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February 12, 2013

Metanoia

by Brendan

In church Sunday, our pastor stuck close to the selected Scriptures in his sermon, using them to discuss how talking to God can change a person –Moses’ face shone after he talked to God, Jacob was changed after his encounter with angels, and also Jonah — who tried to run away from God (we all remember how that turned out!).  Examples abound.  Father Rich’s point, though, was not just to show examples from Scripture but also to encourage us about the life-changing possibilities in knowing God better.

Got me thinking about the word “metanoia,” which I looked up in several dictionaries (still haven’t found a satisfactory parsing of the “meta” and the “noia” parts).  Nonetheless, the dictionaries agree that “metanoia” is

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a complete turning around, a course correction, a change of heart, or sometimes repentance.   The Oxford English Dictionary reference is as follows:

             noun

  • change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.

       Origin:

late 19th century: from Greek, from metanoein ‘change one’s mind’

Strong’s Greek references, contained on Bible Suite (and accessible using a Google search on “metanoia”) has links to a couple of dozen New Testament passages using the the word, so clearly a change in one’s way of life resulting from spiritual conversion was an important issue to the evangelists and the other writers of the New Testament.

This is just a start; I next need to research the use of “metanoia” in The Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament); also, I have a hunch that there’s a strong connection with Classical Greek Tragedy —  the case could be made that the essence of Greek Tragedy is conversion, a change of mind and change of life. At about the same the Greek tragedians were having make a complete, about-face change, God was giving Saul “A new heart,” representing and enabling the amazing change he made in dealing with David and Jonathan.

Here is where metanoia changes the whole person — one’s mind is changed, and one turns around, away from sin and toward fulfilling the covenant with God,  In Exodos, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, but among Moses, Jacob, Saul, and David, God had important work to do, so He helped them to experience metanoia, to change their minds and hearts

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