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Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Born Again" in the Greek

In doing some Bible study, I read a curious note, in reference to John 3:3, which, in the English Standard Version, is "Jesus answered him, “'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'” The note says this referring to what is usually translated as "born again": "Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7."

I found this amazing, and checked it out. (I am by no means a Greek scholar.) The Blueletter Bible's excellent Greek lexicon says, about the word anōthen, ἄνωθεν, here translated "again," that it can mean 1) from above, 2) from the beginning, and 3) over again. So the ESV note is not off base, although "purposely ambiguous" may be reading in a motive that God, or John, did not have.

The lexicon page goes on to give occasions where the the word, anōthen, ἄνωθεν, is used. They are as follows:
1 &2) Matthew 27:51 and Mark 15:38 use it for the top of the temple curtain.
3) Luke 1:3 uses it for Luke's thought that he knew about Christ, and wanted to write about Him from the beginning.
4) John 3:3 and 7 are referred to in the discussion earlier in this document.
5 & 6) John 3:31 and 19:11, the word is usually translated as "from above."
7) John 19:23 refers to the top of the garment worn by Jesus.
8) Acts 26:5 translates the word as "from the beginning."
9) Galatians 4:9 -- I'm not clear on the proper translation.
10, 11 & 12) James 1:17, 3:15, 3:17 use the word in the sense of "above."

"Born again" is a popular phrase. But, it seems, it could just as well be "born from above." Either event would be way beyond the natural.

Thanks for reading.

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Added September 11, 2011: I checked the 1611 King James Version (not the commonly used 1769, which is usually called the 1611 version) and found that, 400 years ago, there was a text note to "again," in John 3:3, giving the alternate reading, "from above."


Martin LaBar said...

Dear Husband, You do not know that I just finished reading what you shared with me today, but not in so much detail. I thank you for your commitment to the study of, and learning from God's Word. I admire you and appreciate greatly your continual pursuit of Truth; God's Word IS truth. You are my beloved. God bless you. Your wife of almost 45 years.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, dear wife!