Born again, or to experience the new birth, is a phrase, particularly in
evangelicalism Evangelicalism (), evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestantism, Protestant Christianity that maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doct ...
, that refers to "spiritual rebirth", or a regeneration of the human spirit from the
Holy Spirit In Abrahamic religions, the Holy Spirit is an aspect or agent of God in Abrahamic religions, God, by means of which God communicates with people or acts on them. In Judaism, it refers to the divine force, quality, and influence of God over the ...
, contrasted with physical birth. In contemporary Christian usage, the term is distinct from sometimes similar terms used in mainstream
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's la ...
to refer to being or becoming Christian, which is linked to
baptism Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian rite of initiation, admission and Adoption (theology), adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. It may be per ...

. Individuals who profess to be "born again" often state that they have a personal relationship with
Jesus Christ Jesus; he, יֵשׁוּעַ, ''Yeshua, Yēšū́aʿ''; ar, عيسى, ʿĪsā ( 4 BC AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jews, Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figu ...
. The phrase "born again" is also used as an adjective to describe individual members of the movement who espouse this belief, as well as the movement itself ("born-again Christian" and the "born-again movement").


The term is derived from an event in the
Gospel of John The Gospel according to John ( el, Εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Ἰωάννην, translit=Euangélion katà Iōánnēn, also known as the Gospel of John, or simply John) is the fourth of the four canonical gospels. It contains a highly sche ...
in which the words of
Jesus Jesus; he, יֵשׁוּעַ, '' Yēšū́aʿ''; ar, عيسى, ʿĪsā ( 4 BC AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunc ...
were not understood by a Jewish pharisee,
Nicodemus Nicodemus (; grc-gre, Νικόδημος, Nikódēmos) was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin mentioned in three places in the Gospel of John: * He first visits Jesus one night to discuss Jesus' teachings (). * The second time Nicodemus ...

. The
Gospel of John The Gospel according to John ( el, Εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Ἰωάννην, translit=Euangélion katà Iōánnēn, also known as the Gospel of John, or simply John) is the fourth of the four canonical gospels. It contains a highly sche ...
was written in
Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek language, Greek spoken and written d ...
, and the original text is ambiguous which results in a
double entendre A double entendre (plural double entendres) is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric ...
that Nicodemus misunderstands. The word translated as ''again'' is ἄνωθεν (''ánōtʰen''), which could mean either "again", or "from above". The double entendre is a
figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar an ...
that the gospel writer uses to create bewilderment or misunderstanding in the hearer; the misunderstanding is then clarified by either Jesus or the narrator. Nicodemus takes only the literal meaning from Jesus's statement, while Jesus clarifies that he means more of a spiritual rebirth from above. English translations have to pick one sense of the phrase or another; the NIV,
King James Version The King James Version (KJV), also known as the King James Bible (KJB), sometimes as the English version of 1611, or simply the Version (AV), is an English translations of the Bible, English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church ...
, and
Revised Version The Revised Version (RV) or English Revised Version (ERV) of the Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians, Jews, Samaritans, ...
use "born again", while the
New Revised Standard Version The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is an English translation of the Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians, Jews, ...
and the New English Translation prefer the "born from above" translation. Most versions will note the alternative sense of the phrase ''anōthen'' in a footnote. Edwyn Hoskyns argues that "born from above" is to be preferred as the fundamental meaning and he drew attention to phrases such as "birth of the Spirit", "birth from God", but maintains that this necessarily carries with it an emphasis upon the newness of the life as given by God himself. The final use of the phrase occurs in the
First Epistle of Peter The First Epistle of Peter, usually referred to simply as First Peter and often written 1 Peter, is a book of the New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) i ...
, rendered in the King James Version as: Here, the Greek word translated as "born again" is ().Fisichella, SJ., ''Taking Away the Veil: To See Beyond the Curtain of Illusion'', iUniverse, 2003, pp. 55-56.


The traditional Jewish understanding of the promise of salvation is interpreted as being rooted in "the seed of Abraham"; that is, physical lineage from Abraham. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that this doctrine was in error—that every person must have two births—natural birth of the physical body and another of the water and the spirit. This discourse with Nicodemus established the Christian belief that all human beings—whether Jew or Gentile—must be "born again" of the spiritual seed of Christ. The
Apostle Peter An apostle (), in its most literal sense, is an emissary, from Greek ἀπόστολος (''apóstolos''), literally "one who is sent off", from the verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part o ...
further reinforced this understanding in 1 Peter 1:23. The ''Catholic Encyclopedia'' states that " controversy existed in the primitive church over the interpretation of the expression ''the seed of Abraham''. It is [the Apostle Paul's] teaching in one instance that all who are Christ's by faith are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to promise. He is concerned, however, with the fact that the promise is not being fulfilled to the seed of Abraham (referring to the Jews)." Charles Hodge writes that "The subjective change wrought in the soul by the grace of God, is variously designated in Scripture" with terms such as ''new birth'', ''resurrection'', ''new life'', ''new creation'', ''renewing of the mind'', ''dying to sin and living to righteousness'', and ''translation from darkness to light''. Jesus used the "birth" analogy in tracing spiritual newness of life to a divine beginning. Contemporary Christian theologians have provided explanations for "born from above" being a more accurate translation of the original Greek word transliterated ''anōthen.'' Frank Stagg (theologian), Theologian Frank Stagg cites two reasons why the newer translation is significant: # The emphasis "from ''above''" (implying "from ''Heaven''") calls attention to the source of the "newness of life". Stagg writes that the word "again" does not include the ''source'' of the new kind of beginning; # More than personal improvement is needed. "a new destiny requires a new origin, and the new origin must be from God." An early example of the term in its more modern use appears in the sermons of John Wesley. In the sermon entitled ''A New Birth'' he writes, "none can be holy unless he be born again", and "except he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For ... a man should not be happy who is not holy." Also, "I say, [a man] may be born again and so become an heir of salvation." Wesley also states infants who are baptized are born again, but for adults it is different: A Unitarianism, Unitarian work called ''The Gospel Anchor'' noted in the 1830s that the phrase was not mentioned by the other Evangelists, nor by the Apostles except Peter. "It was not regarded by any of the Evangelists but John of sufficient importance to record." It adds that without John, "we should hardly have known that it was necessary for one to be born again." This suggests that "the text and context was meant to apply to Nicodemus particularly, and not to the world."


Scholars of historical Jesus, that is, attempting to ascertain how closely the stories of Jesus match the historical events they are based on, generally treat Jesus's conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 with skepticism. It details what is presumably a private conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, with none of the disciples seemingly attending, making it unclear how a record of this conversation was acquired. In addition, the conversation is recorded in no other ancient Christian source other than John and works based on John. According to Bart Ehrman, the larger issue is that the same problem English translations of the Bible have with the Greek ἄνωθεν (''anōthen'') is a problem in the Aramaic language as well: there is no single word in Aramaic that means both "again" and "from above", yet the conversation rests on Nicodemus making this misunderstanding. As the conversation was between two Jews in Jerusalem, where Aramaic was the native language, there is no reason to think that they'd have spoken in Greek. This implies that even if based on a real conversation, the author of John heavily modified it to include Greek wordplay and idiom.

Denominational positions

''The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics'' notes: "The General Social Survey, GSS ... has asked a born-again question on three occasions ... 'Would you say you have been 'born again' or have had a 'born-again' experience?" The Handbook says that "Evangelical, black, and Latino Protestants tend to respond similarly, with about two-thirds of each group answering in the affirmative. In contrast, only about one third of mainline Protestants and one sixth of Catholics (Anglo and Latino) claim a born-again experience." However, the handbook suggests that "born-again questions are poor measures even for capturing evangelical respondents. ... it is likely that people who report a born-again experience also claim it as an identity."


Historically, the classic text from John 3 was consistently interpreted by the early church fathers as a reference to baptism. Modern Catholic interpreters have noted that the phrase 'born from above' or 'born again' is clarified as 'being born of water and Spirit'. Catholic commentator John F. McHugh notes, "Rebirth, and the commencement of this new life, are said to come about ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος, of water and spirit. This phrase (without the article) refers to a rebirth which the early Church regarded as taking place through baptism." The ''Catechism of the Catholic Church'' (CCC) notes that the essential elements of Christian initiation are: "proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion." Baptism gives the person the grace of forgiveness for all prior sins; it makes the newly baptized person a new creature and an adopted son of God; it incorporates them into the Body of Christ and creates a sacramental bond of unity leaving an indelible mark on our souls. "Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated." The Holy Spirit is involved with each aspect of the movement of grace. "The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion. ... Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high." The Catholic Church also teaches that under special circumstances the need for water baptism can be superseded by the Holy Spirit in a 'baptism of desire', such as when catechumens die or are martyred prior to receiving baptism. Pope John Paul II wrote in ''Catechesi Tradendae'' about "the problem of children baptized in infancy [who] come for catechesis in the parish without receiving any other initiation into the faith and still without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ.". He noted that "being a Christian means saying 'yes' to Jesus Christ, but let us remember that this 'yes' has two levels: It consists of surrendering to the word of God and relying on it, but it also means, at a later stage, endeavoring to know better—and better the profound meaning of this word." The modern expression being "born again" is really about the concept of "conversion". The National Directory of Catechesis (published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB) defines conversion as, "the acceptance of a personal relationship with Christ, a sincere adherence to him, and a willingness to conform one's life to his."''United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Directory of Catechesis'' (2005) p. 48 To put it more simply "Conversion to Christ involves making a genuine commitment to him and a personal decision to follow him as his disciple." Echoing the writings of Pope John Paul II, the ''National Directory of Catechesis'' describes a new intervention required by our modern world called the "New Evangelization". The New Evangelization is directed to the Church herself, to the baptized who were never effectively evangelized before, to those who have never made a personal commitment to Christ and the Gospel, to those formed by the values of the secular culture, to those who have lost a sense of faith, and to those who are alienated. Declan O'Sullivan, co-founder of the Catholic Men's Fellowship and knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, wrote that the "New Evangelization emphasizes the personal encounter with Jesus Christ as a pre-condition for spreading the gospel. The born-again experience is not just an emotional, mystical high; the really important matter is what happened in the convert's life after the moment or period of radical change."


The Lutheranism, Lutheran Church holds that "we are cleansed of our sins and born again and renewed in Holy Baptism by the Holy Ghost. But she also teaches that whoever is baptized must, through daily contrition and repentance, drown The Old Adam so that daily a new man come forth and arise who walks before God in righteousness and purity forever. She teaches that whoever lives in sins after his baptism has again lost the grace of baptism."


The phrase ''born again'' is mentioned in the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church in article XV, entitled "Of Christ alone without Sin". In part, it reads: "sin, as S. John saith, was not in Him. But all we the rest, although baptized and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things: and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Although the phrase "baptized and born again in Christ" occurs in Article XV, the reference is clearly to the scripture passage in John 3:3.


In Reformed theology, Holy Baptism is the sign and the seal of one's regeneration, which is of comfort to the believer. The time of one's regeneration, however, is a mystery to oneself according to the Canons of Dort. According to the Dutch Reformed Church, Reformed churches being born again refers to "the inward working of the Spirit which induces the sinner to respond to the effectual call". According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q 88, "the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for salvation." Effectual calling is "the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel." In Reformed theology, "regeneration precedes faith." Samuel Storms writes that, "Calvinists insist that the sole cause of regeneration or being born again is the will of God. God first sovereignly and efficaciously regenerates, and only in consequence of that do we act. Therefore, the individual is passive in regeneration, neither preparing himself nor making himself receptive to what God will do. Regeneration is a change wrought in us by God, not an autonomous act performed by us for ourselves."


In Methodism, the "new birth is necessary for salvation because it marks the move toward holiness. That comes with faith." John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, held that the New Birth "is that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it into life, when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness." In the life of a Christian, the new birth is considered the first work of grace. In keeping with Wesleyan-Arminian covenant theology, the ''Articles of Religion (Methodist), Articles of Religion'', in Article XVII—Of Baptism, state that
baptism Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian rite of initiation, admission and Adoption (theology), adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. It may be per ...

is a "sign of regeneration or the new birth." ''The Methodist Visitor'' in describing this doctrine, admonishes individuals: "'Ye must be born again.' Yield to God that He may perform this work in and for you. Admit Him to your heart. 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'"


Belief in the New Birth is an essential and distinctive element of evangelicalism, Evangelical Christianity. For Evangelical Christians, the new birth always occurs before Believer's baptism, baptism. In Baptist churches, it is synonymous with the Baptism with the Holy Spirit; however, it is considered a distinct experience in Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Movement, and the Neo-charismatic movement. "Although many evangelicals allow that conversion can be a process, generally they see it as a specific, identifiable moment of time when a person simply and sincerely trusts in Jesus Christ as savior."Mullen, MS., in Kurian, GT., ''The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization'', J. Wiley & Sons, 2012, p. 302. They understand Romans 10:9 to indicate a requirement of salvation: "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord', and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." So, "to be born again" means "to be saved" because to be saved, one must confess Jesus is Lord with one's mouth and believe it in one's heart. Also, to be born again means to follow Romans 10:10 that "with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved". For some evangelical denominations, it is the beginning of the sanctification of the believer. For others, it is an opportunity to receive entire sanctification.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that individuals do not have the power to choose to be born again, but that God calls and selects his followers "from above". Only those belonging to the "144,000#Religion, 144,000" are considered to be born again.


The ''Book of Mormon'' emphasizes the need for everyone to be reborn of God.

Disagreements between denominations

The term "born again" is used by several Christian denominations, but there are disagreements on what the term means, and whether members of other denominations are justified in claiming to be born-again Christians. Catholic Answers says: On the other hand, an Evangelical site argues: The Reformed view of regeneration may be set apart from other outlooks in at least two ways.

History and usage

Historically, Christianity has used various metaphors to describe its rite of initiation, that is, baptismal regeneration, spiritual regeneration via the sacrament of
baptism Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian rite of initiation, admission and Adoption (theology), adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. It may be per ...

by the power of the water and the Holy Spirit, spirit. This remains the common understanding in most of Christendom, held, for example, in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and in much of Protestantism. However, sometime after the Protestant Reformation, Reformation, Evangelicalism attributed greater significance to the expression ''born again''"born-again." ''Good Word Guide.'' London: A&C Black, 2007. Credo Reference. 30 July 2009 as an experience of religious conversion, symbolized by deep-water baptism, and rooted in a commitment to one's own personal faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. This same belief is, historically, also an integral part of Methodist doctrine, and is connected with the doctrine of Justification (theology), Justification. According to ''Encyclopædia Britannica'': According to J. Gordon Melton: According to Andrew Purves and Charles Partee: The term ''born again'' has become widely associated with the Evangelicalism, evangelical Christian renewal since the late 1960s, first in the United States and then around the world. Associated perhaps initially with Jesus movement, Jesus People and the Christian counterculture, ''born again'' came to refer to a conversion experience, accepting Jesus Christ as lord and savior in order to be saved from hell and given eternal life with God in heaven, and was increasingly used as a term to identify devout believers. By the mid-1970s, ''born again'' Christians were increasingly referred to in the mainstream media as part of the born again movement. In 1976, Watergate scandal, Watergate conspirator Chuck Colson's book ''Born Again'' gained international notice. Time (magazine), ''Time'' magazine named him "One of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America." The term was sufficiently prevalent so that during the year's presidential campaign, Democratic Party (United States), Democratic party nominee Jimmy Carter described himself as "born again" in the first ''Playboy'' magazine interview of an American presidential candidate. Colson describes his path to faith in conjunction with his criminal imprisonment and played a significant role in solidifying the "born again" identity as a cultural construct in the US. He writes that his spiritual experience followed considerable struggle and hesitancy to have a "personal encounter with God." He recalls: Jimmy Carter was the first President of the United States to publicly declare that he was born-again, in 1976. By the 1980 United States presidential election, 1980 campaign, all three major candidates stated that they had been born again. Sider and Knippers state that "Ronald Reagan's election that fall [was] aided by the votes of 61% of 'born-again' white Protestants." The Gallup (company), Gallup Organization reported that "In 2003, 42% of U.S. adults said they were born-again or evangelical; the 2004 percentage is 41%" and that, "African American, Black Americans are far more likely to identify themselves as born-again or evangelical, with 63% of blacks saying they are born-again, compared with 39% of white Americans. Republican Party (United States), Republicans are far more likely to say they are born-again (52%) than Democratic Party (United States), Democrats (36%) or independents (32%)." ''The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics'', referring to several studies, reports "that 'born-again' identification is associated with lower support for government anti-poverty programs." It also notes that "self-reported born-again" Christianity, "strongly shapes attitudes towards economic policy."

Names inspired by the term

The idea of "rebirth in Christ" has inspired some common European Given name, forenames: French René/Renée, Dutch Renaat/Renate, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Croatian Renatus, Renato/Renata, Latin Renatus/Renata, which all mean "reborn", "born again".''Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary'', W. & R. Chambers (1954) p.1355

See also

* Altar call – invitation to become a Christian; given at a church service or event * Baptismal regeneration – overview of doctrinal debate about the effect of the baptism rite * Born-again virgin – a person who, though not a virgin anymore, chooses to live as one * Child dedication – an act of consecration of children * Dvija, or twice-born – in Hinduism, a person who has formally taken on the roles of one of the first three Caste system in India, castes * Evangelism – the preaching of the Christian Gospel to others with the object of conversion * Justus Velsius#London: more religious turmoil, Justus Velsius – a 16th-century Dutch dissident who promoted the view that through a new birth man could become like Christ * Monergism – the belief that being born again is entirely God's work (and not the believer's work) * Sinner's prayer – the prayer of a person seeking forgiveness and wanting to become a Christian


External links

The New Birth
John Wesley, sermon No. 45. Wesley's teaching on being born again, and argument that it is fundamental to Christianity. {{DEFAULTSORT:Born Again (Christianity) Christian fundamentalism Christian terminology Evangelical theology