The Perversion of
Criterion for Understanding the New Testament
According to many teachers in the Hebrew Roots movement, the Gentile mind is not equipped to properly comprehend Scripture. They draw a distinction between “Gentile thinking” and “Jewish thinking.” This distinction is alleged to be more than merely having different presuppositions, but rather a completely different thought process and basis for understanding. Consequently, Gentiles need a thorough education in “Jewish thinking” in order to understand the New Testament. This includes instruction in the Hebrew language. A converted Gentile cannot normally read the Old and New Testaments and arrive at a proper understanding without a Jewish teacher. Having been taught “at the feet” of some Jewish scholar or rabbi is the claimed credential of several prominent “teachers” of the Hebrew Roots movement.
Historically, Christians have always believed that the Old Testament is sufficient background material for the New Testament. Paul distinguished between those who are able to comprehend and those who are not. The criterion he gave has nothing to do with the Hebrew language or “Jewish thinking.”
1 Cor. 2:11-15
11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.
According to Paul, even “Jewish scholars” do not understand the things of God unless they have received the Spirit of God. Jesus Himself gave us a pretty good picture of the unconverted “Jewish Scholar” in Matthew 23. It is therefore critical that modern Hebrew Roots teachers fully disclose to their hearers the names of the “Jewish Scholars” under whose instruction they have learned. And those “scholars” should be carefully scrutinized to see whether they are true believers.
The New Testament was Primarily Written to Gentile Minds
With the exception of Matthew, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and James, the New Testament was written by the Apostles for Gentile minds. The New Testament contains almost no explanatory background information about Jewish thinking. The Apostles frequently quoted the Old Testament, without comment, as supporting material to the particular point they were making. References to Old Testament events were frequently given as illustrations and moral lessons in the language of the Greeks. More often than not, they quoted the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Greek speaking reader was expected to be familiar with the Septuagint, and this was deemed by the Apostles to be sufficient for understanding their own writings in the New Testament. The Apostles frequently quoted from the Greek translation of the Old Testament with which their readers were familiar. There was no appeal made by the Apostles to extra biblical Jewish sources for explanatory information. One wonders why modern Gentile Christians need such sources when the Apostles obviously did not think it beneficial for their Gentile audiences in the first century who knew little about Jewish thinking. In fact, Jesus Himself was antagonistic to such sources, claiming they perverted the Word of God (Matt. 15:2-14). The Jewish scholarly commentaries were characterized by Jesus as “the blind leading the blind” (v. 14). Why would modern Christians, who have received the “Spirit of Truth,” want to be taught by “the Blind?” Yet, such is now the case in this movement.
Some might contend that in the context of the
early Church, there was a great deal of oral teaching by the Jewish Apostles,
and the Epistles were merely supplementary material. That is true in some
cases. Paul spent three years in
Is “Repentance” Turning Back to Moses?
In his website article series on “repentance,” Brad Scott made his real intentions clear in the closing paragraph of part I.
“The foundation of repentance is the return to where you came from. The root of repentance is to go back to something. Adam came from the dust, and that is where he will teshuvah, or return to. The root of repentance is to go back to something. It is what we are to go back to, that is critical.”1 [Bold mine]
Scott is intent on incorporating into the term “repentance” the idea of returning to a former condition. And as he stated in the above quote, the thing to which one is to return is the critical factor. In Scott’s theology, this is a return to God’s laws revealed through Moses, the ultimate destination for his followers. He made this point crystal clear.
“The very first words that we hear from Yochanan the immerser (John the Baptizer) is REPENT! Who was he speaking these words to? the Nations? Of course not. The nations would not have a clue as to what to go back to! He speaks this word to the local Jewish leadership. Yochanan is pleading in behalf of Yahshua for YHVH's covenant people to go back to the covenant. Yahshua's first words to the Jewish leaders is to REPENT! (Mattityahu 4:17). The two main religious systems in Judaism, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, had strayed away from the Word of YHVH. He certainly knew this in advance. Go Back! YHVH says. The common myth that Judaism was a law-keeping religion that YHVH came to denounce and change is a lie. Most of the Jewish leaders of that time were big time law breakers.”2
Was Jesus Simply Moses’ Revival Preacher or The New Lawgiver?
When Jesus and John the Baptist called
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,
2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house.
3 For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.
4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.
5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward,
6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
Paul drew a clear distinction between the “house of Moses” and the “house of Christ.” Keep in mind that Paul wrote this to Jewish believers, implying that they were no longer of the “household of Moses” after joining the “household of Christ.” A few chapters later, the Apostle expands on this distinction.
1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer.
4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;
5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
8 Because finding fault with them, He says: [from Jer. 31:31-34]
"Behold, the days are coming, says the
LORD, when I will make a new covenant
with the house of
9 not according
to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by
the hand to lead them out of the
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
The Meaning of “Repentance”
The Greek word translated “repent” in the NT is “metanoew” (me-ta-nah-eh-O), Strong’s #3340. As with a multitude of Greek verbs, it consists of a verb prefixed with a preposition. “Meta” (preposition) means “after.” And “noiew” means “understand” or “comprehend.” Hence, the basic sense of “metanoew” is “after-thought.” In modern English idiom we would say, “after second thought.” It indicates a change of mind after further contemplation. All Greek lexicons define this word as a “change of mind.” None suggest, as does Scott, that this change of mind is a return to a former place, condition, or state. In fact, it is usually a turning AWAY from a former way of thinking that is being stressed. We will list below a couple of examples of lexical definitions.
Repentance, There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance.
(1.) The verb metamelomai is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Mat_27:3).
(2.) Metanoeo [metanoew], meaning to change one's mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge.
(3.) This verb [metanoew], with the cognate noun metanoia, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised. 3
Unger’s Bible Dictionary
REPENTANCE, a "change" of mind. In the theological and ethical sense a fundamental and thorough change in the hearts of men from sin and toward God. 4
The most comprehensive study of the koine Greek language from ancient Greek writings was done by the German scholar, Gerhard Kittle. His ten volume Greek lexicon (TDNT) far exceeds all other lexicons. While most Greek lexicons trace Greek word usage in the NT and the LXX, Kittle adds massive evidence from thousands of secular Greek manuscripts written in both classical and koine Greek of the period. There is no better source for understanding the “common” meanings of Greek words in every day life of the first century. According to Kittle’s TDNT, “metanoew” (repent) was used in secular Greek literature of the period to mean, “change one’s mind,” “adopt another view,” or “change one’s feelings.” He gives many examples of these in Greek literature. Kittle then adds, “…if the change of mind derives from recognition that the earlier view was foolish, improper or evil, there arises the sense ‘to regret,’ ‘to feel remorse’.” He cites many examples of this as well.5 In no case does Kittle suggest the idea of returning to a former place, state, or condition, as part of the Greek word “repent” in common Greek usage. Brad Scott is simply wrong.
In the face of massive contrary linguistic evidence, Scott alleges that Christianity has redefined “repentance” to suite its own ends. Yet, as we shall see, it is Scott who has done precisely what he alleges of Gentile Christians – twist the meaning to suite his own purpose.
Scott’s Manipulation of “Repentance”
Scott completely ignores the etymology of “metanoew” and all the lexical evidence, all the while pretending to offer a more nuanced definition which he claims is derived from the Hebrew equivalent. He claims that Jesus, John, and their hearers would have held his view of “repentance” because of their Hebrew background and alleged equivalent Hebrew term with which they would have been intimately familiar.
“When Yahshua and Yochanan (John the baptizer) said to the P’rushim (Pharisees), ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ what did they mean by repent? Do you really believe the meaning of repent in the English or the Greek is what they meant? Do you believe that 23,214 verses of teaching in the Tenach (Old Testament) about this word is irrelevant?”6
Scott gives the impression, in the above quote, that there are over twenty-three thousand verses in the Old Testament that contain teaching on the word “repent,” and that all modern lexicons ignore this “teaching.” The fact is, there is only a handful of Old Testament verses that use the verb “repent,” or its noun form “repentance,” and not one of them supports Scott’s definition.
Scott’s “Shell Game” Exposed
Brad Scott plays a “shell game” with the Hebrew words. He declares by fiat that the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word “metanoew” (repent) is the Hebrew word, “shoov” (Strong’s #7725). He offers not one shred of linguistic or historical evidence in support of this claim, which is THE fundamental premise of his entire series of articles on repentance.
While it is true that “shoov” (or “shoob”) does mean “return” in many cases, it does not always. Strong’s Hebrew lexicon states this very clearly.
“7725 שׁוּב shûb shoob A primitive root; to turn back (hence, away) transitively or intransitively, literally or figuratively (not necessarily with the idea of return to the starting point); generally to retreat; often adverbially again:”7 [emphasis mine]
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia adds that “shoov” can either mean “return” or “turn away,” the latter having nothing to do with returning to a former place or state.8 Numerous examples of this meaning can be found, (Gen. 27:44-45 for example).
Even IF “shoov” (shoob) was the Hebrew equivalent for the Greek “metanoew” (repent), which it is not, it would not prove Scott’s point. Even the Hebrew word “shoov” is used in Old Testament contexts where the idea of returning back to a former state, place, or condition is clearly not intended, as Strong’s lexicon and the ISBE point out. Consequently, the meaning Scott seeks to squeeze out of this word is NOT always essential to its basic meaning, and therefore not necessarily the sense even if it was the exact equivalent for the Greek word for “repent” in the New Testament. Had Scott been successful in establishing equivalence between the Hebrew, “shoov,” and the Greek “metanoew,” the most he would have accomplished would be to establish a possibility, but not a necessity. In other words, had Jesus and John the Baptist used the Hebrew word “shoov” instead of the Greek “metanoew” they might have meant “turn away” rather than “turn back” (to Moses) as Scott insists.
Earlier I used the term “shell game” to describe what Scott has done. The “shell game” is a classic swindle in which slight of hand is used to fool the target of the con. And slight of hand is what Scott has apparently done here. The way to determine equivalence between words of different languages is to examine ancient translations from one language to the other. There are two such sources for determining equivalence between Old Testament Hebrew words and New Testament Greek words. They are the Septuagint (LXX), and the Apostles’ quotes of the Old Testament in the New Testament. It is a simple thing to search the Septuagint (LXX) to verify Hebrew equivalents for Greek terms. There are no New Testament Apostolic quotes of the Old Testament that use the word “repent.” We are left with the Septuagint as our source.
One cannot accuse the LXX translators of “Gentile thinking” or any bias against Judaism, since they were themselves Jewish scholars living shortly before the appearance of Jesus Christ. They were far more fluent in the Hebrew of the Torah and ancient Greek than any modern Hebrew Roots teacher, including Brad Scott. They translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, choosing the best Greek equivalents for the Hebrew words of the Old Testament. If Scott were correct in his claim that John and Jesus had the Jewish idea of “return” contained in the word “shoov” when they spoke of “repentance” in the Gospels, we would expect the LXX translators to render the Hebrew word “shoov” as “metanoew” (repent) in their Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. However, not once did those seventy Jewish scholars translate “shoov” as “metanoew” in their Greek translation of the Old Testament! So, not only does Scott’s view flow counter to all modern linguistic scholars, but also the Jewish scholars of the Septuagint!
The Jewish translators of the Septuagint used the Greek word “metanoew” (repent) in their translation. But, when it appears, it translates the Hebrew word, “nacham” (Strong’s #5162), not “shoov.” They used “metanoew” sixteen times in their Greek translation in the following verses: 1 Sam. 15:29, Prov. 20:25, Prov. 24:32, Jer. 4:28, Jer. 8:6, Jer. 18:8,10, Jer. 31:19 (38:19 in LXX), Joel 2:13,14, Am. 7:3,6, Jon. 3:9,10, Jon. 4:2, Zech. 8:14.
In each of these verses, “metanoew” translates the Hebrew word “nacham” (#5162), except in Prov. 20:25 & Prov. 24:32. And in neither of these exceptions do we find the Hebrew word “shoov.” In the former it translates a Hebrew term that means to “inquire,” and in the latter it translates two Hebrew words meaning to “make to understand.”
So, what is the meaning of the Hebrew word “nacham” which the LXX translators rendered as “metanoew?” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says that nacham “implies difficulty in breathing, hence, ‘to pant,’ ‘to sigh,’ ‘to groan’ … Naturally it came to signify ‘to lament’ or ‘to grieve,’ and when the emotion was produced by the desire of good for others, it merged into compassion and sympathy, and when incited by a consideration of one's own character and deeds it means ‘to rue,’ ‘to repent’.”9 In no case does “nacham” mean to return to a previous place, state, or condition.
Furthermore, there are a few verses in the Hebrew Bible where both Hebrew words “shoov” and “nacham” appear together in the same sentence, but are mutually exclusive! In other words, the context clearly shows that they are NOT the same thing, but were being contrasted with each other, or their diverse meanings were used to compliment each other. For example, Jer. 31:19 says this: “Surely after that I was turned (shoov) I repented (nacham).” That these two words are contrasted in this way proves their meanings are not the same. If “shoov” means “repent,” as Scott claims, then Jeremiah said, “After I repented I repented,” a rather nonsensical statement! The meaning is precisely as the NKJV renders it, “Surely after that I was turned (changed course), I repented (regretted the former course).”
In Jer. 4:28, the Lord made a similar contrasting statement using both terms. “I have purposed it, and will not repent (nacham), neither will I turn back (shoov) from it.” The word “neither” in the above sentence indicates contrasting ideas, NOT a restatement of the same idea. Consequently, “shoov” (translated “return”) and “nacham” (translated “repent”) do NOT have the same meaning. The former means to “retreat” or “return” and the later “to change the mind” or “regret.”
Joel uses both
terms as well. “Who knoweth if He
will return (shoov) and repent (nacham) and leave a blessing behind Him.”
Here the two terms have a cumulative effect, hoping that God will do two
distinct things: return to His favor for
We have at least two hard pieces of evidence that “shoov” and “nacham” do not have the same meaning. First, both terms are used in the same sentences in contrast to each other. Second, the LXX translators frequently rendered “nacham” as “metanoew,” but never rendered “shoov” as “metanoew.” They did not view “shoov” and “metanoew” as equivalent terms. If the LXX translators, who knew both Hebrew and Greek, did not see “shoov” and “nacham” as equivalent, or more importantly, did not see “shoov” and “metanoew” as equivalent, why would we suppose that Jesus and John the Baptist did, or their hearers? More importantly, why should we think Brad Scott knows more about linguistics than the Jewish translators of the LXX and authors of all Greek lexicons? If the LXX translators did not think “metanoew” meant “to return to where you came from,” neither should you. Scott has played fast and loose with the Hebrew words in order to lead you where he wants you to go, back to the Law of Moses.
Should Gentile Pagans “Return” to Where They Came From?
If “repent” (metanoew) in the Gospels means “to return to where you came from,” then the use of the same word in evangelizing Gentiles would mean they should return to their pagan roots, their “wild olive tree!” Scott does not seem to notice this problem. While arguing that “repent” in the Gospels requires his definition, he wrote the following;
“The very first words that we hear from Yochanan the immerser (John the Baptizer) is REPENT! Who was he speaking these words to? the Nations? Of course not. The nations would not have a clue as to what to go back to!”10
Yet, Paul encouraged the Gentiles to “repent” as part of his evangelism.
21 "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,
20 but declared first to those in
Here, Scott’s definition of “return to where you came from” simply will not work in the context. “Works befitting repentance” in Scott’s bogus lexicon would be offering sacrifices to Zeus or the goddess Dianna! The same problem appears in the other passages that speak of Gentile “repentance,” none of which suggest “return to where you came from.” (Acts , Acts 26:20), and the noun form “repentance” (Luke 24:47, Acts , 2 Cor. , 2 Pet. 3:9). Jesus told the disciples, when sending them out to the Gentiles with the Great Commission, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). How does Brad Scott suppose these Gentiles would “have a clue as to what to go back to?”
Other Greek Words Mean “Return” or “Turn Back”
There are other common Greek words that mean “return back” and “return again.” First, “upostrefw” (hupo-strepho Strong’s #5290) comes from the preposition “hupo” (under or back) and “strepho” (to turn). Examples can be found in Luke 1:56, Luke 2:20,43,45, Luke 4:1,14). Second, “anastrefw” means “return again,” from the preposition “ana” (again) and “strepho” (to turn). This latter term is probably the closest to the Hebrew “shoov” as Scott defines it. Yet, it is nowhere used in the New Testament in the sense Scott promotes, a turning back to the Law of Moses. In fact, it is never used in an evangelistic sense in the New Testament.
What is painfully obvious from Scott’s treatment of “repentance” is that he is manipulating the evidence to suite his purposes. His work is unscholarly, manipulative, and malicious, in my humble opinion.
The “Judaizers” (neo-Galatians) are Back
A distinction needs to be made between two classes of modern “Law keepers” – those who practice “Law keeping” as a preference but not a necessity (Messianics who are Jewish by birth), and those who claim or imply that it is a salvation issue and binding on Gentiles. Brad Scott clearly falls into this latter category, what is commonly referred to as a “Judaizer.” Scott is proclaiming the same heresy Paul called “another gospel.” Here it is in Brad Scott’s own words.
“I am going to, very bluntly, tell you that without a scriptural understanding of repentance, you are NOT redeemed or reconciled back to YHVH. To put it more perfectly, as Sha’ul would say, you are not saved.”11
By making his definition of “repentance” synonymous with a “return” to keeping the Law of Moses, Scott is essentially saying that observance of the Law of Moses is necessary to salvation.
Furthermore, he places all Christians who are not “Torah observant” within the category of the “workers of iniquity” to whom Jesus promised to answer, “depart from Me, I never knew you.” He equates this with the “mystery of iniquity” which gives birth to the Antichrist. Here it is in Brad Scott’s own words.
“If you are curious to know who the workers of iniquity are in Mattityahu 7:23, you can find them here. They are those who are TORAHLESS, lawless ones. This is the translation of the King James English, "workers of iniquity". It is also a description of their leader, whether they know it or not, in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8. He is the mystery of iniquity that already works and is called the wicked one or the lawless one.”12
Scott’s claim that his perverted “repentance” (return to the Law of Moses) is essential to salvation puts him and his movement in the same camp as the ancient Judaizers who “troubled” and “unsettled” the Gentile believers. Paul called that message “another gospel” and told the Galatians that those who embraced it were “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4).
We would do well to keep in mind the letter to
the Gentiles, approved by all the Apostles and elders of the
“The apostles, the
elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in
Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’ — to whom we gave no such commandment — it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:23-24).
1. Scott, Brad; Repentance Part I; http://www.wildbranch.org/Archive/lesson16.html; Wild Branch Ministries
2. Scott, Brad; Repentance Part II; http://www.wildbranch.org/Archive/lesson17.html
3. Easton’s Bible Dictionary, article on “Repentance” (electronic version)
4. Unger’s Bible Dictionary, article on “Repentance” (electronic version)
5. Kittle; TDNT, Vol. IV, pp. 976-977
6. Scott, Brad; Repentance Part I; http://www.wildbranch.org/Archive/lesson16.html
7. Strong, Hebrew Lexicon of Old Testament Words, #7725 (electronic version)
8. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, article on “Repentance” (electronic version)
10. Scott, Brad; Repentance Part II; http://www.wildbranch.org/Archive/lesson17.html
11. Scott, Brad; Repentance Part I; http://www.wildbranch.org/Archive/lesson16.html
12. Scott, Brad; Repentance Part III; http://www.wildbranch.org/Archive/lesson18.html