John 3: On Being Born Anew


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Excerpt from my 2004 translation of John’s gospel, which begins at Start With John, along with a brief explanation of my interpretive approach.

My 2012 translation of John’s first epistle begins at John A.

My 2015 translation of John’s second epistle begins at John B.

My 2015 translation of John’s third epistle begins at John Γ.

My 2015 and 2017 translation of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians begins at To The Thessalonians A.

My 2015 translation of Paul’s letter to The Romans begins at To the Romans.

My 2004 translation of Paul’s first letter to the Korinthians begins at And Now For Something Completely Different….

My 2004 translation of Mark’s gospel begins at Mark 1.

3 1 There was a Pharisaic man named Nicodemos, a leader [αρχον] of the Judeans. 2 This [Nicodemos] came to him [Jesus] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from god as a teacher, for no one is able to do these great miracles unless god is with him.” 3 Answering, Jesus said to him, “Listen carefully, unless someone is reborn anew one is not able to see the kingdom of god.” 4 Nicodemos says to him, “How is a man able to be born when he is old? He is not able to enter into the womb of his mother and be reborn, is he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Listen carefully, unless one is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter the kingdom of god. 6 What is born of flesh is flesh, but what is born of the spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘It is necessary that you be born again.’ 8 The spirit goes where it wills and we hear his voice, but we do not know from whence he comes or where he goes; this is [the way it is] for everyone born of the spirit.” 9 Nicodemos answered and said to him, “How are these things possible?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “You are a teacher of Israel and you do not know these things? 11 Listen carefully, what we know we have spoken and what we have seen we testify, but you will not comprehend our [eye-witness, οραω] testimony. 12 If I speak to you about earthly matters and you will not believe, how will you believe if I speak to you of heavenly matters?

13 Now, no one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the son of man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert [a bronze serpent was set up by Moses because god had sent poisonous snakes to bite the Israelites who were worshiping idols; if anyone was bitten, he could look at the bronze serpent (an idol, ironically) and be healed. This points to the irony of the Messiah who dies, i.e., is ‘lifted up’, on the cross for all to see. Jesus is saying that the cross is like the snake in the desert, for healing (cf. Isa 6:9-10 – ‘turn and be healed‘). The cross is reprehensible, like the snake, but necessary because of their sins, which similarly was the reason for the snakes being sent to bite the Israelites and hence, the need for the bronze ‘idol.’ The snake is further representative of the very first snake bite related to sin in the garden of Eden; hence the reference to Adam as the one who ‘first descended’ from heaven. But even this is simply playfulness as Adam, of course, did not descend from heaven; rather, it was god himself who descended into the garden. So Jesus is saying that he, himself is the one who first descended and that the cross is the means of his ascension, since it was the way to his resurrection.] 14 So just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, thus it is necessary that the son of man be lifted up, 15 to the end that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”

[John’s commentary on the above story:]

16 For this is how much god unconditionally loved the world, in that he gave his only begotten son in order that everyone who believes in him should not die but have eternal life. 17 For god did not send the son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, because of him, might be saved. 18 One who believes in him is not judged, but the one who does not believe in him has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the only flesh-born son of god. 19 Now this is the judgement (κρισις), that:

The light came into the world but humans unconditionally loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were wicked.
20 Everyone who practises foul play [φαυλα πρασσων] hates the light and does not come to the light lest his actions be reproved.
21 But the one who believes the truth comes to the light, so that by his actions it is revealed that [his actions] are being done by god.

[ινα φανηρωθη ‘so that it is revealed,’ αυτου τα εργα ‘his actions,’ οτι εν θεω ‘that by God,’ εστιν ειργασμενα ‘they are being done.’ What would it mean to say that they are done in god? What does it mean to say one’s actions are done by god? The sense here is problematic.]

22 After these things Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea, and he settled there with them and was baptizing. 23 Now John was baptizing in Ainon near Saleim, because there was a lot of water there, and they were coming out and being baptized. 25 Then there started up a dispute between John’s disciples and the Judeans concerning cleansing custom. 24 This was before John had been thrown in prison.

26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, of whom you testified, this one is baptizing and all are coming to him!” 27 John answered and said, “A man is not able to understand anything other than what has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves testify of me that I said, “I am not the Messiah,” but that he sent me before that one. 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the brother of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly at the voice of the bridegroom. By this, then, my greatest joy has been fulfilled. 30 It is necessary for that one to increase and for me to decrease.”

[John’s commentary: How Jesus superseded John the Baptist theologically]

31 The one who comes from above is above all things; one who is from earth is of the earth and speaks of the earth. The one who comes from heaven [is above all things, sic]; 32 what he saw and heard [i.e., in heaven], this he testifies, but no one understands his testimony. 33 The one who grasps his testimony is stamped with approval because [he has heard the voice of the spirit of god and] god is truth. 34 For the spirit of god speaks for the one god sent, for the spirit was given [to him] without measure [emphasis mine: the underlying semitic chiastic structure of the grammar here, I would argue, justifies the above insertion in order for the sentence to make sense]. 35 The father unconditionally loved the son and has given all things into his hands. 36 One who believes in the son has eternal life; but one who disobeys the son will not see [eternal] life, but the wrath of god remains upon him.


@gamiliel on Instagram

This translation was taken from The Greek New Testament, Kurt Aland, et. al. eds., Third Edition (corrected), United Bible Societies, (in cooperation with the Institute for New Testament Textual Research, Münster/Westphalia, Printed in West Germany by Biblia-Druck GmbH Stuttgart),1983.


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