Robertson's Word Pictures (NT)
Of water and the Spirit (ec udatov kai pneumatov). Nicodemus had failed utterly to grasp the idea of the spiritual birth as essential to entrance into the Kingdom of God. He knew only Jews as members of that kingdom, the political kingdom of Pharisaic hope which was to make all the world Jewish (Pharisaic) under the King Messiah. Why does Jesus add ec udatov here? In verse John 3:3 we have "anwqen" (from above) which is repeated in verse John 3:7, while in verse John 3:8 we have only ek tou pneumatov (of the Spirit) in the best manuscripts. Many theories exist. One view makes baptism, referred to by ec udatov (coming up out of water), essential to the birth of the Spirit, as the means of obtaining the new birth of the Spirit. If so, why is water mentioned only once in the three demands of Jesus (John 3:3, John 3:5, John 3:7)? Calvin makes water and Spirit refer to the one act (the cleansing work of the Spirit). Some insist on the language in verse John 3:6 as meaning the birth of the flesh coming in a sac of water in contrast to the birth of the Spirit. One wonders after all what was the precise purpose of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Pharisaic ceremonialist, who had failed to grasp the idea of spiritual birth which is a commonplace to us. By using water (the symbol before the thing signified) first and adding Spirit, he may have hoped to turn the mind of Nicodemus away from mere physical birth and, by pointing to the baptism of John on confession of sin which the Pharisees had rejected, to turn his attention to the birth from above by the Spirit. That is to say the mention of "water" here may have been for the purpose of helping Nicodemus without laying down a fundamental principle of salvation as being by means of baptism. Bernard holds that the words udatov kai (water and) do not belong to the words of Jesus, but "are a gloss, added to bring the saying of Jesus into harmony with the belief and practice of a later generation." Here Jesus uses eiselqein (enter) instead of idein (see) of verse John 3:3, but with the same essential idea (participation in the kingdom).
Other Robertson's Word Pictures (NT) entries containing John 3:5:
1 John 2:29
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