Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Interpret John 3

Following on from a recent thread I thought I would explore further biblical interpretation.

So, below is a passage from John's Gospel. It would be really interesting (for me at least) to see how people interpret it. If you've got the time and energy, then leave a comment explaining your understanding and interpretation of this passage. It (hopefully) will highlight the various traditions of biblical interpretations.

John 3:1-8 (NIV)
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."


Tom Haward said...

The trouble is, what is the bias from the author? Is the author relevant? Depends upon which literary theory you subscribe to. I guess I believe many things are the way they are through the meaning we give them. After all, most of us watch or read things this way. I think you'd call is Deconstructionism.

I read that passage and consider that Jesus is suggesting an overhaul of the religious system of that time. He was very critical of it in other parts of the Gospels, so no reason why he wouldn't be here. In the Beattitudes Jesus speaks of the meek inheriting the earth and the Kingdom belonging to the poor, so for Jesus to say you must be born again, implies to me that he's asking for people like Nicodemus to completely re-evaluate how they do what they do.

I guess it's like saying 're-invent yourself', you're completely wrong in how you're interacting with society. The poor and the wretched come first.

Rob said...

Hi Joe, Hi Tom, i've not done any study on this passage yet but i am hoping to reply!!

Rob said...

I'm not writing anything on this cos I preached on it instead! Have a listen and see what you think. It's great and is over long but I do go through the passage in question.

Joe said...

I think your right in certain ways Tom about Jesus' calling to re-think who God is and the world around us. I absolutely agree with you about our need to interact with society and how the poor and wretched come first.

Listened to your Sermon Rob. I'll just pick up on the first 8 verses.

The only thing I really want to bring a perspective to is about being of water and of Spirit. I haven't much time right now, but what I would say is:
1. In the context of previous and subsequent references to water baptism, baptism could well be what Jesus is on about
2. Think of the sacramental nature of the wedding at Cana and the cleansing of the Temple
3. Think of the sacramental nature of the whole of John's Gospel
4. John puts his Gospel together for theology, not chronology
5. Being born of water and Spirit means water baptism simply isn't enough, there needs to be a separate and distinct baptism of the Spirit.

That's all for now!

Joe said...

Also - Thank you for your sermon! You spoke well. I like how you want people to get to grips with context. That is really important. I also like the way you describe the beginning of John's Gospel, like a blockbuster movie opening! Thought that was really helpful. Bless you mate