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Matthew 27:3

NIV - When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.

KJV - Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

Oxford meaning of "repent";

  1. Feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin
  2. View or think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse
  3. Feel regret or penitence about

Many Christian denominations believe that Repentance is a prerequisite for salvation, which means not only regret but the commitment of not repeating it.

If Judas truely repented, he is sure to enter Heaven. But Jesus said that Judas was doomed to destruction (John 17:12) and it would be better for him if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24).

Is the word 'repented' used in KJV refering to the true repentance which leads to salvation or was it just a feeling of remorse, which made Judas feel shameful and then led him to commit suicide?

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The Greek word behind remorse/repent is μεταμεληθεὶς, pronounced metameletheis, coming from metamelomai. It is found six times in the New Testament: Matthew 21:29, 32; 27:3; 2 Corinthians 7:8 (twice); and Hebrews 7:21 (quoting from Psalm 110:4 where it translates the Hebrew nacham). It is uniformly translated as "repent" in the KJV.

While some may say that metameletheis means a mental regret without going deeper, that can't be seen from the uses in the New Testament.

He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. (Matthew 21:29)

This verse shows more than just mental regret. It shows a change in action.

For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. (Matthew 21:32)

This repentance is a prerequisite to believing the preaching of John the Baptist.

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, (Matthew 27:3)

Though we are examining this verse, it should be noted that by placing "himself" after it, the KJV translators might be implying that Judas' repentance was mental regret. That is, Judas did not repent to God, he repented to himself. However, that is not seen from merely the form of the Greek word.

Literary English allows for "repented" and "repented himself" to mean the same thing. Use of one or the other is merely a stylistic choice. However, this is the only time in the NT that the KJV placed a reflexive pronoun after "repented." Between the two Greek words for "repent" in the NT, there are about 40 occurrences. While it could simply be a stylistic choice, this being the only place to change styles sticks out as odd.

Matthew Henry's Commentary says of this verse, "He repented himself; that is, he was filled with grief, anguish, and indignation, at himself, when reflecting upon what he had done." He then goes on to compare how Peter's repentance led to salvation while Judas' to destruction. With Henry's commentary being ~100 years after KJV, his understanding of the phrase would be similar to theirs.

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. (2 Corinthians 7:8)

Paul seems to use both meanings of the word in this verse. He does not repent to God (the first) but does regret that his actions brought sorrow. Perhaps his regret is that the sorrow lasted only a short time.

(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) Hebrews 7:21

The Lord will never change His mind, though it is also impossible for God to repent of sins. (The Hebrew nacham likewise ranges in meaning from regret to repentance.)

Metameletheis may mean either "repentance to God" or "regret to oneself." Had the synonym metanoeo been used in Matthew 27:3, that would more certainly indicates moral action. Thayer's Lexicon says the higher nobility of metanoeo is seen in how metanoeo is often in the imperative (while metamelomai never is). Metanoeo appears 34 times in the New Testament (and is always "repent" in the KJV). Metanoeo is often used in ways that indicate it is a change of heart and mind. This will either be stated ("repent... and pray to the Lord that he may forgive you," Acts 8:22) or seen in the person's actions of contrition ("repented long ago in sack cloth and ashes" Matthew 11:21, paralleled in Luke 10:13; "bring fruits worthy of repentance" Luke 3:8).

In conclusion, the word used in Matthew 27:3 for Judas' action is used in the New Testament for both mental regret (2 Corinthians 7:8) and active repentance (Matthew 21:29, 32; 2 Corinthians 7:8), with Hebrews 7:21 able to mean either.

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    Thanks, this is a helpful summary of the uses of the Greek word. I'm curious about the idea you offer that by "repented himself" the KJV translators meant something like "repented to himself" (as opposed to repenting to God)...I thought it was just an archaic use of repent with a meaning similar to the intransitive, but did you find a commentary suggesting your interpretation here? – Susan Aug 27 '14 at 8:23
  • @Susan, partly from my own spending a lot of time in the KJV and noting that other uses of the word were in the same form but this was the only one where they added "himself." Matthew Henry says, "He repented himself; that is, he was filled with grief, anguish, and indignation, at himself, when reflecting upon what he had done." He then goes on to compare Peter's repentance to salvation and Judas' to destruction. With Henry's commentary being ~100 years after KJV, his understanding of the phrase would be similar to theirs. – Frank Luke Aug 27 '14 at 13:34
  • In literary English, "repent" can be used intranstively ("he repented") or reflexively ("he repented himself") with no difference in meaning. You can find lots of examples for both in the OED under "repent v." The use of one or the other in the KJV is only stylistic variation. – fdb Aug 27 '14 at 23:12
  • @fdb, does it impact your statement any that of the 40 times "repent" appearances in the KJV NT, this is the only time they follow it with "himself" (or any reflexive pronoun)? And they never put "himself" after repent in the OT. There are ~80 occurrences of the word translated. – Frank Luke Aug 28 '14 at 20:04
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    @All The deeper question is "Did God grant him repentance"? He was certainly remorseful, and the money he received did not make up for the condemnation he felt. Yet instead of pouring his heart out in contrition before God(Ps. 51), instead he hung himself, judging himself unworthy of receiving mercy. – Tau Sep 5 '14 at 8:15
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There are some interesting observations here - I intentionally avoid 'judgment' by calling them any kind of conclusion.

In the general discussion of the etymology and semantics of 'metanoia' vs. 'metamelomeia/metamelotheia' we see a difference between 'repentance that causes a positive turn going forward' and 'repentance that causes sorrow for having wronged someone or done something evil'. Paul inserts a sense of 'adoption of faith' in the middle of this, and there is also an implicit sense that the 'sorrow' sense of repentance (and the Hebrew sense of 'repentance' involving the sackcloth and ashes of Job) is to foster a different quality as part of the 'metanoic' process -- humility -- that is essential in forming the subsequent turn to God.

Look at the parallel between the parable of the two sons and the actions of Peter and Judas respectively. Christ says to Judas 'go quickly' and he does, but repents the harm he causes. Christ says to Peter 'you will deny me' and Peter denies this, but subsequently does so three times. Now the 'interesting' point here is Peter's state of mind when the cockcrow reminds him ... and the state of mind when he subsequently judges Judas at the beginning of Acts. It is only later that Jesus performs the 'feed my lambs' that relieves the guilt over the betrayal and allows Peter to turn fully to his calling... but what does this say about the form and perhaps the motivation of Peter's action before the act of forgiveness?

Another perhaps valuable point is that the semantics of both 'metanoia' and 'metamelotheia' in Greek have senses not at all found in English, so much so that "repent" in some contexts (in the derived Christian-Biblical sense that is translated as 'penitentiam agite') is considered a mistranslation. This was resolved at some point, in early Church history, by adopting 'metanoia' as a technical term in English that conveys the extended theological sense of 'repentance as the turning to God when motivated by some change of heart' if I may convolve the multiple implications. This use, however, doesn't really affect either the use in a literary translation or the use in the source materials used to prepare any translation from 'original sources' in the Greek language.
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Before answering this question, one has to define what does repentance mean and how it differs from the remorse.

If in repentance is understood the Greek term μετανοία, then its significance is to "change one's mind", to alter the entire vision upon reality, to see reality in a new light. Thus, it is not so much a psychological state, than an intellectual and existential act.

On the contrary, the remorse is more a psychological condition, a pain and pang of conscience that is not imparted with the same intellectual and existential power as the repentance. And also, repentance, that is to say, the acquisition of the new vision on reality happens in the Light of God, for "In Your Light shall we see the Light" (Psalm 36:9), and God is more than our conscience's censuring ourselves (1 John 3:20), and what does it mean "more"? The "more" means that God's censuring is overwhelmed by God's love and mercy, for His mercy triumphs over His judgment (James 2:13). Thus, a Christian repenting in the Light of all-merciful God can never be depressed or hopeless, but always cheerful, confiding in God's infinite love and mercy, His infinite desire to heal, to save and to vouchsafe unspeakable bliss upon a repenting sinner.

Now, was Judas action any close to the repentance understood in those terms? Not at all! He did not give chance to Jesus to forgive him and embrace him back. For what was, in fact, the meaning of Jesus' words to him: "what you want to do, do it quickly"? (John 13:27) - that is to say, "since you have decided to betray Me, being not able to bear My words and My version of Messiahship as referring to the Heavenly, and not earthly, Kingdom, and in your wrongheaded impetus work the will of Satan, at least do this evil quickly, so that you may realize its stupidity and depravity and run back to Me as soon as possible, for I can't wait until I see you back repenting, in order to embrace you back with My unfailing love".

Unfortunately, Judas only had a remorse, a pang of conscience, and thus, he gave no chance to Jesus to fulfill His desire and embrace Judas back reinstating him as one of the apostles, investing him with a mission to preach the Gospel. In difference from Judas, Peter had the repentance, for his pang of conscience for three-times in row treason of Jesus (Luke 22:54-62) was accompanied in him and even eclipsed by his full confidence that Jesus will forgive him. Judas, on the contrary, by his despair causing his suicide, deprived Jesus of His will, thus inflicting a horrible pain upon his Teacher and Lord.

Actually, that is the meaning of the only sin that cannot in principle be forgiven by God, the sin of slander against the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31), for the despair in God's mercy is a slander on God's Spirit, for there is no sin that can beat God's love, and a despairing sinner slanders God, by affirming in words or in deeds, that God is not merciful enough for forgiving him, which is a lie and a horrible blasphemy against God!

To give a summary answer: Judas had no repentance, but only a remorse, in the light of the reasons provided above.

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  • Wow.. Great connection to the "unpardonable sin" – Faith Mendel Nov 4 '19 at 9:40
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In the underlying Greek, "repent" here does not translate the same word interpreted in the other sense you suggest. It simply means to be sorry for something. I explain my reasoning below.


The definitions you are quoting for repent are its modern meanings.

In considering the meanings of English words in the King James Bible, we must consider, I think, what the words meant prior and up to 1611 and not what they mean today. According to the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2004), for example, "atonement" means "reparation for a wrong or injury", but according to the 6th edition of the expanded Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (2007), the word did not acquire this meaning until after the King James Bible had been published ("reconciliation" was the generally accepted meaning prior to that time).

In this case, however, the meanings are not far off. According to the SOED, the intransitive form of "repent" without any indirect object (i.e. repent of ...) has since the Norman Conquest had two distinct but related meanings:

(a) "Feel contrition or regret for something one has done or omitted to do"

and

(b) "change one's mind through regret about past action or conduct"


The KJV uses "repent" 64 times in the New Testament. In all but 8 of the occurrences, "repent" translates the verb μετανοέω (metanoeō), including the famous

Ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς κηρύσσειν καὶ λέγειν, Μετανοεῖτε· ἤγγικε γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.1


In the other 8 occurrences, including the one you cite, "repent" translates a different Greek verb - μεταμέλομαι (metamelomai).

μεταμέλομαι is related to μέλει (melei), which means to think about or care about. μετανοέω is related to the noun νοῦς (nous), which some lexicons simply translate as "mind", but other sources go so far as to describe as the "innermost aspect of the heart."2 μετανοέω means something more profound than "to be sorry for".

Both words essentially appear together in 2 Corinthians 7:10:

ἡ γὰρ κατὰ θεὸν λύπη μετάνοιαν εἰς σωτηρίαν ἀμεταμέλητον κατἐργάζεται· ἡ δὲ τοῦ κόσμου λύπη θάνατον κατεργάζεται.

which the KJV translates somewhat ambiguously as:

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

The Orthodox New Testament, which more or less follows the style of the KJV, disambiguates this:

For the sorrow in accordance with God worketh out repentance to salvation, not to be regretted, but the sorrow of the world worketh out death.


I think there are issues with how well the English word "repent" translates μετανοέω, but that's not the concern here. The NIV is justified in using "remorse" to describe μεταμέλομαι here. "Repent" is accurate, but only the in the simple sense of sorrow.


1. Matthew 4:17
1. The Philokalia, vol. 1 (tr. from Greek; Faber and Faber, 1979), p.362

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Judas in betraying Jesus proved his contempt and disbelief. His sucide proved his contempt for God and self government. I think he is a type to study and recognize. Form of godliness (hanging out with Jesus and his fruends) with no submission to gods will and no belief in place. Judas to the very end was self governing and regret happens when self governed but relationship with God happens when we surrender our self will and truly follow Jesus..(the just shall live by faith)..self government is faith in oneself - the original sin ( to be like gods Knowing good from evil) knowing and acting on what YOU think is best is actually evil. So Judas was in fact evil and acted on his own reason which dismissed God and Christ in every way

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    Welcome to the BH site. At the present, your answer is more like a chat. Please do return and edit. Actually this is very difficult to read. Could you please use separate paragraphs for different points and put referenced quotations into the usual form. For some guidance about providing a good answer, please have a look here and see some other accepted answers.Thank you. – Constantin Jinga Jul 1 '18 at 19:11
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Point 1: There is no other Bible but KJV. All others are perverted! 52 translators spoke Greek, Aramic and Hebrew fluenly. Why does now does people think they was idiots and they can do better. Im not going to arguing anyone about this. But recommend "NWO bible versions" on Youtube. On top of the twisted lies, the KJV is on the 8th grade reading material. Its a easy read.

Point 2: "repent". Why do we look up the modern defintion of this word that is old english? If you want the defintion lets look in the Bible;

Jonah 3:10 King James Version (KJV) 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

This is one of many verses where God repented. Are you telling me God is a sinner or felt bad? Of course not. All "repent" mean is to turn. Or change of mind.

So with this new meaning, rereading the whole KJV, will make more since. After all "repent of sins", not found in the bible, Can not be done! If it were possible, why do we need Jesus?

John 3:16-18, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 11:6. It is not of works. What is works? Look at Jonas 3:10. Putting 100% Faith in Jesus and what he has done. And get everlasting life that can never end. Titus 1:2. John 1:12 says we become sons of God. As sons we will get punished for sins, on earth. Hell is not a punishment anymore. Hebrew 12:6.

Point 3: The fact that Judas repent and still went to hell, shows repenting of sins has nothing to do with salvation.

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In the Bible, we have two, rather different accounts of what happened to Judas Iscariot after he betrayed Jesus. Both involved him in a repugnant and humiliating death, but in one account he repented and in the other he seems to have been pleased with his lot until his well-deserved but accidental death.

Matthew

Matthew 27:3-5 tells us that Judas repented of what he had done and took the thirty pieces of silver back to the Temple and cast them down at the priests, then went away and committed suicide:

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

By his actions in returning the money and in committing suicide, Judas makes it clear that he truly repented, as a result of which Christian logic would seem to say that he entered heaven, but for his suicide.

Note that some consider suicide a grievous sin that precludes entry to heaven, which would justify Matthew 26:24 in which Jesus says it would be good for that man if he had never been born:

The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

Acts of the Apostles

In Acts 1:18, Judas was no doubt pleased to be suddenly rich, and purchased a field with the money he had received. Unfortunately for him, he fell down and died, his bowels gushing out:

Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

Here, in Acts of the Apostles, there is no suggestion that Judas ever contemplated remorse, anticipating a prosperous life as a farmer with his ill-gotten fortune. No one would imagine this Judas Iscariot going to heaven.

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