Greek Study John 3:1-17
v1 Νικοδημος των Ιουδαιων (ος) gen. "Nicodemus" [a member of] the Jewish [ruling council]" - [a ruler] of the Jews. The genitive is adjectival, of subordination; "a ruler over the Jews" = "a member of the Sanhedrin."
v2 νυκτος (νυξ τος) gen. "at night" - genitive is adverbial, of time. John likes the symbolism of night and day, the realm of evil and the realm of light..... Judas leaves the light and goes out into the night - Nicodemus comes out of the night into the light.
οιδαμεν (οιδα) perf. "we know" - Pharisees often speak as one, "we know", but Nicodemus may be using the royal plural, including Jesus' disciples in the "we".
διδασκαλος (ος) "[you are] a teacher" - Jesus will later expand on Nicodemus' recognition of Jesus as one of God's teachers, a Rabbi; see v11-13. Given has had no formal teaching, the designation "Rabbi" is an honorific.
εληλυθας (ερχομαι) perf. "who has come" - verb implies a recognition of Jesus' divine commission denied by other Pharisees, cf., 7:15, 9:16. This sets Nicodemus apart.
ποειν (ποιεω) pres. inf. "[could] do” infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "δυναμαι" is able - is used 6 time in the passage. Nicodemus confirms Jesus is able to do signs and therefore God is with him.
τα σημεια (οϖ) "the miraculous signs" - Nicodemus can see the signs demonstrate God is with Jesus and he is thus a prophet, although not necessarily the messiah.
v3 ιδειν (οραω) aor. inf. "to see" - infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "δυναμαι.” Used here in the sense of "encounter", "participate in" resurrection life.
εαν μη + subj. "unless" - a negated conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true.
γεννηθη (γενναω) aor. pas. subj. "are born" - in the passive, "begotten" identifying the function of the male in conception rather than the female in birth.
ανωθεν adv. "again" - Adverb of time, "anew......." but also of place, "above", in the sense of heavenly origin. "From above" fits best given that Nicodemus' wrongly understands the word to mean "again" and is corrected by Jesus.
v4 της μητρος (ηρ ρος) gen. "mother's [womb]" - genitive is adjectival, possessive.
v5 υδατος και πνευματος "water and the Spirit" - Rather than two separate elements joined by a coordinative και, it seems likely that και is epexegetic, "even", "born of/from water/washing, even of/from the breath of God. However one translates the phrase it denotes a single spiritual birth from above. Some scholars argue strongly against the "Spirit" meaning "Holy Spirit."
v6 της σαρκος "flesh" - [of] the flesh, for John it is not "sinful flesh" as with Paul, but rather just "fleshly existence."
το γεγεννημενον (γενναω) perf. pas. part. "[flesh] gives birth to [flesh]" – this likely addresses Nicodemus' confusion of "born again (from a mother's womb)" with "born from above."
του πνευματος (α ατος) gen. "the Spirit" - usually taken here to refer to the Holy Spirit but "the breath of God" may be intended. Natural birth produces natural life, but the breath of God produces spiritual life.
v7 υη θαυμασης (θαυμαζω) aor. subj. "you should not be surprised" - a typical Rabbinic statement.
γεννηθηναι (γενναω) aor. pas. inf. "[you must be] born [again]" - infinitive serves as the subject of the verb "is necessary".
v8 το πνευμα (α ατος) "the wind" = 'ruach' the breath of God. Either the word here means "wind" and is used to describe the experience of a person who is born from above by the Spirit of God or the word means Spirit. The vulgate translates the word here as "Spirit" and therefore, the verse directly describes spiritual birth. Brown argues that the blowing of the wind is used as a simile for spiritual birth from above.
v9 γενεσθαι (γινομαι) aor. inf. "how can this be?" infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able."
v10 του Ισραηλ gen. "[you are] Israel's [teacher]" - genitive is adjectival, possessive or of subordination, "over Israel." The presence of the article ο with "teachers" = "the teacher", may imply that Nicodemus is a particular teacher, one of Israel's finest teachers.
ου γινωσκεις (γινωσκω) pres. "do you not understand [these things]?" - Bultmann argues Jesus is not being critical of Nicodemus' failure to understand something that was evident in the Old Testament, but rather of the inability of Rabbinic scholarship to understand what he is talking about - yet note v12. So "'Are you the famous teacher of the famous Israel,' Jesus said to him, 'and you do not understand this?'"
v11 λαλουμεν (λαλεω) pres. "we speak" – idiom for "have a chat" - in the New Testament often used of communicating the gospel; "proclaim." The plural is interesting. Nicodemus approaches Jesus in a representative way, speaking for his fellow Pharisees. Jesus now speaks in a representative way, namely, Jesus and his followers. Whereas Nicodemus and his associates don't really know what they are talking about, Jesus and his associated do because they have firsthand knowledge derived from the Son of Man cf., v12-13.
ο εωρακαμεν (οραω) perf. "what we have seen" - that which we have looked at Nicodemus' words are based on ignorance, Jesus' words are based on what he knows and has seen.
ημων gen. pro. "our [testimony]" - genitive may be treated as possessive, "the testimony given by us".
v12 τα επιγεια pl. adj. "earthly things" - Jesus' teachings about the birth from above which he has tried to explain to Nicodemus in earthly terms. What then are the τα επουρανια (ος) "heavenly things" - the "heavenly things"? The Paraclete? Salvation? Stuff yet to be revealed?
v13 αναβεβηκεν (αναβαινω) perf. "has gone" – ascended = perfect tense implies Jesus has already ascended to heaven. The point is "no one has entered into communion with God and possesses an intimate knowledge of divine things.
ο.... καταβας (καταβαινω) aor. part. "the one who came" - participle serves as a substantive. Scriptural references to the Son of Man always refer to his coming to the Ancient of Days, ascending rather than descending. The point being made here is of origin, heaven, and thus his ability to speak on matters of divine revelation.
v14 υψωσεν (υψοω) aor. "lifted up" – the lifting up of the serpent on a pole by Moses serves as a sign of salvation.
υψωθηναι (υψοω) pas. inf. "be lifted up" - infinitive serves as the subject of the verb δει, "is necessary".
v15 ο πιστευων (πιστευω) pres. part. "[everyone] who is in faith" - [all] the faithful ones. ζωην αιωνιον "eternal life" – a central term in this gospel and used for the first time here. Sometimes translated "everlasting life" in the KJV, although it is not so much the duration but the quality of life that is in mind. The phrase is sometimes used in the synoptics where it seems to mean "life in the coming kingdom age." The phrase would therefore not be unfamiliar to a Jewish teacher like Nicodemus. John uses the phrase with the same meaning, except that this "life" is for now. In John eternal life is realized rather than eschatological, or more correctly inaugurated in the present.
v 16 γαπησεν (αγαπαω) aor. "loved" - John is focused on this word, using it 36 times in the gospel. He notes the Father's love for the Son and the Son's for the Father, the Son for disciples and disciples for the Son. The particular meaning is dictated by the context, but the common thread is a relational process rather than expressing feelings. "Holy compassion" is probably a better translation. The consequence of God's love for "the world" is the sending of Christ to be lifted up.
τον κοσμον (ος) "the world" - Not creation as such, but the world of humanity and human activity.
εδωκεν (διδωμι) aor. ind. act. "he gave" - gave in the sense of "sent" to the cross. The tense indicates a shift from Jesus' words to John's reflection.
τον μονογενη adj. "the one and only Son" - unique. John is stressing Christ's unique relationship with the Father. In fact, John only uses the word "son" of Jesus and never of his disciples which serves to underline the unique nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son.
ο πιστευων (πιστευω) pres. part. "[whoever] is in faith" - all the faithful ones.
αποληται (απολλυμι) "perish" – destroy -the natural state of humanity is death; only God possesses life, and by extension, those who are in relationship with Him through Christ.
v17 ου απεστειλεν (αποστελλω) aor. "did not send" - used of an authoritative sending and therefore used of Christian mission, the meaning John obviously wants to convey. God's mission, in the sending of Christ, is not the condemnation of mankind but rather its salvation.
κρινη (κρινω) aor. subj. "judge, decide against”- either is possible. Technically the word is used to offset salvation which is the purpose of Christ's coming. God sent Christ in order to save, not to condemn.