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Jesus and the Rites of Repentance

Journal article
Authors Tobias Hägerland
Published in New Testament Studies
Volume 52
Issue 2
Pages 166-187
ISSN 0028-6885
Publication year 2006
Published at Department of Religious Studies and Theology
Pages 166-187
Language en
Keywords Historical Jesus, early Judaism, penitential rites
Subject categories New Testament exegesis


The question as to whether Jesus preached repentance has been discussed in historical Jesus research over the past twenty years, apparently without any scholarly consensus being at hand. This article seeks to eliminate some unnecessary confusion from the debate by investigating early Jewish conceptions of repentance and suggesting that a distinction should be maintained between moral and ritual repentance. It argues that Jesus, while most probably expecting moral repentance of his followers, did not uphold the customary rites of repentance. The article suggests some reasons for Jesus' avoidance of traditional penitential prayers and practices, which may account for the instances of strong criticism against him indicated by the synoptic Gospels.

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