Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (ASV)
Edit this section if you suspect error.
Anachronistic Greek conversation
- 1 "Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
- 2 the same came unto him by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him.
- 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
- 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother`s womb, and be born?
- 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God!
- 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
- 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew.
- 8 The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
Per Strong's the offending word from verse 3, "born anew" has a double meaning in Greek:
- 1) from above, from a higher place
- a) of things which come from heaven or God
- 2) from the first, from the beginning, from the very first
- 3) anew, over again
Nicodemus' response makes clear that he understood the offending word as "anew" (again):
- "4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother`s womb, and be born?"
Jesus' response makes clear that Nicodemus has misunderstood the meaning of the offending word as referring to a physical birth:
- "5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God!
- 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
"John" subsequently explains that the other meaning of the offending word, "from above", means Heaven:
- "He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh: he that cometh from heaven is above all"
Brownie writes in The Gospel According to John, possibly still the best Critical Commentary, page 134:
- "Such a misunderstanding is possible only in Greek; we know of no Hebrew or Aramaic word of similar meaning which would have this spatial and temporal ambiguity."
Brown points out several other problems with the historicity of the related story on 135:
- 1) Implication of miracles in Jerusalem but none indicated by previous narrative.
- 2) Verse 11 in the plural.
- 3) Verse 13 seems post ascension.
Regarding the possible defense that the historical conversation was in Greek the consensus of Authority is that Jesus and his audiences spoke Aramaic. The setting strongly Implies an Aramaic conversation:
- 1) Location = Jerusalem.
- 2) Time = Early 1st century
- 3) Jesus = Native Israelite and Teacher of 1) & 2).
- 4) Nicodemus = Native Israelite and Teacher of 1) & 2).
Plus there is nothing else in "John" that Explicitly or even strongly Implies any Greek conversation of Jesus although one of the supposed signs over "John's" Jesus was in Greek.
--JoeWallack 10:09, 25 May 2009 (EDT)
The confusion is not one of words but concepts. Nicodemus was confused as to how a man is born again if he is already old/grown up.
Edit this section to note miscellaneous facts.
Strictly speaking Brown (1): "Implication of miracles in Jerusalem but none indicated by previous narrative."
is not a problem with the historicity of this passage per se.
There are plenty of intentional remarks in John that refer to incidents, places, dates that are not actually found in this Gospel, or are possibly out of order (e.g. Jn 3:24, Jn 4:45,48, Jn 11:2 etc.)
It conforms naturally to the rest of John, and similar historical incidents are found blended with back-looking doctrinal or religious interpretation as found for instance in the discussion over "eating My body and drinking My blood". That later section for instance is far more 'anachronistic' in its hindsight and possible elaboration of Jesus' original teachings.
This section seems based on some actual historical incident(s) and a real connection between Jesus and Nicodemus (see Jn 19:39 etc. & Synoptics). The teaching imparted is probably historical, and the play on words in Greek "born anew/born again/born from above" may be the Evangelist's literary art, but so what?
It may also be Nicodemus' own colourful retelling of his encounter with Jesus, duly and naively recorded by the Evangelist, or even co-composed by the two of them.
The essence, the doctrine of being 'born again' finds deep roots in primitive Christianity: See for instance Paul's discussion of 'dying with Christ, and living in Christ', which implies the 'born anew' concept before suitable external forms of expression were found.