born again

to have a new start; to be converted
—After spending a year studying the effects of pollution on the nation’s rivers, Julie became a born-again environmentalist.

The Pharisees (whose name comes from an Aramaic word meaning “separated”) were a Jewish sect who believed they could be righteous on their own by obeying all of of the hundreds of laws God gave Moses, as well as those added to the Old Testament by the Jewish teachers. Jesus said to them,

Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs [whited sepulchres] that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27,28)

Therefore, a self-righteous, hypocritical person or someone who gives more importance to ceremonies and appearances than to attitudes and motives can be called a “pharisee” or can be said to be “pharisaical.” Whited sepulchre (or whited sepulcher) and the slightly more modern whitewashed tomb are other names used for hypocrites.

But not all the Pharisees were enemies of Jesus. One night, a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus and said,

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above [born again], he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’ The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus replied, “How can these things be?” (John 3:2-9)

The word nincompoop means “fool.” There have been several theories on how this word came to be, but the best seems to be that it came from Nicodemus’s name. Evidence for this is the French word nicodème, meaning “a foolish or naive person.” Though Nicodemus is not normally seen as foolish, he did have a difficult time understanding Jesus’ teaching. Later, though, he figured it out and became a follower of Jesus.

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