Nicodemus.* 1a Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.* 2He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.”b 3Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born* from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”c 5Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.d 6What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.e 7Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind* blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”f 9Nicodemus answered and said to him, “How can this happen?” 10Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? 11Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.g 12If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?h 13No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.i 14And just as Moses lifted up* the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,j 15* so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
16For 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.k 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn* the world, but that the world might be saved through him.l 18Whoever 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.m 19* And this is the verdict,n that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.o 21But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.p
Final Witness of the Baptist. 22* After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing.q 23John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,* because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, 24* r for John had not yet been imprisoned. 25Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew* about ceremonial washings. 26So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”s 27John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.t 28You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him.u 29The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man,* who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete.v 30He must increase; I must decrease.”w
The One from Heaven.* 31The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven [is above all].x 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.y 33Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.z 34For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift* of the Spirit. 35The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.a 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.b
* [3:1–21] Jesus instructs Nicodemus on the necessity of a new birth from above. This scene in Jerusalem at Passover exemplifies the faith engendered by signs (Jn 2:23). It continues the self-manifestation of Jesus in Jerusalem begun in Jn 2. This is the first of the Johannine discourses, shifting from dialogue to monologue (Jn 3:11–15) to reflection of the evangelist (Jn 3:16–21). The shift from singular through Jn 3:10 to plural in Jn 3:11 may reflect the early church’s controversy with the Jews.
* [3:1] A ruler of the Jews: most likely a member of the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin; see note on Mk 8:31.
* [3:3] Born: see note on Jn 1:13. From above: the Greek adverb anōthen means both “from above” and “again.” Jesus means “from above” (see Jn 3:31) but Nicodemus misunderstands it as “again.” This misunderstanding serves as a springboard for further instruction.
* [3:8] Wind: the Greek word pneuma (as well as the Hebrew rûah) means both “wind” and “spirit.” In the play on the double meaning, “wind” is primary.
* [3:14] Lifted up: in Nm 21:9 Moses simply “mounted” a serpent upon a pole. John here substitutes a verb implying glorification. Jesus, exalted to glory at his cross and resurrection, represents healing for all.
* [3:15] Eternal life: used here for the first time in John, this term stresses quality of life rather than duration.
* [3:16] Gave: as a gift in the incarnation, and also “over to death” in the crucifixion; cf. Rom 8:32.
* [3:17–19] Condemn: the Greek root means both judgment and condemnation. Jesus’ purpose is to save, but his coming provokes judgment; some condemn themselves by turning from the light.
* [3:19] Judgment is not only future but is partially realized here and now.
* [3:22–26] Jesus’ ministry in Judea is only loosely connected with Jn 2:13–3:21; cf. Jn 1:19–36. Perhaps John the Baptist’s further testimony was transposed here to give meaning to “water” in Jn 3:5. Jesus is depicted as baptizing (Jn 3:22); contrast Jn 4:2.
* [3:23] Aenon near Salim: site uncertain, either in the upper Jordan valley or in Samaria.
* [3:24] A remark probably intended to avoid objections based on a chronology like that of the synoptics (Mt 4:12; Mk 1:14).
* [3:25] A Jew: some think Jesus is meant. Many manuscripts read “Jews.”
* [3:29] The best man: literally, “the friend of the groom,” the shoshben of Jewish tradition, who arranged the wedding. Competition between him and the groom would be unthinkable.
* [3:31–36] It is uncertain whether these are words by the Baptist, Jesus, or the evangelist. They are reflections on the two preceding scenes.
* [3:34] His gift: of God or to Jesus, perhaps both. This verse echoes Jn 5:8.
b. [3:2] 9:4, 16, 33; 10:21; 11:10; 13:30; Mt 22:16; Mk 12:14; Lk 20:21.
d. [3:5] 1:32; 7:39; 19:30, 34–35; Is 32:15; 44:3; Ez 36:25–27; Jl 3:1–2.
e. [3:6] 6:63; 1 Cor 15:44–50.
f. [3:8] Eccl 11:4–5; Acts 2:2–4.
g. [3:11] 3:32, 34; 8:14; Mt 11:27.
h. [3:12] 6:62–65; Wis 9:16–17; 1 Cor 15:40; 2 Cor 5:1; Phil 2:10; 3:19–20.
i. [3:13] 1:18; 6:62; Dn 7:13; Rom 10:6; Eph 4:9.
j. [3:14] 8:28; 12:32, 34; Nm 21:4–9; Wis 16:5–7.
l. [3:17] 5:22, 30; 8:15–18; 12:47.
n. [3:19] 1:5, 9–11; 8:12; 9:5.
p. [3:21] Gn 47:29 LXX; Jos 2:14 LXX; 2 Sm 2:6 LXX; 15:20 LXX; Tb 4:6 LXX; 13:6; Is 26:10 LXX; Mt 5:14–16.
r. [3:24] Mt 4:12; 14:3; Mk 1:14; 6:17; Lk 3:20.
t. [3:27] 19:11; 1 Cor 4:7; 2 Cor 3:5; Heb 5:4.
v. [3:29] 15:11; 17:13; Mt 9:15.
z. [3:33–34] 8:26; 12:44–50; 1 Jn 5:10.
a. [3:35] 13:3; Mt 11:27; 28:18; Lk 10:22.