Re: John 3:5 and the genitive

From: Philip L. Graber (
Date: Mon Mar 17 1997 - 10:33:16 EST

On Mon, 17 Mar 1997, Andrew Kulikovsky wrote:

> He [Carson] dismisses the idea of it refering to physical birth (which
> is what I initially considered it to be) because there are no ancient
> parallels of this phrase to be found. While this is in no way conclusive
> it is *strong* evidence since you would expect to find such a phrase
> somewhere if it was commonly used and if Jesus used it to explain
> himself to Nicodemus who was having trouble understanding.

You should look at some of the studies of irony in the Fourth Gospel (such
as *Irony in the Fourth Gospel* by Paul Duke and *Revelation in the Fourth
Gospel* by Gail O'Day). There are a lot of literary things going on here,
and especially there is the tendency for Jesus' speech to function on two
levels which the reader of the Greek text would presumably see, but the
characters within the narrative typically see only one level. The point
about Nicodemus is not that he failed to understand, but that he failed to
believe (I think v. 10 is a jab at the Pharisees [and Rabbis?] as a group,
because they should have understood), the consequences of which are
clearly revealed in v. 18. Contrast this with ch. 4 and the Samaritan
women, who does not understand the two levels of meaning in most of what
Jesus says, but nevertheless believes to some degree and becomes a witness
like Andrew in ch. 1 ("Come and see"). With this kind of literary
playfulness happening, would it be so surprising for an image to be used
that is not elsewhere attested? Is it elsewhere attested that ANWQEN is
intentionally used to mean both "again" and "from above" at the same time,
or hUPSOW to mean both "exalt" and "raise up" at the same time? In any
case, I don't see that the issue has anything to do with whether a
particular reading of GENNHQHi EX hUDATOS would have been easier for
Nicodemus to understand.

Philip Graber Graduate Division of Religion
Ph.D. Candidate in New Testament 214 Callaway Center
                                        Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

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