Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy


Dennis R. McDonald


Jesus and Nicodemus, Jewish symbolism in John, Intertestamental Judaism, Old Testament born again, water cleansing, Holy Spirit and wind, Second temple Judaism, born again, Jewish born again, spiritual renewal, Holy Spirit guidance, first century Jewish theology, Pharisees, kingdom of God, spiritual rebirth


Christianity | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


The dissertation’s objective will be to analyze what Nicodemus—as a Pharisee who was knowledgeable of the Hebrew Bible and the prevalent Jewish theology of his period—should have understood, given his position, concerning Jesus’ teaching of being born again. By examining the Old Testament (the TaNaK) and Intertestamental Jewish theology, it will be argued in the dissertation’s six chapters how Nicodemus, as a prominent Pharisaical religious instructor, should have understood the concept of spiritual rebirth as well as the scriptural significance of water and the Spirit, including the guidance and obedience inherent in Jesus’ teaching on the wind. As an introduction to the thesis argument, Chapter One will involve an exegetical overview of John 3:1-10 and the passage’s historical context. This analysis will include detailing the specific elements of Jesus’ teaching, defining important Greek words, and briefly outlining who the Pharisees were (including what they believed) and what significance the Kingdom of God had for the Hebrew Bible and Intertestamental Judaism. Following this introduction, the next four chapters will concern the four concepts of spiritual rebirth, water, the Holy Spirit, and the symbolism of wind for the Holy Spirit. One chapter will be devoted to each one of these concepts, and each chapter will consist of what the Hebrew Bible and Intertestamental, first-century A.D. Jewish theology noted concerning that chapter’s topic. The dissertation’s final chapter will be a concluding summation of the arguments in Chapter Two through Chapter Five as well as their implications, including how the various points, symbolisms, and elements which Jesus taught in John 3 are fulfilled and clearly understood in Himself. The value of this study is that a correlation is made between what first-century Jews, especially the Pharisees, maintained in their religious heritage and what Jesus taught concerning how one sees and enters into God’s Kingdom by being born from above via water and God’s Holy Spirit. Most significantly, Jesus’ born from above teachings are proven to be fundamentally Jewish concepts, with the Hebrew Bible and Intertestamental Judaism witnessing to the need for one to be washed clean of sins and made spiritually alive by God’s Holy Spirit, Who guides the LORD’s children. Moreover, because Jesus extended the discussion of being born from above to the concept of the Son of Man being sacrificially lifted up in correlation with the bronze serpent of Numbers 21:9, the dissertation chapters as well include analyzing Messiah’s work in the aspects of spiritual rebirth (including the connection between the Jewish idea of rebirth and the concept of the sacrifice necessary for this rebirth), water, the Holy Spirit, guidance by the Holy Spirit, and establishing God’s Kingdom.