"Saying You're Sorry" ≠ Repentance

It is my theory that the reason why Christians see observant Jews as being so diametrically opposed to them because of their commitment to the Torah is, for the most part, dependent on the translation of one word linked to a theological concept. 


This word/concept is: תשובה  – pronounced like “teshuvah.” 

In English Bibles, this term is typically translated as “repentance.” While the word in its entirety shows up very rarely in the Hebrew Bible, its shortened form (“shuv”) shows up fairly frequently. 

“אם־תשוב עדש־די תבנה תרחיק עולה מאהלך”
“If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents.” 
-Job 22:23

In Hebrew, the term simply means “to turn” or “return”. To Jews, this term doesn’t merely mean saying you’re sorry, but literally turning away from your sin, not doing it again, and returning to the ways of the Torah where you were before you slipped up. While righting wrongs between your fellow man is implied, from a Hebraic mindset, teshuvah/repentance can only be done when the sin is not continued.  All spiritual repentance of sin is typically used to express returning to the ways of the Torah. When one begins to move in the opposite direction, only then is repentance actually accepted by God. 


Teshuvah is a continual process that each person works on every single day; all day long. The more teshuvah takes place, the easier it is until the commands of Torah become habitual and a part of everyday life. It can be extremely difficult at first, but grows easier with time and practice.


As an experiment, let’s see how reinserting this Hebrew concept back into some New Testament passages would force change in the lives of some Christians: 


“Return to the Torah; the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
 – Matthew 3:2 


“So they (the disciples) went out and proclaimed that people should return to the Torah.” 
– Mark 6:12


“No, I tell you; but unless you return to the Torah, you will all likewise perish.” 
– Luke 13:2

“Return to the Torah therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.” 
– Acts 3:19 


“Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of returning to the Torah to all the people of Israel.” 
– Acts 13:24


And this isn’t changing the meaning of the passage since the original meaning of “repent” in the spiritual sense was a returning to the Torah. Interesting perspective, ain’t it? 


Shalom, 
– Ken