Re: Question about John 3:5

Carl W. Conrad (
Fri, 30 Aug 1996 08:00:22 -0500

Moreover, although the integrity of the MS reading, EX hUDATOS KAI
PNEUMATOS, is not really in question, the question HAS been raised as to
whether this phrase as a whole or just the word hUDATOS may have been
interpolated into an earlier text that did not have it (Bultmann, of
course, argued that the phrase was inserted by an "ecclesiastical redactor"
to harmonize the non-sacramental Johannine text with mainline
ecclesiastical doctrine and practice. There is a lengthy and helpful
discussion of this question, with careful consideration of all
alternatives, in Raymon Brown's Anchor commentary on John's gospel, vol. 1,
pp. 141-144. The discussion is remarkably free from dogmatism; after noting
that the passage has served as fuel for Protestant-Catholic disputes, he
says (p. 144): "Fortunately ... such theological disputes about the
universal necessity of Baptism by water, and the corresponding existence of
limbo for unbaptized infants, go beyond the direct scope of the text, which
is what interests the exegete. Accepting 'water' at its face value, we do
not think there is enough evidence in the Gospel itself to determine the
relation between begetting of water and begetting of Spirit on the level of
sacramental interpretation."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR