In last week’s post I one, mentioned my study of John 3:5 was pointing me to Ezekiel chapter 36: 25-27 and two, I quoted the commentary for John 3:5 from The Jewish Study Bible. I am currently doing a word study on Ezekiel 36. I am taking notes and also noting ideas I hope to share in later posts. For this week, I wish to address hendiadys.
The last sentence of The Jewish Study Bible’s commentary on John 3:5 says “…the grammatical construction (hendiadys) indicates that “water“ is a descriptor of the Spirit, as in Ezekiel 36:25-27”1. I had to look up hendiadys. I shared a link to the definition in last week’s post but am including it here from dictionary.com: hendiadys = a figure in which a complex idea is expressed by two words connected by a copulative conjunction: “to look with eyes and envy” instead of “with envious eyes.” That must mean then that being born of water and the spirit are one and the same thing and no inference to baptism can be made.
And yet the commentary by Dr. Vincent states that “We are not to understand with Calvin, the Holy Spirit as the purifying water in the spiritual sense: ‘water which is the spirit’”2. Dr. Vincent then goes on to make his case for water baptism, portions of which I’ve quoted before. I cannot speak with any authority on the beliefs of Calvin. I’ve got books on religion on my shelves which I’ve had time to do little more than peruse and thus know little more than the broad strokes of Calvin’s beliefs. And so–for the sake of argument and this post, I set all these authorities aside and am supposing that being born of water does NOT mean water baptism and instead seek to know if the grammatical structure IS saying that born of water and the spirit expresses a single complex idea.
Bear with me…
The commentary on John 3:5 in The Passion Translation says that the water in John 3:6 is “the water of the Word of God that cleanses and gives us life” and directs me to Ephesians 5: 25 and 26, James 1:18, and 1 Peter 1:23. Ephesians 5:26 does indeed say “that He might sanctify and cleanse her (the Church) with the washing of water by the word. James 1:18 says “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures”.
J. Preston Eby quotes 1 Peter 1:23 in his teaching on John 3:5: “Scripture abounds in figures, and Jesus always spoke in symbolic terms. When He said, “Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in you,” He certainly was not advocating cannibalism! He was using a natural figure to illustrate a spiritual truth. So when He says one must be “born of water” do not understand water to mean what we are accustomed to think of as the natural water that men drink or wash in. It is a figure of THE LIVING WORD OF GOD. New birth ever, and only, is by the Word of God and by the Spirit of God. These are the only two agents directly involved in the new birth throughout the scriptures. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Pet. 1:23). Some have thought the water to mean baptism. But there is no mention of baptism in chapter three of John, nor is baptism ever connected anywhere in the New Testament with the new birth. A man can no more be born again by coming up out of natural water than he can be born again by entering the second time into his mother’s womb. Both are physical, natural, earthly, temporal and corruptible things. They are not agents of the spiritual world at all.” The Kingdom of God-Part 6
In the first post of this series, I listed scriptures used for reference by Dr. Vincent; namely Psalms 51:2&7, Ezekiel 36:25, and Zechariah 13:14. Zechariah 13:1 says, “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” When I quoted this in the first post, I remembered the story of the woman at the well told in the 4th chapter of John’s Gospel where Jesus said to her, “If you had only known and had recognized God’s gift and Who this is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him [instead] and He would have given you living water”. Jesus says in verse 14: “But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto (into, for) eternal life” and then in Chapter 7 verses 38 and 39: “’He who believes in Me [who cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me] as the Scripture has said, From his innermost being shall flow [continuously] springs and rivers of living water’. But He was speaking here of the Spirit…” (Amplified)
Does being born of water mean being born of the living word of God? If so, are they separate but equal agents? Does born of water mean the living water that Jesus gives which is the spirit? Am I failing to grasp a concept which is, really, quite simple?
My confusion clears when I consider John 14:16 which says: “And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Comforter…” The Greek word for another is this passage is allos (G243). Vine’s Expository Dictionary says there are two words for “another” in the Greek: allos and heteros. “ALLOS and HETEROS have a difference in meaning, which despite a tendency to be lost, is to be observed in numerous passages. Allos expresses a numerical difference and denotes another of the same sort: heteros expresses a qualitative difference and denotes another of a different sort. Christ promised to send “another Comforter” (allos, another like Himself…)”5
Perhaps the grammatical structure of John 3:5 is expressing something that can that only be understood by the Spirit and that is the very being of God. Father, Son, Spirit: They are Three and They are One. Hendiadys.