A close-up shot of an open Bible, focusing on the page where the word "repent" appears multiple times, highlighting its significance and frequency in the text.

How Many Times Is ‘Repent’ In The Bible?

The concept of repentance is central to the Christian faith. Many verses in the Bible call people to repent of their sins and turn to God. But exactly how many times does the word ‘repent’ appear in the text of the Bible?

If you’re looking for a quick answer, here’s what you need to know: the word ‘repent’ is found over 100 times in the Bible, with variations like ‘repentance’ appearing nearly 70 additional times.

In this comprehensive article, we will do a deep dive into the concept of repentance in the Bible. We will look at the original Hebrew and Greek words translated as ‘repent’, examine key verses that call for repentance, and analyze how many times different forms of the word show up across various Bible translations.

Examining the Original Hebrew and Greek Words for ‘Repent’

The Hebrew Word Shuv (שוב)

The most common Hebrew word translated as “repent” in the Old Testament is the verb shuv (שוב), which literally means “to turn back, return” [1]. So when used in relation to sin, shuv indicates turning away from an sinful, disobedient course and returning to follow God’s ways.

This implies both turning from evil and turning to righteousness.

Some examples of shuv used in the context of repentance include:

  • Isaiah 55:7 – “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn shuv to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
  • Jeremiah 8:4-6 – “Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: “‘When people shuv and seek me, I will be found by them…’”
  • Ezekiel 14:6 – “Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn shuv from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!'”

So shuv conveys the act of repenting – turning away from sin and back to God.

The Greek Words Metanoia (μετάνοια) and Metamelomai (μεταμέλομαι)

There are two main Greek words in the New Testament that are translated as “repent” or “repentance”:

Word Meaning
A change of mind, change in the inner man. Indicates repentance from sin and dead works and turning to God.
To regret, to feel remorse. Indicates emotional sorrow or regret over past choices/actions.

Metanoia is by far the predominant word used for repentance in the New Testament [2]. It indicates an inward change of mind, thought, and perspective about sin and righteousness – resulting in a change of direction back towards God. Some examples include:

  • Matthew 3:8 – “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
  • Mark 1:15 – “Repent and believe the good news!”
  • Luke 15:7 – “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

So metanoia refers to the inward, spiritual act of repentance – turning away from sin in our hearts and minds.

By contrast, metamelomai focuses more on emotional regret or remorse over past sins and bad choices. For example:

  • Matthew 21:29 – “The son changed his mind metamelomai and went.”
  • Matthew 27:3 – “When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse metamelomai.”

So while metamelomai can indicate sorrow for sin, metanoia better conveys the concept of biblically repenting and turning away from sin back to God.

Key Verses that Call for Repentance

Old Testament Verses on Repentance

The Old Testament contains many verses that call on people to repent and turn away from their sins. Here are some key examples:

  • “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (Ezekiel 18:31)
  • “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;” (Joel 2:13)
  • “Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful;” (Joel 2:13)

These verses emphasize that true repentance requires inward change and turning back to God. There is also an emphasis on God’s mercy and willingness to forgive those who repent.

New Testament Verses on Repentance

The New Testament contains many calls to repentance as well, including from John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, and Paul:

  • “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2)
  • “Repent and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
  • “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19)
  • “God commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30)

These verses instruct people to repent in response to the arrival of Jesus and his message of salvation. Repentance is tightly linked with believing in and receiving the gospel.

Repentance in the Teachings of Jesus

Jesus’ teachings also placed a strong emphasis on repentance:

  • “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
  • “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

Jesus made it clear that He came specifically to call sinners to repent and be restored to right relationship with God. His parables like the Prodigal Son illustrate the joy in heaven when someone repents and returns to the Father.

Counting Occurrences of ‘Repent’ in Major Bible Translations

The King James Version (KJV)

The iconic King James Version (KJV), originally published in 1611, contains 87 occurrences of the word “repent” within its pages. This seminal English translation had a profound impact on the development of the English language and Christianity worldwide.

When analyzing the context of these 87 references, there is a clear pattern of connecting repentance to salvation and forgiveness of sins.

For example, in Mark 1:15 Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” This establishes the intrinsic relationship between repentance and belief in Christ. Additionally, verses like Luke 15:7 highlight the forgiveness and celebration that follows genuine repentance, stating there is “joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.”

The English Standard Version (ESV)

The English Standard Version (ESV) was published in 2001 as a more modern update to the linguistic style of the King James Version while still adhering to a word-for-word translation philosophy. The ESV contains 87 occurrences of “repent” matching the same count found in the KJV.

The ESV maintains a similar focus on connecting repentance and faith in Christ, with verses like Mark 6:12 stating the disciples “went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” And 2 Peter 3:9 emphasizes that God “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

The New International Version (NIV)

As a more thought-for-thought translation published in 1978, the New International Version (NIV) contains slightly less emphasis on the specific word “repent” with only 70 occurrences. However, themes of repentance as a precursor for salvation and forgiveness of sins remain consistent throughout.

For example, Acts 2:38 records Peter saying “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” And Jesus still plainly declares concepts reflective of repentance being critical in verses like Luke 13:3, stating, “unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Translation Occurrences of “Repent”
King James Version (KJV) 87
English Standard Version (ESV) 87
New International Version (NIV) 70


After thoroughly examining the concept of repentance in the original biblical languages and looking at how many times it appears across major English Bible translations, we find the word ‘repent’ used over 100 times throughout the text.

Key verses in both the Old and New Testament emphasize the importance of repenting from sin and turning back to God. While the exact count differs slightly across Bible versions, it’s clear that repentance is a significant theme woven throughout the entirety of Scripture.

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