John 3:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 3:4, NIV: "How can someone be born when they are old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!'"

John 3:4, ESV: "Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”"

John 3:4, KJV: "Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"

John 3:4, NASB: "Nicodemus *said to Him, 'How can a person be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born, can he?'"

John 3:4, NLT: "'What do you mean?' exclaimed Nicodemus. 'How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?'"

John 3:4, CSB: ""How can anyone be born when he is old? " Nicodemus asked him. "Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born? ""

What does John 3:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Nicodemus doesn't actually misinterpret Jesus, or take a physical, literal view of His reference to being "born again." The reason he asks the question is because he knows this is not what Jesus meant, but he is confused. Jesus is in fact referring to birth, but not a physical one. Rather, this is a spiritual birth.

The term "born again" can become a cliché, but it's an important metaphor. Parents endure pain, so that their child can be changed and inherit their attributes. God endured our pain, in the form of Jesus on a cross, in order to give us a new birth. According to verse 3, being "born again" is an absolute, universal requirement for salvation. The gospel is exclusive—meaning restricted to only a certain group—even though it is offered to everyone. Only those who put their faith in Christ are saved, a concept which the gospel of John will repeat several times (John 3:5; John 3:18; John 3:36; John 14:6).