Whoever believes, lives

Next Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B. You can read a full commentary here.      

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:14-21)

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Rebirth and Birth

The gospel for yesterday and today combine to cover John 3:1-15, the encounter of Jesus and Nicodemus. In the passage, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born anothen, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” As is characteristic of John’s gospel, it is in the subtly of words that people are offered a choice. Popularly, Bibles translate the passage as “unless one is born again.” And indeed that is an acceptable translation, but not the primary or best if being true to the text. The best translation is “unless one is born from above.” It not only takes the primary meaning of the word anothen, but also ties into the “direction” of the references in the passage: Continue reading

Trinity Sunday: the offer of new life

SanDamianoCrossThe Monologue. At v. 11, the text shifts from a dialogue to a monologue. The dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus alternated between Jesus’ offer of new birth (vv. 3, 5-8) and Nicodemus’s resistance (vv. 4, 9). The shift to the monologue allows Jesus’ voice to silence the voice of resistance. Jesus’ discourse runs through v. 21 and divides into two parts. Verses 11-15 interpret Jesus’ offer of new birth through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and vv. 16-21 focus on the theme of judgment.

We know. Jesus begins the discourse by speaking in the first-person plural. English translations of v. 11 mask the Greek word order. The translation “we speak of what we know ” flows in English, but the sentence literally reads, “what we know we say” (oidamen laloumen). This word order is important because it means that the beginning of Jesus’ discourse and Nicodemus’s opening words to Jesus (v. 3) are the same: “we know…. “ It is possible to read Jesus’ words as a continuation of the irony of v. 10; Jesus parodies Nicodemus’s assertion of his knowledge. Continue reading

Trinity Sunday: the offer of new life

SanDamianoCrossThe Monologue. At v. 11, the text shifts from a dialogue to a monologue. The dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus alternated between Jesus’ offer of new birth (vv. 3, 5-8) and Nicodemus’s resistance (vv. 4, 9). The shift to the monologue allows Jesus’ voice to silence the voice of resistance. Jesus’ discourse runs through v. 21 and divides into two parts. Verses 11-15 interpret Jesus’ offer of new birth through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and vv. 16-21 focus on the theme of judgment.

We know. Jesus begins the discourse by speaking in the first-person plural. English translations of v. 11 mask the Greek word order. The translation “we speak of what we know ” flows in English, but the sentence literally reads, “what we know we say” (oidamen laloumen). This word order is important because it means that the beginning of Jesus’ discourse and Nicodemus’s opening words to Jesus (v. 3) are the same: “we know…. “ It is possible to read Jesus’ words as a continuation of the irony of v. 10; Jesus parodies Nicodemus’s assertion of his knowledge. Continue reading