Re: John 3:5 and the genetive

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Fri Mar 14 1997 - 02:29:17 EST

At 11:30 AM +0000 3/13/97, Adrian Popa wrote:
>> The water refers to the normal process of physical birth. Even in
>> English we still say of that a woman's "water" breaks when she is
>> giving birth. The child is born "from water" (EX UDATOS). Likewise,
>> we must be born from spirit (EK PNEUMATOS).
>One difficulty here would perhaps be that this interpretation does away
>with the ambivalence of ANWQEN ("from above", "again") in v. 3 --
>supposing, of course, that EX hUDATOS KAI PNEUMATOS in v. 5 elaborates
>on the meaning of ANWQEN. (I think it is Carson who makes this point in
>his commentary on John).

Well, I'm not sure that I see this as a problem. Jesus is responding to
Nicodemus' misunderstanding of the comment using ANWQEN. This is a common
pattern in John. Jesus says something with an ambivalent meaning; his
listener(s) misunderstand; then Jesus response by clarifying (doing away
with the ambivalence).

Still, I'm not sure that it does do away with the ambivalence of ANWQEN.
ANWQEN can mean 'again' or 'from above'. The distinction between physical
and spiritual birth PRESERVES this duality: You are born the first time
from below (physically), then a second time--agian--from above
(spiritually). Both meanings of ANWQEN are assumed.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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