Sacraments & Sacramentals

What Does “Water and Spirit” Mean?

by Steve Ray on October 2, 2019

Since we were just at the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized in water and the Spirit came down, I thought I would share this post again. A while ago a Protestant friend tried to prove that Born Again by “water and Spirit” did not mean baptism. Here is one paragraph that he sent me:

In John, chapter 3, Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews and a Pharisee, that one must be born ‘from above’ (Gr. anothen) in order to enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus asked if one could enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born. But Jesus told him that one must be born ‘of the Spirit’ in order to enter the kingdom of God.

A better translation of John 3.5 would read: “… except a man be born of water—even of the Spirit—he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” The little greek word kai is often translated “even”—which I believe better conveys the Lord’s meaning here. He is contrasting the water of the womb and fleshly birth, with the water of the Spirit and heavenly birth.

Water is often symbolic of the Holy Spirit in scripture (John 4.10-14; 7.37-39; Revelation 22.1, 17; Isaiah 12.3; 44.3; Matthew 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33).

So I responded:

Hello Friend

Thanks for your recent e-mail. In reading even the first part of the article you sent I see it is exactly the arguments I used before I realized better and became Catholic. The paragraph referred to is utter nonsense and though the author cites a lot of Scripture, his reasoning and conclusion are blatantly unscriptural. I tried to explain to you the biblical understanding of “born again” when we had lunch but I saw at the time that you either were not listening or it went right over your head — I’m not sure which.

1_9_baptism_lordMy Comments:
First, the Greek word anothen can and does mean both “born again” or “born from above”. They both apply. John frequently uses words with two meanings (eg. pneuma which means both “wind” and “spirit”).

Born of water and the Spirit“: Using the word “even” instead of “and“ is NOT a better translation. It is a cop-out. The little Greek word “kai” is the common word for “and” and only if someone has a Fundamentalist doctrinal bias would they try to slip the word “even” into the translation. It is dishonest and I am surprised you would fall for it.

John 3:5 in the best Evangelical Translations of the Bible
Here are you major Protestant translations. Notice NONE of them cheat and use the word “even”! Why not? Because they know something your web author is being dishonest about. Like you said to me, “Please study carefully with an open heart to the Holy Spirit” (and not to denominational bigots who twist Scripture to teach the doctrines of men). This is just one sampling of how I could decimate the whole article if I considered it worthy of my time — which I don’t.

The King James Version The New International Version Young’s Literal Translation The Revised Standard Version The New Jerusalem Bible The Good News Translation The Contemporary English Version
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 5 Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say to thee, If any one may not be born of water, and the Spirit, he is not able to enter into the reign of God; 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 5 Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; 5 “I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus. “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 5 Jesus answered: I tell you for certain that before you can get into God’s kingdom, you must be born not only by water, but by the Spirit.

So, if the best translation is of kai is actually “even”, then why don’t the best Protesant translations use “even” instead of “and“? Huh?

The Very First Christians (unanimously!!)
By the way, notice how the very first Christians interpreted John 3:5 below. Look how far you have strayed for the Early Church, the followers of the first apostles and the martyrs and champions of the faith.

St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165), “Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated [reborn]: in the name of God the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Except you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ . . . The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles” (The First Apology 1, 61) (Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985],1:183).

St. Theophilus of Antioch (died c. 185 A.D.), who first coined the word “Trinity,” writes, “Those things which were created from the waters [Gen 1] were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration” (To Autolycus 2, 16) (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970], 1:75).

Origen (c. 185-c. 254) “The Church received from the Apostles the tradition [custom] of giving Baptism even to infants. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentary on Romans 5, 9) (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, 1:209).

St. Augustine (AD 354-430) “Who is so wicked as to want to exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven by prohibiting their being baptized and born again in Christ?” (Pecc. merit. 3, 6, 12) (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publ., 1971], 5:244). “This [infant baptism] the Church always had, always held; this she received from the faith of our ancestors; this she perseveringly guards even to the end” (Sermon 11, De Verb Apost) (Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. Charles Herbermann, et al, [New York: Robert Appleton, 1907], 2:270).

Protestant Commentators
“Even” (no pun intended) scholarly Evangelical commentators will tell you the truth about this verse:

Baptist commentator George Beasley-Murray wrote in one of the most solid Evangelical commentaries on John’s Gospel, “Suggestions like these do not do justice to the text [of John 3:5] and have not commended themselves to scholarly opinion. It would seem that the text relates birth from above to baptism and the Holy Spirit” (Word Biblical Commentary: John, [Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987],36:48).

Protestant commentator R.V.G. Tasker agreed, “In light of the reference to the practice by Jesus of water baptism in verse 22, it is difficult to avoid construing the words ‘of water and of the Spirit’ conjunctively, and regarding them as a description of Christian baptism, in which cleansing and endowment are both essential elements” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Gospel According to St. John [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publ., 1977], 4: 71).

Look what Martin Luther said!  “Here [John 3:5] Christ is speaking of Baptism, of real and natural water such as a cow may drink. . . . Here Christ also speaks of the Holy Spirit and teaches us to regard Baptism as a spiritual, yes, a Spirit-filled water, in which the Holy Spirit is present and active. . . . And thus the person who has been baptized is said to be born anew. . . . . In this passage Christ declares that whoever is not born anew of the water and the Holy Spirit cannot come into the kingdom of God. Therefore God’s words dare not be tampered with. Of course, we are well aware that Baptism is natural water. But after the Holy Spirit is added to it, we have more than mere water. It becomes a veritable bath of rejuvenation, a living bath which washes and purges man of sin and death, which cleanses him of all sin” (“Sermons on the Gospel of St. John” Luther’s Works ed. Jaroslav Pelikan [St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publ. House, 1957], 22:283).

Keep an open mind Friend! Come home to where you belong.

{ 9 comments }

Short Primer on the Mass

by Steve Ray on September 21, 2019

A while ago a Lutheran attended Mass with me. To prepare him in advance for what he was going to experience, I put together this short “Primer on the Mass.” I hope you find it helpful and useful. Pleases share if with family and friends if you think it could help them to understand. 

Click below on the image for the full article

screen-capture

{ 1 comment }

Riddle: What is the New Testament?

by Steve Ray on September 16, 2019

This is a question that very few people think about. The natural reaction to the question, “What is the New Testament?” is that it is a collection of books in the Bible.

But before you say the New Testament is “a book” ask yourself what the book says the New Testament is. A hint is found in Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25. In this verse the words “testament” and “covenant” are synonyms (see KJV and Douay-Rheims).

{ 5 comments }

“If the Eucharist is only a Symbol, then to Hell with it!”

September 6, 2019

‘If The Eucharist Is Just A Symbol, To Hell With It’ (quote by Flannery O’Conner) Friday, 06 September 2019  An article written by my good friend and attorney Bob Sullivan; published in the Southern Nebraska Register A few months ago, I devoted four consecutive columns to transubstantiation. In that series I said that there was one Catholic teaching which […]

Read the full article →

The Kiss of Mercy

August 28, 2019

My daughter-in-law Anna is very insightful about spiritual things, and in raising our grandkids. Couldn’t ask for a better daughter (in-law, though we consider her our daughter by now :-) She put this up on her FaceBook page a while ago and I was compelled to share it again. Janet and I read this with […]

Read the full article →

Is the Eucharist just a Symbol? Podcast on the Eucharist with Steve Ray

June 26, 2019

In this episode of The Cordial Catholic Podcast, I talk to Steve Ray, author, speaker, and Catholic evangelist about the Eucharist. Is it a sign and symbol like Protestants say that it is, or something more? What did the Early Church believe? We unpack Steve’s conversion story to find out how a Bible-believing Baptist of 30 […]

Read the full article →

Corpus Christi Sunday: Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 23, 2019

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

Read the full article →

Interesting Explanation of Baptism from Protestant Dictionary – “baptism…in itself is unimportant”

May 11, 2019

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they […]

Read the full article →

Genuflecting a No-No?

May 5, 2019

Several years ago my wife and visited a new parish (new for us). I genuflected before receiving the Blessed Sacrament. Believe it or not, I was reprimanded by the Extraordinary Minister while he handed me the host. After Mass I spoke with the priest about it and he reprimanded me as well. I told them Quite […]

Read the full article →

“This Is My Body” – Meaning What? :-)

May 2, 2019
Read the full article →

Gary Michuta Refutes Anti-Catholic William Webster on the Eucharist

March 7, 2019

A Critique of William Webster’s article: The Eucharist Steve Ray here: I have tangled with William Webster often in the past. You can read my debates with him at www.CatholicConvert.com/resources under the heading “My Books, Talks & DVDs: Reviews and Defense. Go to the end of the list. But this article, response and critique of […]

Read the full article →

Pastor Bob “Preaches the Word” (Discussing A Sermon on Baptism)

February 13, 2019

Pastor Bob Preaches The Word (or does he?) By Steve Ray Josh left Sunday services full of excitement, anxious to discuss Pastor Bob’s sermon with his sister Jennifer who had recently converted to the Catholic Church. The pastor had explained how salvation was by “faith alone” and not by rituals and works. He was anxious […]

Read the full article →

Cross vs. Crucifix

February 11, 2019

(A letter Steve wrote to an Evangelical friend asking for an explanation of the Crucifix) Dear Protestant Friend: You display a bare cross in your homes; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the shape of a “T”. A […]

Read the full article →

Steve Ray on the Seven Sacraments

January 12, 2019

Have you ever wondered about the Biblical roots for the sacraments? Let these talks from Steve Ray be your map to discover the connection between the Sacraments and Sacred Scripture. In this brand new informative and inspiring series, Steve Ray walks through the Seven Sacraments and why they are necessary for our salvation. Using Biblical and historical […]

Read the full article →

Is the Mass a Sacrifice?

December 6, 2018

St. Paul mentions three sacrifices in 1 Corinthians 10:15-21 (see below). He compares the Sacrifice at the Mass with the sacrifice of the Jews and of the pagans. He even uses the phrase “table of the Lord” which is a technical term for an altar of sacrifice in the Old Testament (Malachi 1:7, 12). The […]

Read the full article →

Do the Church Fathers Teach the Eucharist is a Symbol and Not the Real Presence?

October 14, 2018

Today we are in Capernaum where Jesus said: “Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood.” I thought it appropriate that I post this challenge today. A man sent a challenge saying “the Fathers of the Church limited the Eucharist to a symbol and therefore it is NOT the Real Presence of Christ.” Is that true? My […]

Read the full article →