New English Translation
Conversation with Nicodemus
3 Now a certain man, a Pharisee[a] named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council,[b] 2 came to Jesus[c] at night[d] and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs[e] that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus replied,[f] “I tell you the solemn truth,[g] unless a person is born from above,[h] he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[i] 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?”[j]
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth,[k] unless a person is born of water and spirit,[l] he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh,[m] and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all[n] be born from above.’[o] 8 The wind[p] blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”[q]
9 Nicodemus replied,[r] “How can these things be?”[s] 10 Jesus answered,[t] “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things?[u] 11 I tell you the solemn truth,[v] we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but[w] you people[x] do not accept our testimony.[y] 12 If I have told you people[z] about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?[aa] 13 No one[ab] has ascended[ac] into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.[ad] 14 Just as[ae] Moses lifted up the serpent[af] in the wilderness,[ag] so must the Son of Man be lifted up,[ah] 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”[ai]
16 For this is the way[aj] God loved the world: He gave his one and only[ak] Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish[al] but have eternal life.[am] 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,[an] but that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not condemned.[ao] The one who does not believe has been condemned[ap] already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only[aq] Son of God. 19 Now this is the basis for judging:[ar] that the light has come into the world and people[as] loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. 21 But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.[at]
Further Testimony About Jesus by John the Baptist
22 After this,[au] Jesus and his disciples came into Judean territory, and there he spent time with them and was baptizing. 23 John[av] was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim,[aw] because water was plentiful there, and people were coming[ax] to him[ay] and being baptized. 24 (For John had not yet been thrown into prison.)[az]
25 Now a dispute came about between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew[ba] concerning ceremonial washing.[bb] 26 So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan River,[bc] about whom you testified—see, he is baptizing, and everyone is flocking to him!”
27 John replied,[bd] “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’[be] but rather, ‘I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly[bf] when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This then is my joy, and it is complete.[bg] 30 He must become more important while I become less important.”[bh]
31 The one who comes from above is superior to all.[bi] The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things.[bj] The one who comes from heaven[bk] is superior to all.[bl] 32 He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 The one who has accepted his testimony has confirmed clearly that God is truthful.[bm] 34 For the one whom God has sent[bn] speaks the words of God, for he does not give the Spirit sparingly.[bo] 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things under his authority.[bp] 36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects[bq] the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath[br] remains[bs] on him.
- John 3:1 sn See the note on Pharisees in 1:24.
- John 3:1 tn Grk “a ruler of the Jews” (denoting a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews).
- John 3:2 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- John 3:2 tn Or “during the night.”sn Possibly Nicodemus came…at night because he was afraid of public association with Jesus, or he wanted a lengthy discussion without interruptions; no explanation for the timing of the interview is given by the author. But the timing is significant for John in terms of the light-darkness motif—compare John 9:4; 11:10; 13:30 (especially), 19:39, and 21:3. Out of the darkness of his life and religiosity Nicodemus came to the Light of the world. The author probably had multiple meanings or associations in mind here, as is often the case.
- John 3:2 sn The reference to signs (σημεῖα, sēmeia) forms a link with John 2:23-25. Those people in Jerusalem believed in Jesus because of the signs he had performed. Nicodemus had apparently seen them too. But for Nicodemus all the signs meant is that Jesus was a great teacher sent from God. His approach to Jesus was well-intentioned but theologically inadequate; he had failed to grasp the messianic implications of the miraculous signs.
- John 3:3 tn Grk “answered and said to him.”
- John 3:3 tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.”
- John 3:3 tn The word ἄνωθεν (anōthen) has a double meaning, either “again” (in which case it is synonymous with παλίν [palin]) or “from above” (BDAG 92 s.v. ἄνωθεν). This is a favorite technique of the author of the Fourth Gospel, and it is lost in almost all translations at this point. John uses the word 5 times, in 3:3, 7; 3:31; 19:11 and 23. In the latter 3 cases the context makes clear that it means “from above.” Here (3:3, 7) it could mean either, but the primary meaning intended by Jesus is “from above.” Nicodemus apparently understood it the other way, which explains his reply, “How can a man be born when he is old? He can’t enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born, can he?” The author uses the technique of the “misunderstood question” often to bring out a particularly important point: Jesus says something which is misunderstood by the disciples or (as here) someone else, which then gives Jesus the opportunity to explain more fully and in more detail what he really meant.sn Or born again. The Greek word ἄνωθεν (anōthen) can mean both “again” and “from above,” giving rise to Nicodemus’ misunderstanding about a second physical birth (v. 4).
- John 3:3 sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus’ teaching. The nature of the kingdom of God in the NT and in Jesus’ teaching has long been debated by interpreters and scholars, with discussion primarily centering around the nature of the kingdom (earthly, heavenly, or both) and the kingdom’s arrival (present, future, or both). An additional major issue concerns the relationship between the kingdom of God and the person and work of Jesus himself. But what does Jesus’ statement about not being able to see the kingdom of God mean within the framework of John’s Gospel? John uses the word kingdom (βασιλεία, basileia) only 5 times (3:3, 5; 18:36 [3x]). Only here is it qualified with the phrase of God. The fact that John does not stress the concept of the kingdom of God does not mean it is absent from his theology, however. Remember the messianic implications found in John 2, both the wedding and miracle at Cana and the cleansing of the temple. For Nicodemus, the term must surely have brought to mind the messianic kingdom which Messiah was supposed to bring. But Nicodemus had missed precisely this point about who Jesus was. It was the Messiah himself with whom Nicodemus was speaking. Whatever Nicodemus understood, it is clear that the point is this: He misunderstood Jesus’ words. He over-literalized them, and thought Jesus was talking about repeated physical birth, when he was in fact referring to new spiritual birth.
- John 3:4 tn The grammatical structure of the question in Greek presupposes a negative reply.
- John 3:5 tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.”
- John 3:5 tn Or “born of water and wind” (the same Greek word, πνεύματος [pneumatos], may be translated either “spirit/Spirit” or “wind”). sn Jesus’ somewhat enigmatic statement points to the necessity of being born “from above,” because water and wind/spirit/Spirit come from above. Isaiah 44:3-5 and Ezek 37:9-10 are pertinent examples of water and wind as life-giving symbols of the Spirit of God in his work among people. Both occur in contexts that deal with the future restoration of Israel as a nation prior to the establishment of the messianic kingdom. It is therefore particularly appropriate that Jesus should introduce them in a conversation about entering the kingdom of God. Note that the Greek word πνεύματος is anarthrous (has no article) in v. 5. This does not mean that spirit in the verse should be read as a direct reference to the Holy Spirit, but that both water and wind are figures (based on passages in the OT, which Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel should have known) that represent the regenerating work of the Spirit in the lives of men and women.
- John 3:6 sn What is born of the flesh is flesh, i.e., what is born of physical heritage is physical. (It is interesting to compare this terminology with that of the dialogue in John 4, especially 4:23, 24.) For John the “flesh” (σάρξ, sarx) emphasizes merely the weakness and mortality of the creature—a neutral term, not necessarily sinful as in Paul. This is confirmed by the reference in John 1:14 to the Logos becoming “flesh.” The author avoids associating sinfulness with the incarnate Christ.
- John 3:7 tn “All” has been supplied to indicate the plural pronoun in the Greek text.
- John 3:7 tn Or “born again.” The same Greek word with the same double meaning occurs in v. 3.
- John 3:8 tn The same Greek word, πνεύματος (pneumatos), may be translated “wind” or “spirit.”
- John 3:8 sn Again, the physical illustrates the spiritual, although the force is heightened by the word-play here on wind-spirit (see the note on wind at the beginning of this verse). By the end of the verse, however, the final usage of πνεύματος (pneumatos) refers to the Holy Spirit.
- John 3:9 tn Grk “Nicodemus answered and said to him.”
- John 3:9 sn “How can these things be?” is Nicodemus’ answer. It is clear that at this time he has still not grasped what Jesus is saying. Note also that this is the last appearance of Nicodemus in the dialogue. Having served the purpose of the author, at this point he disappears from the scene. As a character in the narrative, he has served to illustrate the prevailing Jewish misunderstanding of Jesus’ teaching about the necessity of a new, spiritual birth from above. Whatever parting words Nicodemus might have had with Jesus, the author does not record them.
- John 3:10 tn Grk “Jesus answered and said to him.”
- John 3:10 sn Jesus’ question “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things?” implies that Nicodemus had enough information at his disposal from the OT scriptures to have understood Jesus’ statements about the necessity of being born from above by the regenerating work of the Spirit. Isa 44:3-5 and Ezek 37:9-10 are passages Nicodemus might have known which would have given him insight into Jesus’ words. Another significant passage which contains many of these concepts is Prov 30:4-5.
- John 3:11 tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.”
- John 3:11 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to show the contrast present in the context.
- John 3:11 tn The word “people” is not in the Greek text, but is supplied in the translation to indicate that the verb is second person plural (referring to more than Nicodemus alone).
- John 3:11 sn Note the remarkable similarity of Jesus’ testimony to the later testimony of the Apostle John himself in 1 John 1:2: “And we have seen and testify and report to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was revealed to us.” This is only one example of how thoroughly the author’s own thoughts were saturated with the words of Jesus (and also how difficult it is to distinguish the words of Jesus from the words of the author in the Fourth Gospel).
- John 3:12 tn The word “people” is not in the Greek text, but is supplied to indicate that the verb is second person plural (referring to more than Nicodemus alone).
- John 3:12 sn Obviously earthly things and heavenly things are in contrast, but what is the contrast? What are earthly things which Jesus has just spoken to Nicodemus? And through him to others—this is not the first instance of the plural pronoun, see v. 7, you must all. Since Nicodemus began with a plural (we know, v. 2) Jesus continues it, and through Nicodemus addresses a broader audience. It makes most sense to take this as a reference to the things Jesus has just said (and the things he is about to say, vv. 13-15). If this is the case (and it seems the most natural explanation) then earthly things are not necessarily strictly physical things, but are so called because they take place on earth, in contrast to things like v. 16, which take place in heaven. Some have added the suggestion that the things are called earthly because physical analogies (birth, wind, water) are used to describe them. This is possible, but it seems more probable that Jesus calls these things earthly because they happen on earth (even though they are spiritual things). In the context, taking earthly things as referring to the words Jesus has just spoken fits with the fact that Nicodemus did not believe. And he would not after hearing heavenly things either, unless he first believed in the earthly things—which included the necessity of a regenerating work from above, by the Holy Spirit.
- John 3:13 tn Grk “And no one.”
- John 3:13 sn The verb ascended is a perfect tense in Greek (ἀναβέβηκεν, anabebēken) which seems to look at a past, completed event. (This is not as much of a problem for those who take Jesus’ words to end at v. 12, and these words to be a comment by the author, looking back on Jesus’ ascension.) As a saying of Jesus, these words are a bit harder to explain. Note, however, the lexical similarities with 1:51: “ascending,” “descending,” and “son of man.” Here, though, the ascent and descent is accomplished by the Son himself, not the angels as in 1:51. There is no need to limit this saying to Jesus’ ascent following the resurrection, however; the point of the Jacob story (Gen 28), which seems to be the background for 1:51, is the freedom of communication and relationship between God and men (a major theme of John’s Gospel). This communication comes through the angels in Gen 28 (and John 1:51), but here (most appropriately) it comes directly through the Son of Man. Although Jesus could be referring to a prior ascent, after an appearance as the preincarnate Son of Man, more likely he is simply pointing out that no one from earth has ever gone up to heaven and come down again. The Son, who has come down from heaven, is the only one who has been ‘up’ there. In both Jewish intertestamental literature and later rabbinic accounts, Moses is portrayed as ascending to heaven to receive the Torah and descending to distribute it to men (e.g., Targum Ps 68:19.) In contrast to these Jewish legends, the Son is the only one who has ever made the ascent and descent.
- John 3:13 tc Most witnesses, including a few very significant ones (A[*] Θ Ψ 050 ƒ1,13 M latt syc,p,h), have at the end of this verse “the one who is in heaven” (ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ho ōn en tō ouranō). A few others have variations on this phrase, such as “who was in heaven” (e syc), or “the one who is from heaven” (0141 sys). The witnesses normally considered the best, along with several others, lack the phrase in its entirety (P66,75 א B L T Ws 083 086 33 1241 co). On the one hand, if the reading ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is authentic it may suggest that while Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus he spoke of himself as in heaven even while he was on earth. If that is the case, one could see why variations from this hard saying arose: “who was in heaven,” “the one who is from heaven,” and omission of the clause. At the same time, such a saying could be interpreted (though with difficulty) as part of the narrator’s comments rather than Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, alleviating the problem. And if v. 13 was viewed in early times as the evangelist’s statement, “the one who is in heaven” could have crept into the text through a marginal note. Other internal evidence suggests that this saying may be authentic. The adjectival participle, ὁ ὤν, is used in the Fourth Gospel more than any other NT book (though the Apocalypse comes in a close second), and frequently with reference to Jesus (1:18; 6:46; 8:47). It may be looking back to the LXX of Exod 3:14 (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν). Especially since this exact construction is not necessary to communicate the location of the Son of Man, its presence in many witnesses here may suggest authenticity. Further, John uses the singular of οὐρανός (ouranos, “heaven”) in all 18 instances of the word in this Gospel, and all but twice with the article (only 1:32 and 6:58 are anarthrous, and even in the latter there is significant testimony to the article). At the same time, the witnesses that lack this clause are very weighty and must not be discounted. Generally speaking, if other factors are equal, the reading of such mss should be preferred. And internally, it could be argued that ὁ ὤν is the most concise way to speak of the Son of Man in heaven at that time (without the participle the point would be more ambiguous). Further, the articular singular οὐρανός is already used twice in this verse, thus sufficiently prompting scribes to add the same in the longer reading. This combination of factors suggests that ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is not a genuine Johannism. Further intrinsic evidence against the longer reading relates to the evangelist’s purposes: If he intended v. 13 to be his own comments rather than Jesus’ statement, his switch back to Jesus’ words in v. 14 (for the lifting up of the Son of Man is still seen as in the future) seems inexplicable. The reading “who is in heaven” thus seems to be too hard. All things considered, as intriguing as the longer reading is, it seems almost surely to have been a marginal gloss added inadvertently to the text in the process of transmission. For an argument in favor of the longer reading, see David Alan Black, “The Text of John 3:13, ” GTJ 6 (1985): 49-66.sn See the note on the title Son of Man in 1:51.
- John 3:14 tn Grk “And just as.”
- John 3:14 sn Or the snake, referring to the bronze serpent mentioned in Num 21:9.
- John 3:14 sn An allusion to Num 21:5-9.
- John 3:14 sn So must the Son of Man be lifted up. This is ultimately a prediction of Jesus’ crucifixion. Nicodemus could not have understood this, but John’s readers, the audience to whom the Gospel is addressed, certainly could have (compare the wording of John 12:32). In John, being lifted up refers to one continuous action of ascent, beginning with the cross but ending at the right hand of the Father. Step 1 is Jesus’ death; step 2 is his resurrection; and step 3 is the ascension back to heaven. It is the upward swing of the “pendulum” which began with the incarnation, the descent of the Word become flesh from heaven to earth (cf. Paul in Phil 2:5-11). See also the note on the title Son of Man in 1:51.
- John 3:15 tn This is the first use of the term ζωὴν αἰώνιον (zōēn aiōnion) in the Gospel, although ζωή (zōē) in chap. 1 is to be understood in the same way without the qualifying αἰώνιος (aiōnios).sn Some interpreters extend the quotation of Jesus’ words through v. 21.
- John 3:16 tn Or “this is how much”; or “in this way.” The Greek adverb οὕτως (houtōs) can refer (1) to the degree to which God loved the world, that is, to such an extent or so much that he gave his own Son (see R. E. Brown, John [AB], 1:133-34; D. A. Carson, John, 204) or (2) simply to the manner in which God loved the world, i.e., by sending his own son (see R. H. Gundry and R. W. Howell, “The Sense and Syntax of John 3:14-17 with Special Reference to the Use of Οὕτως…ὥστε in John 3:16, ” NovT 41 : 24-39). Though the term more frequently refers to the manner in which something is done (see BDAG 741-42 s.v. οὕτω/οὕτως), the following clause involving ὥστε (hōste) plus the indicative (which stresses actual, but [usually] unexpected result) emphasizes the greatness of the gift God has given. With this in mind, then, it is likely (3) that John is emphasizing both the degree to which God loved the world as well as the manner in which He chose to express that love. This is in keeping with John’s style of using double entendre or double meaning. Thus, the focus of the Greek construction here is on the nature of God’s love, addressing its mode, intensity, and extent.
- John 3:16 tn Although this word is often translated “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12; 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clement 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant. 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ, tekna theou), Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 18; 3:16, 18).
- John 3:16 tn In John the word ἀπόλλυμι (apollumi) can mean either (1) to be lost (2) to perish or be destroyed, depending on the context.
- John 3:16 sn The alternatives presented are only two (again, it is typical of Johannine thought for this to be presented in terms of polar opposites): perish or have eternal life.
- John 3:17 sn That is, “to judge the world to be guilty and liable to punishment.”
- John 3:18 tn Grk “judged.”
- John 3:18 tn Grk “judged.”
- John 3:18 tn See the note on the term “one and only” in 3:16.
- John 3:19 tn Or “this is the reason for God judging,” or “this is how judgment works.”
- John 3:19 tn Grk “and men,” but in a generic sense, referring to people of both genders (as “everyone” in v. 20 makes clear).
- John 3:21 sn John 3:16-21 provides an introduction to the (so-called) “realized” eschatology of the Fourth Gospel: Judgment has come; eternal life may be possessed now, in the present life, as well as in the future. The terminology “realized eschatology” was originally coined by E. Haenchen and used by J. Jeremias in discussion with C. H. Dodd, but is now characteristically used to describe Dodd’s own formulation. See L. Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament, 1:54, note 10, and R. E. Brown (John [AB], 1:cxvii-cxviii) for further discussion. Especially important to note is the element of choice portrayed in John’s Gospel. As Brown observes, “If there is a twofold reaction to Jesus in John’s Gospel, it should be emphasized that that reaction is very much dependent on a person’s choice, a choice that is influenced by his way of life, whether his deeds are wicked or are done in God (John 3:20-21). Thus, there is nodeterminism in John as there seems to be in some of the passages of the Qumranscrolls” (John [AB], 1:148). Only when one looks beneath the surface does one find statements like “no one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
- John 3:22 tn This section is related loosely to the preceding by μετὰ ταῦτα (meta tauta). This constitutes an indefinite temporal reference; the intervening time is not specified.
- John 3:23 sn John refers to John the Baptist.
- John 3:23 tn The precise locations of Αἰνών (Ainōn) and Σαλείμ (Saleim) are unknown. Three possibilities are suggested: (1) In Perea, which is in Transjordan (cf. 1:28). Perea is just across the river from Judea. (2) In the northern Jordan Valley, on the west bank some 8 miles [13 km] south of Scythopolis. But with the Jordan River so close, the reference to abundant water (3:23) seems superfluous. (3) Thus Samaria has been suggested. 4 miles (6.6 km) east of Shechem is a town called Salim, and 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Salim lies modern Ainun. In the general vicinity are many springs. Because of the meanings of the names (Αἰνών = “springs” in Aramaic and Σαλείμ = Salem, “peace”) some have attempted to allegorize here that John the Baptist is near salvation. Obviously there is no need for this. It is far more probable that the author has in mind real places, even if their locations cannot be determined with certainty.
- John 3:23 tn Or “people were continually coming.”
- John 3:23 tn The words “to him” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.
- John 3:24 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
- John 3:25 tc Was this dispute between the Baptist’s disciples and an individual Judean (᾿Ιουδαίου, Ioudaiou) or representatives of the Jewish authorities (᾿Ιουδαίων, Ioudaiōn)? There is good external support for the plural ᾿Ιουδαίων (P66 א* Θ ƒ1,13 565 al latt), but the external evidence for the singular ᾿Ιουδαίου is slightly stronger (P75 א2 A B L Ψ 33 1241 the majority of Byzantine minuscules and others).tn Or “a certain Judean.” Here BDAG 478 s.v. ᾿Ιουδαίος 2.a states, “Judean (with respect to birth, nationality, or cult).” If the emphasis is simply on the individual’s origin, “Judean” would be preferable since it designates a nationality or place of origin. However, the mention of ceremonial washing in the context suggests the dispute was religious in nature, so “Jew” has been retained in the translation here.
- John 3:25 tn Or “ceremonial cleansing,” or “purification.”sn What was the controversy concerning ceremonial washing? It is not clear. Some have suggested that it was over the relative merits of the baptism of Jesus and John. But what about the ceremonial nature of the washing? There are so many unanswered questions here that even R. E. Brown (who does not usually resort to dislocations in the text as a solution to difficulties) proposes that this dialogue originally took place immediately after 1:19-34 and before the wedding at Cana. (Why else the puzzled hostility of the disciples over the crowds coming to Jesus?) Also, the synoptics imply John was imprisoned before Jesus began his Galilean ministry. At any rate, there is no reason to rearrange the material here—it occurs in this place for a very good reason. As far as the author is concerned, it serves as a further continuation of the point made to Nicodemus, that is, the necessity of being born “from above” (3:3). Note that John the Baptist describes Jesus as “the one who comes from heaven” in 3:31 (ἄνωθεν [anōthen], the same word as in 3:3). There is another lexical tie to preceding material: The subject of the dispute, ceremonial washing (3:25), calls to mind the six stone jars of water changed to wine at the wedding feast in 2:6, put there for “Jewish ceremonial washing.” This section ultimately culminates and concludes ideas begun in chap. 2 and continued in chap. 3. Although the author does not supply details, one scenario would be this: The disciples of John, perplexed after this disagreement with an individual Jew (or with the Jewish authorities), came to John and asked about the fact that Jesus was baptizing and more and more were coming to him. John had been preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin (see Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3). Possibly what the Jew(s) reported to John’s disciples was that Jesus was now setting aside the Jewish purification rituals as unnecessary. To John’s disciples this might also be interpreted as: (a) a falling away from Judaism, and (b) a break with John’s own teaching. That Jesus could have said this is very evident from many incidents in his ministry in all the gospels. The thrust would be that outward cleansing (that is, observance of purification rituals) was not what made a person clean. A new heart within (that is, being born from above) is what makes a person clean. So John’s disciples came to him troubled about an apparent contradiction in doctrine though the explicit problem they mentioned is that Jesus was baptizing and multitudes were coming to him. (Whether Jesus was or was not baptizing really wasn’t the issue though, and John the Baptist knew that because he didn’t mention it in his reply. In 4:2 the author says that Jesus was not baptizing, but his disciples. That reference would seem to cover this incident as well, and so the disciples of John are just reporting what they have heard, or thought they heard.) The real point at issue is the authority of Jesus to “overturn” the system of ritual purification within Judaism. John replied to this question of the authority of Jesus in 3:27-36. In 3:27-30 he reassured his disciples, reminding them that if more people were coming to Jesus, it did not threaten him at all, because “heaven” had ordained it to be so (v. 27). (After all, some of these very disciples of John had presumably heard him tell the Jewish delegation that he was not the Messiah but was sent before him, mentioned in John 1.) Then John compared himself to the friend of the bridegroom who stands by and yet participates in the bridegroom’s joy (v. 29). John was completely content in his own position as forerunner and preparer of the way.
- John 3:26 tn “River” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity.
- John 3:27 tn Grk “answered and said.”
- John 3:28 tn Or “the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).sn See the note on Christ in 1:20.
- John 3:29 tn Grk “rejoices with joy” (an idiom).
- John 3:29 tn Grk “Therefore this my joy is fulfilled.”
- John 3:30 sn Some interpreters extend the quotation of John the Baptist’s words through v. 36.
- John 3:31 tn Or “is above all.”
- John 3:31 tn Grk “speaks from the earth.”
- John 3:31 sn The one who comes from heaven refers to Christ. As in John 1:1, the Word’s preexistence is indicated here.
- John 3:31 tc P75 א* D ƒ1 565 as well as several versions and fathers lack the phrase “is superior to all” (ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν, epanō pantōn estin). This effectively joins the last sentence of v. 31 with v. 32: “The one who comes from heaven testifies about what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.” On the other side, the phrase may have been deleted because of perceived redundancy, since it duplicates what is said earlier in the verse. The witnesses that include ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν in both places are weighty and widespread (P36vid,66 א2 A B L Ws Θ Ψ 083 086 ƒ13 33 M lat sys,p,h bo). On balance, the longer reading should probably be considered authentic.tn Or “is above all.”
- John 3:33 tn Or “is true.”
- John 3:34 tn That is, Christ.
- John 3:34 tn Grk “for not by measure does he give the Spirit” (an idiom). Leviticus Rabbah 15:2 states: “The Holy Spirit rested on the prophets by measure.” Jesus is contrasted to this. The Spirit rests upon him without measure.
- John 3:35 tn Grk “has given all things into his hand” (an idiom).
- John 3:36 tn Or “refuses to believe,” or “disobeys.”
- John 3:36 tn Or “anger because of evil,” or “punishment.”
- John 3:36 tn Or “resides.”
New English Translation
Jesus Prays for the Father to Glorify Him
17 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward[a] to heaven[b] and said, “Father, the time[c] has come. Glorify your Son, so that your[d] Son may glorify you— 2 just as you have given him authority over all humanity,[e] so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him.[f] 3 Now this[g] is eternal life[h]—that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ,[i] whom you sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by completing[j] the work you gave me to do.[k] 5 And now, Father, glorify me at your side[l] with the glory I had with you before the world was created.[m]
Jesus Prays for the Disciples
6 “I have revealed[n] your name[o] to the men[p] you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you,[q] and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed[r] your word. 7 Now they understand[s] that everything[t] you have given me comes from you, 8 because I have given them the words you have given me. They[u] accepted[v] them[w] and really[x] understand[y] that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying[z] on behalf of them. I am not praying[aa] on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those you have given me, because they belong to you.[ab] 10 Everything[ac] I have belongs to you,[ad] and everything you have belongs to me,[ae] and I have been glorified by them.[af] 11 I[ag] am no longer in the world, but[ah] they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe[ai] in your name[aj] that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.[ak] 12 When I was with them I kept them safe[al] and watched over them[am] in your name[an] that you have given me. Not one[ao] of them was lost except the one destined for destruction,[ap] so that the scripture could be fulfilled.[aq] 13 But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience[ar] my joy completed[as] in themselves. 14 I have given them your word,[at] and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world,[au] just as I do not belong to the world.[av] 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe[aw] from the evil one.[ax] 16 They do not belong to the world[ay] just as I do not belong to the world.[az] 17 Set them apart[ba] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.[bb] 19 And I set myself apart[bc] on their behalf,[bd] so that they too may be truly set apart.[be]
Jesus Prays for Believers Everywhere
20 “I am not praying[bf] only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe[bg] in me through their testimony,[bh] 21 that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray[bi] that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22 The glory[bj] you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one,[bk] so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,[bl] so that they can see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world[bm] . 25 Righteous Father, even if the world does not know you, I know you, and these men[bn] know that you sent me. 26 I made known your name[bo] to them, and I will continue to make it known,[bp] so that the love you have loved me with may be in them, and I may be in them.”
- John 17:1 tn Grk “he raised his eyes” (an idiom).sn Jesus also looked upward before his prayer in John 11:41. This was probably a common posture in prayer. According to the parable in Luke 18:13 the tax collector did not feel himself worthy to do this.
- John 17:1 tn Or “to the sky.” The Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated “sky” or “heaven” depending on the context.
- John 17:1 tn Grk “the hour.”sn The time has come. Jesus has said before that his “hour” had come, both in 12:23 when some Greeks sought to speak with him, and in 13:1 where just before he washed the disciples’ feet. It appears best to understand the “hour” as a period of time starting at the end of Jesus’ public ministry and extending through the passion week, ending with Jesus’ return to the Father through death, resurrection, and exaltation. The “hour” begins as soon as the first events occur which begin the process that leads to Jesus’ death.
- John 17:1 tc The better witnesses (א B C* W 0109 0301) have “the Son” (ὁ υἱός, ho huios) here, while the majority (C3 L Ψ ƒ13 33 M) read “your Son also” (καὶ ὁ υἱὸς σου, kai ho huios sou), or “your Son” (ὁ υἱὸς σου; A D Θ 0250 1 579 lat sy); the second corrector of C has καὶ ὁ υἱός (“the Son also”). The longer readings appear to be predictable scribal expansions and as such should be considered secondary.tn Grk “the Son”; “your” has been added here for English stylistic reasons.
- John 17:2 tn Or “all people”; Grk “all flesh.”
- John 17:2 tn Grk “so that to everyone whom you have given to him, he may give to them eternal life.”
- John 17:3 tn Using αὕτη δέ (hautē de) to introduce an explanation is typical Johannine style; it was used before in John 1:19; 3:19, and 15:12.
- John 17:3 sn This is eternal life. The author here defines eternal life for the readers, although it is worked into the prayer in such a way that many interpreters do not regard it as another of the author’s parenthetical comments. It is not just unending life in the sense of prolonged duration. Rather it is a quality of life, with its quality derived from a relationship with God. Having eternal life is here defined as being in relationship with the Father, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Christ (Χριστός, Christos) is not characteristically attached to Jesus’ name in John’s Gospel; it occurs elsewhere primarily as a title and is used with Jesus’ name only in 1:17. But that is connected to its use here: The statement here in 17:3 enables us to correlate the statement made in 1:18 of the prologue, that Jesus has fully revealed what God is like, with Jesus’ statement in 10:10 that he has come that people might have life, and have it abundantly. These two purposes are really one, according to 17:3, because (abundant) eternal life is defined as knowing (being in relationship with) the Father and the Son. The only way to gain this eternal life, that is, to obtain this knowledge of the Father, is through the Son (cf. 14:6). Although some have pointed to the use of know (γινώσκω, ginōskō) here as evidence of Gnostic influence in the Fourth Gospel, there is a crucial difference: For John this knowledge is not intellectual, but relational. It involves being in relationship.
- John 17:3 tn Or “and Jesus the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).
- John 17:4 tn Or “by finishing” or “by accomplishing.” Jesus now states that he has glorified the Father on earth by finishing (τελειώσας [teleiōsas] is best understood as an adverbial participle of means) the work which the Father had given him to do.sn By completing the work. The idea of Jesus being sent into the world on a mission has been mentioned before, significantly in 3:17. It was even alluded to in the immediately preceding verse here (17:3). The completion of the “work” the Father had sent him to accomplish was mentioned by Jesus in 4:34 and 5:36. What is the nature of the “work” the Father has given the Son to accomplish? It involves the Son’s mission to be the Savior of the world, as 3:17 indicates. But this is accomplished specifically through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross (a thought implied by the reference to the Father “giving” the Son in 3:16). It is not without significance that Jesus’ last word from the cross is “It is completed” (19:30).
- John 17:4 tn Grk “the work that you gave to me so that I may do it.”
- John 17:5 tn Or “in your presence”; Grk “with yourself.” The use of παρά (para) twice in this verse looks back to the assertion in John 1:1 that the Word (the Λόγος [Logos], who became Jesus of Nazareth in 1:14) was with God (πρὸς τὸν θεόν, pros ton theon). Whatever else may be said, the statement in 17:5 strongly asserts the preexistence of Jesus Christ.
- John 17:5 tn Grk “before the world was.” The word “created” is not in the Greek text but is implied.sn It is important to note that although Jesus prayed for a return to the glory he had at the Father’s side before the world was created, he was not praying for a “de-incarnation.” His humanity which he took on at the incarnation (John 1:14) remains, though now glorified.
- John 17:6 tn Or “made known,” “disclosed.”
- John 17:6 sn Mention of the Father’s name occurs again in 17:11, 12, 26, but not often elsewhere in the Gospel of John (only in 5:43; 10:25; 12:28). In one sense the name represents the person (cf. John 1:12) and thus Jesus by saying that he has revealed the Father’s name is saying that he has fully revealed who God is and what he is like (cf. John 1:18; 14:9). But there is probably a further meaning as well in John’s Gospel: Jesus himself is identified with God repeatedly (10:30; 14:11, etc.) and nowhere is this more apparent than in Jesus’ absolute uses of the phrase “I am” without a predicate (8:24, 28, 58; 13:19). The name of the Father which Jesus has revealed to his disciples is thus the divine Name revealed to Moses in Exod 3:14 (R. E. Brown, John [AB], 2:755-56). See also Isa 62:2; 65:15-16.
- John 17:6 tn Here “men” is retained as a translation for ἀνθρώποις (anthrōpois) rather than the more generic “people” because in context it specifically refers to the eleven men Jesus had chosen as apostles (Judas had already departed, John 13:30). If one understands the referent here to be the broader group of Jesus’ followers that included both men and women, a translation like “to the people” should be used here instead.
- John 17:6 tn Grk “Yours they were.”
- John 17:6 tn Or “have kept.”
- John 17:7 tn Or “they have come to know,” or “they have learned.”
- John 17:7 tn Grk “all things.”
- John 17:8 tn Grk And they.” The conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has not been translated here in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English style to use shorter sentences.
- John 17:8 tn Or “received.”
- John 17:8 tn The word “them” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context.
- John 17:8 tn Or “truly.”
- John 17:8 tn Or have come to know.”
- John 17:9 tn Grk “I am asking.”
- John 17:9 tn Grk “I am not asking.”
- John 17:9 tn Or “because they are yours.”
- John 17:10 tn Grk And all things.” The conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has not been translated here in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English style to use shorter sentences.
- John 17:10 tn Or “Everything I have is yours.”
- John 17:10 tn Or “everything you have is mine.”
- John 17:10 tn Or “I have been honored among them.”sn The theme of glory with which Jesus began this prayer in 17:1-5 now recurs. Jesus said that he had been glorified by his disciples, but in what sense was this true? Jesus had manifested his glory to them in all of the sign-miracles which he had performed, beginning with the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana (2:11). He could now say that he had been glorified by them in the light of what he had already said in vv. 7-8, that the disciples had come to know that he had come from the Father and been sent by the Father. He would, of course, be glorified by them further after the resurrection, as they carried on his ministry after his departure.
- John 17:11 tn Grk And I.” The conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has not been translated here in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English style to use shorter sentences.
- John 17:11 tn The context indicates that this should be translated as an adversative or contrastive conjunction.
- John 17:11 tn Or “protect them”; Grk “keep them.”
- John 17:11 tn Or “by your name.”sn See the note on name in John 17:6.
- John 17:11 tn The second repetition of “one” is implied, and is supplied here for clarity.
- John 17:12 tn Or “I protected them”; Grk “I kept them.”
- John 17:12 tn Grk “and guarded them.”
- John 17:12 tn Or “by your name.”
- John 17:12 tn Grk And not one.” The conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has not been translated here in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English style to use shorter sentences.
- John 17:12 tn Grk “the son of destruction” (a Semitic idiom for one appointed for destruction; here it is a reference to Judas).sn The one destined to destruction refers to Judas. Clearly in John’s Gospel Judas is portrayed as a tool of Satan. He is described as “the devil” in 6:70. In 13:2 Satan put into Judas’ heart the idea of betraying Jesus, and 13:27 Satan himself entered Judas. Immediately after this Judas left the company of Jesus and the other disciples and went out into the realm of darkness (13:30). Cf. 2 Thess 2:3, where this same Greek phrase (“the son of destruction”; see tn above) is used to describe the man through whom Satan acts to rebel against God in the last days.
- John 17:12 sn A possible allusion to Ps 41:9 or Prov 24:22 LXX. The exact passage is not specified here, but in John 13:18, Ps 41:9 is explicitly quoted by Jesus with reference to the traitor, suggesting that this is the passage to which Jesus refers here. The previous mention of Ps 41:9 in John 13:18 probably explains why the author felt no need for an explanatory parenthetical note here. It is also possible that the passage referred to here is Prov 24:22 LXX, where in the Greek text the phrase “son of destruction” appears.
- John 17:13 tn Grk “they may have.”
- John 17:13 tn Or “fulfilled.”
- John 17:14 tn Or “your message.”
- John 17:14 tn Grk “because they are not of the world.”
- John 17:14 tn Grk “just as I am not of the world.”
- John 17:15 tn Or “that you protect them”; Grk “that you keep them.”
- John 17:15 tn The phrase “the evil one” is a reference to Satan. The genitive substantival adjective τοῦ πονηροῦ (tou ponērou) is ambiguous with regard to gender: It may represent the neuter τὸ πονηρόν (to ponēron), “that which is evil,” or the masculine ὁ πονηρός (ho ponēros), “the evil one,” i.e., Satan. In view of the frequent use of the masculine in 1 John 2:13-14; 3:12, and 5:18-19 it seems much more probable that the masculine is to be understood here, and that Jesus is praying for his disciples to be protected from Satan. Cf. BDAG 851 s.v. πονηρός 1.b.β and 1.b.γ.
- John 17:16 tn Grk “they are not of the world.” This is a repetition of the second half of v. 14. The only difference is in word order: Verse 14 has οὐκ εἰσὶν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου (ouk eisin ek tou kosmou), while here the prepositional phrase is stated first: ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου οὐκ εἰσίν (ek tou kosmou ouk eisin). This gives additional emphasis to the idea of the prepositional phrase, i.e., origin, source, or affiliation.
- John 17:16 tn Grk “just as I am not of the world.”
- John 17:17 tn Or “Consecrate them” or “Sanctify them.”sn The Greek word translated set…apart (ἁγιάζω, hagiazō) is used here in its normal sense of being dedicated, consecrated, or set apart. The sphere in which the disciples are to be set apart is in the truth. In 3:21 the idea of “practicing” (Grk “doing”) the truth was introduced; in 8:32 Jesus told some of his hearers that if they continued in his word they would truly be his disciples, and would know the truth, and the truth would make them free. These disciples who are with Jesus now for the Farewell Discourse have continued in his word (except for Judas Iscariot, who has departed), and they do know the truth about who Jesus is and why he has come into the world (17:8). Thus Jesus can ask the Father to set them apart in this truth as he himself is set apart, so that they might carry on his mission in the world after his departure (note the following verse).
- John 17:18 sn Jesus now compared the mission on which he was sending the disciples to his own mission into the world, on which he was sent by the Father. As the Father sent Jesus into the world (cf. 3:17), so Jesus now sends the disciples into the world to continue his mission after his departure. The nature of this prayer for the disciples as a consecratory prayer is now emerging: Jesus was setting them apart for the work he had called them to do. They were, in a sense, being commissioned.
- John 17:19 tn Or “I sanctify.”sn In what sense does Jesus refer to his own ‘sanctification’ with the phrase I set myself apart? In 10:36 Jesus referred to himself as “the one whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world,” which seems to look at something already accomplished. Here, however, it is something he does on behalf of the disciples (on their behalf) and this suggests a reference to his impending death on the cross. There is in fact a Johannine wordplay here based on slightly different meanings for the Greek verb translated set apart (ἁγιάζω, hagiazō). In the sense it was used in 10:36 of Jesus and in 17:17 and here to refer to the disciples, it means to set apart in the sense that prophets (cf. Jer 1:5) and priests (Exod 40:13, Lev 8:30, and 2 Chr 5:11) were consecrated (or set apart) to perform their tasks. But when Jesus speaks of setting himself apart (consecrating or dedicating himself) on behalf of the disciples here in 17:19 the meaning is closer to the consecration of a sacrificial animal (Deut 15:19). Jesus is “setting himself apart,” i.e., dedicating himself, to do the will of the Father, that is, to go to the cross on the disciples’ behalf (and of course on behalf of their successors as well).
- John 17:19 tn Or “for their sake.”
- John 17:19 tn Or “they may be truly consecrated,” or “they may be truly sanctified.”
- John 17:20 tn Or “I do not pray.”
- John 17:20 tn Although πιστευόντων (pisteuontōn) is a present participle, it must in context carry futuristic force. The disciples whom Jesus is leaving behind will carry on his ministry and in doing so will see others come to trust in him. This will include not only Jewish Christians, but other Gentile Christians who are “not of this fold” (10:16), and thus Jesus’ prayer for unity is especially appropriate in light of the probability that most of the readers of the Gospel are Gentiles (much as Paul stresses unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians in Eph 2:10-22).
- John 17:20 tn Grk “their word.”
- John 17:21 tn The words “I pray” are repeated from the first part of v. 20 for clarity.
- John 17:22 tn Grk And the glory.” The conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has not been translated here in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English style to use shorter sentences.
- John 17:23 tn Or “completely unified.”
- John 17:24 tn Grk “the ones you have given me, I want these to be where I am with me.”
- John 17:24 tn Grk “before the foundation of the world.”
- John 17:25 tn The word “men” is not in the Greek text but is implied. The translation uses the word “men” here rather than a more general term like “people” because the use of the aorist verb ἔγνωσαν (egnōsan) implies that Jesus is referring to the disciples present with him as he spoke these words (presumably all of them men in the historical context), rather than to those who are yet to believe because of their testimony (see John 17:20).
- John 17:26 sn The theme of the revelation of the Father’s name is picked up from John 17:6 and refers to Jesus’ revelation of the divine Name of Exod 3:14 in his person (see additional discussion at 17:6).
- John 17:26 tn The translation “will continue to make it known” is proposed by R. E. Brown (John [AB], 2:773).