John 3

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John 3
P. Oxy. 208 (J 16,14-22).jpg
John 16:14-22 on the recto side of Papyrus 5, written about AD 250.
BookGospel of John
Bible partNew Testament
Order in the Bible part4

John 3 is the third chapter of the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said of this chapter that it is the chapter he would choose "to read to a dying man who did not know the gospel, [as] the most suitable one for such an occasion".[1]


The first part of the chapter begins with Nicodemus, said to be a member of the ruling council, coming at night to talk with Jesus, whom he calls Rabbi. On account of Jesus' "miraculous signs", Nicodemus and others ("we" in John 3:2) have recognized that Jesus is " a teacher come from God". It is not clear for whom Nicodemus speaks – the translation in The Voice adds wording, "Teacher, some of us have been talking ..." – but many commentators infer from the nighttime setting for this meeting that Nicodemus came alone, privately, "through shame, and fear of his brethren of the council",[2] shame possibly arising because, "being a master in Israel, [he would not want] to be looked upon as a scholar going to learn of another".[3] Methodist writer Joseph Benson notes, with support, theologian Daniel Whitby's interpretation, that "the Pharisees and rulers knew Christ to be a teacher come from God".[4]

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born from above, or born again." The word in Greek: ἄνωθεν may be translated as either "again" or "from above". The King James Version, the English Standard Version and the New International Version all say "born again", whereas the New Revised Standard Version and Young's Literal Translation both have "born from above" in their text with an alternative note "born anew".[5] Nicodemus's reply, "How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!"[6] reflects an understanding that Jesus is speaking of a second birth. Jesus then talks of what it means to be born again and the path to heaven. "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." (5-6) Jesus speaks of himself as the Son of Man and how belief in him is the path to eternal life. This is summed up in one of the most famous passages from the bible, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." This chapter is intended to show the importance of the belief in Jesus as the son of God. Jesus is shown here already proclaiming himself the Messiah and laying out aspects of Christian theology, in contrast to Mark for instance, where Jesus seems to try to keep the fact of his divinity secret until his final trip to Jerusalem.

Nicodemus appears here, in chapter 7:50 and is listed in John 19:39, and only John, as helping Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus.

Jesus baptizes[edit]

In the second part of the chapter, Jesus goes into the land of Judea with his disciples and remains there and baptizes. John the Baptist is also baptizing people nearby, at Aenon, near Salim. John's disciples tell John that Jesus is also baptizing people, more than John it seems (John 3:26: "everybody is going to Him"). John replies that "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of him.' The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less." He finishes by saying "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." This passage is meant to show John's acceptance of Jesus's superiority as well as a further emphasis on belief in him as the path to eternal life/heaven.

John was trying to show to his presumably Jewish audience that John himself knew that Jesus was the Messiah and that baptism into Christianity, not John's group, is the true path to God. There is a group still surviving today, the Mandaeans, who claim John as the greatest prophet.[7]

Verse 7[edit]

Marvel not that I said unto thee,
Ye must be born again.[8]

Verse 16[edit]

For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.[9]

Use of verses from John 3[edit]

Biblical references for verses John 3:7 and John 3:16 are both used in signage and popular culture to communicate the message of the Christian gospel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Charles Spurgeon in the sermon Jesus Christ's Idiom, quoted by David Guzik in Guzik Bible Commentary on John 3, accessed 12 February 2016
  2. ^ Joseph Benson, Benson Commentary on John 3, accessed 11 February 2016
  3. ^ Mattew Poole's Commentary on John 3, accessed 11 February 2016
  4. ^ Joseph Benson, Benson Commentary on John 3, accessed 11 February 2016
  5. ^ All variants taken from
  6. ^ John 3:4
  7. ^ "The Mandaeans: True descendents of ancient Babylonians". Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  8. ^ John 3:7
  9. ^ John 3:16
Preceded by
John 2
Chapters of the Bible
Gospel of John
Succeeded by
John 4