Tuesday, January 09, 2018

John 3:3 and Spiritual Rebirth

Greek for John 3:3: ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

One verb that John uses in 3:3 is γεννηθῇ (aorist subjunctive passive) coupled with the adverb ἄνωθεν (evidently meaning "born from above" or "born again"). But when I research γεννάω alone, I have yet to find a place in Scripture where that verb itself means "rebirth" or "regeneration." Of course, one could argue that γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν possibly conveys the sense of "regeneration" and maybe this much is true. In fact, Peter's words at 1 Peter 1:3, 23 evidently deal with the same process that John does in his Gospel. And in his first Epistle, Peter does refer to a "new birth" or new begettal.

So if one wants to call spiritual rebirth "regeneration," maybe there's nothing wrong with using that kind of terminology to describe the marvelous divine process delineated in John 3:3ff. But it could be more appropriate to call divine justification, "regeneration." Compare Titus 3:5-6.


Duncan said...

1 Apol. 61, 4-5. - does this use the same word?

Also, any similarities in meaning to Matthew 19:28?

Edgar Foster said...

I don't know about the Justin reference, but the word in Matthew is different. Palin makes the difference in the word, but the generation part is similar.

In Christ said...

With regards to John 3 and being born from above (again), can you provide some scriptural references why the "other sheep" don't need to be born again.
The 2 class idea is troublesome to me and your reasoning could help me

Edgar Foster said...

I'll reply tomorrow with some references.

In Christ said...

thanks, i'm happy if you email me directly

Edgar Foster said...

I thought about your question on being born again, and it's not that easy to answer with a few scripture references. You mention the 2 classes or destinies belief of Jehovah's Witnesses. That means you likely know that we believe there will be people who live forever in heaven and on a paradise earth. But does living on the paradise earth require a spiritual rebirth? First, let's ask who will dwell in that land? Likely people like Abel, Jeremiah, David, and what about the evildoer who died with Jesus?

We know that Abel, Jeremiah, and David died before Christ became flesh. So I ask how they could be "born from water and spirit" through the ransom of Christ, if they died prior to his "enfleshment"? Secondly, with the evildoer on the STAUROS, Jesus promised him paradise (Luke 23:43). What is paradise in that verse? Is it heaven? Did the evildoer ascend to paradise that very day? How could he, without being born again? For how could he experience a spiritual rebirth prior to Jesus' death and the reception of spirit from on high, which occurred at Pentecost? Hence, if the man was not born again, how could he enter paradise? There was neither literal water nor spirit in his case.

So to answer your question, we would not expect to find scriptures telling us that members of the other sheep do not have to be reborn spiritually, because their identity became clarified over time: the first-century Christians did not know about an earthly class of Christians and they may not have understood clearly what would happen to the pre-Christian men and women of faith. However, there are scriptural texts which suggest (IMHO) that some righteous people will live forever in heaven (2 Cor 5:1-2; 1 Thess 4:13-18) while others will dwell eternally in the land (a paradise earth). See Ps 37:29.