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John 3:25

ESV Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.
NIV An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.
NASB Then a matter of dispute developed on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification.
CSB Then a dispute arose between John's disciples and a Jew about purification.
NLT A debate broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over ceremonial cleansing.
KJV Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.

What does John 3:25 mean?

John uses the plural term, "The Jews" to refer to local religious leaders, such as the Pharisees. According to verse 25, this argument is between followers of John the Baptist and a particular one of those leaders. The Greek term here is singular, so this is a debate with a single person. More than likely, this was Nicodemus. He had approached Jesus alone, at night, to speak with Him about His teachings (John 3:1). The majority of that discussion was about rebirth and salvation. Here, the discussion is over "purification," closely related to baptism.

The word used to refer to this "dispute" is zetesis, which implies ideas such as controversy, questioning, and debate. Perhaps Nicodemus confronted the followers of John the Baptist with Jesus' comments about baptism, or with his own interpretation. The fact that there was a debate doesn't necessarily mean that an argument was deliberate. At the same, time, the terms in older manuscripts switch from singular (one) in verse 25 to plural in verse 26. One possible reason would be that "they," in verse 26, means other religious leaders. If they heard about the controversy, they might have come to fan the flames. So, this incident may have turned into a deliberate attempt to inspire a rivalry between the Baptist and Jesus.

On the other hand, the "they" in verse 26 may be a reference to the followers of John the Baptist, who were jealous of Jesus' success. In either case, the Baptist will set everyone straight.
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