Monday, 11 April 2016

Born from above or born again? Both are on the cards.

What does Jesus teach Nicodemus in John 3?

Everyone, or most people in the English-speaking world, has heard of the Christian-lingo "born again" Christians. For many Christians, being a "born-again" Christian is a crucial part of their identity. But is that what the Greek says? Let's look at the English NIV:

John 3:3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 

John 3:6-7 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

Bart Ehrman frequently likes to make an interesting point about John's gospel here. He actually believes that in Greek this word, anōthen, means both "again" (i.e. born again) and "from above" (i.e. born from above), and that John is placing clever, double-entendre teaching on Jesus' lips via word play in Greek (for a conversation that almost certainly would not have taken place in that language, where the Aramaic translation for "born again" and "born from above" would vary).  But if John was uniquely talking about being born "from above", then there is no good explanation for Nicodemus' confusion about physical re-birth. Meanwhile, being born from above fits the clear flesh-spirit distinctions. So it's probably both. The problem we are left with, I guess, is that saying you are a born-again-this-time-from-above Christian doesn't role nearly quite so well of the tongue :)

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