Yohanan Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 3
1. There was a man among the P’rushim, named Nakdimon, who was a ruler of the Judeans.
Nakdimon (Greek Nikodemos), who held "the office of teacher in Israel" (v. 10&N), must have been a very important figure; but he is not mentioned in traditional Jewish literature. However, some have identified him with Nakdimon ben-Gurion, mentioned in the Talmud as a wealthy merchant at the time of the Second Temple and its destruction. Even if he is not the same, we lcam at least that this Greek name was used by Jews. Nakdimon is called a ruler, which implies he was a rabbi and a member of the Sanhedhn, as confirmed by 7:50 below. Eventually Rabbi Nakdimon got "born again from above" (vv. 3-8) and came to trust in Yeshua (19:39).

2. This man came to Yeshua by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know it is from God that you have come as a teacher; for no one can do these miracles you perform unless God is with him.”
3. “Yes, indeed,” Yeshua answered him, “I tell you that unless a person is born again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Yeshua neither criticizes Nakdimon for fearing to seek him openly nor praises his insight in perceiving that Yeshua has come from God. Rather, he deals with him at his point of need, which is to be born again from above. Greek gennethe anothen is sometimes rendered "born again" and sometimes "born from above"; my rendering reflects my conclusion that both aspects are relevant; aJso see 1 Ke 1:3-4&N. While the widespread currency since the 1970's of the expression "bom-again Christian" originates here, the concept itself is Jewish, as demonstrated by this example from the Talmud: "Shim'on Ben-Lakish said, '...a proselyte is like a newborn infant"'(Yevamot 62a); likewise Rabbi Yosi (Yevamot 48b). The idea resembles that of the "new creation" (2C 5:17&N), which too is found in rabbinic literature (e.g., in Genesis Rabbah 39:11).

4. Nakdimon said to him, “How can a grown man be ‘born’? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?”
5. Yeshua answered, “Yes, indeed, I tell you that unless a person is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
Born from water and the Spirit. Immersion in water is connected with ritual demising of the body (see above, 1:26-34, and Mt 3:1-17), while the Holy Spirit gives power for turning from sin and living a holy life; both bespeak aspects of purification. This is why "born from water" does not mean ordinary human birth: moreover, since everyone is "born from water" in that sense, it would be silly for Yeshua to make a condition out of it with the word "unless."

6. What is born from the flesh is flesh, and what is born from the Spirit is spirit.
7. Stop being amazed at my telling you that you must be born again from above!
8. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. That’s how it is with everyone who has been born from the Spirit.”
The wind. There is a wordplay here, since both the Greek word "pneuma" and the Hebrew word "ruach" may mean either "wind" or "spirit," depending on context.

9. Nakdimon replied, “How can this happen?”
10. Yeshua answered him, “You hold the office of teacher in Isra’el, and you don’t know this?
You hold the office of teacher in Israel, literally, "You are the teacher of Israel." The use of the definite article implies that Nakdimon's position was uniquely important, although it is difficult to reconstruct precisely what it was.

11. Yes, indeed! I tell you that what we speak about, we know; and what we give evidence of, we have seen; but you people don’t accept our evidence!
12. If you people don’t believe me when I tell you about the things of the world, how will you believe me when I tell you about the things of heaven?
13. No one has gone up into heaven; there is only the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
It is sometimes asserted that Yeshua never claimed to be more than an ordinary human being. But here he affirms his heavenly origin; and indeed, throughout Yochanan's Gospel he presents himself as divine as well as human, both in function and in essence.

We speak... we give evidence. Sir Edwin Hoskyns in his commentary on John, The Fourth Gospel, explains the plural here as Yeshua associating himself with other witnesses: Yochanan the Immerser (1:7,32-34), Isaiah (12:41), Abraham (8:56), Moses (5:46), and the writers and subjects of the Tanakh (5:39).

14. Just as Moshe lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
15. so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life.
Just as the Israelites were saved from the plague of serpents when they gazed on the brass serpent raised by Moshe (Numbers 21:6—9), so all people are saved from eternal death, torment and separation from God by gazing with spiritual eyes on the person of the Messiah Yeshua lifted up in death on the execution-stake. Compare 8:28&N, 12:32.

16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.
This perhaps most famous and most quoted of verses in the New Testament epitomizes the truth of God that has come to Jews and Gentiles alike in Yeshua the Messiah. It teaches that (1) God loves his creation, the world; (2) to love is to give, to love much is to give much, and God loves the world so much that he gave what is most precious to him; (3) Yeshua was fully aware in advance that he would die as God's own sacrifice; (4) Yeshua knew that he was uniquely God's son; (5) the destiny of man when he relies on himself and does not trust in Yeshua is total destruction (Greek apollumi, "be ruined, destroyed, lost") — not cessation of conscious existence, but the eternal suffering that is the inevitable consequence of sin; and (6) the destiny of an individual who trusts in Yeshua is everlasting life — not only in the future hut right now — not just survival beyond the grave, which everyone has (5:28-29; Rv 20:4-5, 12-15), but positive life "in" Yeshua (1:4, 11:25-26). Trusting in Yeshua is not mere intellectual acknowledgement but adherence to, commitment to, trust in, faith in, reliance upon Yeshua as fully human, completely identified with us, and at the same time fully divine, completely identified with God.

17. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved.
The world is subject to condemnation and in the end will have its sinfulness condemned. But Yeshua's first coming was not for that purpose. In the Day of Judgment he will be the Judge who condemns the world (5:27).

18. Those who trust in him are not judged; those who do not trust have been judged already, in that they have not trusted in the one who is God’s only and unique Son.
Those who do not trust. Clearly those who, upon hearing the Good News and understanding it. nevertheless refuse to trust are judged already. But what about those who have never heard of Yeshua? or who have heard but not understood? See Ro 2:14-16N and Lk 12:8-10N.

19. “Now this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light. Why? Because their actions were wicked.
20. For everyone who does evil things hates the light and avoids it, so that his actions won’t be exposed.
21. But everyone who does what is true comes to the light, so that all may see that his actions are accomplished through God.”
This passage echoes Isaiah 59:2, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear."

22. After this, Yeshua and his talmidim went out into the countryside of Y’hudah, where he stayed awhile with them and immersed people.
23. Yochanan too was immersing at Einayim, near Shalem, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to be immersed.
Einayim. The Greek text has "Ainon," possibly a corruption of Hebrew Einayim ('Two Springs"); its location is uncertain but is thought to be in the eastern hills of Shomron (Samaria).

24. (This was before Yochanan’s imprisonment.)
Yochanan's imprisonment is reported in Mt 14:3-12, Mk 6:17-29.

25. A discussion arose between some of Yochanan’s talmidim and a Judean about ceremonial washing;
26. and they came to Yochanan and said to him, “Rabbi, you know the man who was with you on the other side of the Yarden, the one you spoke about? Well, here he is, immersing; and everyone is going to him!”
Here he is, immersing. Actually not Yeshua but his talmidim, as clarified at 4:2.

27. Yochanan answered, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from Heaven.
28. You yourselves can confirm that I did not say I was the Messiah, but that I have been sent ahead of him.
29. The bridegroom is the one who has the bride; but the bridegroom’s friend, who stands and listens to him, is overjoyed at the sound of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine is now complete.
30. He must become more important, while I become less important.
Yochanan's humility is no less genuine than that of Moshe, who, though raised to prominence by God, proclaimed himself "the meekest man on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3). The verse cautions believers against calling attention to themselves instead of Yeshua.

31. “He who comes from above is above all. He who is from the earth is from the earth and talks from an earthly point of view; he who comes from heaven is above all.
32. He testifies about what he has actually seen and heard, yet no one accepts what he says!
33. Whoever does accept what he says puts his seal on the fact that God is true,
34. because the one whom God sent speaks God’s words. For God does not give him the Spirit in limited degree —
35. the Father loves the Son and has put everything in his hands.
36. Whoever trusts in the Son has eternal life. But whoever disobeys the Son will not see that life but remains subject to God’s wrath.”
Yochanan the Immerser closes with an either-or challenge, still applicable to every Jew and every Gentile: trast in Yeshua and have eternal life (on which see 17:3&N), or disobey him and experience God's wrath (on which see Ro 1:18-2:8&NN).

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