I'm concerned about Yochanan chpt.3, where Yeshua responds to Nicodemus question on being born again. What does Messiah mean when He said to be born of water & Spirit? I have a mathew henry's bible commentary, which goes into quite alot of detail, but seems to leave me with more questions than answers. How does this process work? thank you.
3:1 Now, there was there one man from the P’rushim.
His name was Nakdimon, a ruler of the Judeans.
The Aramaic actually reads ”Nicodemus” however the reference is almost certainly to Nakdimon ben Gorion one of the three leading councilors in Jerusalem. According to the Talmud he was wealthy enough to feed the entire city for ten years (b.Gittin 56a). One rather lengthy Talmud story tells us that once, during a drought, Nakdimon made a deal with a Roman General so as to procure twelve wells of water for the Jewish people. According to the story, Nakdimon promised the General to repay him either twelve wells or twelve talents of silver (a tidy sum) before the expiration of one year. On the last day of the year it still had not rained, so Nakdimon went to the Temple to pray. His prayer was answered and it began to rain and refill the wells. The Roman General, however, demanded the silver, saying that the cloud-cover had caused the day, and thus the year, to expire prematurely. Nakdimon returned to the Temple and prayed again, this time the clouds removed and the sun shined out, thus the General was satisfied. (b.Ta'anit 19b-20a) the Talmud also tells us that "Nakdimon" was only his nick-name and that his real name was Buni (b.Ta'anit 20a). The Talmud also relates that a certain Buni was a student of Yeshua of Nazareth and was himself martyred sometime after Yeshua's death (b.San. 43a). The Talmud suggests that the nickname Nakdimon was taken from NAKAD meaning "to shine" "because the sun shined out for him" (b.Ta'anit 20a). A more likely source is NAKI DAM "innocent of the blood" based upon his actions recorded in Jn. 7:45-52; 19:39. The Greek equivalent name Nicodemus has a meaning all of its own NIKOS DEMOS "victorious people". There would be no reason for Buni to have this Greek name as a nickname, but the sound-alike Greek name may have been used by the Roman occupiers in there dealings with this very wealthy man, as the Talmud does record that he had dealings with the Roman General stationed at Jerusalem (b.Ta'anit 19b-20a).
3:3 born again – The literal Aramaic reads #yrd Nm dlytm this phrase also appears in 1Kefa 1:23 and also reminds us of Mt. 19:28 which has the Hebrew phrase tyn#h hdlwtb ”in the second birth”. The reader may wish to look up the commentary on these passages.
To best understand this phase it is important to understand that the Tanak teaches that the nation Israel was born, died, and will live again. Isaiah describes the birth of Israel as follows:
Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
and all the remnant of the House of Israel,
you who have been borne by Me from birth,
and have been carried from the womb…
But from Israel’s birth Israel rebelled by violating Torah:
…and you have been called a rebel from birth…
…If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,…
(Isaiah 48:8, 18)
4 And as for your nativity in the day you were born
your naval was not cut, neither were you washed in
water to supple you; you were not salted at all, nor
swaddled at all.
5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these unto you,
to have compassion upon you; but you were cast out
in the open field, to the lothing of your person, in the
day that you were born.
6 And when I passed by you, and saw you polluted
in my own blood, I said to you when you were in your
blood, Live; yes I said to you when you were in your
After Israel’s birth Israel died from rejection of Torah but would live again! Israel would be born again!
In a similar way anyone who turns to Torah is “born again” in that they become like a new creation. The Talmud says "...a proselyte is like a newborn infant." (b.Yevamot 62a; see also b.Yevamot 48b).
3:5-6 born of water and spirit… born of flesh… born of spirit - Yeshua ties this in as an elaboration of the previous phrase "born again." Here Yeshua is referring to a Tanak passage (Ezekiel 36:24-28) which reads:
For I will take you from among the nations,
gather you out of all countries
and bring you into your own Land
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you,
and you shall be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your filthiness
and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit within you;
I will take he heart of stone out of your flesh
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you
and cause you to walk in My statutes,
and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Then you shall dwell in the Land that
I gave to you fathers;
you shall be my people,
and I will be your Elohim.
What does it mean to be “born of water”? Water represents Torah as Isaiah writes:
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Had Israel not rebelled from Torah after its birth its well being would have been like “a river” and “like the waves of the sea” (Is. 48:8, 17-19)
What does it mean “born of spirit” and “born of flesh” ? The Tanak foretells that that when Israel casts away its transgressions and makes for itself “a new heart and a new spirit” its death will end (Ezek. 18:29-32) and thus will Israel be reborn. Ezekiel also writes:
And I shall give them one heart,
and shall put a new spirit within them.
and I shall take the heart of stone out of her flesh
and give them a heart of flesh,
When the Spirit of YHWH is received YHWH says:
I will put My Spirit within you
and cause you to walk in My statutes,
and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Enter the Kingdom of Eloah - the "Kingdom of Eloah" is a Tanak euphemism for the Kingdom of Israel (as in 1Chron. 28:5; 2Chron. 13:8). Thus in order to enter the kingdom and be regathered to the Land, the Jewish people would have to be born of water (made clean), born of flesh (receive a heart of flesh rather than stone) and receive the Spirit of God so as to walk in the statutes.
3:8 the wind blows - In the Aramaic this is a word play, as the word for Spirit RUCHA can also mean "wind" and is the word used for wind here. This gives the double meaning "The Spirit blows...". The Spirit is like the wind in that both are invisible to the naked eye and can only be felt and discerned by their effects. Solomon wrote:
As you do not know what is the way of the RUACH,
or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
so you do not know the works of Elohim who makes all.
The Ruach reveals mysteries. This is also stated by the Zohar, which says:
Behold, these are three names, how can they be one?
Is it because we call them one? (literally: And also concerning
the proclamation that we call them one?).
How these are one can only through the vision of the Holy Sprit be known.
And these are through the vision of the closed eye (or the hidden eye)
To make known that these three are one (i.e. a Tri-Unity).
(Zohar Vol. 2 p. 43)
3:10 You are a teacher of Yisrael and you do not know these things? - These are things Nakdimon should have known, being a Jewish teacher. This points away from the idea that Nakdimon merely misunderstood an idiomatic expression as some have proposed, or that Nakdimon did not understand some brand new doctrine.
3:12 If I have spoken to you that which is on earth and you do not believe, how will you believe me if I speak to you that which is in heaven? An example of antithetic chiasmus as well as a clear kol v'chomer statement. This gives us the very important information that that which Yeshua has just spoken of, was earthly rather than heavenly information. Yeshua was speaking of an earthly Kingdom. Since most of John deals with heavenly things, this Gospel never returns to the subject of the Kingdom. John's theme is Yeshua as the source of life and light (enlightenment), not his Kingdom offer.
However, Yeshua's earthly PASHAT teaching of a Kingdom offer must be grasped before advancing to his heavenly SOD teachings on life and light. Mark, Luke and Mattitiyahu deal on an earthly level with the Pashat, Remez and Drash. They concentrate on Yeshua's earthly message regarding the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. Yochanan is on the SOD level, it is completely different. It deals with light and life, with heavenly things.
3:13 And no man has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.
The reference here is to Daniel 7:13-14:
In my vision at night I looked.
And there before me was one like a son of man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days
and was led into his presence.
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power:
all peoples, nations and men of every language
This is alluded to in verses 31 and 35:
For he who has come from above is higher than all…
The father loves the son and has given everything
into his hands.
3:14-15 And Yochanan spoke to him saying, “I have need to be immersed of you, and you come to me?” Then Yeshua answered and said to him, permit it now; for in this it is obligated for us to fulfill all righteousness.” He gave him leave, and immersed him. A similar account appeared in the Goodnews according to the Hebrews (see notes to Mt. 3:16-17 below).
This passage raises an obvious question. If Yochanan immersed unto the remission of sins (see Mt. 3:1; Mk. 1:4-5; Lk. 3:2-3, 7 & Acts 19:3-4) and Yeshua was without sin (Heb. 4:15) why should Yeshua be immersed for the remission of sins? A passage from the Goodnews according to the Hebrews quoted by the fourth century “Church Father” Jerome explores this issue:
In the Gospel according to the Hebrews,
which is written in the Chaldee and Syrian language,
but in Hebrew letters, and is used by the Nazarenes
to this day (I mean the Gospel according the Apostles,
or, as is generally maintained, the Gospel according to
Matthew, a copy of which is in the library at Caesarea,
Behold, the mother of our Lord
and His brothers said to him,
John the Baptist baptizes for the remission of sins;
let us go and be baptized by him.
But He said to them, what sin have
I committed that I should go and be baptized by him?
Unless perchance, the very words which I have said
Is [a sin of] ignorance.
(Jerome; Against Pelagius 3:2)
The concept of the “sin of ignorance” is found in the Torah (Lev. 4:2, 22, 27; 5:15-18; 22:14) and in Hebrews (Heb. 9:7). Messiah gave up certain qualities to become a man (Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 2:7, 9, 14) and this apparently included omniscience, In Luke we are told that Messiah “grew and filled with wisdom” (Lk. 2:40, 52) and as an adult he did not have all of the knowledge of the Father (Mk. 13:32). This raises the possibility that Yeshua could have sinned in ignorance (Heb. 4:15 makes it clear that he did not, but that he could have), which is the point, made in the Goodnews according to the Hebrews here.
Not that the phrase “a sin of” is in brackets, meaning that it was not in the Latin of Jerome’s quote but was added by the translator as implied. The text might also be seen as Yeshua challenging his brothers by saying “I claim not to have sinned… are you saying I am ignorant and I really have sinned? And if so just when and where did I sin?”
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