ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Bible Interpretation Part 4: Finding the Meaning

Updated on April 11, 2019
extraordinaryman profile image

Barry is the founder and dean of Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.

Where is the Meaning?

There are two major divisions of the Bible, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. These divisions are made up of a total of 66 books. These books are written by some 40 different authors. Each book is further divided into chapters. And the chapters of the books can often be divided by theme, story or topic. Even with all these possible divisions, the Bible is telling one story. The story of the Bible is the redemption of people by God through His Son Jesus. The Bible is in complete agreement with itself. But each section of the Bible is telling a different part of the overall story.

The question we must ask is where is the meaning of each text found. This question is actually not very complicated. The meaning of the text is found in the text itself. While there are parallels in the Bible, and other references can sometimes shed light and understanding on a passage, the meaning of the passage is always found in the verses themselves.

Many times I have seen a person come across a verse and rather than stay with the text, they go to another passage to get the meaning. Often, they go to another book and in some cases even transverse testaments to come to a conclusion about the verse at hand. This is very similar to taking a verse out of context. Just as a verse is found in a context, so the meaning of the verse is also found in the context.

Born of Water

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:3-6

What does it mean to be born of water? We could look in the New Testament as well as in the Old Testament to try to determine the meaning. Some have used New Testament verses to say that Jesus is talking about water baptism.

Acts 22:16

Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

This creates a very serious problem. The theme of the passage and the issue being discussed in regeneration. Both Jesus and Nicodemus use the term “born again.” Jesus says that a man must be born again. It is obvious from his reply that Nicodemus does not understand Jesus. Jesus is pressing the point of regeneration and Nicodemus is thinking only about the natural birth of a person. If we link Baptism to regeneration we fall into the heresy of Baptismal regeneration. Water baptism does not save and regenerate a person. Water baptism is a profession of faith that gives formal unity to the Church by a regenerate person. Baptism is the public profession of faith and regeneration.

Symbolic Cleansings

The other option is to resort to the Old Testament to find our answer. Some believe that water here refers to the symbolic cleansings found in the ceremonial laws given to the Jewish people.

Exodus 29:4

"Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water.

There are even well known and good commentators who take this position. This idea might have some merit given that Nicodemus is a Pharisee and they were strict regarding ceremonial law. However, there are still a few problems.

1) Cleansing from sin goes beyond the topic that Jesus is discussing.

2) There is no mention of ceremonial cleansing or symbolic cleansing in the text.

3) Jesus is setting forward a new pattern that will be carried out throughout the New Testament as to who the people of God are. And this new pattern is in direct contradiction to the external cleansing of the Old Covenant.

4) Even Nicodemus does not see symbolic or ceremonial cleaning. Given that he is a Pharisee it would be natural for him to appeal to such laws to justify himself but he does not.

Close to the Text

I think the answer to the question is found in the text. Jesus says that a person needs to be born again. Nicodemus responds regarding the natural birth of a baby from the womb. Some have speculated that Nicodemus is using this phrase to express an absurdity. Many commentators believed this was a common rhetorical device of the Hebrews. Jesus responds by giving more light to Nicodemus.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is saying that a person must be born of the womb to be alive but that is not enough. They must also experience a spiritual birth. This is supported by the rest of the New Testament. We know that even though a man is alive physically, he is still dead spiritually. Physical birth begins with water. The baby in the womb is surrounded by amniotic fluid. In fact, when the birth process begins, we often say that the woman’s “water broke.” The fluid that surrounds the baby is leaking from her womb in preparation for the birth, that is very soon to come.

I would further support that Jesus is referring to the natural birth as “born of water” but the next verse.

Contrast

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Jesus is contrasting the physical birth of the womb with the spiritual birth of regeneration. This parallels what Jesus said earlier. One must be born of water, that is the physical womb, and one must also be born of the spirit. Given that there is a mention of the womb and natural birth, there is really no reason to seek the meaning of the verse any place else. When the answer is in or very near the verse, there is no reason to seek to import another meaning from far away.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • extraordinaryman profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry G Carpenter 

      2 years ago from Mindanao, Philippines

      Thank you very much.

    • Paul K Francis profile image

      Paul K Francis 

      2 years ago from east coast,USA

      Good information here, something to keep in mind when reading biblical texts.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)