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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
John 3



Other Authors
Verse 1

Now (δεde). So often in John δεde is explanatory and transitional, not adversative. Nicodemus is an instance of Christ‘s knowledge of men (John 2:25) and of one to whom he did trust himself unlike those in John 2:24. As a Pharisee “he belonged to that party which with all its bigotry contained a salt of true patriotism and could rear such cultured and high-toned men as Gamaliel and Paul” (Marcus Dods).

Named Nicodemus (Νικοδημος ονομαNikodēmos onoma). Same construction as in John 1:6, “Nicodemus name to him.” So Revelation 6:8. It is a Greek name and occurs in Josephus (Ant. XIV. iii. 2) as the name of an ambassador from Aristobulus to Pompey. Only in John in N.T. (here, John 7:50; John 19:39). He was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and wealthy. There is no evidence that he was the young ruler of Luke 18:18 because of αρχωνarchōn (ruler) here.

Verse 2

The same (ουτοςhoutos). “This one.”

By night (νυκτοςnuktos). Genitive of time. That he came at all is remarkable, not because there was any danger as was true at a later period, but because of his own prominence. He wished to avoid comment by other members of the Sanhedrin and others. Jesus had already provoked the opposition of the ecclesiastics by his assumption of Messianic authority over the temple. There is no ground for assigning this incident to a later period, for it suits perfectly here. Jesus was already in the public eye (John 2:23) and the interest of Nicodemus was real and yet he wished to be cautious.

(αββειRabbei). See note on John 1:38. Technically Jesus was not an acknowledged Rabbi of the schools, but Nicodemus does recognize him as such and calls him “My Master” just as Andrew and John did (John 1:38). It was a long step for Nicodemus as a Pharisee to take, for the Pharisees had closely scrutinized the credentials of the Baptist in John 1:19-24 (Milligan and Moulton‘s Comm.).

We know
(οιδαμενoidamen). Second perfect indicative first person plural. He seems to speak for others of his class as the blind man does in John 9:31. Westcott thinks that Nicodemus has been influenced partly by the report of the commission sent to the Baptist (John 1:19-27).

Thou art a teacher come from God
(απο τεου εληλυτας διδασκαλοςapo theou elēluthas didaskalos). “Thou hast come from God as a teacher.” Second perfect active indicative of ερχομαιerchomai and predicative nominative διδασκαλοςdidaskalos This is the explanation of Nicodemus for coming to Jesus, obscure Galilean peasant as he seemed, evidence that satisfied one of the leaders in Pharisaism.

Can do
(δυναται ποιεινdunatai poiein). “Can go on doing” (present active infinitive of ποιεωpoieō and so linear).

These signs that thou doest
(ταυτα τα σημεια α συ ποιειςtauta ta sēmeia ha su poieis). Those mentioned in John 2:23 that convinced so many in the crowd and that now appeal to the scholar. Note συsu (thou) as quite out of the ordinary. The scorn of Jesus by the rulers held many back to the end (John 12:42), but Nicodemus dares to feel his way.

Except God be with him
(εαν μη ηι ο τεος μετ αυτουean mē ēi ho theos met' autou). Condition of the third class, presented as a probability, not as a definite fact. He wanted to know more of the teaching accredited thus by God. Jesus went about doing good because God was with him, Peter says (Acts 10:38).

Verse 3

Except a man be born anew (εαν μη τις γεννητηι ανωτενean mē tis gennēthēi anōthen). Another condition of the third class, undetermined but with prospect of determination. First aorist passive subjunctive of γενναωgennaō ΑνωτενAnōthen Originally “from above” (Mark 15:38), then “from heaven” (John 3:31), then “from the first” (Luke 1:3), and then “again” (παλιν ανωτενpalin anōthen Galatians 4:9). Which is the meaning here? The puzzle of Nicodemus shows (δευτερονdeuteron John 3:4) that he took it as “again,” a second birth from the womb. The Vulgate translates it by renatus fuerit denuo. But the misapprehension of Nicodemus does not prove the meaning of Jesus. In the other passages in John (John 3:31; John 19:11, John 19:23) the meaning is “from above” (δεσυπερdesuper) and usually so in the Synoptics. It is a second birth, to be sure, regeneration, but a birth from above by the Spirit.

He cannot see the kingdom of God (ου δυναται ιδειν την βασιλειαν του τεουou dunatai idein tēn basileian tou theou). To participate in it as in Luke 9:27. For this use of ιδεινidein (second aorist active infinitive of οραωhoraō) see John 8:51; Revelation 18:7.

Verse 4

Being old (γερων ωνgerōn ōn). Nicodemus was probably familiar with the notion of re-birth for proselytes to Judaism for the Gentiles, but not with the idea that a Jew had to be reborn. But “this stupid misunderstanding” (Bernard) of the meaning of Jesus is precisely what John represents Nicodemus as making. How “old” Nicodemus was we do not know, but surely too old to be the young ruler of Luke 18:18 as Bacon holds. The blunder of Nicodemus is emphasized by the second question with the μηmē expecting the negative answer. The use of δευτερονdeuteron adds to the grotesqueness of his blunder. The learned Pharisee is as jejune in spiritual insight as the veriest tyro. This is not an unheard of phenomenon.

Verse 5

Of water and the Spirit (εχ υδατος και πνευματοςex hudatos kai pneumatos). 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 εχ υδατοςex hudatos here? In John 3:3 we have “ανωτενanōthen ” (from above) which is repeated in John 3:7, while in John 3:8 we have only εκ του πνευματοςek tou pneumatos (of the Spirit) in the best manuscripts. Many theories exist. One view makes baptism, referred to by εχ υδατοςex hudatos (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 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 υδατος καιhudatos 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 εισελτεινeiselthein (enter) instead of ιδεινidein (see) of John 3:3, but with the same essential idea (participation in the kingdom).

Verse 6

That which is born (το γεγεννημενονto gegennēmenon). Perfect passive articular participle. The sharp contrast between flesh (σαρχsarx) and Spirit (πνευμαpneuma), drawn already in John 1:13, serves to remind Nicodemus of the crudity of his question in John 3:4 about a second physical birth.

Verse 7

Marvel not (μη ταυμασηιςmē thaumasēis). “Do not begin to wonder” (ingressive first aorist active subjunctive with μηmē), as clearly Nicodemus had done. In John the word ταυμαζωthaumazō usually means “unintelligent wonder” (Bernard).

Ye must be born anew (δει υμας γεννητηναι ανωτενdei humas gennēthēnai anōthen). Jesus repeats the point in John 3:3 (δειdei and the infinitive instead of εαν μηean mē and the subjunctive) with ανωτενanōthen (from above) only and not εχ υδατοςex hudatos f0).

Verse 8

The wind (το πνευμαto pneuma). In Greek πνευμαpneuma means either wind or spirit as spiritus does in Latin (so also in Hebrew and Syriac). Wycliff follows the Latin and keeps spirit here and Marcus Dods argues for it. The word πνευμαpneuma occurs 370 times in the N.T. and never means wind elsewhere except in a quotation from the O.T. (Hebrews 1:7 from Psalm 104:4), though common in the lxx. On the other hand πνεωpneō (bloweth, πνειpnei) occurs five times elsewhere in the N.T. and always of the wind (like John 6:18). So πωνηphōnē can be either sound (as of wind) or voice (as of the Spirit). In simple truth either sense of πνευμαpneuma can be taken here as one wills. Tholuck thinks that the night-wind swept through the narrow street as Jesus spoke. In either case the etymology of πνευμαpneuma is “wind” from πνεωpneō to blow. The Spirit is the use of πνευμαpneuma as metaphor. Certainly the conclusion “of the Spirit” is a direct reference to the Holy Spirit who works his own way beyond our comprehension even as men even yet do not know the law of the wind.

Verse 9

How? (ΠωσPōs) Nicodemus is not helped either by the use of υδωρhudōr or πνευμαpneuma to understand δει γεννητηναι ανωτενdei gennēthēnai anōthen (the necessity of the birth from above or regeneration). He falls back into his “stupid misunderstanding.” There are none so dull as those who will not see. Preoccupation prevents insight. Literally one must often empty his mind to receive new truth.

Verse 10

The teacher of Israel (ο διδασκαλος του Ισραηλho didaskalos tou Israēl). The well-known or the authorized (the accepted) teacher of the Israel of God. Note both articles.

And understandest not these things? (και ταυτα ου γινωσκεισkai tauta ou ginōskeis). After being told by Jesus and after so propitious a start. His Pharisaic theology had made him almost proof against spiritual apprehension. It was outside of his groove (rote, rut, rot, the three terrible r‘s of mere traditionalism).

Verse 11

We speak that we do know (ο οιδαμεν λαλουμενho oidamen laloumen). Jesus simply claims knowledge of what he has tried to make plain to the famous Rabbi without success. John uses λαλεωlaleō some 60 times, half of them by Jesus, very little distinction existing between the use of λαλεωlaleō and λεγωlegō in John. Originally λαλεωlaleō referred to the chatter of birds. Note John‘s frequent use of αμην αμηνamēn amēn and λεγωlegō (double emphasis).

And bear witness of that we have seen (και ο εωρακαμεν μαρτυρουμενkai ho heōrakamen marturoumen). The same use of neuter singular relative οho as before. Perfect active indicative of οραωhoraō He is not a dreamer, guesser, or speculator. He is bearing witness from personal knowledge, strange as this may seem to Nicodemus.

And ye receive not our witness
(και την μαρτυριαν ημων ου λαμβανετεkai tēn marturian hēmōn ou lambanete). This is the tragedy of the matter as John has shown (John 1:11, John 1:26) and as will continue to be true even today. Jesus probably associates here with himself (“we”) those who have personal experience of grace and so are qualified as witnesses. Note the plural in 1 John 1:1. Bernard thinks that John has here read into the words of Jesus the convictions of a later age, a serious charge to make.

Verse 12

If I told (ει ειπονei eipon). Condition of the first class, assumed to be true.

Earthly things (τα επιγειαta epigeia). Things upon the earth like τα επι της γηςta epi tēs gēs (Colossians 3:2), not things of an earthly nature or worldly or sinful. The work of the kingdom of God including the new birth which Nicodemus did not understand belongs to τα επιγειαta epigeia

If I tell you heavenly things
(εαν ειπω υμιν τα επουρανιαean eipō humin ta epourania). Condition of the third class, undetermined. What will Nicodemus do in that case? By τα επουρανιαta epourania Jesus means the things that take place in heaven like the deep secrets of the purpose of God in the matter of redemption such as the necessity of the lifting up of Christ as shown in John 3:14. Both Godet and Westcott note that the two types of teaching here pointed out by Jesus (the earthly, the heavenly) correspond in general to the difference between the Synoptics (the earthly) and the Fourth Gospel (the heavenly), a difference noted here in the Fourth Gospel as shown by Jesus himself. Hence the one should not be pitted against the other. There are specimens of the heavenly in the Synoptics as in Matthew 11:25.; Luke 10:18.

Verse 13

But he that descended out of heaven (ει μη ο εκ του ουρανου καταβαςei mē ho ek tou ouranou katabas). The Incarnation of the Pre-existent Son of God who was in heaven before he came down and so knows what he is telling about “the heavenly things.” There is no allusion to the Ascension which came later. This high conception of Christ runs all through the Gospel and is often in Christ‘s own words as here.

Which is in heaven (ο ων εν τωι ουρανωιho ōn en tōi ouranōi). This phrase is added by some manuscripts, not by Aleph B L W 33, and, if genuine, would merely emphasize the timeless existence of God‘s Son who is in heaven even while on earth. Probably a gloss. But “the Son of man” is genuine. He is the one who has come down out of heaven.

Verse 14

Moses lifted up the serpent (Μωυσης υπσωσεν τον οπινMōusēs hupsōsen ton ophin). Reference to Numbers 21:7. where Moses set the brazen serpent upon the standard that those who believed might look and live. Jesus draws a vivid parallel between the act of Moses and the Cross on which he himself (the Son of man) “must” (δειdei one of the heavenly things) “be lifted up” (υπσωτηναιhupsōthēnai first aorist passive infinitive of υπσοωhupsoō a word not used about the brazen serpent). In John υπσοωhupsoō always refers to the Cross (John 8:28; John 12:32, John 12:34), though to the Ascension in Acts (Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31). Jesus is complimenting the standing and intelligence of Nicodemus as “the teacher of Israel” by telling him this great truth and fact that lies at the basis of the work of the kingdom of God (the atoning death of Christ on the Cross).

Verse 15

That whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life (ινα πας ο πιστευων εν αυτωι εχηι ζωην αιωνιονhina pas ho pisteuōn en autōi echēi zōēn aiōnion). Final use of ιναhina with present active subjunctive of εχωechō that he may keep on having eternal life (a frequent phrase in John, always in John αιωνιοςaiōnios occurs with ζωηzōē 16 times in the Gospel, 6 in 1John, ageless or endless life, beginning now and lasting forever). It is more than endless, for it is sharing in the life of God in Christ (John 5:26; John 17:3; 1 John 5:12). So here εν αυτωιen autōi (in him) is taken with εχηιechēi rather than with πιστευωνpisteuōn The interview with Nicodemus apparently closes with John 3:15. In John 3:16-21 we have past tenses constantly as is natural for the reflection of John, but unnatural for Jesus speaking. There are phrases like the Prologue (John 3:19; John 1:9-11). “Only begotten” does not occur elsewhere in the words of Jesus, but is in John 1:14, John 1:18; 1 John 4:9. John often puts in explanatory comments (John 1:16-18; John 12:37-41).

Verse 16

For so (ουτως γαρhoutōs gar). This use of γαρgar is quite in John‘s style in introducing his comments (John 2:25; John 4:8; John 5:13, etc.). This “Little Gospel” as it is often called, this “comfortable word” (the Anglican Liturgy), while not a quotation from Jesus is a just and marvellous interpretation of the mission and message of our Lord. In John 3:16-21 John recapitulates in summary fashion the teaching of Jesus to Nicodemus.

Loved (ηγαπησενēgapēsen). First aorist active indicative of αγαπαωagapaō the noble word so common in the Gospels for the highest form of love, used here as often in John (John 14:23; John 17:23; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:10) of God‘s love for man (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4). In John 21:15 John presents a distinction between αγαπαωagapaō and πιλεωphileō ΑγαπαωAgapaō is used also for love of men for men (John 13:34), for Jesus (John 8:42), for God (1 John 4:10).

The world
(τον κοσμονton kosmon). The whole cosmos of men, including Gentiles, the whole human race. This universal aspect of God‘s love appears also in 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 5:8.

That he gave
(ωστε εδωκενhōste edōken). The usual classical construction with ωστεhōste and the indicative (first aorist active) practical result, the only example in the N.T. save that in Galatians 2:13. Elsewhere ωστεhōste with the infinitive occurs for actual result (Matthew 13:32) as well as purpose (Matthew 10:1), though even this is rare.

His only begotten Son
(τον υιον τον μονογενηton huion ton monogenē). “The Son the only begotten.” For this word see note on John 1:14, note on John 1:18; and John 3:18. The rest of the sentence, the purpose clause with ιναεχηιhina -εις αυτονechēi precisely reproduces the close of John 3:15 save that εν αυτωιeis auton takes the place of πιστευωνen autōi (see John 1:12) and goes certainly with εχηιpisteuōn (not with εν αυτωιechēi as μη αποληται αλλαen autōi in John 3:15) and the added clause “should not perish but” (απολλυμιmē apolētai alla second aorist middle subjunctive, intransitive, of apollumi to destroy). The same contrast between “perish” and “eternal life” (for this world and the next) appears also in John 10:28. On “perish” see also John 17:12.

Verse 17

For God sent not the Son (ου γαρ απεστειλεν ο τεος τον υιονou gar apesteilen ho theos ton huion). Explanation (γαρgar) of God‘s sending the Son into the world. First aorist active indicative of αποστελλωapostellō John uses both αποστελλωapostellō from which comes αποστολοςapostolos (John 3:34; John 5:36, John 5:38, etc.) and πεμπωpempō (John 4:34; John 5:23, John 5:24, John 5:30, etc.) for God‘s sending the Son and πεμπωpempō more frequently, but with no real difference in meaning. All the Gospels use ο υιοςho huios in the absolute sense in contrast with the Father (Mark 13:32; Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22).

To judge (ινα κρινηιhina krinēi). Final clause with ιναhina and the present (or aorist) active subjunctive of κρινωkrinō The Messiah does judge the world as Jesus taught (Matthew 25:31.; John 5:27), but this was not the primary or the only purpose of his coming. See note on Matthew 7:1 for krinō to pick out, select, approve, condemn, used so often and in so many varying contexts in the N.T.

But that the world should be saved through him
(all hina sōthēi ho kosmos di' autou). First aorist passive subjunctive of κρινωsōzō the common verb to save (from αλλ ινα σωτηι ο κοσμος δι αυτουsōs safe and sound), from which σωζωsōtēr (Saviour) comes (the Saviour of the world, John 4:42; 1 John 4:14) and σωςsōtēria (salvation, John 4:22 here only in John). The verb σωτηρsōzō is often used for physical health (Mark 5:28), but here of the spiritual salvation as in John 5:34.

Verse 18

Is not judged (ου κρινεταιou krinetai). Present passive indicative. Trust in Christ prevents condemnation, for he takes our place and pays the penalty for sin for all who put their case in his hands (Romans 8:32.). The believer in Christ as Saviour does not come into judgment (John 5:24).

Hath been judged already (ηδη κεκριταιēdē kekritai). Perfect passive indicative of κρινωkrinō Judgment has already been passed on the one who refuses to believe in Christ as the Saviour sent by the Father, the man who is not willing to come to Christ for life (John 5:40).

Because he hath not believed
(οτι μη πεπιστευκενhoti mē pepisteuken). Perfect active indicative of πιστευωpisteuō has taken a permanent attitude of refusal. Here οτι μηhoti mē states the reason subjectively as the judgment of the Judge in any such case (ο μη πιστευωνho mē pisteuōn already mentioned) while in 1 John 5:10 οτι ου πεπιστευκενhoti ou pepisteuken gives the reason objectively (ουou instead of μηmē) conceived as an actual case and no longer hypothetical. See John 1:12 for εις το ονομαeis to onoma with πιστευωpisteuō (believing on the name) and John 1:14 for μονογενουςmonogenous (only begotten) and also John 3:16.

Verse 19

And this is the judgment (αυτη δε εστιν η κρισιςhautē de estin hē krisis). A thoroughly Johannine phrase for sequence of thought (John 15:12; John 17:3; 1 John 1:5; 1 John 5:11, 1 John 5:14; 3 John 1:6). It is more precisely the process of judging (κρισιςkri -κριμαsis) rather than the result (το πως εληλυτενkri -ερχομαιma) of the judgment. “It is no arbitrary sentence, but the working out of a moral law” (Bernard).

The light is come (ηγαπησαν το σκοτοςto phōs elēluthen). Second perfect active indicative of το σκοτοςerchomai a permanent result as already explained in the Prologue concerning the Incarnation (John 1:4, John 1:5, John 1:9, John 1:11). Jesus is the Light of the world.

Loved darkness
(η σκοτιαēgapēsan to skotos). Job (Job 24:13) spoke of men rebelling against the light. Here πονηραto skotos common word for moral and spiritual darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5), though Πονηροςhē skotia in John 1:5. “Darkness” is common in John as a metaphor for the state of sinners (John 8:12; John 12:35, John 12:46; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:8, 1 John 2:9, 1 John 2:11). Jesus himself is the only moral and spiritual light of the world (John 8:12) as he dared claim to his enemies. The pathos of it all is that men fall in love with the darkness of sin and rebel against the light like denizens of the underworld, “for their works were evil (πονοςponēra).” When the light appears, they scatter to their holes and dens. πονεωPonēros (from ponos toil, poneō to toil) is used of the deeds of the world by Jesus (John 7:7). In the end the god of this world blinds men‘s eyes so that they do not see the light (2 Corinthians 4:4). The fish in the Mammoth Cave have no longer eyes, but only sockets where eyes used to be. The evil one has a powerful grip on the world (1 John 5:19).

Verse 20

That doeth ill (ο παυλα πρασσωνho phaula prassōn). The word παυλοςphaulos means first worthless and then wicked (usually so in N.T.) and both senses occur in the papyri. In John 5:29 see contrast between αγατα ποιεωagatha poieō (doing good things) and παυλα πρασσωphaula prassō (practising evil things).

Hateth the light (μισει το πωςmisei to phōs). Hence talks against it, ridicules Christ, Christianity, churches, preachers, etc. Does it in talk, magazines, books, in a supercilious tone of sheer ignorance.

Cometh not to the light
(ουκ ερχεται προς το πωςouk erchetai pros to phōs). The light hurts his eyes, reveals his own wickedness, makes him thoroughly uncomfortable. Hence he does not read the Bible, he does not come to church, he does not pray. He goes on in deeper darkness.

Lest his works should be reproved
(ινα μη ελεγχτηι τα εργα αυτουhina mē elegchthēi ta erga autou). Negative final clause (ινα μηhina mē) with first aorist passive subjunctive of ελεγχωelegchō old word to correct a fault, to reprove, to convict. See also John 8:46; John 16:8. To escape this unpleasant process the evil man cuts out Christ.

Verse 21

That doeth the truth (ο ποιων την αλητειανho poiōn tēn alētheian). See 1 John 1:6 for this striking phrase.

Comes to the light (ερχεται προς το πωςerchetai pros to phōs). Is drawn by the light, spiritual heliotropes, not driven from it.

That may be made manifest
(ινα πανερωτηιhina phanerōthēi). Final ιναhina with first aorist passive subjunctive of πανεροωphaneroō

They have been wrought in God
(εν τεωι εστιν ειργασμεναen theōi estin eirgasmena). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of εργαζομαιergazomai He does not claim that they are perfect, only that they have been wrought in the sphere of and in the power of God. Hence he wants the light turned on.

Verse 22

After these things (μετα ταυταmeta tauta). Transition after the interview with Nicodemus. For the phrase see John 5:1; John 6:1; John 7:1.

Into the land of Judea (εις την Ιουδαιαν γηνeis tēn Ioudaian gēn). Into the country districts outside of Jerusalem. The only example of this phrase in the N.T., but “the region of Judea” (η Ιουδαια χωραhē Ioudaia chōra) in Mark 1:5.

He tarried
(διετριβενdietriben). Descriptive imperfect active of διατριβωdiatribō old verb to rub between or hard, to spend time (Acts 14:3).

(εβαπτιζενebaptizen). Imperfect active of βαπτιζωbaptizō “He was baptizing.” The six disciples were with him and in John 4:2 John explains that Jesus did the baptizing through the disciples.

Verse 23

John was also baptizing (ην δε και ο Ιωανης βαπτιζωνēn de kai ho Iōanēs baptizōn). Periphrastic imperfect picturing the continued activity of the Baptist simultaneous with the growing work of Jesus. There was no real rivalry except in people‘s minds.

In Aenon near to Salim (εν Αινων εγγυς του Σαλειμen Ainōn eggus tou Saleim). It is not clearly known where this place was. Eusebius locates it in the Jordan valley south of Beisan west of the river where are many springs (fountains, eyes). There is a place called Salim east of Shechem in Samaria with a village called Aimen, but with no water there. There may have been water there then, of course.

Because there was much water there
(οτι υδατα πολλα ην εκειhoti hudata polla ēn ekei). “Because many waters were there.” Not for drinking, but for baptizing. “Therefore even in summer baptism by immersion could be continued” (Marcus Dods).

And they came, and were baptized
(και παρεγινοντο και εβαπτιζοντοkai pareginonto kai ebaptizonto). Imperfects both, one middle and the other passive, graphically picturing the long procession of pilgrims who came to John confessing their sins and receiving baptism at his hands.

Verse 24

For John had not yet been cast into prison (ουπω γαρ ην βεβλημενος εις την πυλακην Ιωανηςoupō gar ēn beblēmenos eis tēn phulakēn Iōanēs). Periphrastic past perfect indicative of βαλλωballō explaining (γαρgar) why John was still baptizing, the reason for the imprisonment having been given by Luke (Luke 3:19.).

Verse 25

A questioning (ζητησιςzētēsis). Old word from ζητεωzēteō See Acts 15:2 for the word where also ζητημαzētēma (question) occurs. ητησιςZētēsis (process of inquiry) means a meticulous dispute (1 Timothy 6:4).

With a Jew (μετα Ιουδαιουmeta Ioudaiou). So correct text, not ΙουδαιωνIoudaiōn (Jews). Probably some Jew resented John‘s baptism of Jesus as implying impurity or that they were like Gentiles (cf. proselyte baptism).

About purifying
(περι καταρισμουperi katharismou). See John 2:6 for the word. The committee from the Sanhedrin had challenged John‘s right to baptize (John 1:25). The Jews had various kinds of baptisms or dippings (Hebrews 6:2), “baptisms of cups and pots and brazen vessels” (Mark 6:4). The disciples of John came to him with the dispute (the first known baptismal controversy, on the meaning of the ceremony) and with a complaint.

Verse 26

Rabbi (αββειRabbei). Greeting John just like Jesus (John 1:38; John 3:2).

Beyond Jordan (περαν του Ιορδανουperan tou Iordanou). Evident reference to John‘s witness to Jesus told in John 1:29-34.

To whom thou hast borne witness
(ωι συ μεμαρτυρηκαςhōi su memarturēkas). Note avoidance of calling the name of Jesus. Perfect active indicative of μαρτυρεωmartureō so common in John (John 1:7, etc.). These disciples of John are clearly jealous of Jesus as a rival of John and they distinctly blame John for his endorsement of one who is already eclipsing him in popularity.

The same baptizeth
(ουτος βαπτιζειhoutos baptizei). “This one is baptizing.” Not personally (John 4:2), as John did, but through his six disciples.

And all men come to him
(και παντες ερχονται προς αυτονkai pantes erchontai pros auton). Linear present middle indicative, “are coming.” The sight of the growing crowds with Jesus and the dwindling crowds with John stirred John‘s followers to keenest jealousy. What a lifelike picture of ministerial jealousy in all ages.

Verse 27

Except it have been given him from heaven (εαν μη ηι δεδομενον αυτωι εκ του ουρανουean mē ēi dedomenon autōi ek tou ouranou). See the same idiom in John 6:65 (cf. John 19:11). Condition of third class, undetermined with prospect of determination, αποστελλωean mē with the periphrastic perfect passive subjunctive of didōmi The perfect tense is rare in the subjunctive and an exact rendering into English is awkward, “unless it be granted him from heaven.” See 1 Corinthians 4:7 where Paul says the same thing.

Verse 28

I said (eipon). As in John 1:20, John 1:23. He had always put Jesus ahead of him as the Messiah (John 1:15).

Before him (emprosthen ekeinou). “Before that one” (Jesus) as his forerunner simply.

I am sent
(apestalmenos eimi). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of apostellō f0).

Verse 29

The bridegroom (νυμπιοςnumphios). Predicate nominative without article. Both νυμπηnumphē (bride) and νυμπιοςnumphios are old and common words. Jesus will use this metaphor of himself as the Bridegroom (Mark 2:19) and Paul develops it (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-32) and so in Revelation (Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2). John is only like the παρανυμπιοςparanymph (εστηκωςparanumphios) or “the friend of the bridegroom.” His office is to bring groom and bride together. So he stands expectant (ιστημιhestēkōs second perfect active participle of ακουωνhistēmi) and listens (ακουωakouōn present active participle of χαραι χαιρειakouō) with joy (rejoiceth greatly, αυτη ουν η χαρα πεπληρωταιcharāi chairei “with joy rejoices”) to the music of the bridegroom‘s voice.

This my joy therefore is fulfilled (πληροωhautē oun hē chara peplērōtai). Perfect passive indicative of plēroō stands filled like a cup to the brim with joy.

Verse 30

Must (δειdei). It has to be (see John 3:14). He is to go on growing (present active infinitive αυχανεινauxanein) while I go on decreasing (present passive infinitive ελαττουσταιelattousthai from comparative ελαττωνelattōn less). These are the last words that we have from John till the despondent message from the dungeon in Machaerus whether Jesus is after all the Messiah (Matthew 11:2; Luke 7:19). He went on to imprisonment, suspense, martyrdom, while Jesus grew in popular favour till he had his via dolorosa. “These last words of St. John are the fulness of religious sacrifice and fitly close his work” (Westcott).

Verse 31

Is above all (επανω παντωνepanō pantōn). Ablative case with the compound preposition επανωepanō See the same idea in Romans 9:5. Here we have the comments of Evangelist (John) concerning the last words of John in John 3:30 which place Jesus above himself. He is above all men, not alone above the Baptist. Bernard follows those who treat John 3:31-36 as dislocated and put them after John 3:21 (the interview with Nicodemus), but they suit better here.

Of the earth (εκ της γηςek tēs gēs). John is fond of this use of εκek for origin and source of character as in John 1:46; 1 John 4:5. Jesus is the one that comes out of heaven (ο εκ του ουρανου ερχομενοςho ek tou ouranou erchomenos) as he has shown in 1:1-18. Hence he is “above all.”

Verse 32

What he hath seen and heard (ο εωρακεν και ηκουσενho heōraken kai ēkousen). Perfect active indicative followed by aorist active indicative, because, as Westcott shows, the first belongs to the very existence of the Son and the latter to his mission. There is no confusion of tenses here.

No man (ουδειςoudeis). There were crowds coming to Jesus, but they do not really accept him as Saviour and Lord (John 1:11; John 2:24). It is superficial as time will show. But “no one” is not to be pressed too far, for it is the rhetorical use.

Verse 33

Hath set his seal (εσπραγισενesphragisen). First aorist active indicative of σπραγιζωsphragizō for which verb see Matthew 27:66. The metaphor of sealing is a common one for giving attestation as in John 6:27. The one who accepts the witness of Jesus attests that Jesus speaks the message of God.

Verse 34

The words of God (τα ρηματα του τεουta rēmata tou theou). God sent his Son (John 3:17) and he speaks God‘s words.

By measure (εκ μετρουek metrou). That is God has put no limit to the Spirit‘s relation to the Son. God has given the Holy Spirit in his fulness to Christ and to no one else in that sense.

Verse 35

Hath given all things into his hand (παντα δεδωκεν εν τηι χειρι αυτουpanta dedōken en tēi cheiri autou). John makes the same statement about Jesus in John 13:3 (using εις τας χειραςeis tas cheiras instead of εν τηι χειριen tēi cheiri). Jesus makes the same claim in John 5:19-30; Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:18.

Verse 36

Hath eternal life (εχει ζωην αιωνιονechei zōēn aiōnion). Has it here and now and for eternity.

That obeyeth not (ο απειτωνho apeithōn). “He that is disobedient to the Son.” Jesus is the test of human life as Simeon said he would be (Luke 2:34.). This verb does not occur again in John‘s Gospel.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 3:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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