Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
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Alcuin of York
Or, the plural number may have this meaning; I, and they who are born again of the Spirit, alone understand what we speak; and having seen the Father in secret, this we testify openly to the world; and you, who are carnal and proud, receive not our testimony.
What think we? that our Lord wished to insult this master in Israel? He wished him to be born of the Spirit: and no one is born of the Spirit except he is made humble; for this very humility itis, which makes us to be born of the Spirit. He however was inflated with his eminence as amaster, and thought himself of importance because he was a doctor of the Jews. Our Lord then casts down his pride, in order that he may be born of the Spirit.
That is: If you do not believe that I can raise upa temple, which you have thrown down, how can you believe that men can be regenerated bythe Holy Spirit?
Nicodemus answered, &c. "For the animal man" (such as Nicodemus at that time was) "perceiveth not the things of the Spirit" ( 1 Corinthians 2:14). Just as rustics do not understand scholastic questions.
Long discourse nothing profits him who understandeth not a whit. Wise then is the saying in the book of Proverbs, Well is he that speaketh in the ears of them that will hear. And this the Saviour shewed by trial to be true, giving Himself an ensample to us in this too. For the teacher will be wholly free from the charge of not being able to persuade, saying what himself thinks good, though he profit nothing by reason of the dulness of the hearers. Besides we learn by this, that hardness in part is happened to Israel. For hearing they hear and understand not.
Nicodemus cannot take in the mysteries of the Divine Majesty, which our Lord reveals, and therefore asks how it is, not denying the fact, not meaning any censure, but wishing to be informed: Nicodemus answered and said to Him, How can these things be?.
Why, it is He asked, does He speak in the plural number, We speak that we do know? Because the speaker being the Only-Begotten Son of God, He would show that the Father was in the Son, and the Son in the Father, and the Holy Spirit from both, proceeding indivisibly.
Observe how He nowhere accuses the man of wickedness, but only of weakness and simplicity. And what, one may ask, has this birth in common with Jewish matters? Tell me rather what has it that is not in common with them? For the first-created man, and the woman formed from his side, and the barren women, and the things accomplished by water, I mean what relates to the fountain on which Elisha made the iron tool to swim, to the Red Sea which the Jews passed over, to the pool which the Angel troubled, to Naaman the Syrian who was cleansed in Jordan, all these proclaimed beforehand, as by a figure, the Birth and the purification which were to be. And the words of the Prophet allude to the manner of this Birth, as, It shall be announced unto the Lord a generation which comes, and they shall announce His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, whom the Lord has made Psalm 22:30; 30:31, Septuagint; and, Your youth shall be renewed as an eagle's Psalm 103:5, Septuagint; and, Shine, O ...
Forasmuch then as he still remains a Jew, and, after such clear evidence, persists ina low and carnal system, Christ addresses him henceforth with greater severity: Jesus answered and said to him, Are you a master in Israel, and know not these things? .
Nevertheless He does not charge the man with wickedness, but only with want of wisdom, and enlightenment. But some one will say, What connection has this birth, of which Christ speaks, with Jewish doctrines? Thus much. The first man that was made, the woman that was made out of his rib, the barren that bare, the miracles which were worked by means of water, Imean, Elijah’s bringing up the iron from the river, the passage of the Red Sea, and Naamanthe Syrian’s purification in the Jordan, were all types and figures of the spiritual birth, and of the purification which was to take place thereby. Many passages in the Prophets too have ahidden reference to this birth: as that in the Psalms, Making you young and lusty as an eagle: and, Blesse...