John 3:4
Parallel Verses
New International Version
"How can someone be born when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!"

New Living Translation
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"

English Standard Version
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

New American Standard Bible
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?"

King James Bible
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

Holman Christian Standard Bible
But how can anyone be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked Him. "Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?"

International Standard Version
Nicodemus asked him, "How can a person be born when he is old? He can't go back into his mother's womb a second time and be born, can he?"

NET Bible
Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother's womb and be born a second time, can he?"

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Nicodemus said to him: “How can an old man be born? Is it not impossible for him again to enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?”

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Nicodemus asked him, "How can anyone be born when he's an old man? He can't go back inside his mother a second time to be born, can he?"

Jubilee Bible 2000
Nicodemus said unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?

King James 2000 Bible
Nicodemus said unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

American King James Version
Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

American Standard Version
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

Douay-Rheims Bible
Nicodemus saith to him: How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born again?

Darby Bible Translation
Nicodemus says to him, How can a man be born being old? can he enter a second time into the womb of his mother and be born?

English Revised Version
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

Webster's Bible Translation
Nicodemus saith to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

Weymouth New Testament
"How is it possible," Nicodemus asked, "for a man to be born when he is old? Can he a second time enter his mother's womb and be born?"

World English Bible
Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"

Young's Literal Translation
Nicodemus saith unto him, 'How is a man able to be born, being old? is he able into the womb of his mother a second time to enter, and to be born?'
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

3:1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the HE THAT IS, and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Nu 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 4. - Nicodemus saith to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born? The numerous endeavours to interpret the motive or mind of Nicodemus show almost as much misunderstanding of the naivete of his amazement, as Nicodemus did of the deepest significance of this solemn utterance of the Lord. Two things are perfectly clear:

(1) Nicodemus saw a grave and amazing difficulty in the idea of a second birth of a man old, like himself, in years, prepossessions, habits of thought, ways of acting, social ties, ancestral and traditional customs, and in venerable ideas consecrated by long usage. He might have known the language of the prophets concerning circumcision of heart (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4) and concerning a new heart and right spirit (Ezekiel 36:26, 27; Psalm 51:10; Psalm 86:4); but the full bearing of these prophetic ideas were beyond and different to the almost drastic form of Christ's call for spiritual change and "birth from the beginning." There is no necessity for us to accuse him either of "narrowness" (Meyer) or of imbecility (Reuss, Lucke), or to make such a charge react upon the spirit or temper of the evangelist in delineating him. It is enough that Nicodemus should have seen a grave difficulty; and Thoma here is justified in referring to the language of the apostles, when the narrow entrance into the kingdom was set forth under the image of the camel and the needle's eye; and to Mary, when she cried, "How can this thing be?" Moreover, the same perplexity, after eighteen hundred years of Christian experience, still encumbers this utterance of the Master.

(2) Nicodemus did not, by the form of his question, put such query to the Lord in any literal baldness or insolent worldliness. Surely such a view ignores all the tropical methods of speech current in the rabbinical schools. He virtually said," Birth such as you speak of is as impossible as the second physical birth of an old man, as preposterous as would be re-entrance into the womb of his mother for the purpose of a second birth." Christ had spoken of a fundamental change - one going right down to the very sources and beginnings of life. The Lord had used this difficult image, and propounded his view in a term capable of various interpretation. Nicodemus simply expresses his alarm and incredulity in terms of the image itself. It is little more than the language of the prophet, "Can an Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard his spots?" Are you not proposing a natural impessibility? Must not the kingdom of God, which we thought we saw in thy advent and mighty deeds, be on this understanding hopelessly veiled from human vision? The "being old" shows that Nicodemus had gone through the metaphor to the condition of mind of which it was the subject. There was no greater physical difficulty in an old man re-entering his mother's womb than for a boy of twelve to do so; but being probably, not necessarily, an old man, and belonging to a society of grave, reverend elders, with the inveterate habits, practices, traditions, of long lives behind them, how impracticable and impossible does the notion of so complete a change appear to him! Hence his question. Westcott says admirably, "The great mystery of religion is not the punishment, but the forgiveness of sins; not the natural permanence of character, but spiritual regeneration."

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Nicodemus saith unto him,.... Understanding him of a natural birth, to be repeated:

how can a man be born when he is old? as it seems by this, he himself now was:

can he enter the second time into his mothers womb, and be born? the Ethiopic version adds, "again"; and the Arabic version, "and then be born"; this he urges, as absurd, impracticable, and impossible; and which shows him to have been as yet a natural man, who could not receive nor discern spiritual things.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

4. How, &c.—The figure of the new birth, if it had been meant only of Gentile proselytes to the Jewish religion, would have been intelligible enough to Nicodemus, being quite in keeping with the language of that day; but that Jews themselves should need a new birth was to him incomprehensible.

John 3:4 Additional Commentaries
Context
Jesus and Nicodemus
3Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4Nicodemus 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?" 5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.…
Cross References
John 3:3
Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again."

John 3:5
Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.
Treasury of Scripture

Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

How.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except …

John 4:11,12 The woman said to him, Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the …

John 6:53,60 Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except you eat …

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; …

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: …

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