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Pronouns Metaphors Errors Part 20


Pronouns Metaphors Errors Pt 20


Pronouns, Metaphors, and Errors


March 8, 2015

Part 20

John 3:3

3 Jesus answered and said to him,"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

4 Nicodemus said to 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?"

Today we really need to spend some quality time with John 3.3. I don’t expect to belabor this unduly, nor do I intend to waste your time dealing with unnecessary details, but I do believe that efforts to investigate this instance of Scripture, will yield results that are both interesting and enlightening.Specifically, we need to understand the meaning of the words “unless one is born again”, and especially the meaning of the term “born again” as Jesus intended for Nicodemus to hear it.

The Greek word translated here as “born again”, as we have previously discussed is:

Greek for born again

be born again

This two word combination is a particular type of phrase, an idiom (lit. one’s own saying), which literally means “be born from above”, and carries the meaning “to be born again”.

Last week I told you that in that day, the generally accepted meaning of this idiom was, to experience a complete change in one’s way of life to what it should be, with the implication of return to a former state or relation.

This week I want you to learn the meaning held from the viewpoint of the Jews in that day, the actual meaning which Nicodemus would certainly have understood when he first heard these words from Jesus.

Let’s take another quick look at the Greek phrase-

Greek for born again

be born again

now, the adverb Greek for the English word "again"

Greek for the English word "again"is the compound of Greek for aboveabove + Greek for to put or to placeto put, to place.

In the earliest classical Greek period, the first part of the word, Greek for aboveabove, was used as an adverb to describe land or mountain in contrast to the sea; the sky and heaven in comparison with the earth; or even the earth in contrast to the underworld.

So, what idea expresses the original essence of the whole word, Greek for the English word "again" in terms which are meaningful to us?

Greek for the English word "again" essentially describes the placement of one thing into a position relative to another thing, as from above the other thing. Just as something that is placed “from above” would relate to the land or mountain in contrast to relating to the sea; so also it could relate positionally to the sky and heaven in comparison with the earth.The same idea of Greek for the English word "again" is used throughout the Old Testament in terms of its Hebrew equivalentHebrew Milequivalent for the Greek word Born again to describe the act of positioning something from above another thing, as in“being placed there from above” it.

While this once again explains the literal sense of what Jesus said, it gets us nowhere closer to an understanding of the intended meaning Jesus wanted to convey to Nicodemus that night. Why did Nicodemus responded the way he did? Where should we go to find the answer to our question? We must go to the Jewish roots of the meaning of “born from above”. We will not find the complete answer in the Old Testament, but from the traditions among the Jews in that day. By comparison, the most distinguished representation of Christian ecclesiastical tradition testifies that Greek for the English word "again" here means“from above”.

Even present-day Judaism often uses the notion “born from above” in the sense of “rebirth” as a name-change figure to describe a dramatic change of a person's status, such as when an individual converts to Judaism.

(Q) So, where did such an idea originally come from?

(A) The *Talmud, which describes a convert to Judaism as “a newborn infant”. The earlier Jerusalem Talmud (as opposed to the 5th century AD, Babylonian Talmud, which includes earlier material).It is the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend, in two parts, the Mishnah (an authoritative collection of exegetical material, i.e. the oral tradition of Jewish law), and the Gemara (a rabbinical commentary on the Mishnah). This may be as new to you as it was to me, but according to this same Talmud, rebirth also occurs on a man's wedding day; when he takes a wife he becomes like a newborn child, God considered it as though He had created them as a new being. According to the interpretations from these same traditions, God also told Moses that He would create him into a new being when He called Moses to speak as God's representative.The king of Israel was also considered to experience new birth when he became the king. While Psalm 2 ultimately anticipates the coming of the Messiah, it also depicts the birth of the king as "God's son" during the king's
inauguration (Ps. 2:7).

NKJ Psalm 2:7
“I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to me, 'You are My son, Today I have begotten you.’”

NKJ Psalm 2:7
“I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to me, 'You are My son, Today I have begotten you.’”

We will certainly argue that this reference uniquely pointed to King David as a type of Christ, who was yet to come, and that it should read thus:

The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.

But, Jewish tradition is, that since the king functioned as God's representative to Israel, his status changed at his inauguration; therefore, he and all Jewish kings after him experienced new birth on such occasions.

Since Nicodemus was born into the covenant by natural birth, perhaps he thought that rebirth was only necessary for Gentiles converting to Judaism, or Jews becoming married, or Jewish kings being inaugurated; and so, Jesus’ statement would have not have made much sense as being applicable to himself. In his own mind, he was alreadyborn from above”, already “born again”.

What we actually need to see is that being born again from a Jewish perspective was to Nicodemus an oxymoron, and it is as well to any present day Jewish person who is knowledgeable of the traditions of Judaism. The whole concept of “being born again”, was part and parcel of the Jewish community in the first century, and it still is today!Take another look at “you must be born again” as seen exclusively through the Jewish view of being born again. Pharisaic Judaism taught that there are eight (8) ways to be born again, and they all stress the physical element, and yet God’s imprimatur (permission, lit. “let it be printed”) is clearly implied in each type of rebirth listed.

Nicodemus qualified for six (6) ways of “being born again”.

Let us take a look at them...

The original type of birth, “to be born of water” happens when you are physically born.Of course Nicodemus qualified for this type of birth because “being born of water” is a rabbinic idiom for physical birth. It is a direct physical reference to the amniotic fluid.Nicodemus already knew this!When we say that both water and spirit are qualities which describe the type of birth Jesus is speaking about to believers, we are absolutely correct. However, in light of understanding the Jew’s concept of “being born again, from above”; are we not seen as over spiritualizing the notion of the quality meaning of water when we attribute both (water and spirit) together as a name-change figure put for the Holy Spirit?Beyond the original physical birth, Nicodemus had been taught that there were eight (8) ways a Jew could be born again.

First- the type of rebirth a proselyte encounters at conversion.

When a Gentile chose to become converted to Judaism, he was said to be “born again.” He moved into a whole new realm of life. He was moved positionally from above to a higher place, out of being Gentile and into being Jewish. He took on new responsibilities. Now he is committed to the Mosaic Law and the traditions of first century Judaism.

Did Nicodemus experience this? No.

Second- the type of rebirth by inauguration.

When a Jewish man became crowned king, he is said to be “born again.” He started a whole new life. Before, he was just a citizen of the nation, now he is the leader! Now he needs to lead the country. That means he has to take on tremendous responsibilities, and a brand new life.

Did Nicodemus experience this? No.

Third- the type of rebirth by Jewish Baptism.

There are many immersions in Rabbinic Judaism. You immersed yourself and when you came out of the water and you were ritually clean. Nicodemus, as a Pharisee, immersed frequently, so he experienced this type of being “born again” often. It was customary among the Pharisees to maintain a state of purity at all times. In fact, the Hebrew name the Pharisees, the Perushim, (separated ones) may have developed from this.

Fourth- the type of rebirth by repentance.

Repentance means to turn around, to change your mind from walking in unrighteousness to walking in righteousness. That is being “born again.” It is a new way of life. You were going one way, now you are going another way.

Had he experienced repentance? Yes.

He probably repented all the time. At a bare minimum we know he would express repentance on the Jewish year Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Fifth- the type of rebirth by bar-mitzvah.

The next way you could be “born again” is when you are bar-mitzvahed. When a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13, he is “born again” because he becomes a man. He is no longer a child; he starts a brand new life. He is now responsible for his own sin. He is “born again” into a brand new life.Nicodemus would certainly would have been “born again” in this particular way many years prior.

Sixth- the type of rebirth by marriage.

You become born again when you were married. Now you have a wife to support; a wife to take care of, and a home. It is brand new start. It is a brand new life. You are “born again.” Marriage happened between the ages of 16 and 20 in the first century.Nicodemus was married, because that was a requirement for being a member of the Sanhedrin.

Seventh- the type of rebirth by ordination.

You could be “born again” is rabbinic ordination. When you were ordained as a rabbi, you now taught the masses of people. You taught them the Torah. You taught them the traditions; how to live. You took on brand new responsibilities, a brand new life. This happened around age 30. We know Nicodemus was a rabbi, he was teaching the masses of the people of Israel.

Eighth- the type of rebirth by appointment.

You could be “born again” by becoming the head of a rabbinic academy, a rabbinic seminary, a yeshiva. Now your life changes again because you are not responsible to teach the masses, you are now called HaRav (the Rabbi) and are responsible to teach rabbis and rabbinic candidates.

Did Nicodemus experience this kind of “being born again”? Yes.

How do we know this?

We know that Nicodemus was the head of a yeshiva. If you are just a rabbi, you receive the title Rav (Rabbi), but when you became the head of a yeshiva you receive the title HaRav (the Rabbi).

We will see Jesus use this title HaRav (the Rabbi) in speaking with Nicodemus, John conveying the idea with Greek phrase meaning, The teacher of Israel Jesus calls him “the teacher of Israel.”

That means Nicodemus was the head of a yeshiva! He was a teacher of teachers. He was responsible to know what Jesus is talking about. This, then raises the question, why did Nicodemus respond the way he did to Jesus’ declaration?Nicodemus said to 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?"Under the circumstances, and especially in light of all that Nicodemus had to know with regard to the fact that God must be directly involved in any type of re-birth that one might be capable of imagining; since it is God Himself who“places men in a higher position from above”, what possible explanation is there for Nicodemus’ answer to Jesus of this sort? Jesus knew that Nicodemus taught all about being born again, he was the Rabbi of Rabbis. The reason for his answer was the same reason for the answer he gives later-

NKJ John 3.9-10

9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?

Jesus, however, is not actually challenging Nicodemus’ knowledge, He is rebuking his “heart-attitude”, inclined to refuse and not accept what he already knew perfectly well the implication of Jesus’ words.Frankly, this is the only explanation for such“snarky” answers from Nicodemus! Nicodemus was otherwise much too smart of a guy to give such dumb, critical, and irritable responses.

Nicodemus tried to sidestep the truth from Jesus, so he himself said some pretty irrational things to excuse himself from having to deal with the truth; he simply could not accept, nor believe the Word of God coming from the lips of Jesus!

Many will be surprised on the Day of Judgment when they discover that it was just as the Word of God says; only the righteousness of Christ is able to save you.All men are sinners and no one can save himself. God is just, so He must punish sin; but He is also merciful, moreover gracious, and offers His Son as the perfect sacrifice in order to purchase a place for you in heaven, which He offers to you as the free gift of eternal life.

Jesus is the Christ,
Jesus is the Messiah,
Jesus is the Anointed One,
He is God Incarnate,
the Good Shepherd!

In order to pay the debt of our sins, He came from Heaven, having been sent by the Father, where He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father even unto the shameful death upon the cross in order to pay the debt of your sins.This gift must be received by faith, believing that Jesus’ perfect life and Cross Work was His complete and necessary Atonement for your sins, in your behalf. Faith is a gift that comes by the Power of God the Holy Spirit working in a person’s innermost being. Only the power of God can open your heart to the willingness to have the void within it filled with the presence of Christ by His Spirit.The Holy Spirit has the authority and power to quicken your dead spirit, to make it come to life. Only the life of His Spirit’s quickening of your heart will allow the Gospel message of salvation to even make sense to you, to truly “hear” the message and give you the ability, as the Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus, to recognize your need for forgiveness and restoration, and gain the desire of your heart to be favorably inclined to want to receive Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.If you have not done so before this moment, ask Jesus to forgive you your sins, tell Him you’ve stop trying to be your own savior, and ask Him to come into your life right now, and to give you eternal life. Then, in faith believing, thank Him for the gift that He is giving you, the one He paid for in full in your place, in Jesus’ name,


Copyright March, 2015
Rev. Jim Craig
All Rights Reserved


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