
StrephO means to move around so as to face in a different direction, and
it is used both literally (John 20:14) and figuratively (Acts 7:39) in
the New Testament.
The words metanoeO and epistrephO are both found in Acts 3:19: "Submit (metanoeO)
ye therefore and be turned about (epistrephO), that your sins may be
blotted out." The appearance of these two words in the same sentence
caused Ken Taylor to come up with a different meaning for metanoeO and
translate it: "Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to Him"
(The Living Bible).
The paragraph above prompts me to say that if anyone is going to build
positive Biblical theology and present it as Godís truth, whether as a
teacher of a Bible class or a pastor in the pulpit, he had better not
base it upon the declarations made in The Living Bible; at least not
until he has checked them out and found that they bear some resemblance
to the original Greek, which is seldom the case in Ken Taylorís Version.
If metanoeO means "turn about," then we would not find Paul using both
metanoeO and epistrephO in Acts 26:20. There he declares that he had
proclaimed to the Gentiles: "That they should submit (metanoeO) and turn
(epistrephO) to God, and do work worthy of submission." We can rest
assured that Paul was not repeating himself when he used two distinct
A passage such as Luke 17:3,4 could give difficulty unless we keep in
mind that these words were spoken by the Lord to His twelve special
disciples, men who had the apostolic position out of Him. They were
authorized to sit in judgement in disputes among other disciples, also
in regard to any offence that was committed against them personally.
This was an authority that could easily be abused. Their position as the
Lordís apostles, the powers that accompanied their positions, and their
future expectations made them targets for many snares, accusations, and
slanders. They were warned that these could come, and they were
instructed as to what action to take. "Take heed to yourselves. If your
brother should be sinning (against you), rebuke him; and if he yields,
forgive him. And if he should ever be sinning against you seven times a
day, and if he should ever be turning about (epistrephO) seven times in
a day saying, I submit, thou shalt forgive him." (Luke 17:3,4).
Our Lord was here laying down judicial principles to guide these men who
were destined to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of
Israel. It is not strange at all when the apostles heard this they
immediately said: "Lord, increase our faith," which meant, "Lord give us
greater ability to take Thee at Thy word and act accordingly."
We have no right to rebuke any sinner, and neither can our forgiveness
of him be made to depend upon him submitting to our rebuke. Luke 17:1-4
was truth for the apostles. We can learn from it but must not
appropriate it for ourselves. Submission to all who rule under God will
be the duty of all when God governs the earth.
In Acts 8:22 we come upon the first passage where metanoeO is related to
wickedness. The favorite phrase of the "hot gospel" preachers, "Repent
of your sins!" is not to be found anywhere in the Word of God. This
phrase has started many out on a useless effort since "repentance," no
matter how you define it, will not cleanse a man of the least of his
sins. It is as ineffectual as the water with which Pilate washed his
hands. However, submission is certainly the first gate through which one
must pass to get to the fount of cleansing, the blood of Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, Peter did use it in connection with the sin of Simon the
sorcerer, and the passage becomes more complicated due to the usage of
apo (from). Because of this I would translate this passage: "Ease
(unburden) yourself therefore from this evil of yours."
The great burden of guilt which Simon had brought upon himself is seen
in the words of Peter when he said: "You are in the gall of bitterness
and a bond of iniquity." Nevertheless, in mercy Peter called upon him to
ease himself from this great load of guilt (have another mind about it)
and beseech the Lord, if, consequently the thought of his heart might be
forgiven him. Simon yielded at once, as Acts 8:24 shows.
Another problem that arises is found in 2 Cor. 7:8-10. A more accurate
translation will solve this. Here Paul says: "For though I made you
sorry with a letter, I do not regret (metamelomai) it. For I perceive
that the letter has made you sorry, even if it be for a season. Now I
rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you were made sorry to
submission (metanoia), for you were made sorry according to God, that
you may forfeit nothing by us. For sorrow according to God is producing
submission unto salvation not to be regretted (metamelomaO), yet the
sorrow of this world is producing death."
In 2 Cor. 12:20,21 we meet with another problem occasioned by the
occurrence of epi (on) in this passage. The difficulty persists for all
interpreters, no matter how they translate metanoeO. I would translate
this as follows: "For I fear, lest perhaps, on coming, I may not be
finding you as I want you to be; lest perhaps there be strife, jealousy,
angers, factions, vilifications, whisperings, puffings-up, tumults; lest
on my coming back my God will be humbling me toward you, and I shall be
mourning for many who have been hitherto sinning and have not eased
(unburdened) themselves of their uncleanness, and prostitution, and
wantonness which they have practiced."
The book of Revelation contains twelve occurrences of metanoeO and in
five of these it is followed by the word ek, which means "out" (2:21,22;
9:20,21; 16:11). This has been brought forth as an argument against the
use of "submit" as a translation of metanoeO. You cannot "submit out" of
anything, is the way the objection is stated. However, the difficulty
remains no matter how one translates it. And, if idiomatic sense is to
be produced here when rendering these passages into English we will need
to recognize that the preposition ek, which literally means "out of,"
will have to be translated "from," and that the word "ease" is the best
word to use. In view of this I would translate as follows: "And I gave
her time that she should be submitting, but she is not willing to ease
(unburden) herself from her fornication" (Rev. 2:21). "And the rest of
the men who were not killed did not ease (unburden) themselves of the
works of their hands . . . Neither did they ease (unburden) themselves
of their murders, etc." (Rev. 9:20,21). "And they did not ease
(unburden) themselves from their deeds" (Rev. 16:11).
The value of translating as in the above paragraph will be seen more
clearly when we consider the invitation of our Lord in Matt. 11:28-30:
"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and
lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
This was not a new message. It is the same call to submit that both John
and the Lord had proclaimed before. Long before Isaiah had described the
burden of those "that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it
were with a cart rope" (Isa. 5:18). He must have had in mind the weary
and sore-shouldered oxen that could be seen on almost any road in his
day. He likened sinners to these beasts of burden. Before this he had
spoken of a "sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity" (Isa. 1:4).
Jehovah asks: "Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more
and more" Isa. 1:5. They simply would not submit, they would not lay
down their load of sin and guilt.
It was the mind of Job to fear God and to serve Him, and this he did.
Satan said that Job did this because the Lord had so richly blessed him,
and that his mind would not be the same if this hedge were removed. God
allowed Satan to take it away, but Jobís mind did not change. His answer
was: "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive
evil." Nothing could change his mind. "Though He slay me, yet will I
trust in Him," was his triumphant answer. His mind toward God when
wealthy and in good health was the same in poverty and sickness. Truly,
he had the after-mind.
Submission toward God is an attitude, a way of life, a settled mode of
thinking. It is a mind stayed on Jehovah, kept in perfect union with
Him, based upon faith and trust in Him. It is having the mind of Christ,
who could say: "The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not
rebellious, neither turned away back" (Isa. 50:5). Submission is
receiving Godís word with all readiness of mind (Acts 17:11). It is a
constant state, for even if a submissive one fails, he remains
submissive, yields to God and knows he is forgiven. Submission is having
the mind which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5).
Such a mind is not one that man himself can produce. Jesus Christ is the
author and finisher of such a mind. In our dealing with others we may
detect its complete absence. At such times the slave of the Lord must
not strive and strain to produce an attitude of submission. He must be
gentle, apt to teach, in meekness instructing the one who is standing in
his own light, and it may well be that if he so acts, God will give the
stubborn one submission (metanoia) to the acknowledging of the truth (2
Tim. 2:25). Verily, true submission is a gift from God. We are dependent
upon Him for that state of mind that will open the doors of salvation.
I do not know who first said: "Let go and let God," but it is a fine
piece of advice. It will result in submission. Then we can say: "My
heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise"
Issue no. 108