What does John 3:1 mean?
ESV: Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
NIV: Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.
NASB: Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;
CSB: There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
NLT: There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee.
KJV: There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
Verse Commentary:
Pharisees were legalistic, extremely moral Jews. Their commitment to purity led them to add hundreds of laws to those of Moses, covering all possible situations. The term "Pharisee" is used as a criticism today, but in their day Pharisees were honored for their religious commitment. They were also scholars of the law, and well-educated in religious concepts.

Nicodemus was not just a Pharisee, but a member of the Sanhedrin, a 70-man local court. This made Nicodemus the modern equivalent of a politician, priest, and professor all rolled into one. Most people would have addressed him as "Rabbi," a term he will apply to Jesus in verse 2. Despite the negative use of the term today, not all Pharisees were hard-hearted or unreachable. Nicodemus is direct proof of this. He recognizes the divine origin of Jesus' power (John 3:2). He will go on to defend Jesus in front of the other Pharisees (John 7:50–51), and donate embalming materials for His burial (John 19:39–42).

Joseph of Arimathea is another Pharisee who disproves the thought that all Pharisees were hard-hearted and spiritually numb. He is seen several times in the Gospels, and helps with the burial of Jesus (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50–51.
Verse Context:
John 2:24–3:15 describes a meeting between Jesus and a Pharisee. The last two verses of chapter two highlight the fact that Jesus knew men better than they knew themselves. Nicodemus was the ancient equivalent of a politician, priest, and professor all rolled into one. Jesus proves that this man doesn’t understand religion as well as he’d like to think. In contrast to the loud, public spectacle of clearing the temple, this encounter is a private, night-time meeting. Their actual conversation was probably longer than the brief summary recorded here.
Chapter Summary:
John chapter 3 is one of the most important in the entire gospel. Many crucial ideas are explained in this passage, including the role of Jesus as Savior. After the loud, public commotion at the temple, John transitions to a quiet, nighttime discussion. These verses make it clear that Christ—and Christ alone—is the means of salvation for the entire world. This text also states that those who reject Jesus are rejecting God.
Chapter Context:
The gospel of John is meant to prove that Jesus is God. Chapter 3 contains some of the most direct, most important concepts in Christianity. The ideas of spiritual rebirth, and the need to believe in Christ, are reinforced by the rest of the information in this gospel. John continues to use contrast, moving from the loud and public temple cleansing to the quiet of this conversation. After Jesus injects humility into a powerful leader, chapter 4 will transition again, as Jesus gives dignity to an outcast stranger.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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