Re: John 3:5 and Carson

From: Paul Dixon - Ladd Hill Bible Church (
Date: Fri Mar 14 1997 - 21:38:42 EST

On Fri, 14 Mar 1997, Carl W. Conrad wrote:

> At 10:45 AM -0600 3/14/97, Paul Dixon - Ladd Hill Bible Church wrote:
> >On Fri, 14 Mar 1997, Andrew Kulikovsky wrote:


> >> Therefore v. 3, 5, 6b and 7 are all parallel statements. Water and
> >> spirit are linked in Ezek 36:25-27, where the prophet forsees a time of
> >> eschatalogical cleansing in which God will sprinkle clean water on his
> >> people, making them clean, and will give them a new heart and a new
> >> spirit - which Nicodemus should have understood.
> >>
> >> Therefore the phrase isn't a hendiadys but a reference to the dual work
> >> of the spirit (3:6) who simultaneously purifies and imparts God's nature
> >> to man.
> >>
> >> So what does everyone think about this argument? It does seem quite
> >> convincing.
> >>
> >I tend to agree with the Ezekiel cleansing.
> So: everybody gets two shots at this one, huh? When I saw Paul's note about
> understanding hUDATOS as referring to water baptism as the least plausible
> of all the options--since it was the one I represented in my note on this
> verse, I figured I'd better rethink it. I do still think that in its
> present context the text probably DOES refer to baptism of water and
> baptism of spirit, but the Ezekiel reference could very well underly the
> JnBpt saying in Mk 1:8 ("I baptized you with water for repentance, but he
> will baptize you with holy Spirit ...") which has, I think, already been
> adapted to the liturgical practice of the early church.

I'm sorry Carl. I must have missed your first input. I would certainly
have been more tactful.

> The problem with the Johannine text is that John is not only contrasting
> flesh and spirit, as others have reiterated--and so EX hUDATOS is a phrase
> one might want to construe as distinct from PNEUMATOS even though the two
> anarthrous nouns are governed by a single preposition--but also there is a
> tendency in John to downplay baptism and supper as fundamental rituals of
> the church (the centrality of foot-washing in the Johannine last supper).
> This is why some interpreters of Mark have found at least some of
> Bultmann's argumentation about an emendation of the Johannine text by an
> "ecclesiastical redactor" who added bits and pieces here and there
> throughout the gospel to make it more compatible with the apostolic
> church's traditions.
> I thought it might be worth checking Raymond Brown on this matter; I'm
> always curiously surprised at finding how sensible and balanced his
> treatment of questions like this is. On pages 141-144 he has a lengthy
> "addendum" on "The Baptismal Interpretation of vs. 5." Here are some of his
> salient points:
> " ... there can be little doubt that the Christian readers of John wuld
> have interpreted vs. 5, 'being begotten of water and Spirit' as a reference
> to Christian Baptism." But that doesn't mean that Brown accepts the

You touched upon a very interesting point. The early church, as attested
to by a number of early church fathers, may have erroneously believed in
baptismal regeneration. Paul seems to allude to this in 1 Cor 15:29 and
the practice of baptism for the dead. If a new convert died before being
baptized, and baptismal regeneration was believed, then baptism for the
dead must have been a logical consequence.

Note, however, Paul neither condones, nor condemns, baptism for the dead,
as that would not have served his purpose in 1 Cor 15. No one, of course,
should make baptism for the dead a church practice on the basis of 1 Cor
15:29. It's not unexpected that some have, including the Mormons.


> I think that's enough. Brown considers the alternatives and ultimately more
> or less equivocates: the notion of baptism may not have been there in the
> original text, but he seems to feel that the text as canon has come to
> include that sense.

No, baptism here still seems far fetched, but I can see how some would
have read it in there, especially if they already believed in baptismal

My vote is with the Ezekiel cleansing which Nicodemus would certainly have
been expected to know.

Paul Dixon

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:09 EDT