Sunday, September 24, 2023

En de Anthropos ek ton Pharisaion

 And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nikodemos his name, an Archon of the Judeans; he came to him at night, and said to him, Rabbi, we are aware that you have come from God, a teacher; because no one is able to make these signs that you make, if God were not with him.

Iesous responded and said to him, Amen, Amen, I say to you, if anyone is not born from above, he is not able to see God's realm.

Nikodemos says to him, How is a man able to be born, being old? He is not able to enter his mother's belly a second time and be born.

Iesous said to him, Amen, Amen, I say to you, if anyone is not born of water and Breath, he is not able to enter God's realm. What has been born of flesh, is flesh, and what has been born of the Breath is breath. Do not wonder that I said to you that y'all ought to be born from above. The breath breathes as it will and you hear its sound, but you are not aware of whence its comes and whither it departs; so are all who have been born of the Breath.

Nikodemos answered and said to him, How are these things able to happen?

Iesous answered and said to him, You are the teacher of Israel and do not know these things? Amen, Amen, I say to you, that that of which we are aware, we speak, and to that which we have seen, we testify, and our testimony y'all do not receive. If I have told y'all things on earth and y'all do not believe, how will y'all believe if I tell y'all things above the heavens? And no one has risen to heaven if not the one having come down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moyses elevated the serpent in the wasteland, thus the Son of Man ought to be elevated, so that all who believe in him may possess perpetual life.

Thus God was so devoted to the world that he offered his only-born son, so that all who believe in him should not be annihilated but should possess perpetual life. For God did not send out his Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be rescued through him. Who believes in him is not judged; who does not believe him has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the only-born Son of God. 

[John 3:1-18, my rough translation. There are several subtleties to the Greek here that are difficult to capture in translation. One interesting feature of this passage that is usually missed in English is that Jesus keeps switches back and forth between singular and plural 'you'; hence my use of 'y'all'. Another feature that is virtually impossible to convey in English is that Jesus originally says, 'If anyone is not born anothen'; anothen literally means 'from above', but can also mean 'anew'. From what Jesus goes on to say, it is clear that he intended 'from above' as the primary meaning (although perhaps not excluding 'anew'), but Nicodemus clearly interprets him as meaning 'anew' (as do many translations). Another tricky point is how to translate pneuma, which can mean spirit, breath, and wind; the passage also uses pneumatos, which is clearly a title. So I've picked 'breath' as the single translation that fits most easily with most of how it's used here, and then distinguished pneuma and pneumatos by capitalizing the latter. Monogene is tricky; it literally means something like 'single one from a given stock', so 'unique, one-of-a-kind'; but Jesus's repeated comments about birth, a related word, just prior to this do suggest that there is wordplay here again, in which Jesus is using the word in a way that highlights its relation to birth-words, thus 'only-begotten' or 'only-born', which arguably also fits better with the same word as used in John 1:14.

Nicodemus's title, archon, is often translated as 'ruler', which is very literal but not very enlightening. An archon would have been a member of the governing council of the local community; it was not itself a religious position, although it often overlaps with religious positions. Judeans were an ethnos in the ancient world, and as such were expected to be partly self-governing, so archon is here an official title for a community leader. Nicodemus's comment about 'signs' at the beginning fits with a continuing theme in the Gospel of John about signs that are not correctly interpreted. It is possible that this is why there is unusual wordplay running through the entire passage, in which Jesus is represented as using several words in ways that are slightly different from what one would expect: just as people not born of the Spirit do not understand what He was doing, so people not born of the Spirit do not understand what He was saying.]

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