CONTRITE, CONTRITION (דָּכָא, H1917, meaning to bruise, to crush). It is found only in the OT (Pss 34:18; 51:17; Isa 57:15); and in all these passages it denotes a metaphorical, religious bruising or crushing. A broken “spirit” and “heart” are associated with the “contrite heart” (Ps 51:17), and brokenness is associated with being contrite (34:18). The contrite “spirit” and “heart” are “humble,” and to be contrite is to be lowly, in contrast to the God who is holy and “who inhabits eternity” (Isa 57:15).

Contrition figured importantly in medieval and Reformation theology. Some theologians distinguished between attritio (repentance in fear) and contritio (repentance accompanied with love for God and purpose to amend the life). In Luther’s time many Romanists were saying that attritio was sufficient, and that indulgence certificates could therefore be bought by all with benefits accruing to a person whose repentance was not heart deep. Luther uses “contrite” or “contrition” four times in his “Ninety-Five Theses”; and in that historic statement his main purpose is to urge true repentance.


K. Aland, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (1967).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

kon’-trit, kontrish’-un (dakka’, "bruise"): Only in Old Testament (Ps 34:18; Ps 51:17; Isa 57:15); nakheh, "smitten" (Isa 66:2). Contrite, "crushed," is only the superlative of "broken"; "a contrite heart" is "a heart broken to pieces." In Holy Scripture, the heart is the seat of all feeling, whether joy or sorrow. A contrite heart is one in which the natural pride and self-sufficiency have been completely humbled by the consciousness of guilt. The theological term "contrition" designates more than is found in these passages. It refers to the grief experienced as a consequence of the revelation of sin made by the preaching of the law (Jer 23:29). The Augsburg Confession (Article XII) analyzes repentance into two parts: "Contrition and faith," the one the fruit of the preaching of the law, the other of the gospel. While contrition has its degrees, and is not equal in all persons, the promise of forgiveness is not dependent upon the degree of contrition, but solely upon the merit of Christ. It is not simply a precondition of faith, but, as hatred of sin, combined with the purpose, by God’s aid, to overcome it, grows with faith.