Saturday, June 3, 2023

Laurentius Valla's Annotations on 2 Corinthians 7:10

“If any of them do not have time to learn the whole Greek language, they will still be helped by the study of Valla, who with wonderful sagacity shook the entire New Testament.” —Erasmus, Letter to Christopher Fisher[1]

* * *

The significance of Laurentius Valla’s contribution to Biblical scholarship and his impact upon it in the 15th and succeeding centuries can hardly be over-estimated. It was Valla’s Annotations on the New Testament (discovered by Erasmus in the library of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Parc in the summer of 1504), that set the pattern for Erasmus’ Novum Testamentum: his ground-breaking translation of the New Testament that was based on the Greek text, not the Latin Vulgate. It was Erasmus’ Greek NT that Martin Luther used as the basis for his 1522 translation of the NT into German, and it was also the basis for William Tyndale’s 1526 translation of the NT into English. The translation of the Bible into the language of the common people—“the plowboy” as Tyndale famously said—is what paved the way for the Reformation in 16th century Europe. This movement based its beliefs and practices upon the teachings of Scripture alone, as opposed to the dogmas & traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus it has well been said that Valla in his day, and Erasmus in his, “who, each in his own way, might be called the harbingers of the Protestant Reformation.” 

Following is my personal translation of Laurentius Valla’s comments on 2 Corinthians 7:10, excerpted from his Annotations on the New Testament. These comments are important from a philological and grammatical point of view in that they describe the true meaning of “repentance” (Gr. metanoia) as being a reconsidering, or a change in one’s judgment. It is well to note that Valla wrote in Latin, commenting on the Greek text of the New Testament. Erasmus is known to have discovered a manuscript copy of Valla’s Annotations, and it so impressed him that he subsequently had it published.[2]

Never before, to my knowledge, have Valla’s Annotations on 2 Corinthians 7:10 been translated into English. I did come across a few translated fragments (which I only used to check my own work), several of these are included in the notes.

May God be pleased to use this translation to enlighten those who have false ideas and wrong views of biblical repentance, and may they come to see the true sense of the Greek word metanoia, as meaning simply a transition of the mind.

From the Latin Vulgate


10. For the sorrow that is according to God worketh penance, steadfast unto salvation; [but the sorrow of the world worketh death]. It is not being returned to a steadfast salvation, nor to penance, which in Greek is called impenitence, ametalemēton, although the two Greek terms, metanoia and metamelia, are different from ours. For penitence is from regret, which is to be weary, or to be reluctant, as in Virgil: “And let him not be sorry of having rubbed the reed with the lip.” [Eclogues ii. 34.] Of which term Aulus Gellius in favor of Marcus Tullius [Cicero] argues against Asinius Pollio, that the Greek words were said to be interpreted in the sense of reconsidering, and care to change for the better: a more elegant expression, as Lactantius says, than ours. [That is, the Greek wording is more elegant than the Latin.] And so in our word [poenitentia] the signification is, sorrow [for something] committed: in the Greek [the signification is], the amendment of the mind. Wherefore those who argue upon this passage, whether sorrow is the same as penance, say nothing [convincing]; they say that there is a threefold penance, one which is contrition, the second which is confession, and the third which is satisfaction. That opinion is false, hence it does nothing to explain Paul’s thought.



10. Quae enim secundum Deum tristitia est, poenitentiam in salutem stabilem operator.] Non refertur stabilem ad salutem, sed ad poenitentiam, quod Graece dicitur Impoenitibilem, ametamelēton, quanquam duo vocabula Graeca, metanoia & metamelia different a nostro. Nam poenitentia dicta est a poenitet, quod est taedet, vel piget, ut apud Vergilium: Nec te poeniteat calamo trivisse labellu.

10. For the sorrow that is according to God worketh penance, steadfast unto salvation; [but the sorrow of the world worketh death]. It is not being returned to a steadfast salvation, nor to penance, which in Greek is called impenitence, ametalemēton, although the two Greek terms, metanoia and metamelia, are different from ours. For penitence is from regret, which is to be weary, or to be reluctant, as in Virgil: “And let him not be sorry of having rubbed the reed with the lip.” [Eclogues ii. 34.]

Other English translations of Virgil’s statement are similar:
• “Nor let it repent thee to run thy tender lip along the reeds” (translated by J. W. MacKail)
• “you’d not regret chafing your lips with the reed” (translated by A. S. Kline)
• “Nor would you be sorry to have chafed your lip with a reed” (translated by H. R. Fairclough)

De quo vocabulo Aul. Gell. pro M. Tulli contra Asinium Pollionem disputat, Graeca vocabula dicta sunt a sensu retractando, & cura in melius mutanda: elegantior dictio, ut ait Lactantius, quam nostra. Itaquie in nostro verbo significatio est, tristitia commissi: in Graecis, mentis emendatio.

Of which term Aulus Gellius in favor of Marcus Tullius [Cicero] argues against Asinius Pollio, that the Greek words were said to be interpreted in the sense of reconsidering, and care to change for the better: a more elegant expression, as Lactantius says, than ours. [That is, the Greek wording is more elegant than the Latin.] And so in our word [poenitentia] the signification is, sorrow [for something] committed: in the Greek [the signification is], the amendment of the mind.

A partial translation of this portion of Valla’s Annotations on 2 Cor. 7:10 is found in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, in the volume (vol. 9b) on 2 Corinthians. Under the heading “THE MEANING OF TRUE REPENTANCE” (p. 216), the following commentary is given: “Lorenzo Valla states that ‘the two Greek nouns metanoia and metamelia have a different meaning than our Latin noun poenitentia. For the noun poenitentia is related to the Latin verb poenitet, which means ‘it irks’ or ‘it annoys.’ But the Greek words metanoia and metamelia are related in their meaning to ‘pulling back’ and ‘concern to change for the better.’ . . . And so, our Latin word poenitentia signifies ‘to become sorrowful,’ while the Greek word metanoia signifies ‘a change of mind.’” (Scott M. Manetsch, Editor, 2 Corinthians, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, IXb [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2022], p. 216, italics, ellipsis, and brackets his. Note: See under the heading: “THE MEANING OF TRUE REPENTANCE.”)

Quare nihil dicunt qui super hunc locum disputantes, an tristitia idem sit quod poenitentia, ajunt triplicem esse poenitentiam, unam quae est contritio, alteram quae est confessio, tertiam quae est satisfactio. Quae sententia cum falsa sit, tum nihil ad explanandam sententiam Pauli faciens.

Wherefore those who argue upon this passage, whether sorrow is the same as penance, say nothing [convincing]; they say that there is a threefold penance, one which is contrition, the second which is confession, and the third which is satisfaction. That opinion is false, hence it does nothing to explain Paul’s thought.

Bentley has a translation of Valla: “At 2 Cor. 7:10 he criticized the use of poenitentia as a translation for metanoia. The Latin word, he observed, connotes weariness or annoyance and does not accurately reflect the more positive sense of the Greek word, ‘reconsidering one’s judgment,’ or ‘concern to become better.’ [....] Behind this philological point there stood an important theological implication: ‘They jabber nonsense,’ Valla argued, ‘who, disputing at this point whether sadness (tristitia) is the same thing as [the sacrament of] penance (poenitentia), maintain that penance is tripartite, composed of contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Since it is false, this opinion contributes nothing to the elucidation of Paul’s teaching.” (Jerry H. Bentley, Humanists and Holy Writ: New Testament Scholarship in the Renaissance [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983], p. 64, first brackets added.)

A similar translation is given by Christopher S. Celenza in his book The Italian Renaissance and the Origins of the Modern Humanities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021). Commenting on Valla’s Annotations on 2 Cor. 7:10, Celenza says that “what matters most to Valla is the word ‘penance.’ He believes the Latin used here, poenitentia [which can be translated as either ‘repentance’ or ‘penance’], does not reflect the meaning of the Greek word it translates, metanoia. As Valla points out (referring to it and to another Greek word [metameleia] in the Letter), this word [metanoia] means something much closer to ‘changing one’s thought to the better’ and ‘changing one’s mind.’” [Valla, Annotations, on 2 Cor. 7, in Valla, Opera Omnia.]
     Thereafter Valla offers a noteworthy bit of commentary, one of those rare times when he chooses to expatiate [i.e. to write at length or in detail], rather than leave his discussion at the purely lexical level. He writes: ‘Therefore, they say nothing at all who, in discussing this passage and whether ‘sorrow’ is the same as ‘penitence,’ say that ‘penitence’ is threefold, with one part being ‘contrition,’ the next ‘confession,’ and the third ‘satisfaction.’ This sentiment is not only false, it also offers nothing at all toward explaining Paul’s meaning.” (Celenza, The Italian Renaissance and the Origins of the Modern Humanities [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021], pp. 51-52, brackets added.)


     “As we survey the later middle ages, from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, we may observe ‘a line of men conspicuous according to the standard of their times, in different walks of intellectual pursuit.’ Learning revived, especially in Italy; men of bold and independent minds began here and there to question the unlimited authority hitherto attached to the holy fathers; a few understood the Greek language, and ventured occasionally to depart from the troddeth path. Among these Wycliffe and Huss, to whom may be added Laurentius Valla, stand preeminent.” (Samuel Davidson, Sacred Hermeneutics, Developed and Applied; Including A History of Biblical Interpretation [Edinburgh: 1842], p. 192.)

     “And in the last foregoing age, how scarce removed out of our sight are Laurentius Valla, both the Earls of Mirandula &c. and the rest of those famous waymakers to the succeeding restitution of the evangelical truth!” (Bp. Hall, Cases of Conscience, cited in Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language [London: 1818], 5 vols., vol. 5, see under the word “WAYMAKER”.)

     “There was Lorenzo della Valle (1407-1457)—better known by the name of Valla—that keen, independent, and penetrating spirit, that close observer of the rules of the ancient language, that founder of scientific grammar.” (Bernhard Ten Brink, translated by Wm. Clarke Robinson, History of English Literature [London: George Bell & Sons, 1901], vol. II, book IV, p. 316.)

     “That this word (metanoia) used in the New Testament, is more fitly translated repentance, to signify a change of the mind, then by them, penance, to betoken some outward penal satisfactory act, thus it is proved.

     Arg. 1. The Greek word everywhere used [in the NT], is metanoia, which signifieth as Laurentius Valla noteth, emendationem mentis, the change or amendment of the mind; and no such outward satisfactory Penance as they pretend.” (Andrew Willet, Synopsis Papismi, that is, A Generall View of Papistrie: Wherein the Whole Mysterie of Iniquitie, and Summe of Anti-Christian Doctrine Is Set Downe, which is maintained this day by the Synagogue of Rome, against the Church of Christ [London: 1614], p. 712. Note: In several places the English has been updated to conform to modern English spelling.)

     “Luther, when first he began to fall away from the Catholic Church, took it upon himself to impugn this doctrine [of penance]. He eliminated from contrition and penance everything savouring of sorrow, of sadness, of bitterness. True contrition, he said, can be found without these; the best of penances is a new life, optima poenitentia nova vita; the rest only serves to make a man a hypocrite and a greater sinner; we must rather be intent on loving justice than on hating sin; nay, our only preoccupation must be how to act for the future.

     In truth, it might have been asked of Luther, what our Lord in His Passion asked of Pilate, ‘Sayest thou this of thyself, or have others told it thee of Me?’ For, Lawrence Valla [in his notes on the seventh chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians] and Erasmus [in his notes on the third chapter of St. Matthew], who, each in his own way, might be called the harbingers of the Protestant Reformation, had already, with a great apparatus of Greek and Hebrew erudition, put forth the opinion that sorrow for the past is not an essential requisite for penance. In the course of time, Theodore Beza [in his commentaries on the third chapter of St. Matthew] adopted this interpretation, and styled the contrary doctrine [i.e. the doctrine of penance] a prejudice of illiterate minds.” (Alexius M. Lepicier, Indulgences: Their Origin, Nature, and Development [London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co. Ltd.], pp. 7-8.)

     “Luther made his admiration for Valla abundantly clear at his table. Valla was the ‘best Italian’ he had come to know: ‘Valla pleases me and he is a good author and a good Christian; I read him avidly.’ Significantly, Luther praised Valla because Valla ‘strove for candidness in piety and in letters at the same time,’ […] Valla was pious and he had provided a Christian rhetoric that left the mysteries of faith unmolested by philosophical reason. He was straightforward, plain or honest, sincere, direct, and also skillful. […] One should recall that Valla had relied on and praised St. Paul as the proper interpreter of Scripture.” (William J. Wright, Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010], pp. 97-98, brackets added.)

     “Luther had much praise for Valla, both as a writer and as a Christian.” (Harry J. McSorley, Luther: Right or Wrong? [New York: Newman Press, 1969], p. 326.)

     Writing to Erasmus, Luther makes the following statement regarding his break with the Roman Catholic Church: “No doubt you feel some hesitation when you see arrayed before you so numerous a succession of learned men, and the unanimous voice of so many centuries illustrated by deeply read divines, and by great martyrs, glorified by numerous miracles, as well as more recent theologians and countless academics, councils, bishops, pontiffs. On this side [that is, on the side of the Roman Catholic Church,] are found erudition, genius, numbers, greatness, loftiness, power, sanctity, miracles, and what not beside? On mine, Wickliff, Laurentius Valla, Augustine, (although you forget him), and Luther, a poor man, a mushroom of yesterday, standing alone with a few friends, without such erudition, genius, numbers, greatness, sanctity, or miracles. Take them all together, they could not cure a lame horse. . . . Et alia quae tu plurima fando enumerare vales (and innumerable other things you could mention). For what are we? What the wolf said of Philomel, Vox et praeterea nihil (a sound, no more). I own, my dear Erasmus, you are justified in hesitating before all these things; ten years since, I hesitated like you. . . . Could I suppose that this Troy, which had so long victoriously resisted so many assaults, would fall in one day? I solemnly call God to witness that I should have continued to fear, and should even now be hesitating, had not my conscience and the truth compelled me to speak.” (Martin Luther, quoted by M. Michelet, Translated by G. H. Smith, The Life of Luther, Gathered from His Own Writings [London: 1846], p. 13, ellipsis his.)

     “Lorenzo Valla. 1407-1457. Italian philologist and rhetorician, perhaps the most brilliant mind of the Renaissance.” (

     “[Valla’s] writings abound with evidence of that singular sagacity and grasp of mind, which sometimes seems to place him, at a bound, centuries ahead of his age.” (Benjamin J. Wallace, Editor, “Laurentius Valla.” Presbyterian Quarterly Review, Vol. IX [Jan. 1861], p. 410.)

     “Laurentius Valla, a fastidious grammarian of the 16th century….” (Edward Gibbon, Edited by H. H. Milman, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: 1846), 6 vols., vol. 4, p. 195. Note: The Roman numerals in the original have been updated to the current format.)

     “The honor of having written the first specifically philological commentary must be assigned to LAURENTIUS VALLA.” (F. W. Farrar, Rev. Samuel Cox, Editor, “The Reformers as Expositors.” The Expositor [1884], Second Series, Vol. VII, p. 46.)

     “The founder of critical scholarship was Lorenzo Valla. He was a born critic, loving opposition, but loving truth still better. We have seen how he applied his critical axe to the traditions of the Catholic Church; and he carried his warfare into every field of knowledge. [...] He even dared to lay hands on the Vulgate itself [in his Annotationes in Novum Testamentum].” (Arthur Tilley, The Dawn of the French Renaissance [Cambridge: The University Press, 1918], p. 36, brackets added. Note: The above statement appears in chapter 1, titled: “THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE”.)

     “[Valla’s] Annotations upon the New Testament have always been well spoken of.” (A New and General Biographical Dictionary [London: 1798], vol. XV, p. 48, brackets added.)

     “His work is the first of the class in modern times, and the one which Erasmus adopted as a basis for his investigations.” (Benjamin J. Wallace, Editor, “Laurentius Valla.” Presbyterian Quarterly Review, Vol. IX [Jan. 1861], p. 407.)

     “[Erasmus’] stupendous undertaking [his critical revision of the New Testament] had been suggested by Lorenzo Valla, in his Annotations to the New Testament. This tractate by Valla seems to have been recovered by Erasmus in the year [1504 or] 1505. It represents the starting-point in Biblical criticism and exegesis.” (Harry Thurston Peck, A History of Classical Philology [New York: The MacMillan Company, 1911], p. 294.)

     “[T]he learned writer [Erasmus] made a positive contribution to the Reformation. His unremitting labors devoted to the revival of the classics brought to his attention the need of an edition of the New Testament based upon the original Greek version, with a translation in Latin, accompanied with scholarly notes. A noble beginning in this direction had been made by the Italian humanist, Lorenzo Valla, whom Erasmus admired above all other humanists. In the year 1504 Erasmus found a copy of the Notes on the New Testament by Valla, which work had not yet been printed. With the aid of this work and ten manuscript copies of the Greek New Testament, Erasmus prepared his new edition and published it in 1516 under the title of Novum Instrumentum. The word ‘Instrument’ was changed to ‘Testament’ in the reprint of 1518, and the change held good for all subsequent editions. In 1519 there appeared the Greek version together with a Latin translation differing considerably from the Vulgate, and also copious notes. At least sixty-five reprints followed before the death of Erasmus in 1536. The Greek text with the commentaries received a cordial welcome from the Oxford Reformers in England, while the Germans profited much from this work. It exerted very great influence upon Luther, Zwingli, and Melanchthon.” (Albert Hyma, “Erasmus of Rotterdam”, Wilfred B. Shaw, Editor, The Quarterly Review of the Michigan Alumnus [Winter 1937], p. 398.)

     “Plurum itaque studiosi debebunt Laurentio. [‘Therefore many scholars will owe a debt to Laurentius.’] Such is the language in which, on behalf of scholars, Erasmus acknowledges their debt to a man whose talents, taste, learning and character—save that Valla had nothing of the timidity of his eulogist—were not dissimilar to his own. The critical judgments of posterity must not only endorse the obligation, but enlarge its measure. Not only the scholar, but the whole after-world [everyone living after Valla’s time], owes a large debt of gratitude to that man, the influence of whose life and writings has now for centuries been felt in that new life of the nations, which dates from the great Reformation of the sixteenth century.” (Albert Hyma, “Erasmus of Rotterdam”, Wilfred B. Shaw, Editor, The Quarterly Review of the Michigan Alumnus [Winter 1937], p. 381, brackets added.)

Appendix 1


Erasmus discovered a manuscript of Valla’s Annotations on the New Testament in the summer of 1504, and it so impressed him that he had it published in 1505. He wrote a somewhat lengthy Preface, of which the following statements are excerpts. Keep in mind that when Erasmus refers to “our version” of the New Testament, he’s referring to Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation, which had by that time been in circulation for well over 1,000 years! Some excerpts from Erasmus’ Preface to Valla’s Annotations on the New Testament (1505) are as follows:

“If men give heed to Nicolas Lyranus when he ventures to criticize Jerome of old, . . . in what consists the sin of Laurentius, if, having collated a few early and authentic Greek MSS., he calls attention to some passages of the New Testament which in the original Greek either deviate from our version or appear to be inadequately translated . . . or find a more expressive setting in the original tongue, or, lastly, if it is evident that some portions of our text are corrupt? It may in all likelihood be said that Valla, the grammarian, cannot pursue the same course as Nicolas, the theologian. I may answer that Laurentius is held in repute amongst the learned both as a philosopher and a theologian. But, setting this fact aside, when Lyranus analyses an expression is he the theologian, or is he the grammarian? The truth is the translation of Scripture is perforce the work of the grammarian . . . and if we cannot look upon Grammar as the first of the Sciences, we must admit that it has an important function to fulfil. . . . If it was possible for errors to creep into the Old Testament Version, particularly as respects matters not vital to the faith, may not the same thing happen in the case of the New Testament? . . . And are we to place human errors at the door of the Divine Spirit? Even should scholars succeed in making a faultless version, that which has been correctly rendered may be tampered with. Jerome revised, and yet his new version has already become corrupted. . . . But it is not permissible, some contend, to alter Holy Writ, seeing that the very points have their own special significance. This only goes to prove how criminal it is to wrest them, and how careful the learned should be to correct the errors of the ignorant, always manifesting, of course, that reverent and cautious scholarship which all books, and especially the Sacred Scriptures, have the right to demand. . . . Should some one say that it is beneath the dignity of theology to be hampered by syntactical rules, and that the interpretation of Holy Writ is a matter of inspiration, I reply that a new claim is thus advanced in the behalf of theologians if it is to be their privilege alone to write nonsense. . . . But I am reminded that the ancient translators were men of learning and that their version is sufficient for all practical purposes. I answer that I have eyes of my own and choose to use them in preference to borrowing the spectacles of others, and further, that much yet remains to be done when the gains of scholarship have been reckoned up at their highest figure.”[3]


[1] This is my personal translation of the Latin, which reads: “Si quibus non vacat totam Graecorum linguam perdiscere, ii tamen Vallae studio non mediocriter adjuvabuntur, qui mira sagacitate Novum omne Testamentum excussit.” (Erasmus, Letter to Christopher Fisher, Epistle 182. Paris [c. March], 1505. Translated with Google Translate. For more information see: Erasmus, Opus epistolarum des Erasmi Roterdami [Oxford: 1906], Revised and Enlarged by P. S. Allen, vol. 1, pp. 406-412.) Note: For an English translation of the same, see Erasmus’ Letter to Christopher Fisher (Epistle 182) in the book by Francis Morgan Nichols, The Epistles of Erasmus: From His Earliest Letters to His Fifty-First Year (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1901), pp. 384-385: “And if there are any who have not the leisure to learn Greek thoroughly, they may still obtain no small help by the studies of Valla, who has examined with remarkable sagacity the whole New Testament”. The Latin word excussit (from excutiō) can be translated either as “shook” or “examined”, hence the difference in wording between the two English translations. There is also an interesting comment by John Foxe from his book Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, related to how Valla “shook” the Latin Vulgate, or shook the dust off the New Testament—which by his time had become so encrusted with the traditions of the church. Foxe says: “By these and such-like sayings, which may be collected innumerable, it may soon be seen what hearts and judgments the people had in those days of the Romish clergy; which thing, no doubt, was of God as a secret prophecy, that shortly religion should be restored; according as it came to pass about this time, when Dr. Martin Luther first began to write; after Picus Mirandula, and Laurentius Valla, and last of all Erasmus of Rotterdam, had somewhat broken the way before, and had shaken the monks’ houses. But Luther gave the [final] stroke, and plucked down the foundation, and all by opening one vein, long hid before, wherein lieth the touchstone of all truth and doctrine, as the only principal origin of our salvation, which is, our free justifying by faith only, in Christ the Son of God.” (John Foxe, Edited by Stephen Reed Cattley, The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe [London:1837], Vol. IV, p. 259.)

[2] Eramus describes the occasion in a letter to his friend Christopher Fisher. Erasmus writes: “When I was hunting last summer in an old library,—for no coverts [hidden places] afford more delightful sport,—some game of no common sort fell unexpectedly into my nets. It was Laurentius Valla’s Notes on the New Testament. I was taken on the spot with the desire to communicate my discovery to all the studious, thinking it churlish to devour the contents of my bag without saying anything about it. I was somewhat frightened, however, not only by the old prejudice against Valla’s name, but also by an objection specially applicable to the present case. But as soon as you had perused the book, you not only confirmed my opinion by your weighty judgment, but began to advise and even urge me with reproaches not to be induced by the clamour of a few to deprive the author of the glory which he deserved, and many thousands of students of so great an advantage, affirming without doubt, that the work would be no less agreeable than useful to healthy and candid minds, while the others with their morbid ideas might be boldly disregarded. In pursuance of your opinion we shall discourse in the present Preface of the purpose and utility of the work, provided that we may premise a few words in confutation of the general prejudice against the name of Laurentius.” (Erasmus, Letter to Christopher Fisher [Epistle 182], excerpted from the book by Francis Morgan Nichols, The Epistles of Erasmus: From His Earliest Lettes to His Fifty-First Year [New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1901], pp. 380-381.) Note: It should be pointed out that Erasmus’ letter (Epistle 182) “served as a Preface to his edition of Valla’s Annotations”. (John A. Faulkner, Erasmus: The Scholar [Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham, 1907], p. 71.)

[3] Earnest F. H. Capey, Erasmus (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1903), pp. 104-106, ellipsis his. Cf. Erasmus, Letter to Christopher Fisher (Epistle 182), c. March 1505.


     Laurentius Valla, Annotations on the New Testament (Paris: Iehan Petit, 1505), with Preface by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. Link to Valla’s Annotations on the New Testament (1505 Edition):

     Laurentius Valla, Annotations on the New Testament (Basil: 1526), with Preface by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. Link to Valla’s Annotations on the New Testament (1526 Edition):

     Laurentius Valla, Annotations on the New Testament (Basil: 1541), In Novum Testamentum Annotationes. The title page (p. 19) reads: “Laurentii Vallae, viri tam graecae quam latinae linguae peritissimi, in Novum Testamentum, ex diuersorum utviusque linguae codicum collation Annotationes, ad subdubios in sacra Scriptura locos, declarandos, quammaxime conducibiles.” Translated into English it says: “Laurentius Valla, a man most skilled in the Greek and Latin languages, collated Annotations to the New Testament from the various codices of each language, to clarify doubtful passages in the Holy Scriptures, as much as possible.” Link to Valla’s Annotations on the New Testament (1541 Edition):
     Laurentius Valla, Opera Omni (Basil: 1543). Note: The title page says: “Laurentiii Vallae opera, nunc primo non mediocribus uigilns & iudicio quorundam eruditiss. Uirorum in unum volumen collecta, &, exemplaribus uarns collatis, emendate. Ludimagistris, aut alias bonas literas profitentibus, incredibiliter utilia adeoque necessaria. Quam ob rem rectissime a doctioribus fere omnibus iujicantur neque docti necque uere studiosi, qui non omnes huius autoris libros habent, idque praecipuo loco.” Translated into English it says: “The works of Laurentius Valla, now first collected into one volume by the observation and judgment of certain learned men, and, having collated the copies, corrected them. Teachers, or those otherwise proficient in good literature, are incredibly useful and therefore necessary. For this reason almost all are judged by the more learned to be neither learned nor truly studious, who do not have all the books of this author, and that in an important place.” Link to Valla’s Annotations on 2 Corinthians 7:10 (in the 1543 edition):

     Laurentius Valla, Jacobus Revius, Editor, On the Collation of the New Testament (Amsterdam: 1630), Laurentii Vallae Vivi Clarissimi De Collatione Novi Testamenti Libri Duo. Ab interitu vindicavit, recensuit, ac notas addidit Jacobus Revius. Link to Valla’s Collation of the New Testament (1630 Edition):

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

What is Repentance according to Theodore Beza?

Theodore Beza was a leading Greek scholar of the 16th century and the successor to John Calvin in Geneva. Dr. Philip Doddridge says: “Beza is undoubtedly the best critic on the Greek language of any commentator we have. There is no translation, that I know of, equal to his; and his remarks on Erasmus and the vulgar Latin are wrought up to the utmost degree of exactness. On the whole, it is an invaluable treasure, and deserves to be read with the utmost attention.” It will be interesting, therefore, to see what Beza says in regards to repentance; some may be surprised to learn that he affirms the Free Grace understanding of repentance as a change of mind and heart! Notice the following statements by Beza from his Annotations on the New Testament:

Beza’s Annotation on Matthew 3:2 (in the Latin edition):
“Metanoein, mutari significat animo & mente, idque in melius.”[1]
“Metanoein, it signifies to be changed in the mind & heart, and that for the better.

Beza’s Annotation on Matthew 3:2 (in the English edition):
“The word in the Greeke tongue signifieth a changing of our minds and hearts from evill to better.”[2]

Beza’s Annotation on Matthew 3:8 (in the Latin edition):
“Vera respiscentia, est res interior, quae in mente & animo sedem habet.”[3]
“True repentance is an inner thing, that has its seat in the mind & soul.”

Beza’s Annotation on Matthew 3:8 (in the English edition):
“True repentance in an inward thing which hath it seate in the mind & heart.”[4]


[1] Theodore Beza, Editor, Jesu Christi D. N. Novum Testamentum (Geneva: 1575), p. 4, verso, (Latin edition, with visible note “c” for Resipiscite). Note: The title page says: “Jesu Christi D[ominus]. N[oster]. Novum Testamentum, Theodoro Beza interprete. Additae sunt summae breues doctrinae in Euangelistas, & Acta Apostolorum: item, Methodus Apostolicarum Epistolarum ab eodem authore, cum breui phraseon, & locorum difficiliorum exposition, ex ipsius authoris maioribus annotationibus desumpta: paucis etiam additis ex Joach[im]. Camerarii notationibus in Euangelistas & Acta.” In English it reads: “The New Testament of Jesus Christ our Lord, translated by Theodore Beza. The summaries of doctrine in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles are added: likewise, Methodology of the Apostolic Epistles by the same author, with a brief phraseology, and an exposition of difficult passages, taken from the author’s own larger annotations: with a few additions also from Joachim Camerarius’ notes on the Gospels & Acts.”

[2] Theodore Beza, Editor, The New Testament of the Lord Jesus Christ (London: Christopher Barker, 1599), p. 4, verso, (English edition). Also see the “Geneva Study Bible” notes on Matthew 3:2 on the website: (accessed May 29, 2023).

[3] Theodore Beza, Editor, Jesu Christi D. N. Novum Testamentum (Geneva: 1575), p. 4, verso, (Latin edition).

[4] Theodore Beza, Editor, The New Testament of the Lord Jesus Christ (London: Christopher Barker, 1599), p. 4, verso, (English edition). Also see the “Geneva Study Bible” notes on Matthew 3:8 on the website: (accessed May 29, 2023).

Monday, May 29, 2023

Martin Luther on Romans 2:4, "He leadeth them to repentance"

“God has not so utterly forsaken the sons of men that He will not grant them some measure of comfort in this hope of the passing of evil and the coming of good things. Though they are uncertain of the future, yet they hope with certain hope, and hereby they are meanwhile buoyed up, lest falling into the further evil of despair, they should break down under their present evil, and do some worse thing. Hence, even this sort of hope is the gift of God; not that He would have them lean on it, but that He would turn their attention to that firm hope, which is in Him alone. For He is so long-suffering that He leadeth them to repentance, as it is said in Romans 2, and suffers none to be straightway deceived by this deceitful hope, if haply they may ‘turn to the heart [Isa. 46:8],’ and come to the true hope.”[1] 


[1] Martin Luther, Works of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), vol. 1, pp. 146-147, (accessed May, 28, 2023).

Saturday, May 20, 2023

J. Irvin Overholtzer on Saving Faith

     “Faith is believing reasonable evidence. Faith is taking God at His word. Faith is believing in the dark. The Old Testament word is trust—to rely upon. Faith is reposing confidence in another. But what must I believe to be saved? The devils believe but are not saved. How may I know that I have the faith that saves? There are many truths, both in the Bible and without that should be believed, but believing them would not bring salvation. I must believe the Word of God concerning sin and salvation. I must believe the Gospel—the GOOD NEWS, that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.’

1. I must believe that I am a sinner and need salvation and that I cannot save myself.
2. I must believe that Jesus died to save me and that He is willing and able to do it and to do it now.
3. I must believe that His salvation is a free gift and that I can have it for the taking.
4. I must then take it, and since it is an unseen gift, I must take it purely by faith and not by sight, neither by feeling.

     When this is done the condition has been met and God’s word is that He will instantly forgive and as quickly regenerate me. The Holy Spirit will enable all to believe, who come in this way, in utter dependence upon God.”[1]


[1] J. Irvin Overholtzer, Saved by Grace (Chicago: P. B. Publications, Inc., 1937), p. 24.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Interpreting John 2:23 in Light of John's Gospel

"Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, beholding His signs which He was doing. But Jesus on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man." (John 2:23-25, NASB 1977)

Although most Bible commentators say that John 2:23 refers to those who had less than saving faith, is this the best way to understand the verse in context? If we look at John 2:23 in the context of John's Gospel, we see a parallel passage in John 6:14-15. In this passage, John describes the miracle of Jesus feeding over five-thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish! John says: "When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, 'This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.' Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone" (6:14-15). While John doesn't use the word "believe" in 6:14-15, it's nonetheless implied in that the crowd said, "This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world." The crowd no doubt had in mind the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 18:15, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him." This is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, and is interpreted by the apostle Peter as referring to Jesus (see Acts 3:22-23). But although the crowd believed in Jesus as the promised Messiah (= "the Christ, the Son of God," Jn. 20:31), Jesus was not entrusting Himself to them because He knew that "they were intending to come and take Him by force (in their zeal), to make Him king" (Jn. 6:15). So here we see that Jesus did not entrust Himself to these believers, not because He doubted the genuineness of their faith, but because the crowd wanted to make Him an earthly king before the appointed time! 

John 6:14-15 sheds some much needed light on the parallel passage in John 2:23-25. When the diligent student of God's Word (2 Tim. 2:15) compares Scripture with Scripture ("The Analogy of Faith" principle of Bible interpretation), it becomes clear that those who believed in Christ in John 2:23 were zealous to make Him king! Such zeal is even more likely in 2:23 in view of the fact that Jesus was in Jerusalem itself, the center of the Jewish religion; the people being therefore all the more zealous for a Jewish king "from among you, from your countrymen" (Deut. 18:15) to free them from the overbearing yoke of Rome. Commenting on John 2:24, Matthew Henry explains it well when he says: "These in Jerusalem perhaps had their expectations of the temporal reign of the Messiah more raised than others, and, in that expectation, would be ready to give some bold strokes at the government if Christ would have committed himself to them and put himself at the head of them; but he would not, for his kingdom is not of this world."[1]

And in reference to John 6:1-15, for those who may think there's no possible way that these people are saved, John's Gospel actually indicates otherwise! Commenting on Jn. 6:12-15, C. K. Barrett writes the following:

"12, 13. The gathering up of the left-over fragments, again, may reflect only a characteristically Jewish respect for food; but the word used, and also the word for 'be lost', are Johannine words used for the gathering and perishing of men (see e.g. 11:52, 17:12), and it is possible that Jn means to represent this gathering symbolically.

The onlookers draw from the miracle the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah. This belief is plainly visible in the attempt to make him a king (15), and is probably expressed also in the words, 'This is indeed the prophet' (14), 'prophet' being understood as a designation of the Messiah (cf. Dt. 18:15; and contrast 1:21, where 'the prophet' is not the Messiah). But Jesus' kingdom is not 'of this world' (18:36), and he cannot submit to be made a king by men. He withdraws to the hills (15); yet the thought of Messiahship lies in the background of the great discourse of 22-59."[2]

Barrent summarizes by saying, "It seems not impossible that John is here speaking symbolically of the gathering of Christian disciples, with special reference to the eucharist, and of the will of Christ to preserve them from all destruction (17.12; on apollunai see 3.16)."[3]

What Barrett insightfully points out is that when Jesus says, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost" (Jn. 6:12, NKJV), this is likely Johannine symbolism: symbolic of Jesus gathering people into His kingdom (cf. Jn. 11:52) in order that none of them perish (cf. Jn. 3:16, 17:12, 18:9). This symbolism would seem quite strange if none of those in the crowd were saved! 

The Free Grace view of John 2:23-25 is consistent with the parallel passage in 6:1-15: in both passages John describes people who have believed in Christ as the promised Messiah! Their misguided zeal "to make Him king" (6:15) is not evidence of lack of salvation; rather, their zeal can be compared to Peter's impetuous action of cutting off the ear of the high priest's servant (see Jn. 18:10). Like Peter, the crowd in John 6:14-15 had zeal, but it was not according to God's plan. 

When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, "Are You the King of the Jews?" (Jn. 18:33), Jesus answered by saying: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (Jn. 18:36, NKJV). This is why, in John 2:23-25, Jesus was "not entrusting Himself" (Jn. 2:24) to those who had believed in His name: Jesus knew that His servants would fight, and He knew it was not the right time to set up His kingdom on earth.


[1] Matthew Henry Bible Commentary (complete), see commentary on John 2:23-25, (accessed April 29, 2023).

[2] C. K. Barrett, Matthew Black, General Editor and New Testament Editor, Peake's Commentary on the Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1962), pp. 851-852, emphasis his.

[3] C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St John (London: SPCK, 1962), p. 231.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Where is God’s Grace in the Old Testament?

“The Bible is a history of grace. From the story of creation, with which it begins, to the picture of last things, with which it closes, it is grace, grace, grace.” —R. A. Torrey
The clearest manifestation of God’s grace is of course the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnated Son of God, born in Bethlehem to die on Calvary. In the Gospel of John it says, “The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). 

Nevertheless, there are pictures of God’s grace sprinkled throughout the Old Testament, scattered across its pages like gems, waiting to be found by those who have “eyes to see and ears to hear.” Following are ten of these precious gems, God’s grace in the Old Testament:

Grace Gem #1: After the Fall of man into sin, God clothed Adam and Even with the skins of a slain animal (perhaps a lamb), the death of a substitute in place of their own (see Genesis 3:21). Commenting on verse 21, Dr. C. I. Scofield writes: “Coats of skin: Type of ‘Christ, made unto us righteousness’—a divinely provided garment that the first sinners might be made fit for God’s presence.”[1] In the New Testament, John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). The writer of the book of Hebrews says: “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26, NASB).

Grace Gem #2: God banished the fallen couple out of the Garden of Eden and most importantly, away from the tree of life. For if they had eaten from the tree of life as sinners, they would have been confined to their sinful state forever and ever! (See Genesis 3:22.) Andreas Köstenberger affirms that God “casts them out in order to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and living forever (Gen. 3:22-24). This constitutes an act of God’s grace in limiting human sin. It would be a disaster for a human to live forever in a fallen state.”[2] 

Grace Gem #3: “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8, KJV). R. A. Torrey has well said: “Noah was saved by grace. No man was ever saved in any other way (Eph. 2. 8). Noah was a sinner and deserved to perish, but Noah was saved with all his house by the unmerited favor of God (cf. Acts 16. 31). It is true that Jehovah speaks of Noah as righteous (ch. 7. 1), but Noah’s righteousness, like that of Abraham, was the righteousness that comes by faith (cf. ch. 15. 6). God told Noah that there was to be a flood and Noah believed what God said, and prepared an ark to the saving of himself and all his house (Heb. 11. 7). He was saved ‘by grace through faith,’ and any other man can be saved in the same way to-day (John 3. 16).”[3]

Grace Gem #4: God was patient with the wicked generation of Noah’s day by withholding judgment for 120 years, as Noah preached to them. “God gave the neighbors of Noah one hundred twenty years of grace”.[4] God provided only one way of salvation, the door of the Ark, and any sinner who entered through that door would be saved! In the New Testament, Jesus said, “I am the door, anyone who enters through Me will be saved” (Jn. 10:9).

Grace Gem #5: God delivered Israel out of the land of Egypt; He commanded that the blood of a spotless lamb to be sprinkled on the doorposts of each house, and all who took shelter under the blood were saved! (See Exodus chapter 12.) The Passover lamb was a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the apostle Paul says, "Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7, NLT).

Grace Gem # 6: Moses lifted up the serpent on a pole in the wilderness, and whoever simply looked to the serpent was healed (see Numbers 21:6-9). This was a picture of Jesus being lifted up on the cross, that whoever simply looks to Him in faith will be saved (see John 3:14-17).

Grace Gem #7: God spared King David’s life after his willful sin with Bathsheba. David even tried to cover up his sin by murdering Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. It was by sheer grace that God forgave David, since in the Old Testament, there was no sacrifice for willful, deliberate sin: the penalty was death![5] Nevertheless, God graciously spared David’s life.

Grace Gem #8: God warned Nineveh for 40 days, saying through Jonah the prophet, “And yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overturned!” (See Jonah 3:4.) Here we see God’s grace in the “yet forty days,” which gave the Ninevites time to repent. Commenting on this incident from Jonah chapter 3, Warren Wiersbe affirms concerning the Ninevites that “God gave the people forty days of grace”.[6] Amazingly, the entire city of Nineveh repented! God withheld judgment and the people were saved.

Grace Gem # 9: God commanded that there were to be cities of refuge in the land of Israel for manslayers and those guilty of shedding innocent blood, where they could flee for safety. Dr. Ironside notes that these cities of refuge are types of Christ, and expressions of God’s grace.[7]

Grace Gem #10: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1, NIV). This is, as someone has said, “An Invitation to Grace”! The Bible closes with a similar appeal in the book of Revelation: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17, NKJV). Similar to God’s invitation through Isaiah the prophet, this appeal in the last book of the Bible is likewise, and fittingly, also an “invitation of grace”![8]


[1] C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 10, note 1 on Genesis 3:21; cf. Job 29:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30.

[2] Andreas Köstenberger, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 2nd Edition (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2016), p. 1027.

[3] R. A. Torrey, Record of Christian Work (July 1901), vol. 20, p. 517.

[4] Robert M. Russell, The Christian Workers Magazine (September 1918), vol. 19, p. 665.

[5] Warren Wiersbe affirms, “The law provided a sacrifice for sins committed ignorantly, but there was no sacrifice for deliberate presumptuous sin (Ex. 21:14; Num. 15:27-31; Ps. 51:16-17).” (Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, p. 221, comment on Luke 23:34.)

[6] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament, p. 384.

[7] H. A. Ironside, Addresses on the Book of Joshua, pp. 124-131. Dr. Scofield similarly writes: “The cities of refuge are types of Christ sheltering the sinner from judgment (Psa. 46.1; 142.5; Isa. 4.6; Ex. 21.13; Deut. 19.2-9; Rom. 8.1, 33, 34; Phil. 3.9; Heb. 6.18, 19).” (C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 213, note on Numbers 35:6.)

[8] Phillip Mauro, The Fundamentals (Chicago: Testimony Publishing Company, 1900), vol. 5, p. 71.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

What Aramaic Word Did Jesus Use for "Repentance"?

Here’s a question that I recently received from a reader: “What Aramaic word would Jesus have used to express ‘metanoia’ (Change of mind)?”

In my research, the best answer to this question is from the eminent and learned theologian Dr. John Lightfoot (1602-1675). Commenting on the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15, Lightfoot writes the following:

“worth our consideration in this our Saviour’s doctrine, is the word by which he calleth for repentance. What Syriack word he used speaking that language it is uncertain (the Syriack translator useth Return or be converted) but the word which the Holy Ghost hath left us in the Original Greek metanoeite is exceeding significant and pertinent to that doctrine and occasion. The word is frequently used in the Septuagint, concerning God, when he is said to repent or not repent, as 1 Sam. 15.29. Jer. 3.9. Amos 7.3.6. &c. but the use of it applied to man is not so frequent in them, as of the word epistraphēte [be converted], & epistrepsate apo kakias [turn from evil] as Ezek. 18.30. because that word doth most Grammatically and verbatim translate the word shub, which is the word most commonly used in the Hebrew, for Repenting, and yet do the Septuagint sometimes use metanoein for man’s repentance, as Jer. 8.6. &c.”

“The word doth first signifie a reviewing or considering of a man’s own self and condition, as Lam. 3.40. and so Brucioli doth render it in the Italian, Ravedete vi [Repent ye], view your selves, or take yourselves into consideration. Secondly, it betokeneth [indicates] a growing wise, or coming to one’s self again, as Luk. 15.17. and thereupon it is well rendered by our Protestant Divines, Resipicite, Be wise again, for so the word were to be construed in its strict propriety. And thirdly it signifieth a change of mind, from one temper to another.”

“Now the Holy Ghost by a word of this significancy, doth give the proper and true character of repentance, both against the misprisions [distortions] that were taken up concerning it, by their traditions in those times, and those also that have been taken up since.”[1]


John Lightfoot, The Works of the Reverend and Learned John Lightfoot, George Bright, Editor (London: 1684), 2 vols., vol. 1, p. 629, spelling and italics his. Note: I transcribed the Hebrew and Greek letters from the original statement into English. I also added apostrophes in several instances where modern English requires it (e.g. “Saviour’s doctrine,” “man’s own self and condition,” etc.).

Saturday, March 11, 2023

What’s the Right Latin Word for "Repentance"?

Recently a reader of this blog sent me the following question about repentance, which I would like to share as a blog post (with his permission) because there is so much misunderstanding about the meaning of biblical repentance. I have edited the reader’s question for minor punctuation and formatting changes and I have briefly expanded my response for added clarity in this article. I hope this Q & A on repentance is helpful in shedding some much needed light on this much misunderstood topic of biblical repentance!

Here is the reader’s question about how to rightly understand repentance in the Bible and what is the best Latin word to translate the Greek word metanoia:

Hey Jonathan,

Was reading in Free Grace Theology: 5 Ways It Magnifies the Gospel (2nd edition), that Lactantius originally translated Metanoia into Latin as Resipiscentia, which they say means return from madness of folly. Later they changed it to Poenitentia in the Vulgate, which is the idea of penance that we see in the Reformed group when they think of repentance.

My mind immediately goes to the English phrase “WAKE UP!” or “WISE UP” when John the Baptist is preaching repentance for the Kingdom of God is at hand. [See Matthew 3:2.]

Would that be a fair approximation in your opinion? Would it work with all renderings of “repent” or “metanoia” in the New Testament?


I wrote back to the reader with the following response, which I trust will help others who may have the same or a similar question about the meaning of repentance.

Hi ______,

Good question. My first thought is that the phrases “wake up” or “wise up” don’t necessarily imply a change of mind, which is my understanding of the meaning of the Greek word metanoia. For example, someone could become wiser without changing their mind, they just become wiser [cf. Prov. 4:5, 7; Lu. 2:52].  Similarly, someone could wake up and not change their mind, but have the same mind as they did before they went to sleep. So although there are some similarities between, for example, “wise up” and “change your mind”, I wouldn’t say they are quite the same. I would say that “wise up” could be a part of what it means to change the mind, but by itself, “wise up” I don’t think fully conveys the meaning of metanoia, which is actually a change of mind, not merely gaining wisdom.

In regards to the Latin word resipiscentia, you could say that it means a return from madness of folly. That’s one way to explain it and I think that’s true. Just to expand on that, the definition that I’ve seen in my research (and my understanding of the meaning of resipiscentia) is that it basically means a “return to one’s senses” or in other words, a change of mind (e.g. from madness of folly to sanity). The prodigal son in Luke 15 is a good example of the meaning of resipiscentia and metanoia. In Luke 15:17, Jesus says that the prodigal son “came to his senses”, i.e. he returned to his right mind.

If you take a look at my article titled “The Meaning of Repentance: Quotes from the Ancients, Lexicons, and Theologians” and do a search of that article using the Google search feature (hit the control and F keys), a search box will pop up and you can search that article for the word resipiscentia. Also search that article for the cognate forms: resipisco, resipicite, resipiscit, and resipiscere. I have a translation of what Martin Luther says about it, for example:

“From Luther. ‘Metanoia, which the old interpreter [i.e. Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate] expresses as poenitentiam [repentance], it is called resipiscentia [‘a coming to one’s senses’] or transmentatio [‘a change of mind’]: just as also Erasmus notes concerning chapter 3 of the gospel according to Matthew. Metanoeite, it is transmentamini [in Latin], that is, assume a different mind and perception, recover your senses, make a transition of mind and a Passover of spirit, so as to now be wise in heavenly things, instead of thus far you have been wise in earthly things. Also Lactantius [in] book 6 of his Institutes informs [us], that poenitentia [repentance] in Greek is called Metanoia, that is resipiscentia. By no means therefore from use in sacred Scripture is repentance called sorrow, but a change of mind and [of one’s own] judgment, and to repent is to be wise after an error, and to install a mind for right living.’”[1]

I hope this helps!


[1] For more information see my blog post titled “The Meaning of Repentance: Quotes from the Ancients, Lexicons, and Theologians”, Free Grace Free Speech blog, May 28, 2021.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Theodore Beza on the Meaning of "Repent" in Matthew 3:2

Calvinists seem to think that the Free Grace "change of mind" definition of repentance does not go back to the Reformers. For example, Wayne Grudem in his book misrepresenting Free Grace theology writes the following: "Many [Free Grace supporters] understand repentance to mean simply a 'change of mind'....It is a definition unique to Free Grace supporters, without scholarly support from the academic community or any standard Greek reference works."[1] But I have to wonder how much research Grudem did for his book, because even a cursory review of the academic literature reveals that in fact many in "the academic community" define repentance precisely that way: as a "change of mind"![2] Here's a prominent example. It was none other than Theodore Beza who said that the word "Repent" in the Greek "signifieth a changing of our mindes and hearts from evil to better."[3] Yes, Theodore Beza wrote that![4] Who is Theodore Beza? He just happens to be one of the most notable Calvinists of the Protestant Reformation! But apparently not someone "from the academic community", at least according to Grudem.[5] But if Theodore Beza is not "scholarly" and is not "from the academic community", what does that say about Calvinism?! Grudem seems to be quite ill-informed and confused! 

Let me help to clear up the confusion by presenting some real facts. Theodore Beza lived from 1519-1605. He was a contemporary and associate of John Calvin. The Encyclopedia Britannica website says that Theodore Beza "assisted and later succeeded John Calvin as a leader of the Protestant Reformation centred at Geneva."[6] Along with Calvin, Beza was one of the main reformers of the Protestant Reformation in Geneva. In fact, there's a statue of Beza on the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland. Beza's statue stands alongside the statues of John Calvin and John Knox. Beza was also a scholar in his own right; he published several editions of the Greek New Testament. Beza lived most of his life in Geneva, Switzerland. 

How did Theodore Beza define the word "Repent" in Matthew 3:2, the first mention of that word in the New Testament? Notice what Beza says in his notes on Matthew 3:2 in the Geneva Bible:
"And sayde, c Repent ye: for the d kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Matt. 3:2] ....
c The word in the Greek tongue, signifieth a changing of our mindes and hearts from evil to better. 
d The kingdom of Messias, whose government shall be heavenly, and nothing but heavenly."[7]

So here we have Theodore Beza, one of the leading Calvinists of the Protestant Reformation, giving a Free Grace definition for the word "Repent"! Thank you Theodore Beza, for going back to the Greek to define the word "Repent".
Well it hath pleased God in this our latter age, to remove this cloak [of darkness], the Scriptures are made plain unto us, and this new Testament, by these notes of Beza, so plain both for the meaning itself of every sentence, and for the plain light of every word, and kind of speech, that no man can pretend that former excuse [of not understanding the hard sayings]. I dare avouche it, and who so readeth it, shall so find it, that there is not one hard sentence, nor dark speech, nor doubtful word, but is so opened, and hath such light given it, that children may go through with it, & the simplest that are may walk without any guide, without wandering and going astray.” –Laurence Tomson, from the Preface to the Geneva Bible New Testament.[8]


[1] Wayne Grudem, "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (Crossway Publishers: 2016), p. 70, ellipsis added.

[3] Theodore Beza, Geneva Bible (New Testament), translated and revised by Laurence Tomson (London: Christopher Barker, 1586), no page number. See note "c" on the word "Repent" in Matthew 3:2 in the Geneva Bible. Note: Both Free Grace theologians and Calvinists agree that, as the Reformed theologian John Piper has said quite succinctly: "In repentance the functions of mind and heart are not completely distinct". (Piper, What Is Saving Faith?, p. 245.) In regards to "the biblical use of the term 'heart'", John Macarthur similarly affirms: "The Old Testament says, 'As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.' [Prov. 23:7.] I believe the heart is really the equivalent of the mind." (MacArthur, "Bible Questions and Answers, Part 33B", Oct. 5, 1985.) In other words, when Beza says that the word "Repent" in Matthew 3:2 means "a changing of our minds and hearts", it is essentially the same as saying that "Repent" means "a change of mind". For more information on the connection between the mind and heart, see my blog post titled: "What is the Difference Between 'Heart' and 'Mind' in Scripture?"

[4] For more information see the article: "Influence of Theodore Beza on the English New Testament" (a doctoral thesis for Oxford University) by Irena Dorota Backus. In particular, see the section (pp. 27-39) titled: "Laurence Tomson's translation of Beza's Latin New Testament (1576)". It is helpful to understand that Tomson's 1576 English translation of Beza's Latin annotations is based "very largely" on L'Oiseleur's 1574 French edition of Beza's Latin New Testament. Tomson "certainly" also referenced the 1565 edition of Beza's Greek N.T. (Ibid., pp. 32, 39.) It was to L'Oiseleur that Beza entrusted the task of translating his Latin annotations into French. Backus explains that "his [L'Oiseleur's] principal concern, he says, was to produce a work which could pass for Beza's own." (Ibid., p. 28.) Backus further explains that some of the notes in L'Oiseleur's 1574 edition are paraphrases or abbreviations of Beza's annotations, and some of the other notes are from Camerarius "where there is no doctrinal difference between his note and Beza's." (Ibid., pp. 27-29.) On the whole then, it seems safe to say that the marginal note for the word "Repent" in Matthew 3:2 in the Geneva-Tomson New Testament is essentially Beza's: if not exactly, at least essentially. This conclusion is supported by the fact that it is consistent with how Beza translates Matthew 3:2 in his Latin New Testament, where he is well-known for using the Latin word Resipiscite (meaning "to recover one's senses," i.e. to change one's mind) rather than poenitentia ("repentance") to translate the Greek word Metanoeite. In other words, it is entirely consistent for Beza to say in his annotations on Matthew 3:2 concerning the word "Repent": "The word in the Greek tongue, signifieth a changing of our mindes and hearts from evil to better.

[5] I say this tongue-in-cheek to make the point, because of course Grudem would say that Theodore Beza is someone "from the academic community"!

[6] "Theodore Beza", Britannica, (accessed August 2, 2022).

[7] Theordore Beza, Geneva Bible (New Testament), translated and revised by Laurence Tomson (London: Christopher Barker, 1586), no page number. See note "c" on the word "Repent" in Matthew 3:2 in the Geneva Bible. Note: In regards to when Beza says that the word "Repent" in Greek signifies "a changing of our minds and hearts", it should be pointed out that Charles Bing (the Free Grace author whom Grudem referenced) has made it clear that in his view "it is also accurate to translate the word repentance as a change of heart." (Cited by Grudem in his book "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, p. 56, footnote 13, italics his. Also see the article by Dr. Bing titled: "Repentance: What's in a Word".) So the traditional Free Grace definition of repentance as "a change of mind and heart" (op. cit.) goes back at least to the Protestant Reformation since it was also Beza's definition of the word "Repent" in Matthew 3:2! Thus, contrary to what Grudem would have us believe, the traditional Free Grace definition of repentance does indeed have "scholarly support from the academic community"! For more examples of "scholarly support from the academic community" see my article titled: "Free Grace Theology: 6 Ways Grudem Misrepresents Biblical Repentance".

[8] For more information see my blog posted titled: "The Geneva Bible definition of 'Repent' in Matthew 3:2"

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Is Repentance Sorrow for Sin? 10 Reasons Why It Is Not

10 Reasons Why Repentance Is Not Sorrow for Sin
by  Jonathan Perreault

1. If repentance is sorrow for sin, then God is a sinner because God repents! See Genesis 6:6; Jeremiah 18:9-10; Amos 7:3, 7:6; Jonah 3:10. Dr. Charlie Bing affirms that “when the Greek translators in the Septuagint version, about three hundred years before Christ,….when they came to the Old Testament and translated some of these passages about God changing His mind, they used the word metanoia for God. And the old King James Version continues to use the word, ‘God repented’. So it can’t be turning from sins because God doesn’t sin! It just shows you how they understood that word.”[1] 

2. If repentance means sorrow for sin, then Moses speaks tautologically in Genesis 6:6, “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Gen. 6:6, KJV). In the Latin, from Augustine’s City of God, this verse is translated in the sense of a change of mind, not sorrow: “Et cogitavit Deus, quia fecit hominem super terram, et recogitavit,” which can be translated: “And God considered that He had made man on the earth, and He reconsidered”.[2] The comment by Augustine on Genesis 6:6 is worth noting when he says, “What is written in certain Latin codices, And God repented, and said, I will destroy man whom I have made from the face of the earth; in Greek we find διενοήθη [Gen. 6:6, LXX], which is said to signify that he thought more than repented: which word some Latin codices have also.”[3] Commenting on Augustine’s rendering of Genesis 6:6, Erasmus affirms: “And hence we read, I repent having made man, Augustine, City of God, book 15, chapter 24, instead of repented read reflected upon [or thought over], according to the reliable oldest codex.”[4]

3. If repentance is sorrow for sin, then Paul speaks tautologically in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “for godly sorrow worketh repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10, KJV). In other words, if repentance is sorrow for sin, or godly sorrow (as some suppose), then Paul would be needlessly repeating himself by saying, “for godly sorrow worketh godly sorrow”! J. Oswald Jackson points out this dilemma in his book Repentance: Or The Change of Mind Necessary To Salvation Considered. Commenting on 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, Jackson says, “suppose that ‘repentance’ were to be viewed as synonymous with ‘godly sorrow,’ as it has most unwarrantably been considered by some. How would the Apostle’s argument then stand? He would then be declaring—‘godly sorrow worketh godly sorrow;’ ‘repentance worketh repentance,’ which would be a most unmeaning declaration,—tautology indeed. Therefore we must be sure that the Apostle intends to teach that ‘repentance,’ whatever it be, is something totally distinct from ‘godly sorrow,’ or else he would never say godly sorrow WORKETH repentance.”[5] Richard A. Seymour sums up the point well when he writes the following in his book All About Repentance: “The problem with taking a contemporary English definition of repentance and trying to make it what the Bible means by repentance—especially in relation to salvation—is that it just doesn’t fit. Though it is true that often people will repent, and with their repentance feel grief or sorrow, it is not true that that grief or sorrow is the same as repentance. Scripture says that ‘Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation....’ Scripture does not say that ‘Godly sorrow is repentance.’”[6]

4. If repentance is sorrow for sin, then unbelievers can have “godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10) because Paul says that “godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation”. Critiquing this view of repentance, G. Michael Cocoris states, “Repentance is not being sorry for sin. This is the popular idea of repentance. Some even insist on tears. Robert Smith said, ‘True repentance has a double aspect. It looks upon things past with a weeping eye, and upon the future with a watchful eye.’ There is even a tradition that the lily sprang from the repentant tears of Eve as she went forth from paradise. Most do not carry the idea of remorse that far, but many do feel that repentance is being sorry for sin, and that is simply not the case.”[7] To cite more examples of those who say that repentance is sorrow for sin and even “godly sorrow,” a proponent of this view of repentance says the following: “God requires one to give up every known sin that one has been practicing, and to do so with a godly sorrow. You who are unsaved have sinned against God; in order to get saved you must repent with godly sorrow.”[8] R. L. Dabney, in his Systematic Theology, says that “Godly sorrow for sin must be presupposed or implied in the first actings of faith, because faith embraces Christ as a Saviour from sin.”[9] Louis Berkhof similarly states, “True conversion is born of godly sorrow, and issues in a life of devotion to God, II Cor. 7:10.”[10] However, the Bible makes it clear that the unsaved are not godly; they are “ungodly” (see Romans 4:5, 5:6). In context, the “salvation” that Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 7:10 is in reference to believers, not unbelievers. Paul is not talking about salvation from hell, but being saved from the power of sin in the Christian life (cf. Phil. 2:12-13; 2 Thess. 2:13). In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul is speaking of second tense salvation, that is, Christian sanctification.[11] Commenting on 2 Corinthians 7:10, G. Michael Cocoris affirms: “The Greek word rendered ‘salvation’ means ‘deliverance.’ It is a flexible term which can refer to deliverance from sickness, difficulties, physical death and condemnation (Lk. 3:48; Acts 27:31; 2 Cor. 1:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:19). In this case it refers to deliverance from God’s discipline (Wilkin, dissertation, p. 129).”[12] Roger Post, in his excellent dissertation on repentance, has well said: “Though 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 is frequently used to demonstrate that sorrow is necessary for repentance and thus for regeneration, it must be remembered that the sorrow which produced repentance in that case did not involve the unregenerate, but the ‘saints’ of Corinth.”[13]

5. Kittel says that the Greek word metanoia “approximates” the Hebrew word shub.[14] It is noteworthy, then, that the Hebrew word shub means “to turn” not “to sorrow”. Arguing for the “change of mind” definition of repentance (Gr. metanoia), G. Michael Cocoris affirms: “Actually, the Hebrew word shub means ‘to turn back, return’ (Brown, Driver, and Briggs, p. 996).”[15] If someone says that repentance includes sorrow, go back to the meaning of the word shub: to turn around. What does sorrow have to do with that? A person can turn around without having sorrow. For example, the unbeliever needs to turn from a works gospel to the fact that the work has been done by someone else – the finished work of Jesus Christ! Turn from self to the Savior! Lewis Sperry Chafer has well said: “It is true that repentance can very well be required as a condition of salvation, but then only because the change of mind which it is has been involved when turning from every other confidence to the one needful trust in Christ. Such turning about, of course, cannot be achieved without a change of mind. This vital newness of mind [repentance] is a part of believing, after all, and therefore it may be and is used as a synonym for believing at times”.[16]

6. Metanoia also translates the Hebrew word nacham, but nacham means to be eased or to be comforted, not necessarily “to be sorrowful”.[17] For more information see my blog post titled: “‘Free Grace’ Theology: 7 Ways Grudem Misrepresents Biblical Repentance”.

7. The English word repentance (which does tend to convey the idea of sorrow) is not the best translation of the Greek word metanoia. For more information, see my blog post titled: “Biblical Repentance: Lost in Translation?”

8. Sorrow leads to repentance; thus sorrow is to be distinguished from repentance. The great reformer Martin Luther has well said: “Also Lactantius [in] book 6 of his Institutes informs [us], that poenitentia [repentance] in Greek is called Metanoia, that is resipiscentia. By no means therefore from use in sacred Scripture is repentance called sorrow, but a change of mind and [of one’s own] judgment, and to repent is to be wise after an error, and to install a mind for right living.’”[18] Commenting on 2 Corinthians 7:8, the NT Greek scholar A. T. Robertson notes that the Greek verb metanoeō means “to change one’s mind (not to be sorry at all).”[19]

9. The early Christians of the first century used the word metanoia in the sense of “change your mind” not “be sorry” (cf. The Shepherd of Hermas; The Martyrdom of Polycarp, etc.). For more information, see my blog post titled: “The Meaning of Repentance: Quotes from the Ancients, Lexicons, and Theologians”.

10. Sorrow is an emotion, metanoia is a decision (a “change of mind”). Sorrow may lead to and even accompany repentance (cf. 2 Cor. 7:9-10), but sorrow and repentance are two different things.[20] Even the famous English theologian Jeremy Taylor saw a distinction between sorrow and repentance when he wrote that “metanoia...does not properly signify the sorrow for having done amiss, but something that is nobler than it, but brought in at the gate of sorrow.” Taylor goes on to say in reference to 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Sorrow may go before this [repentance], but dwells not with it, according to that of St. Chrysostom; ‘Medicinae hic locus, non judicii; non poenas sed peccatorum remissionem poenitentia tribuit.’ Metanoia is the word. ‘Repentance brings not pains, but pardon with it; for this is the place of medicine and remedy, not of [God’s] judgment or condemnation:’ meaning, that this repentance is wholly salutary, as tending to reformation and amendment.’”[21]


[1] Charlie Bing, “What is Repentance?” Free Grace Notes, YouTube video, (accessed February 18, 2023).

[2] See Augustine, City of God Against the Pagans, book 15, chapter 24. Note: This translation is from the Loeb Classical Library edition of Augustine’s City of God, 7 Vols., Vol. 4, p. 563. See the following link on the website: (accessed February 18, 2023).

[3] Augustine of Hippo, Locutiones de Genesi, Book 1, comment on Genesis 6:6,; (accessed Feb. 18, 2023). Translated from the Latin by Google Translate. Editor’s note: William Tyndale says in his book The Obedience of a Christian Man, “that St the best, or one of the best, that ever wrote upon the scripture”. Similarly, J. Vernon McGee has well said: “Augustine is one of the great men who has affected the church and the world. Both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism quote him to sustain their positions.” (McGee, Witnesses: After He Died They Saw Him Alive, p. 13.)

[4] Desiderius Erasmus, Annotations on the New Testament, note on Matthew 3:2.

[5] J. Oswald Jackson, Repentance: Or The Change of Mind Necessary To Salvation Considered (London: 1845), pp. 10-11, emphasis his.

[6] Richard A. Seymour, All About Repentance (Hollywood, FL: Harvest House Publishers, 1974), pp. 64-65, emphasis and ellipsis his.

[7] G. Michael Cocoris, Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), p. 66. Cocoris also makes a good point when he goes on to say, “One other observation: sorrow does not have to precede repentance. Paul says the goodness of God can also lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4).” (Ibid., p. 67.)

[8] Wm. F. Chapel, “Repentance”. Soul-Stirring Sermons (Anderson, IN: Gospel Trumpet Company, 1915), p. 126.

[9] Robert L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), p. 657. Note: This book was first published in 1871.

[10] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1963), p. 483. Note: This book was originally published in 1939.

[11] Commenting on the New Testament word translated “repent” in the Authorized Version, Dr. Scofield writes: “Repentance is the trans. of a Gr. word (metanoia—metanoeo) meaning, ‘to have another mind,’ ‘to change the mind,’ and is used in the N.T. to indicate a change of mind in respect of sin, of God, and of self. This change of mind may, especially in the case of Christians who have fallen into sin, be preceded by sorrow (2 Cor. 7.8-11), but sorrow for sin, though it may ‘work’ repentance, is not repentance.” (C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1174, note on Acts 17:30.) 

[12] G. Michael Cocoris, Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2010), p. 57.

[13] Roger E. Post, “The Meaning of the Words Translated ‘Repent’ and ‘Repentance’ in the New Testament” (Master’s Thesis, Wheaton College, 1972), p. 34.

[14] Johannes Behm, “metanoeō, metanoia.” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, vol. 4, pp. 989-990. For more information, see my blog post titled: “The Meaning of Repentance: Quotes from the Ancients, Lexicons, and Theologians”. See under the heading: “Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1967, 1985)”.

[15] G. Michael Cocoris, Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2010), p. 89. See Appendix 3: “The Hebrew Word for Turn” (pp. 89-90). Also see The Theological Wordbook, edited by Charles R. Swindoll (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), under the heading “Repentance” (p. 297), where it says: “The primary Hebrew word that describes change, and which is translated ‘repentance’ in some instances, is [shub], ‘to turn, return,’ used well over a thousand times. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) usually translated shub by the Greek word epistrephō, ‘to turn about.’” Cocoris makes the point more explicit when he says, “The fatal flaw in the assumption that the Hebrew word shub is equivalent to the Greek word for repent is that the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, ‘never’ uses shub to translate ‘repent’! In the Septuagint the Greek words that are ‘always’ used for shub are epistrephō and apostrephō (Kittel, vol. 4, p. 989).” (Cocoris, Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible, pp. 89-90.) So notice the contrast: the Hebrew word shub is sometimes translated into English as "repentance", but in the Septuagint, shub is never translated as metanoia. This highlights at least two things quite clearly: 1) the Hebrew word shub and the Greek word metanoia are not equivalent, and 2) our English word "repentance" is really not the best translation of the Greek word metanoia.

[16] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. 7, p. 265, italics his.

[17] See the summary on “Repentance” in the Old Testament in The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1917), p. 972, note on Zechariah 8:14. Also see Charles C. Bing, Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response, 2nd GraceLife Edition (Xulon Press, 2010), p. 69, footnote 40.

[18] For more information see my blog post: “The Meaning of Repentance: Quotes from the Ancients, Lexicons, and Theologians”.

[19] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1931), vol. 4, p. 240, comment on 2 Corinthians 7:8.

[20] Cf. J. Hampton Keathley, ABCs for Christian Growth, 5th Edition, p. 449; G. Michael Cocoris, Evangelism: A Biblical Approach, p. 66; G. Michael Cocoris, Repentance: The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible, unpublished manuscript, p. 9.

[21] Jeremy Taylor, The Nature of Repentance, chapter 2, section 2. Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Taylor at times seems to confuse repentance with the fruits of repentance.