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Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

Hi there! I'm Kimberly Yow, a passionate journalist with a deep love for alternative rock. Combining my two passions, I've found my dream job. Join me on this exciting journey as I explore the world of journalism and rock music.

Bible Figures Never Say ‘I’m Sorry’

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If they don’t “apologize” in the modern sense, it’s only because Scripture has a richer vocabulary of repentance.

We need a theology of apology.

Apologizing sounds straightforward, at least in theory. You do something wrong (sin); you feel bad about it (regret); you admit it and accept responsibility (confession); you say sorry to the person or people you have wronged, including God (repentance); and you take appropriate steps to make things right (restitution).

Many apologies take exactly this form. But often they are more complicated. It is possible to apologize without admitting fault or feeling regret. It is possible to feel sorry for things not our fault, like when we learn that a friend has cancer. It is possible to apologize with no intention of making restitution.

And it is possible—as well as increasingly common—for institutions to apologize for things of which only some members are guilty. Matters get harder when it comes to the sins of our ancestors. Should we apologize for things that happened before we were born? Confess them? Repent of them? Make restitution for them?

When we turn to the Scriptures for help, we discover something surprising: Nobody in the Bible ever really “apologizes” or “says sorry” for something. The Greek word apologia denotes an answer or legal defense—hence our word apologetics—but it carries no hint of feeling bad about something or repenting for it.

Sorry, a more flexible word in English, does crop up on occasion; translators might use it to describe the pity Pharaoh’s daughter felt for Moses (Ex. 2:6) or the sadness Herod felt about cutting off John the Baptist’s head (Matt. 14:9, ESV). But these are expressions of pity or sorrow, not apology or repentance.

It might sound, then, like the Bible offers few resources …

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