Being born again….

What did Jesus mean?

First of all, this conversation wasn’t in Greek, but rather in Hebrew. Looking at the Hebrew gospels, we find a slightly different meaning. Jesus’ words, “yivvaled ish milma’ǝlah” are often translated as “born again”, however the word ma’alah in Hebrew means “above”. Apparently, Jesus used a well-known Hebrew expression, ‘born from above’. What did that mean?

The 1st century meaning

We often find the expression “reborn” in Rabbinic literature – for instance, describing Israel after receiving the Torah. However, in the first century it was mostly used to describe the process of becoming a proselyte. A Gentile would turn away from pagan gods to the God of Israel, be circumcised (if male) and finally, go through waters of a mikveh. When he emerged out of the water, he was considered as being ‘reborn’, or ‘born from above’.

Discover the Jewish background

Many Gentiles made this crucial choice in Jesus’ times: they were ready to abandon their former lives for the people and the God of Israel. Jesus seems to refer to the experience of those proselytes – for Him, being ‘born from above’ means turning to God and His Word, following His ways and His commandments.

Published by neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

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