John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 3:5: Born out of Water and Spirit

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

//Christians generally understand what it means to be born again of the Spirit, but what does it mean in today’s verse to be born of water? You might guess it refers to baptism, but you would be wrong.

One must remember that in those days, babies were born at home, not hidden away in a hospital. Everyone witnessed a baby’s birth, everyone could see the mother’s water break. Thus, water became a metaphor for the amniotic fluid in the womb, and the “breaking of waters” referred to the pre-birth loss of fluid.

Water was also a metaphor for semen, and thus for the processes that lead to birth. For example, when we are told in Proverbs 5:14 to Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well, we should take instruction that a husband should confine himself to his own wife.

Jesus, in today’s verse, is merely repeating the Semitic saying that “flesh is born of flesh, spirit of spirit.” A person must be twice-born; first into natural life and then into spiritual life.

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