An analysis of John chapter 3 and the concept of being "born again," from a historical Orthodox
What does it mean to be "Born-Again," or "Born from Above?"
Let's try to understand these well known terms from the first-century perspective in which they were first
JOHN 3 verse 10: It is apparent from this verse that Nichodemus, as a teacher
of Israel, should have already understand what is meant by being "born from above" or "born again."
How could Nichodemus already know about the proper meaning of these terms if he did not already possess
the resources from which to learn it?
To the first century Jewish mind the key resource by which one acquires spiritual knowledge would be
understood as being the Jewish Bible -- known to most Christians as the 'Old Testament.'
JOHN 3 verse 11 gives the answer even more clearly by referring to "the testimony."
What is so often referred to as the "testimony" in first century thought? The Torah (Law of Moses)!
"To the Torah, even to the Testimony, for if they do not speak in accordance with this
word, there is no light of dawn in it." (Isaiah 8:20)
The Torah is constantly referred to as the Testimony throughout the Tanakh - the Hebrew name for the
From the above it follows that one should expect to find some sort of concept of a rebirth
in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) based upon concepts in the Torah (the Law of Moses).
For now I'll provide a few passages which I'm convinced the rebirth mentioned in John 3 is a reference to:
"And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your uncleannesses,
and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you,
and a newspirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your
flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My
spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them. 28 And I will save youfrom all your uncleannesses; and I will call for the corn, and
will increase it, and lay no famine upon you." ( Ezekiel 36:25-28 - JPS )
In this passage we find that the Almighty, Who is metaphorically called "Above" in the Hebrew of the Book of Psalms,
gives a new heart and a new spirit to Israel, with a resulting salvation.
Perhaps now we "see" (3:3) why one should not be amazed (3:7) at the mention of being born of water and spirit in connection to
entering into the kingdom of 'G-d' in John 3:5.
Verse 24 of the same chapter in Ezekiel explains when this spiritual rebirth will happen to Israel as an
"For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring
you into your own land."
This is a national rebirth of Israel. Thus, any Israelite who wants to take part in this national
salvation must himself undergo his own personal rebirth. By experiencing his own personal rebirth into a life of surrender
to the Will of the Almighty - His commandments (vs. 27), the Israelite then secures his own part in the
national salvation of Israel mentioned in verse 28, "and I will save you.."
This is the national rebirth of the entire nation of Israel which was prophesied from the beginning in the
Torah - the Testimony of the LORD's Covenant with Israel:
"And the ALL-TRANSCENDENT your Venerable-Authority will bring you into the Land which your fathers
possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6
And the ALL-TRANSCENDENT your Venerable-Authority will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your
seed, to love the ALL-TRANSCENDENT your Venerable-Authority with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that
thou mayest live... 8 And you shall return and hearken to the voice of the ALL-TRANSCENDENT, and do all
His commandments which I command thee this day." (Deuteronomy 30:5-6 & 8)
1 Peter 1:23 confirms it:
"...born again - not out of corruptible seed,
but incorruptible, through the word of 'G-d,' which lives and remains forever;" (Isaiah 59:21)
ONE LAST THING:
The "Kingdom of 'G-d'" in light of the Tanakh is merely a term which refers to the prosperous situation
of the people of Israel under the reign of a righteous king from among of the sons of David -- such as the ultimate Messiah
shall be. Thus we find the Kingdom of 'G-d' already mentioned in the Tanakh:
"...and of all my sons--for the LORD has given me many sons--He has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon
the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. 6 And He said unto me: Solomon thy son, he shall build
My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be to Me for a son, and I will be to him for a father. 7 And I will
establish his kingdom forever, if he be constant to do My commandments and Mine ordinances, as at this day. 8 Now therefore,
in the sight of all Israel, the congregation of the LORD, and in the hearing of our 'G-d,' observe and seek out all the commandments
of the LORD your 'G-d;' that ye may possess this good land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you for
Just as we find that rebirth is required for entering the kingdom of 'G-d,' and that in light
of Ezekiel 36 it consists of Israel as a nation upholding the commandments, and possessing the Promised Land, likewise in
this passage from Chronicles we find the kingdom of the LORD is connected with national upholding of the commandments
and possessing the Promised Land under the rulership of a righteous king from among the sons of David.
And with the following verse regarding the kingdom of the LORD and the sons / descendents of David, perhaps
we can understand how in its original context one might say that rejecting the Messiah, who himself shall be among the sons
of David, is tantamount to resisting / rejecting, and consiquently forfeiting the kingdom of 'G-d' itself.
"And now you think to resist the kingdom of the LORD which is in the hand of the sons
of David; and you are a great multitude, and there are with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made you for gods..."
(2 Chronicles 13:8)
In verse 6 of the same chapter we see that this resistance was in fact a rebellion on Jeroboam's part, against
his "lord" - a reference to either R'hav'am, or his son Aviyah.
Of course, this is on the condition that the individual is a valid Davidic king and that he is known to
be such, as in the situation of this passage quoted. Otherwise, how is it possible to reject that which is unknown
to you? Jeroboam's rebellion was a conscious act wickedness.
Might the above concept of rebellion against a king of Israel be the original intent of Yeshua's statement
that whoever does not acknowledge the son (a davidic king - 1 Chron. 28:6) rejects the Father -- and consequently forfeits the kingdom of the LORD?
John 3 (edited from the Young's Literal Translation)
1 And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus his name, a ruler of the Jews,
2 this individual came unto him by night, and said to him, `Rabbi, we have
known that as a teacher you have come from 'G-d,' for no one who is without 'G-d' can do these signs that you
3 Yeshua' replied and said to him, `Most assuredly, I say to you, anyone who
is not born from above is not able to see the kingdom of 'G-d;'
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, `How is a man able to be born, being old? is he able
into the womb of his mother a second time to enter, and to be born?'
5 Yeshua' answered, `Most assuredly, I say to you - only an individual who is born
of water and the spirit will be able to enter into the kingdom of 'G-d;'
6 that which has been born of the flesh is flesh,
and that which has been born of the spirit is spirit.
7 `Do not be amazed that I said to you that it behoves you to be
born from above;
8 the *wind blows to where it desires, and its *sound you do hear, but you
have not known from where it comes and to where it goes; thus is every one who has been born of the spirit.'
[*spirit and wind are the same word in original language; *sound and voice are the same word as well.]
9 Nicodemus answered and said to him, `How are these things able to happen?'
10 Yeshua' answered and said to him, `You are the teacher of Israel -- and
you don't know these things?!
11 `Most assuredly I say to you -- What we have known we speak, and what we
have seen we testify, and you're not receiving our testimony;
12 if you do not believe the *earthly things I said to you, how will you believe
if I shall say to you the heavenly things?
[*Verse 12 indicates that the topic under discussion about the rebirth of 'water and spirit,' the things Yeshua' had
said to him, concerns earthly things -- in contradistinction to heavenly things.]
From the 1st century context of this dialogue, I get the impression that original idea of the kingdom of 'G-d' under discussion
concerned an earthly Davidic kingdom -- as this would be among 'earthly things;' this, in contrast to the later claim
of Christianity that Yeshua' preached an invisible kingdom. This is among the key reasons Christians historically
maintain as to why the Jews failed to recognized Yeshua' as Messiah - the Jews were mistakenly expecting an earthly kingdom.
Ironically, it now appears to me from this dialogue that Yeshua' himself was expecting an earthly kingdom just the same.
From the perspective I have arrived at concerning this fundamental "Christian teaching" having been arrived at via
understanding John 3 in light of Scripture, I have yet again become further convinced that Christianity is largely a
result of unlearned individuals hijacking ideas already taught by Torah, then twisting them around in their ignorance to
convey something far from of the original meaning.
May the Preserver of Israel purify our hearts from all deception.