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Contrite, Contrition

See also Contrite

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.

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