"Whosoever is born (γεγεννημένος) of (ἐκ: out from) God (τοῦ Θεοῦ) doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born (γεγεννημένος) of (ἐκ: out from) God (τοῦ Θεοῦ)" 1 John 3:9

Πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει· καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ γεγέννηται


πᾶς ὁ γεννάω ἐκ ὁ θεός ἁμαρτία οὐ ποιέω ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτός ἐν αὐτός μένω καί οὐ δύναμαι ἁμαρτάνω ὅτι ἐκ ὁ θεός γεννάω


"For whatsoever (πᾶν: all, everyone) is born (γεγεννημένος) of (ἐκ: out from) God (τοῦ Θεοῦ) overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4

ὅτι πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ νικᾷ τὸν κόσμον· καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ νίκη ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον, ἡ πίστις ἡμῶν.


ὅτι πᾶς ὁ γεννάω ἐκ ὁ θεός νικάω ὁ κόσμος καί οὗτος εἰμί ὁ νίκη ὁ νικάω ὁ κόσμος ὁ πίστις ἡμᾶς

Is John saying that:

People can be born of God after natural birth?

Everyone born of God is born of a virgin, and the seed of God remains in him?

Or something else?

  • Can I ask you a question? By your last statements, are you suggesting that the impetus for your question essentially boils down to whether the Lord Jesus Christ being begotten is any different from Christians being begotten?
    – user862
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 4:04
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? How should we understand "he cannot sin" in 1 John 3:9?
    – Michael16
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 6:06

2 Answers 2


The point is that one cannot be simultaneously justified and sinning:

1Jn_1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

The author is calling Luther's paradigm of simul iustus et peccator a lie and those who embrace his teaching as "out of step" with "the truth":

In describing the new birth Jesus indicated that to be "born of" something is to acquire the character of it:

Joh 3:8 The wind blows where it wants to. You hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. That's the way it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

There are many metaphors for this but in the current passage it is described as "God's seed remains in him". The "seed of God" is "the scriptures":

Luk_8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word [message] of God.

1Pe 1:23 For you have been born again, not by a seed that perishes but by one that cannot perish—by the living and everlasting word of God. 1Pe 1:24 For "All human life is like grass, and all its glory is like a flower in the grass. The grass dries up and the flower drops off, 1Pe 1:25 but the word of the Lord lasts forever." Now this word is the good news that was announced to you.

  • 1
    Thank you WoundedEgo, but I'm concerned with the phrase γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ rather than an interpretation of the whole passage. However, I agree with your interpretation because contradictions that are presented as some deep revelation are nonsense, so (+1).
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 16:32
  • 1
    Nice. I like this. Thank you for the clarification. So does this mean that one can be born of God, but they don't need to be born of a virgin that God impregnated? And would this mean Yeshua "aquired" the character of God at some point in his lifespan?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 17:36
  • I think you have the beginning of a great, separate question. How unique was Jesus' experience? How like his brethren?
    – user10231
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 17:40
  • 1
    I think you're right. I'll start thinking about what I'd like to ask next. I'm going to keep this question open though, because there should be another answer coming shortly. Thank you.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 18:04

As the author does not refer to himself as 'John' but as the presbyter, or 'elder' (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1), I will use that term to refer to him. The attribution to John only came later in the second century. I will look at the epistle as a whole and establish the context before returning to how and why the elder speaks of being born of God.

The elder's community is facing an existential crisis and he must use all his skills to save it. W. Hall Harris III ('3. The Author’s Opponents and Their Teaching in 1 John') says 1 John 2:19 provides good reason for thinking that a split has taken place in the Johannine community and the author’s opponents now constitute a community of their own, thoroughly committed to spreading their understanding of who Jesus is. The former members are approaching those who remain behind and seeking to convert them:

1 John 2:26 (KJV): These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce (πλανώντων - 'lead astray') you.

It is this threat that the elder is dealing with. Burton L. Mack says, in Who Wrote the New Testament, pages 215-218, that the author of First John accuses his erstwhile brothers and sisters of hating those who remain with the community, and therefore both of being liars and of not loving God, even referring to them as the antiChrist or of being in league with the devil. In contrast, the members of the elder's flock are sinless as long as they remain loyal to him, part of the true faith.

1 John 3:8-9 uses hyperbole to contrast the former members of the community, sinners in league with the devil, with the elder's followers, who can not continue sinning (ἁμαρτάνειν):

1 John 3:8: He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
1 John 3:9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

The others may have said Jesus was not the Christ (as the elder implies in l John 2:22) or that the real (divine) Jesus did not “come in the flesh” at all (1 John 4:2-3), but those are accusations that the makes good use of in chapter 5, saying in 5:1:

1 John 5:1: Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

Having told the faithful that by believing Jesus is the Christ they are born of God, he goes on to say that by this faith they overcome the world:

1 John 5:4: For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

The elder is not addressing the issues of the wider church, so what he says should not be read too readily as applying to Christians in general and to our time. We can read from his hyperbole that he believed that people can be born of God after natural birth, but in any case this was only intended as a symbolic statement, given to encourage members of the community to remain true to their faith and not follow the 'perverted' teachings of those who had left the community.

  • I have a different interpretation of 1 John 2:19. I think it correlates nicely with Acts 15:36-41 when Paul refused to forgive Mark and seperated from Barnabas. If we can believe Galatians 1 and 2, Barnabas was still cool with Peter and John, but Paul obviously didn't care for those that "seemed". Anyways, thanks for the answer. It was interesting but I disagree with W. Hall Harris and Burton L. Mack.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 3:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.