9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. (NRSV).
9 ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινὸν ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον.
10 Ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω. 11 εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. 12 ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 13 οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλ’ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν. (SBL Greek New Testament).
So, one more two minute read on these verses and then we’ll move on.
The English version above is from the New Revised Standard Version. Dr. Bruce Metzger wrote the forward to the translation. He, along with several others on the board of translators, taught at my seminary. In fact, I went to my seminary (Princeton) precisely because Metzger taught there.
He was one of my heroes!
The NRSV used the best manuscripts available at the time of its translation. Furthermore, when Greek and Hebrew words were clearly gender inclusive they were rendered in English as gender inclusive, while some earlier translations (e.g. RSV) used words such as “mankind” for humankind.
The most obvious example is the Greek word anthropos which generally means humankind — including men and women — but was often translated “mankind.”
1 Corinthians 13:1 in RSV: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels…
1 Corinthians 13:1 in NRSV: If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels…
The Greek word in this verse is anthropos and it clearly refers to human beings and not just men. A translation of meaning, then, from Greek to English is more accurately “mortals” rather than the older English term “mankind.”
But what about John 1:13?
Those who believed were empowered to be born…not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. Looking over on the Greek column, the Greek word is not anthropos but andros, the word for “man” of the male variety. So, Metzger & Co. stayed true to the Greek text and translated it “will of man.” Some might say this appears to be an exception where John perhaps meant to use anthropos.
But not so fast!
Rather, it appears John is, in fact, saying: “Hey, the Believers are not born from a human birth (lots of female “blood”), not born of human decision (“will of flesh”), and not born of…well…sex by males…but by God! (Think “born again” in John 3).
In essence, “You know how men have sex and then women give birth? This isn’t that!” You might say that’s still weird because men and women have sex together, but you can think of it as the contribution to birth by each gender: men have sex with women, women give birth.
The point here is that Believers are born of God. We come out of a spiritual womb and greet reality totally different. The former person is dead; what comes forth is new Life. As a Believer, you see differently, act differently, talk differently — it’s just not the old you anymore.