Jesus wasn't telling people to repent, he was telling them to turn their thinking around to doing better.

Monday, 1/13/13

Today’s Gospel from the Gospel according to Mark repeats what we read not long ago when we had the story from the Gospel according to Matthew. If you don’t mind, I’d like here to repeat what I said about this similar passage then.

Our Gospel passage from St. Mark says Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent.”

Let me point out that Mark wrote his Gospel in Greek, and where our English translation quotes Jesus as saying, “Repent,” Mark actually wrote that Jesus said, ”Meta- noiete.” or,  “Turn your thinking around.”

That’s different. “Repent” has you looking to the past, punishing yourselves for what you did wrong. While, “turn your thinking around” has you looking to the future, resolving to do better.

Ancient Greece gave us two great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. They both believed in the one God. One main difference between them was that Plato thought that our souls existed with God before we were conceived, while Aristotle taught that they both were created in the same instant.

Plato’s way of thinking considered the soul to be imprisoned in the body, and that had him telling us to punish the body to keep it from getting the upper hand. That led to saintly people punishing their body to strengthen the soul. For the first thousand years of Christian history good people, following Plato, did a lot of repenting.

Aristotle, in thinking that our body and soul were created together, advised us to take a holistic approach to life, cultivating a healthy mind in a healthy body. His recipe for a happy future would have us turning our thinking around, rather than our going around glum, repenting for our sins. That’s not what Jesus actually told us to do.

In translating the Gospels into English, the early Christian fixation on repenting had them switching the way Mark summed up Our Lord’s message.  

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