As a Gentile, my eyes have been opened over the last six months by Hebraic Roots teachings. For instance:
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, 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? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” (John 3:1-10)
If you’re a Gentile like me who has been around Evangelicals for a while – in my case thirty years – then you probably skimmed over the above verses without really paying much attention to the words. After all, you already know the punch line: “You must be born again.” Right?
This is one level of understanding scripture, which is from our Gentile or Greek mindset.
Now, the Hebrew mindset looks at Nicodemus and realizes that he is a ruler of the Jews, which means he was a big-time rabbi, Torah teacher, and a member of the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus would have memorized all of Leviticus, much of the Torah (first five books of Old Testament), and understood most of the oral traditions (Talmud) given by the top rabbis for the Old Testament (Tanakh).
But even though we Christians have only understood the expression “born-again Christians” since the 1970’s, Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand the expression two thousand years ago. How was that possible?
The term “born-again” was not first coined by Jesus in His nighttime meeting with Nicodemus. It was already in use and referred to a Gentile’s conversion to Judaism. The Gentile man would have been circumcised and then immersed in a mikvah or water bath. The mikvah was regarded as both a grave and a womb, from which the Gentile was reborn or born again.
So in light of this revelation, we can better understand the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. The Torah teacher was not baffled by the term “born-again,” but instead was really saying, “Hey, Jesus, I’m already a Jew. How can I convert again to Judaism?”
Jesus answered Nicodemus by saying in so many words, “Nicodemus, being Jewish is not enough. You can’t rely on your ethnicity. You must have a change of heart and believe in Me as the Messiah.”
This is a second level of understanding scripture, which is from a Hebrew mindset.
Yet, the one new man that I’m searching for takes the place of both mindsets.
(Continued in Part 3……if you’re interested, the full series to date can be seen here.)
2 responses to “The Search for One New Man (Part 2)”
Fascinating take on the Jewish thought on being born again. Thank you, Larry.
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Lift the Cross of Jesus,
I’m constantly blown away by how much I don’t understand scripture as compared to the Jews. Oy vey!