The Ministry of Messiah, 2:1-12:50

1. Jesus offers abundant new life, 2:1-3:36

iii] Nicodemus and the new birth


One evening, in the context of his stay in Jerusalem, Jesus meets with Nicodemus, a members of Israel's religious council, the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus obviously wants to know more about this new Jewish sect led by Jesus. So, Jesus sets out to confront Nicodemus with the spiritual regeneration that he is offering the people of Israel - a dramatic change in a person's life akin to being born anew.


The blessings of the covenant / eternal life are not found in the religious institutions of Israel, but are only available to those who are born from above through faith in the faithfulness of Jesus.


i] Context: For Jesus offers abundant new life, 2:1-3:36, see 2:1-12.. As already noted, our author weaves together Jesus' teachings in a number of dialogues / discourses, often related to an illustrative event in Jesus' ministry. It is likely that each sign / event and its related discourse, is, in itself, a gospel presentation. The discourse before us works off the cleansing of the temple and deals with the appropriation of God's promised new life in Christ - a spiritual birth from above.


ii] Structure: Nicodemus and the new births:

Setting, v1;

Question #1, v2;

Answer #1, v3;

"unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God."

Question #2, v4;

Answer #2, v5-8:

"unless you are born of water and the Spirit,

you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."

Question #3, v9;

Answer #3, v10-15;

"the Son of Man must be lifted up,

that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."


iii] Interpretation:

This dialogue reveals that the blessings of the covenant (the full realization of Ezekiel 37 - the spiritual enlivening of the people of God at the hand of the Spirit of God) is appropriated through faith in the faithfulness of Christ, ie., those who believe in the lifted up one find in him eternal life.

The discourse begins with an introduction which sets the scene, v1-2. Nicodemus, an accomplished theologian, obviously wants to find out about this young Rabbi from Nazareth and so he begins the conversation with a pleasantry. Jesus hasn't got time for niceties and so dives in with a proposition that shapes the direction of the rest of the discourse - real life, spiritual life, eternal life, is only possible for those who are born from above, v3. The idea of spiritual regeneration is not something a first century Jewish rabbi could easily grasp; it was not really part of their theological education, so Nicodemus is confused - he thinks Jesus is speaking about physical rebirth, v4. The confused response by Nicodemus prompts Jesus' explanation that God's gift of real life, the promised spiritual life of the covenant (entry into the kingdom of God and all that it entails), requires a spiritual birth, a spiritual washing, v5, a washing by the Spirit of God, v6. Like the movement of wind, spiritual birth is mysterious, and yet like the wind, how wonderfully powerful it is, v7-8. Nicodemus is out of his depth and so seeks clarification, v9. Jesus explains that he, as the messiah / the Son of Man / the heavenly man, comes to reveal divine mysteries, and to this point in the discussion he has kept them at a kindergarten level - Nicodemus needs to stretch his mind otherwise real life is going to pass him by, v10-13. So, Jesus cuts to the chase and moves the discussion forward. Using the Old Testament illustration of the time when Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness for the healing of the people of Israel, so Jesus, the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that those who look to him, who believe in him, will find in him eternal life, v14-15.

Nicodemus now fades out of the picture, probably even more confused, as John moves the discourse from dialogue to reflection.


Law and grace: Nicodemus is a pious Jew, a Pharisee. For Nicodemus, a second-temple Jew, the full appropriation of the promised covenant blessings, of life in all its fullness, is found in the religious life of Israel - Temple worship and obedience to the Law. Yet, even now God's hand of judgment is upon Israel's religious life (Jesus' cleansing of the temple). Although Nicodemus would view his initial status before God as a work of divine grace realized by his birth as a Jew and inclusion in the family of Israel, his full appropriation of God's promised blessings is through his adherence to Israel's religious institutions and its Law. For a person like Nicodemus, the Law sanctifies - restraining evil and shaping holiness for divine blessing. Jesus strikes at the very heart of this theology. As Jesus explains, God's promised covenant blessings, of life in all its fullness, requires a total spiritual rebirth through the power of God. Law-improvement programs cannot achieve this, rather, it is only something God can do for us. God's promise of real life is facilitated by grace through faith in the faithfulness of Jesus. So, a pious Jews like Nicodemus needs to look beyond the Law for holiness (sanctification, spiritual life with God) to the lifted-up-one and the life he bestows through faith.


iv] Synoptics:

Following Bultman, some commentators argue that this passage, in particular, derives from a Gnostic source, but all the evidentiary words (eg., descend and ascend, spirit, flesh, water, ....) are found in the Jewish literature of the time. All that John is doing is expressing himself in a way familiar to Hellenistic Jews.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:1

Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, v1-15: i] The evening visit, v1. We are told Nicodemus is a member of the Sanhedrin, "the Jewish ruling council". He comes to Jesus, moving from darkness into the light.

de "Now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

ek + gen. "[a man] of [the Pharisees] / [there was a Pharisee]" - [there was a man] from [the pharisees]. The preposition serves as a partitive genitive. An unusual designation, possibly prompted by the point made in v25.

autw/ dat. pro. "[named]" - [name] to him. Dative of possession; "the name belonged to him", Novakovic.

NikodhmoV "Nicodemus" - Standing in apposition to "man". Predicate nominative of an assumed verb to-be. He represents those Jews of high office who hesitatingly followed Jesus.

twn Ioudaiwn (oV) gen. "[a member of] the Jewish [ruling council]" - [a ruler] of the jews. "Ruler of the Jews" also stands in apposition to "man". The genitive is adjectival, of subordination; "a ruler over the Jews" = "a member of the Sanhedrin."


ii] Question #1. It seems likely that the statement by Nicodemus is a polite question, a way of asking Jesus to explain the new teaching he is propagating.

nuktoV (nux toV) gen. "at night" - [this one came to him] of night. The genitive is adverbial, of time; "by / during the night." John likes the symbolism of night and day, the realm of evil and the realm of light..... Judas leaves the light and goes out into the night while Nicodemus comes out of the night into the light. "During the night."

autw/ dat. pro. "[said]" - [and said] to him [rabbi]. Dative of indirect object.

oidamen (oida) perf. "we know" - we know. The Pharisees often speak as one, "we know", but Nicodemus may be using the royal plural, or just generalizing, ie., including Jesus' disciples in the "we".

oJti "that" - Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "we know."

didaskaloV (oV) "[you are] a teacher" - a teacher. Jesus will later expand on Nicodemus' recognition of Jesus as one of God's teachers, a Rabbi; see v11-13. Given that Jesus is around 30 years of age and has had no formal teaching, the designation "Rabbi" is clearly complementary.

elhluqaV (ercomai) perf. "who has come" - you have come. The verb implies a recognition of Jesus' divine commission, a commission denied by other Pharisees, cf., 7:15, 9:16. "We know that God has sent you", CEV.

apo + gen. "from [God]" - Expressing source / origin; emphatic by position.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why "we know" that Jesus is a teacher from God; "because ...."

poein (poiew) pres. inf. "[could] perform" - [no one is able, can, powerful] to do. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able." This verb dunamai, "is able", is used 6 time in the passage. Nicodemus confirms that Jesus is able to do signs and therefore God is with him. "You could not perform these miracles if God were not with you", CEV.

ta shmeia (ov) "the miraculous signs" - the signs, miracles [which you do]. Nicodemus may not have recognized the gospel in Jesus' signs, but he can see that they demonstrate that God is with him, and thus at leas a prophet.

ean mh "if [God were] not" - if not = unless, as may be the case [god is with him then no one is able to do the signs which you do]. Introducing a third class conditional clause where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true.

met (meta) + gen. "with [him]" - Expressing association / accompaniment.


iii] Answer #1. Jesus reveals the central preposition of his new teaching - a person who is born spiritually, born from above, fully participates in God's promised kingdom. Israel's spiritual life, as focused on the Temple, is not the source of the promised blessings of the covenant.

autw/ dat. pro. "declared / replied" - [jesus answered and said] to him. Dative of indirect object; the phrase expresses Semitic idiom. "Jesus replied", Moffatt.

soi dat. pro. "[very truly I tell] you" - Dative of indirect object. The phrase "truly, truly, I say to you" always serves to introduce an important statement; See 5:24.

idein (oJraw) aor. inf. "[can] see" - [he is not able] to look at, see. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "he is [not] able." Here in the sense of "encounter", "participate in"; "to expedience eternal, resurrection life", Carson. "Unless a person is born from above they cannot participate in the kingdom of God."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of God" - The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, or taking "kingdom" as "reign", verbal, subjective. As Wanamaker notes, the kingdom of God is both "domain and dominion." The term, common in the synoptic gospels and easily understood by Jews, is only used here in this passage by John, in v3 and 5. Elsewhere the term is replaced by the phrase "eternal life" - the promise of a kingdom is a promise of real life, eternal life. "The eternal reign of God over his gathered people."

ean mh + subj. "unless" - if not = unless, as may be the case, [someone is born again, then he is not able to see the kingdom of god]. Introducing a negated conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

tiV "they" - anyone. General propositional statements are like gold in the scriptures and this is one of them. It is important to remember that a specific promise or command to a specific person or group at a specific point in time is not necessarily a command or promise for all people at all times. Jesus' words here apply to tiV, "anyone". For the sake of the argument the proposition is stated negatively, but that doesn't annul the positive - the kingdom belongs to anyone who is born again.

gennhqh/ (gennaw) aor. pas. subj. "are born" - is born. In the passive also, "begotten" identifying the function of the male in conception rather than the female in birth. Brown opts for "begotten" as the primary meaning here - eternal life is possessed by those who are begotten of the Spirit.

anwqen adv. "again" - Adverb of time, "anew......." but also of place, "above", in the sense of heavenly in origin. Morris goes for both together, "reborn from above." "From above" fits best, given that Nicodemus' wrongly understands the word to mean "again / anew" = "reborn". A double meaning is possible with Nicodemus understanding the wrong meaning. The birth from above, a washing of the Spirit, spiritual rebirth, is what produces life eternal, cf., v31.


iv] Question #2. Nicodemus is confused and seeks a clarification. He thinks Jesus is speaking about some form of natural rebirth, when in reality he is speaking about a spiritual birth from above.

pwV "how" - [nicodemus says to him] how. Interrogative particle.

gennhqhnai (gennaw) aor. pas. inf. "be born" - [is a man able] to be born. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb dunatai, "is able." Nicodemus thinks Jesus is saying "born again" when he is saying "born from above." It is likely that John has employed this play on the meaning of the adverb anwqen, "again / above", to underline the truth that regeneration is a spiritual renewal from above, from God, and is not something achieved by human effort. "How can a grown man ever be born a second time?", CEV.

w[n (eimi) pres. part. "when they are [old]" - being [old]. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV.

mh "-" - not. This negation is used in a question expecting a negative answer.

eiselqein (eisercomai) aor. inf. "he / they cannot enter" - [is he able] to enter. The infinitive, as with gennhqhnai, "to be born", is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb dunatai, "is not able."

thV mhtroV (hr roV) gen. "mother's [womb]" - [into the womb] of the mother [of him a second time and to be born]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.


v] Answer #2, v5-8. Jesus again repeats his proposition. This time he uses the word "enter" rather than "see" and describes the birth from above as a washing with the Spirit. Of course, as with wind, we do not understand the dynamics of spiritual birth - it is real, but mysterious. It's important to note that Jesus' reference to "water" here is likely to have nothing to do with water baptism. The point Jesus is making is that a person cannot participate in God's promised kingdom unless they are spiritually washed from above.

soi dat. pro. "[I tell] you [the truth] / [very truly I tell] you" - [jesus answered, truly truly i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. The phrase is again used to introduce an important statement. See 5:24.

eiselqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "[can] enter" - [unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able] to enter. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to be able."

ean mh + subj. "unless" - Introducing a negated conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if not / unless, as the case may be, someone is born from water and spirit, then they are (he is) not able to enter the kingdom of God."

ex (ek) + gen. "of" - Expressing source / origin; "from". It is generally held that the preposition governs both "water" and "S/spirit", so "born of water and of S/spirit". When viewed separately, entrance into the kingdom of heaven requires water baptism + Holy Spirit baptism, or natural birth + spiritual birth, etc. That Jesus is suggesting that two kinds of birth are required for entrance into the kingdom of heaven seems unlikely.

uJdatoV kai pneumatoV "water and the Spirit" - Rather than two separate elements joined by a coordinative kai, it seems likely that kai is ascensive / epexegetic, "even", "born of/from water / washing, even of/from the breath of God / wind / spirit / Spirit" = "born of a spiritual washing." However we handle the phrase it denotes a single spiritual birth, a birth from above, so Carson, Kostenberger, ..... Carson also argues strongly against the NIV / TNIV "the Spirit" = "Holy Spirit." He opts for "spirit". Note, there is some evidence that "water and" was added, so Brown, although Morris disputes this. So, Jesus is speaking of a spiritual washing, a life-giving washing from above. He probably has in mind Ezekiel 37, with particular reference to the realization of the covenant for the people of Israel, Ezk.37:25-27. "Born of a spiritual washing, a washing from above."

eiV + acc. "-" - into. Spacial, movement toward or into. Note the usual repetition of the prepositional prefix of the verb, here the verb "to enter", eisercomai.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of God" - See v3.


Natural birth produces natural life, but the Spirit produces spiritual life.

thV sarkoV "flesh" - [the thing having been born of] the flesh [is flesh]. For John it is not "sinful flesh" as often with Paul, but rather just "fleshly existence."

to gegennhmenon (gennaw) neut. perf. pas. part. "gives birth to [flesh]" - the thing having been born. The participle serves as a substantive. The perfect gives the sense "what has been born and now presents itself that way", Harris. We may have expected masculine here, but John seems to preference the neuter gender. This phrase is often aligned with "born of water", but it more likely addresses Nicodemus' confusion of "born again (from a mother's womb)" with "born from above." "Spirit gives birth to spirit" further explains "birth from above." "What is begotten of flesh is flesh", Brown.

kai "but" - and. Here contrastive, as NIV.

ek + gen. "-" - [the thing having been born] of [the spirit is spirit]. Expressing source / origin.

tou pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "the Spirit" - Usually taken here to refer to the Holy Spirit who represents "the principle of divine power and life operating in the human sphere", Brown, cf., Ezk.36:26, 37:5, 14. Possibly "the breath of God" may be intended, even just "spirit"; see Kostenberger.



"Do not be astonished at my telling you that a person ("men") must be born again (from above??)", Rieu.

mh "not" - [do] not. Introducing a prohibition which with the subjunctive verb "to marvel at" forbids future action.

qaumashV (qaumazw) aor. subj. "you should [not] be surprised" - wonder, marvel. A subjunctive of prohibition. Bultman says the term is a typical Rabbinic statement. "Do not be surprised when I say", NJB.

oJti "at [my saying]" - that [i said]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they should not be surprised about.

soi "-" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

gennhqhnai (gennaw) aor. pas. inf. "[you must be] born [again]" - [it is necessary you] to be born. The infinitive serves as the subject of the verb "is necessary"; "to be born again for you is necessary." Following Culy's lead in the HGT series, Novakovic classifies an infinitive with an impersonal verb such as dei, "it is necessary", as complementary, see Substantive Infinitives - Subject. The accusative pronoun uJmaV, "you", serves as the subject of the infinitive.

anwqen adv. "again" - Temporal adverb, "again", although better of place, "from above"; see v3.


Jesus now uses an illustration to make the point that although the spiritual birth from above is mysterious, inscrutable, it is "as real as the mysterious movements of the wind", Kostenberger.

to pneuma (a atoV) "the wind" - the wind, breath / 'ruach', the breath of god, spirit, spirit [blows where it wills]. Nominative subject of the verb "to blow." Either the word here means "wind" and is used to describe the experience of a person who is born from above by the Spirit of God (spiritual birth, birth from above, is mysterious and invisible as is the wind), or the word means Spirit. The vulgate (Latin Bible) translates the word here as "Spirit" and therefore, the verse directly describes spiritual birth. Brown argues that the blowing of the wind is used as a simile for a spiritual birth from above.

autou gen. "its [sound]" - [and the sound] of it [you hear]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but may also be treated as verbal, subjective, "the sound produced by it", or ablative, source / origin, "from it."

all (alla) "but" - but [you do not know where it comes from and where it goes away]. Adversative, as NIV.

ou{twV adv. "so [it is]" - so. Adverb of manner; "in like manner a spiritual birth from above."

paV oJ gegennhmenoV (gennaw) perf. pas. part. "everyone born" - everyone having been born. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. This is a common construction in John. If we treat the adjective paV as a noun / substantive, "everyone", then the articular participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone"; if we treat the adjective paV, "all, every", as an adjective, then the participle serves as a substantive limited by the adjective paV. "Everyone who is born of the Spirit", NAB.

ek + gen. "of [the Spirit]" - from [the spirit]. Expressing source / origin.


vi] Question #3, v9. Nicodemus still fails to understand what Jesus is talking about, for which Jesus expresses amazement.

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [nicodemus answered and said] to him. Dative of indirect object. The redundant "said" is typical Semitic form.

pwV "How" - Interrogative particle; "How is this possible?"

genesqai (ginomai) aor. inf. "[can this] be?" - [how is able these things] to happen? The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able." The pronoun tauta, "these things", serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive. "How can things like this happen?"


vii] Answer #3, v10-15. Nicodemus is baffled, but needs to stretch his mind. In the discourse so far, Jesus has revealed a fairly basic theological truth, but Nicodemus has failed to understand the point Jesus is making. If a person like Nicodemus cannot understand an idea like "born from above", how will he even understand the redemptive purpose in Jesus' crucifixion - a heavenly thing indeed. Jesus goes on to explain these "heavenly things", this profound theology. In the same way as the bronze serpent was lifted up on a stake in the desert during the time of the forty years wandering of the children of Israel, so will Jesus, the Son of Man, be lifted up. All who looked at that snake were spared death. So too, all who look in faith at Jesus will be spared. The lifting up obviously refers to the cross of Jesus, but it must be remembered that for John, Christ's lifting up on the cross is his lifting up to heavenly glory. So, when someone looks in faith to Jesus, trusts Jesus, they are caught up in both the humiliation and the glory of the cross - Christ's cross, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement. The point being made in verse 15 is that whoever looks to the crucified Christ, trusting him for the full realization of the covenant promises, that person finds themselves "in" Christ, identified with Christ, and thus in possession of eternal life. Through faith we possess the fullness of God's promised real life in Christ.

su pro. "You" - The personal pronoun is emphatic by position and use; "You, not I, are Israel's teacher", Novakovic.

tou Israhl gen. "Israel's [teacher]" - [are the teacher] of israel. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as NIV, or of subordination, "over Israel", or even verbal, objective, "you are someone who teaches Israel"; "one of those who teach Israel", Cassirer. The presence of the article oJ with "teachers" = "the teacher", may imply that Nicodemus is a particular teacher, one of Israel's finest teachers, so Barrett. "Teacher" would imply "teacher of the Law." Note here an example of the canon of Apollonius, where two nouns, one dependent on the other, either both have an article or both lack it.

autw/ "dat. pro. "-" - [jesus answered and said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

kai "and" - Here adversative; "and yet you do not understand these things?", ESV.

ou ginwskeiV (ginwskw) pres. "do you not understand [these things]?" - [these things] you do not know, understand? Bultmann argues that Jesus is not critical of Nicodemus' failure to understand something that was evident in the Old Testament, but rather he is critical of the failure of Rabbinic scholarship to grasp such a basic issue of Biblical theology - yet note v12. "'Are you the famous teacher of the famous Israel,' Jesus said to him, 'and you do not understand this'", Barclay.


Jesus makes the point that divine knowledge can be sourced from him and his associates, given the origin of the Son of Man, but sadly Nicodemus and his associates have ignored the opportunity.

soi dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [truly, truly, i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. Again the phrase introduces an important statement; See 5:24.. Note the change from singular "I say" to the plural "we speak of what we know."

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus tells them.

laloumen (lalew) pres. "we speak" - [the thing we know] we speak. In common parlance it is a "have a chat" type word, but in the New Testament it is often used of communicating the gospel; "we proclaim." The use of the plural in the verbs of this verse is interesting. Nicodemus approached Jesus in a representative way, speaking for his fellow Pharisees - "we know you are a teacher come from God." Jesus now speaks in a representative way, namely, Jesus and his followers. Of course, other possibilities present themselves: Brown suggests that the plural is simply a counter to Nicodemus' "we"; Jesus may be using the royal plural; John may have drifted into the testimony of the Christian community. If Jesus is speaking for himself and his associates, then he is making the point that whereas Nicodemus and his associates don't really know what they are talking about, Jesus and his associates do because they have firsthand knowledge of the divine, cf., v12-13.

oJ eJwrakamen (oJraw) perf. "what we have seen" - [and] that which we have looked at, seen [we bear witness]. Nicodemus' words are based on ignorance, while Jesus' words are based on what he knows and has seen.

kai "but" - and. Here contrastive, as NIV.

hJmwn gen. pro. "our [testimony]" - [the witness, testimony] of us [you do not receive]. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective, "the testimony given by us", or even objective, "the testimony about us."


Obviously, the "earthly things" are Jesus' teachings about the birth from above which he has tried to explain to Nicodemus in earthly terms. What then are the "heavenly things"? Are they the "post-ascensional words of Jesus spoken through the Paraclete", Brown? Are they the "eschatological dimension of the salvation" yet to be revealed, Beasley-Murray? Are they the truths concerning the establishment of the kingdom on earth, Carson? As already indicated, it seems likely that this heavenly revelation concerns the redemptive lifting up of Jesus on the cross, v14-15.

ei + ind. ..... ean + subj. "- ...... if" - if, as is the case, [i told you earthly things, and you do not believe, how], if, as may be the case, [i tell you heavenly things, will you believe]? The particle ei introduces a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true, followed by a second conditional clause, 3rd class, introduced by ean, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "If you do not believe when I tell you basic Biblical truths, how will you believe when I reveal the mysteries of heaven?"

uJmin dat. pro. "[I have spoken] to you" - Dative of indirect object.

ta epigeia pl. adj. "earthly things" - the things belonging to or on the earth, earthly. The articular adjective serves as a substantive, accusative direct object of the verb "to say."

kai "and [you do not believe]" - Slightly adversative / contrastive, taking the meaning "and yet."

pwV "how" - Interrogative particle.

ta epourania (oV) "heavenly things" - the heavenly things, belonging to heaven. The articular adjective serves as the accusative direct object of the verb "to say." In the context this is surely v14, but see below. "How will you believe if I tell you the strange things of heaven", Barclay.


anabebhken (anabainw) perf. "has gone" - [no one] has gone up, ascended [into heaven]. The perfect tends to imply past action with ongoing consequences, although in Greek, aspect always trumps time. Here the perfect is usually classified as gnomic, ie., timeless. It would not be helpful here to argue that the perfect tense implies that Jesus has already ascended to heaven and so the use of the perfect reflects post ascension preaching. Carson argues that the statement is elliptical: "No-one [else] has ascended into heaven and remained there [so as to be able to speak authoritatively about heavenly things] but only the one who has come down from heaven [is equipped to do so]." The point is ,"no one has entered into communion with God and possesses thereby an intuitive knowledge of divine things", Godet.

ei mh "except" - Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designation an exception; "no one ....... except ....."

oJ .... katabaV (katabainw) aor. part. "the one who came" - the one having come down, descended. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to go up." Scriptural references to the Son of Man usually refer to his coming to the Ancient of Days, his ascending / going up, rather than descending - Jesus comes / ascends to heaven / the Father to reign. Yet, the point being made here is of Jesus' origin, namely, heaven, and thus his ability to speak on matters of divine revelation, ie., the participle expresses antecedent time, action that precedes the action of the main verb "to go up." Jesus is the man from heaven who ascends to heaven, cf., Eph.4:9. Some manuscripts add "who is in heaven"

ek + gen. "from [heaven]" - Expressing source / origin.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational, with "the Son of Man" standing in apposition to "the one having descended from heaven." "The Son of Man" is Jesus' favored messianic title and refers to Daniel's apocalyptic messiah who comes to the Ancient of Days to rule with authority and power, Dan.7:31, cf., Jn.1:51; See 1:51.


Jesus now reveals a heavenly thing, an amazing, mind-blowing truth - a person who relies on the redemptive act of Christ on the cross gains in him eternal life. It is by this means that the birth from above is facilitated.

kaqwV ...... ouJtwV "just as ...... so ..." - as [moses]. Here the comparative kaqwV with the adverb of manner ouJtwV establishes a comparative construction where the characteristics of one element are compared with the other; "Just as ...... so also ........."

uJywsen (uJyow) aor. "lifted up" - lifted up, held up, made high [the snake]. The lifting up of the serpent on a pole by Moses brought salvation to the people, "so also" the lifting up of the Son of Man.

en + dat. "in [the wilderness]" - in [the desert]. Local, expressing space / sphere.

uJywqhnai (uJyow) pas. inf. "be lifted up" - [so it is necessary the son of man] to be lifted up. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb dei, "is necessary", with the accusative "Son of Man" serving as the subject of the infinitive, but may be classified as complementary; See v7. For "lifted up" see 8:28


iJna + subj. "that" - that. Likely introducing a purpose clause; "in order that." The purpose of the lifting up of Christ / his glorification, the cross and all that it entails, is so that the believer may have eternal life. "As Moses lifted high the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, in order that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal Life", Weymouth.

oJ pisteuwn (pisteuw) pres. part. "[everyone] who believes" - [all] the believing ones. As noted above, the articular participle with the adjective paV may be classified as either adjectival, or substantival, depending on whether paV is treated as a substantive, "everyone", or an adjective, "all". Everyone who looks in faith to the Son of Man will find in him eternal life, cf., Num.21:8.

en + dat. "in [him]" - Local. A variant eiV, "into", exists, although en is the stronger reading. Believe en, "in", often carries the sense of eiV, "into", serving to indicate the direction, even the goal, of the action of the verb, ie., the two prepositions often express an interchangeable idea. So, the idea here may simply be of relying on Jesus for our salvation, of putting our faith in / into him. Of course a more local sense for "in" may be intended, conveying the idea of identification with Christ / incorporative union. To this end the TNIV has corrected the NIV, taking "in him" with "may have eternal life." This seems to better reflect the intent of the verse: "so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him", NJB.

aiwnion adj. "eternal [life]" - [may have life] eternal. This two-termination adjective (no feminine form) limits the feminine noun life, the accusative direct object of the verb "to have." "Eternal life" is a central term in this gospel and used for the first time here. Sometimes translated "everlasting life" in the AV, although it is not so much the duration of life, but the quality of life that is in mind, a life which is incorruptible, perfect, unaffected by the limitations of worldly existence. The phrase is sometimes used in the synoptic gospels where it seems to mean "life in the coming kingdom age." Often the synoptics simply have "life" as an absolute, but it probably means the same. The phrase would therefore not be unfamiliar to a Jewish teacher like Nicodemus. Clearly John uses the phrase with the same meaning, except that this "life" is now, ie., for John, eternal life is realized, rather than eschatological, or more correctly we should say inaugurated, better reflecting his use of a durative present tense in the verb ech/, "have".


John Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]