I have already treated John 4:46–54 in my post introducing the miraculous signs in John.
John 3 and 4:1–45 appear in the section of the Book of Signs called The First to Second Cana Miracles (2:1–4:54). In that post I outlined this scripture block as follows:
- First Sign: Water to Wine at the Wedding at Cana (miracle story, 2:1–11)
- Jesus Goes to Capernaum (narrative transition report, 2:12)
- Jesus at the First Passover (2:13–25)
- Discourse on the New Birth: Dialogue with Nicodemus (diaglogue, 3:1–21)
- The Baptist’s Final Witness (discourse, 3:22–36)
- Jesus Leaves Judea (narrative transition report, 4:1–3)
- Discourse on the Water of Life: Dialogue with the Samaritan Woman at the Well (dialogue, 4:4–42)
- Jesus Returns to Galilee (narrative transition report, 4:43–45)
- Second Sign: Healing the Nobleman’s Son in Cana (miracle story, 4:46–54)
What follows consists of some basic, schematic notes on this material, focusing on the two dialogues.
Discourse on the New Birth: Dialogue with Nicodemus (John 3:1–21)
John La Farge, Visit of Nicodemus to Christ (1880)
Nicodemus coming secretly and at night
- represents his "being in the dark," not understanding fully Jesus or his mission
Being born again/anew/from above
- Chapter 3 begins and ends with anōthen, “from above, anew” (KJV “again”)
- anōthen can be translated temporally as “again,” but it is properly a spatial adverb, suggesting the source or origin of the new birth, i.e., “from above.” Compare this with the preferred Book of Mormon expression, “from above”
- ex hydatos kai pneumatos: in Greek, the two objects of the preposition ex are anarthrous, meaning they lack definite articles.This links them closely together, even suggesting that this is a case of hendiadys, a “one through two” construction. Rather than being just “of the water and of the spirit” (notice that the second “of” in the KJV is italicized as a translator’s insertion and "the" before Spirit should be as well), it might mean “except a man be born of watery-spirit.” See “Blood and Water” excerpt below for the Johannine equivalence of spirit and water.
- Implication: While Johns 3:5 is commonly used as a proof text to suggest the importance of baptism (being born of the water) and the sanctification that can come after receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (being born of the Spirit), focusing only on this meeting can keep us seeing other potential Johannine meanings. In particular, in John 7 and 19, we will consider how this may refer to a very particular new birth, the resurrection, which is a spiritual birth in a very specific sense. Unlike the physical birth, which is a birth of mortal flesh and blood, the resurrection is a birth of immortal flesh and divine spirit.
The Son “being lifted up”
- The crucifixion, and perhaps ascension (though this is not described in John), are the means by which the Son of Man which came down from heaven returns to heaven.
- Jesus compares this to the serpent being raised in the wilderness
- Compare 2 Nephi 27:14–16
“For God so loved the world . . .” (John 3:16–17)
Symbolism of Blood and Water (excerpt from “And the Word Was Made Flesh: An LDS Exegesis of the Blood and Water Imagery in John,” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 1 (2009), 51, 53–55, 57)
Both blood and water provide powerful images in the first half of the Gospel of John. Although instances of blood and water in John can be taken separately, a comprehensive, exegetical approach to the gospel suggests a consistent, overarching imagery with water turning to wine—symbolic perhaps of blood—at Cana in John 2:1–11; water and spirit being the source of the new birth in 3:1–21; water “springing up to everlasting life” in 4:4–42; Jesus’ blood as a source of life in the Bread of Life Discourse of 6:26–59; and rivers of living water flowing from those who believe in Jesus in 7:37–39. Critical to understanding this symbolism is the sign of blood and water streaming from Jesus’ side as he hangs from the cross in 19:34–45, where it becomes apparent that they are symbols of Jesus’ dual nature: his ability as a mortal to lay down his life as an offering for sin, but his continuing divine ability to work “the infinite and eternal atonement” and become the source of eternal life for those who accept him. This symbolism resonates with Latter-day Saints understanding the nature and role of Jesus Christ.
With the powerful statement, “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” John 1:14 lays out the incarnational theology of his gospel. Jesus was not just a man but the divine logos who was veiled in flesh during the time that he lived (eskēnōsen, literally “pitched his tent”) among men, recalling how Jehovah lived among Israel in the wilderness Tabernacle (which throughout the Septuagint and the book of Hebrews was a skēnē or “tent”). This verse, echoed in D&C 93:11, receives further explication in Restoration scripture, including 1 Nephi 11:12–33 that portrays in the context of a visionary experience the concept of the condescension in christological categories. In 1 Nephi 11:12–20, the person of Jesus is described in incarnational terms—namely the premortal Jesus Christ, conventionally identified in LDS theology as the divine Jehovah who took upon himself a mortal body of flesh and blood (11:20–25; cf. Mosiah 15:1–4), whereby he became both the mortal son of Mary and the divine Son of God, the Eternal Father. Then, in 1 Nephi 11:26–33, the work of Jesus is portrayed through his ministry among the children of men and ultimately in his death on the cross for the sins of the world. Between these two pericopes lies the interpretive centerpiece of the vision of the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi. This centerpiece describes Christ as the Love of God, the Tree of Life, and as the Fountain of Living Waters, the latter being particularly important for the imagery of blood and water in the Gospel of John (11:21–25).
While the prologue of John does not explicitly connect the incarnate Word with blood, John 1:13 does contrast those who are born of God with those who are born only of blood and the will of the flesh, suggesting that the first birth is one of flesh and blood. Later in the fourth gospel the second birth is described in terms of water and spirit (e.g, John 3:3–5). Thus the prologue’s emphasis on the Word becoming flesh connects the incarnation with blood, and in LDS exegesis flesh and blood together consistently refer to living, albeit mortal, bodies (Ether 3:8–9; see Leviticus 17:11–14; Sirach 14:18–19; 1 Corinthians 15:50), as contrasted with “flesh and bone,” that can refer to immortal, resurrected bodies (D&C 129:1–2; 130:22). Accordingly, the image of blood is associated with life but specifically with the life of flesh and hence with mortality, whereas water, also a source of life, is frequently associated with spirit, as in John 7:39, where streams of living water are explicitly identified as his spirit. The correlation of blood with mortality on the one hand and water with spiritual—even divine or eternal—life on the other can be consistently applied throughout John, and this has important implications for these symbols as they appear in some of the most important discourses of the Johannine Jesus.
Water and SpiritJesus’ discourse with Nicodemus on the New Birth (3:1–36) further develops the dichotomy between flesh—and implicitly blood—on the one hand, and water and spirit on the other. While John 3:5 is used as a proof text by Latter-day Saints supporting the ritual necessity of water baptism and the subsequent receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Greek text of this verse makes an important, close connection between water and spirit inasmuch as in the phrase ex hydatos kai pneumatos, the nouns for water and spirit are anarthrous (that is, appearing without definite articles) and are governed by a single preposition. All men, having been born of flesh and blood, must now be born again, this time of water and spirit, for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Significant for Johannine christology is the fact that the earthly birth of Jesus, as the only begotten, was of both, the Word being clothed in flesh through the Incarnation.
Discourse on the Water of Life (4:4–42)
|Bloch, Samaritan Woman at the Well|
Setting the scene: Jesus wearied, apparently hungry, and acts thirsty
- But the Incarnate Word never drinks or eats!
John 4:7–14, “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water:
- 5 husbands (previous gods of Samaritans), living with a man but not in a covenant relationship (Samaritan devotion to YHWH?)
- Samaritan view of Messiah: a teacher like Moses
Symbolism of Living Water (cf. 1 Nephi 11:24–25)
- For Jews: flowing, ritually pure water
- In Greek: hydōr to zōn was water giving or characterized by life
- Water must be drawn from a well or cistern, this water “springs up to eternal life [zōēn aiōnion]”
“Water Springing Up into Everlasting Life” (excerpt from “And the Word Was Made Flesh: An LDS Exegesis of the Blood and Water Imagery in John,” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 1 (2009), 58–9)
In the discourse with the Samaritan woman at the well about the Water of Life (John 4:1–42), the presence of a woman (gynē) and the symbolism of drawing water connect this pericope with the miracle at Cana. There Jesus had instructed to “draw out” water from the pots, using a word (antlēsate) commonly employed for drawing water as from wells. Here, after Jesus told the Samaritan woman that he could give her “living water” (John 4:10), she noted that the well was deep and that he had nothing with which to draw its water (antlēma). Jesus’ famous response then connected both water and himself with a different quality of life than that sustained by earthly water: “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
The expression hydōr zōn for living water in Classical and New Testament Greek can refer to flowing water fit to drink, which later, rabbinic teaching remembered as being water considered pure for ritual purposes (Mishnah Mikvaoth 1:1–8). Compared to the water of cisterns or even wells, the Samaritan woman certainly found this type of water preferable, but the participle zōn can also refer to that which is life-producing or offers life. Likewise, while the woman at first concentrated on the fact that because the water was “springing” or “bubbling up,” she would not need to expend the effort to draw it as she did for the water at the well, the participle used here (hallomenou) has deeper connotations. In fact, hallomai is used only here to refer to the action of water; elsewhere it refers to the leaping or jumping of human beings. Nevertheless, in the Septuagint it is used in connection with the spirit of God as it falls upon Samson and Saul (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:4; 1 Samuel 10:10). Interpretations of the living water that Christ gives include Jesus’ revelation and teaching on the one hand or the Spirit as imparted by Jesus on the other; this latter idea is explicit in John 7:38–39.
Nevertheless, the complete phrase “well of water, springing up into everlasting life” may refer to Jesus himself as the source of both spirit and life. In this regard, Old Testament references to Yahweh as the “fountain of life” (Psalm 36:9) and “the spring of living water” (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13) find support in LDS scripture in 1 Nephi 11:25: “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.” In the vision of Nephi, Jesus is the paramount example of the love of God—which, of course, finds a parallel in John 3:16–17—and the fruit of the tree, which is defined as the “greatest of all the gifts” in 1 Nephi 15:36. This seems to refer to the gift of eternal life itself (D&C 14:7). Likewise, Jesus, the fountain of living waters, gives those who come to him life— not just the kind of mortal life that physical water sustains but rather spiritual, eternal life.
|Rushing water from the headwaters of the Jordan River at Tel Dan|
 Exegesis consists of a close reading of a scriptural text that seeks to “lead out” its original meaning by understanding its historical, literary, and theological context. For a basic review of the exegetical method and how Latter-day Saints may consider using it, see Eric D. Huntsman, “Teaching through Exegesis: Helping Students Ask Questions of the Text,” Religious Educator 6.1 (Winter 2005), 107–126.
 BDAG, “skēnos” and “skēnoō,” 929. See also Brown, The Gospel According to John (2 vols.; The Anchor Bible 29–29A; New York: Doubleday, 1966), 29–35; F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 37–42; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 82–93; Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Eric D. Huntsman, and Thomas A. Wayment, Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 133.
 LDS commentators frequently identify this division as representing the Condescension of God the Father (11:12–20) on the one hand and the Condescension of God the Son (11:26–33) on the other (e.g., Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987], 77–85; Monte Nyman, I, Nephi, Wrote This Record [Orem, Utah: Granite, 2003], 140–149). This division sees the act of God’s becoming the father of Jesus Christ as an act of condescension on his part while Jesus’ dwelling on earth, associating with the poor and afflicted, being rejected and judged, and ultimately submitting to death as his condescension. Given the high christology of John, Mosiah 15, and D&C 93, referring to the incarnation portrayed in 1 Nephi 12–20 as the Condescension of the Father and the Son is probably appropriate, given that the divine Word condescended to become the man Jesus.
 “After the resurrection from the dead our bodies will be spiritual bodies, but they will be bodies that are tangible, bodies that have been purified, but they will nevertheless be bodies of flesh and bones, but they will not be blood bodies, they will no longer be quickened by blood but quickened by the spirit which is eternal and they shall become immortal and shall never die . . .” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1917, 63).
 See Brown, GJ, 324 n. 39, and Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John (Sacra Pagina 4; Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1998), 253 and 257 n. 39, both of which cite Jewish precedents for the association of water and spirit.
 Brown, GJ, 131, who also points out the close parallel here with Matthew 1:20, “what is begotten in her [Mary] is of the Holy Spirit.”
 BDAG, “antleō,” 91; Brown, GJ 100.
 See Morris, 230. While the ritual uses of water were overwhelmingly concerned with purification, see the interesting case of the “bitter” waters of Numbers 5:11–31.
 BDAG, “zaō,” 424–426, notes in definition 4a that the participle is used figuratively with the water of a spring in contrast with stagnant water, which is hydōr nekron. Definition 5, however, associates it with things and persons that communicate divine life.
 Brown, GJ, 178–180.
 Brown, GJ, 178–180.
 Morris, 231.