What does gennao mean?

The Greek word translated "born" in John 3:3, 5 is gennao. Mr. Armstrong quoted a good definition in Just What Do You Mean...Born Again?:

Thayer: gennao "1. properly: of men begetting children. Matt. 1:1-16; Acts 7:8, 29; foll. by ek with gen. of the mother, Matt. 1:3, 5, 6; more rarely of women giving birth to children. Lk. 1:13, 57; 23:29; Jn. 16:21, etc. 2. a. univ. to engender, cause to arise, excite.... d. peculiarly in the Gosp. and 1st Ep. of John, of God conferring upon men the nature and disposition of His sons, imparting to them spiritual life i.e. by His own holy power, prompting and persuading souls to put faith in Christ and live a new life consecrated to Himself."...

George Ricker Berry: "gennao: to beget, give birth to, produce, effect; pass., to be begotten, born (often in John of spiritual renewal)." (That is, receiving or having received the Holy Spirit, being begotten).

One man, a native Greek from Cyprus, in a private communication, states it this way: "the verb gennao denotes the production through birth." And further..."denotes a production through a process that always includes a birth." He put major emphasis on birth, rather than begetting or conception but when asked if it does not include an impregnation by male sperm, and conception, as well as gestation period, he agreed that it does.

Mr. Armstrong was not satisfied with the definition "production through birth" and the emphasis on birth because that would weaken his pregnancy analogy, so he asked if the production included the impregnation, and the answer was that it did, by implication, because there can be no birth without an impregnation! While a pregnancy is obviously implied whenever there is a birth, gennao really refers to the birth, not the conception or the pregnancy. Notice that the most important part of the definition is that the "process always includes a birth." Gennao refers to birth, to one person becoming a parent of another.

Further discussion of this point may be found in other articles.

Gennao is used nearly 100 times in the New Testament, most often in reference to the birth of a baby. Jesus was born (gennao) in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1). He was not conceived there. Some eunuchs were so born (gennao) from their mother's wombs (Matthew 19:12). This clearly refers to birth, not conception.

Scriptures use gennao in contrast with conception in Romans 9:10-11. Here we find it stated that when Rebecca had conceived (echo koite, "to have a lying on the marriage bed") and before the children were born (gennao), God had chosen Isaac. In this verse, gennao is shown to be distinct from conception.

We are not merely "conceived" children of God, waiting to be born. "Beloved, now we are children of God" (1 John 3:2). Hebrews 5:12-14 speaks of spiritually immature Christians as "babes" in need of spiritual milk. Unborn babies do not drink milk or eat solid food; the biblical analogy is clearly that of a born child, not a fetus.

1 Peter 2:2 has a similar analogy; the word "newborn" comes from artigennetos, an adjective form of gennao. A related word, anagennao, is used in 1 Peter 1:3. "He has given us [already] new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

James 1:18 uses a different word to express the same analogy: apokueo, which comes from apo (which means "from") and kueo (which means "to be swollen" or "to be pregnant"). Apokueo means to get something from a pregnancy. The meaning is to give birth, to bring forth. James 1:18 says that God "chose to give us birth through the word of truth." Through the gospel, God has given us a second birth, a spiritual birth.

Jesus, John, Peter and James are all using the same analogy: that Christians are born again, with a new start in life, with a family-like relationship with God, in which we call God the affectionate term Abba. It is clear from the Scriptures that gennao does not refer to conception, but to birth. Here are some verses where it clearly means the birth of a baby: Matt. 2:1, 4; Luke 1:57; John 16:21; Rom. 9:11; Heb. 11:23.

Scripture describes Christians as already-born babies and children (1 Cor. 3:1-2; Heb. 5:12-14). Shortly after Peter tells us that we have been born again (1 Pet. 1:23), he tells us to desire milk as eagerly as a newborn baby does (1 Pet. 2:2). When Jesus speaks of being born again in John 3, he refers to birth, not the beginning of a pregnancy.

Those born of God cannot sin

The natural question in reading 1 John 3:9 is how anyone can live without committing sin. Since we know this is not possible, we may be tempted to say that this refers to glorified children of God who can no longer sin after they are made immortal. This is the way we once interpreted this verse, although we recognized many years ago that the real meaning is clarified by a correct translation.

Our old explanation contradicts the context. John's reason for writing this chapter is to explain how people can tell who is a child of God and who is a child of the devil. If he were talking about the time after the resurrection, he would just say, "The children of God are the ones who shine like stars!" There would be no need then for instruction about how to tell God's children from the devil's!

John begins this chapter with the statement that we are now children of God, awaiting the day when we become like Christ (1 John 3:1-2). All who have this hope (of the resurrection) purify themselves, just as Jesus is pure (verse 3). Sin is lawlessness (verse 4). But Jesus came to take away our sins, and in him there is no sin (verse 5).

If we are in Christ, we have God's forgiveness, and God does not impute sin to us (Romans 4:7-8). There is now no condemnation to us if we are in Christ (Romans 8:1). We repent whenever we sin, and we are forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:7-10; 2:1-2). Therefore, we have no sin hanging over us.

We do not abide or continually live in sin, for whoever sins (abides or remains in sin) has neither seen nor knows Christ (1 John 3:6). The person who continues to sin (that is, lives a life-style of sin) is of the devil (verse 8). But those who are truly born of God (truly converted, led by the Holy Spirit) do not sin (do not abide in sin). As converted children of God, we cannot abide in sin or make sin our way of life any longer because the Holy Spirit leads in the way of righteousness and faith. Christ in us makes us children of God, sinless in God's sight (verse 9).

1 John 3 contrasts the children of God with the children of the devil. John is saying that we can tell the children of God from the children of the devil by how they live. God's children seek to please him and live in righteousness, whereas the children of the devil continue to abide in sin. They do not try to please God or live his way. John was referring to people in this life, and he describes Christians as being born of God.

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