In 1 John 5:6 John uses water and blood as symbolic short hand, clearly expecting his audience to know the meaning of these two liquids.

6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.

At its most basic 1 John 5:6 operates as a counter claim to those who hold that Jesus Christ came in water but not in blood. John holds that Jesus Christ came by both water and blood. A counter group appears to believe He came only in water. The structure of this verse as an implicit rebuttal begs the question of what does it refute. What is the meaning of water and blood?


12 Answers 12


According to 2 John 7, there was the widespread belief that Jesus had only "appeared" and therefore did not come in the flesh -- so-called incipient Gnosticism.

2 John 1:7 (NASB)
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

So in the epistle of First John, we see this "foot-stomping" that the very eternal life of God was robed in human flesh.

1 John 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

In other words, this eternal life was robed in the flesh, who was able to be physically touched, and he is equated with "eternal life."

1 John 5:20 (NASB)
20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

So he came in the flesh and he is "the true God." We therefore acknowledge that the mortal life of his body is blood, but we also see in the Gospel of John that the "eternal life" of Jesus Christ is "water." That is, Jesus described his eternal life as "living water."

John 4:13-14 (NASB) 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

So this eternal life is the "living water." So there we have the blood, which is the mortal life of the Person of Jesus Christ, and we have the water, which is the eternal life of the Person of Jesus Christ. When he died on the cross, both his mortal life (blood) and eternal life (water) left his body, and so the PERSON died both physically and spiritually. Please click here for an amplified discussion.

This particular revelation of "water + blood" comes from the Holy Spirit, who reveals (and therefore "testifies") divine truth to man according to 1 John 5:6 (and also Ephesians 3:5). And of course the resurrection of Jesus Christ (which was the blood + the water + the Spirit) also "testifies" together collectively according to 1 John 5:7 (and also Romans 1:3-4).


Forgive me for quoting extensively from The Mystery of God: Early Jewish Mysticism and the New Testament. It's the only book I've found in more than 15 years of studying the writings of John which so clearly gets the water and blood right.

The Standard View: Water and Blood as Baptism and Death

It is tempting to suppose that the reference to water in this passage is a reference to Jesus' baptism and the blood to his death on the cross. In that case, it would appear that we have a repudiation of a Christology which asserted that only the baptism, and not the suffering of the cross, was part of the coming of Christ.

This is a very common view. Here's how the New Living Translation "translates" this passage, "And Jesus Christ was revealed as God's Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross - not by water only, but by water and blood.

Put like this, the similarities with Gnostic Cerinthus' teaching seem very marked indeed (see Irenaeus, Haer. 1.26). After all, according to Irenaeus, Cerinthus believed that Christ descended in the form of a dove, but departed from him, so that only the human Jesus suffered and rose again, while the divine Christ remained impassable. 1 John 5:6 would seem to indicate that the false teachers accepted the presence of the heavenly Christ at baptism but not at the crucifixion.

Irenaus in his second century work Against Heresies mentions the teaching of one Cerinthus. "Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all. He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being."

Irenaus also records an antagonism between John and Cerinthus through an anecdote of Polycarp's, the disciple of John. "There are also those who heard from him (Polycarp) that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.”

Problems with Water and Blood Referring to Baptism and the Cross

But there's several problem's with this interpretation.

First of all, it is by no means obvious that the coming of Christ spoken of in 1 John refers to the events which characterized his life as a whole but speak rather of the mode of his coming (i.e. his incarnation, the reality of his humanity). This seems to be the case in 1 John 4:2 and 2 John 7, where the coming on both occasions is linked explicitly with the humanity of Jesus.

1 John 4:2 states, "by this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God." 2 John 7 reads, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh."

A more natural explanation of 5:6, therefore, is to suppose that the water and the blood refer to the nature of the incarnate Christ rather than events in his life. This is a view which would seem to be confirmed by the passage in John 19:34, which seems to parallel 1 John 5:6.

John 19:34, the only mention of blood in the crucifixion is an element of Christ's body and not simply the representation of an event. It says, "But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water."

The point is further supported by a study of blood in the writings John. Though the only reference to blood in John (1:7) may seem to point to the event of Jesus crucifixion its more likely that it refers to the physical nature of his sacrifice. In the gospel of John (specifically 1:13, 6:53) blood and flesh have a synonymous meaning.

Secondly, the other passage dealing with the false teaching in 4:2 is not so easy to interpret in the light of the teaching of Cerinthus as many have supposed. The issue here, and for that matter also in 2 John 7, is not the extent of the presence of the heavenly Christ throughout the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but the reality of the humanity of Jesus Christ. There seems to be no question here of the problem of a separation between the divine Christ and the humanity of Jesus. Rather, the author of 1 John repudiates the views of the those who reject the reality of the incarnation. This was not, as far as one can ascertain, part of Cerinthus's Christology. Thus, if we start with 4:2 as a summary of the Christology of the false teachers, we are driven to conclude that the issue was the reality of the humanity of Jesus Christ.

So what then does the water mean?

Blood and Water as the Human and Divine Natures of Christ.

How then are we to understand 5:6 in this light? Is this a separate christological deviation, or can it be related to the other aspects of the false teachings? The reference in 1 John 5:6 is not to events in Jesus' life but an affirmation of the reality of the incarnation by pointing out the character of Jesus' nature, in much the same way as the parallel passage in John 19:34. This view has the advantage of being consistent with 1 John 4:2 and 2 John 7. There are two further factors to be borne in mind when interpreting the passage in the latter way, either the reference to water and blood could reflect ancient beliefs about human beings, or the water and the blood could represent the two aspects of Jesus' nature, the water the divine, the blood the human. The second alternative fits better with the fact that the writer wants to deny a view that Jesus Christ came by water only, an idea which is not completely comprehensible if this passage is merely about the make-up of humans.

Emphasis on blood as a sign of the reality of the incarnation is found also in Ignatius, Smyrn. 6, and such an emphasis contrasts with those who deny the reality of his humanity by suggesting that the body of Jesus was made up of some other substance.

Ignatius in his letter says, "Let no man be deceived. Even the heavenly powers and the glory of the angels and the principalities both visible and invible, except they believe in the blood of Christ." In speaking of those who deny this he goes on to state, "They have no thought for love, nor for widow, the orphan, the afflicted, the prisoner, the hungry nor the thirsty. They withhold themselves from Communion and prayer, because they confess not that communion is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our sins, and which in His loving-kindness the Father raised up."

Wengst rightly points out the difficulty of finding examples of Gnostic teachers who considered that Jesus was made up of a watery substance, without any human blood. There is some evidence, however, to suggest that some later Gnostics did think of Christ as consisting of an ethereal substance (Tertullian, De carne Christi 6 and Adv. Marc. 3.11).

Tertullian states, "Thus the official record of both substances represents him as both man and God: on the one hand born, on the other not born: on the one hand fleshly, on the other spiritual: on the one hand weak, on the other exceeding strong: on the one hand dying, on the other living. That these two sets of attributes, the divine and the human, are each kept distinct from the other, is of course accounted for by the equal verity of each nature, both flesh and spirit being in full degree what they claim to be: the powers of the Spirit of God proved Him God, the sufferings proved there was the flesh of man."

Indeed, in a passage which explicitly quoted John 19:34, Origen himself seems to make a similar point against celsus in Contra Celsum 2.36. In this passage Origen sees the water which flowed from the side of the crucified Jesus as a miraculous indication of his divinity.

Celsus had asked, "What is the nature of the ichor in the body of the crucified Jesus? Is it such as flows in the bodies of the immortal god's". Celsus had drawn this conclusion in part from the Illiad, where Homer states concerning the wounding of Aphrodite, "and blood immortal flowed from the goddess, ichor, that which funds in the veins of the blessed divinities; since these eat no food, nor do they drink of the shinning wine, and therefore they have no blood and are called immortal.' As these authors say, Origen counters Celsus' spirit of mockery but does not deny that the water is a representation of Christ's diety.

Finally it should be noted that the notion of the water being a celestial substance which was part of Jesus' make-up is not as far-fetched as may appear at first sight. After all, it is apparent from certain Jewish cosmogonies that water is one of the pre-existent substances which is used to make the world. It is not inconceivable therefore, that the author of 1 John wants to make the point that, as well as a celestial substance, there was human blood in Jesus' veins.

  • 1
    (+1)If water represents his divine nature, then that would make the water and the spirit in that verse one single witness instead of two wouldn't it? Because it's equating the water and Spirit. I think the baptism and death is more convincing knowing that they believed that the divine Christ descended on the man at the baptism then departed before he was cricified
    – diego b
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 17:48
  • Thank you Matthew - see you one day soon.
    – Mat Kay
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 3:24

As Joseph noted, is it certainly that something like a proto-Gnosticism in view, although recent scholarship has pushed back the dates of Gnosticism considerably later than was earlier assumed. Still, ideas start somewhere, and we seem to be seeing evidence in 1 John of at least a sort of incipient Gnosticism sufficient to deny the full reality of the humanity of Jesus.

We should note the concern that John has with the Messianic character of Jesus. In 5:1, he has said that it is everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) who is born of God, and in 5:6, he notes the importance of believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Such a believer is the one who overcomes the world.

The term "Son of God," among other things, is Messianic and harkens back to passages such as Psalm 2 (see vv 7, 12 for explicit reference to "son" language spoken by Yahweh to His "Anointed," His Messiah). Passages such as these reinforce the Davidic element, and thus in John's context, the matter of genuine human lineage.

His use of "blood" here apparently is in line with John 1:13, where he uses the idea of being born "of blood" to refer to genealogical descent. Even if that is connoted, I think, however, John probably has the cross primarily in view (which if anything would be even more offensive to the view he is countering).

I lean this way due to the way John continues his argument in 5:7/8, where he refers to the "witness" (legal testimony) of τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, "the Spirit and the water and the blood." John himself describes the Baptizer as Jesus' witness in connection with His baptism (Jn 1:32—on "water" as baptism, see below); and of course, the Spirit as witness is a common enough theme (see e.g. Jn 15:26). Blood is more difficult, but it is not very clear to me that John would naturally say that the blood of descent "bears witness." That seems more appropriate to Jesus' cross, and of course all the Gospels give lengthy accounts of that, but John provides no Davidic genealogy, and in fact mentions David only once (Jn 7:42). This is not of course to deny that he believed Jesus was the Son of David; just a note that this is not a major element in the themes that concern him.

The other thing that makes the cross the referent attractive is that it fits well with the other two witnesses as well as with biblical ecclesiology. The Messiah has objective witnesses in the Spirit, the public baptism, and the cross; He has given the Church these witnesses, as well: the outpouring of the Spirit, water baptism, and the eucharist. Paul at least appeals to the Spirit and baptism to provide assurance of divine acceptance (see Gal 3:1–5; 3:27), and to the Eucharist to refer to participation in Christ's body and blood (see 1 Cor 10:16–17).

At any rate, I would think that the cross has heavy overtones in the "blood" reference here, even if one is apt to make genealogical descent central.

Joseph's view of "water" being a reference to eternal life is intriguing and a possible dimension given John's own usage. Indeed, again the overtone is probable.

I suspect, however, that the primary referent is to Jesus' own baptism, which (with the attendant descent of the Spirit, and the consequent divine identification of Jesus as "Son"—see my comments on Ps 2 for the significance of that) turned out to be His public designation and anointing as Yahweh's Messiah. This of course was recorded in all the Gospels, but in John's literature, the Baptizer recounts the event in John 1:32–34, offering the climactic statement, "And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."

It would seem that the "proto-Gnostics" (or whatever designation we assign to those John is opposing) had less problem with Jesus' baptism than with His death, which is not surprising; in the past, even angels had occasionally eaten, and therefore presumably spirits and manifestations of various sorts could be baptized with water. And so John pushes the point: Not by water only, but also by blood. In other words, Jesus was not only anointed as Messiah at His baptism; He died as the Son of God in fulfillment of that (offensive and mysterious) role.


@Matthew Miller

Remembering that John the apostle wrote this letter about the close of the first century of our Era, we may conclude that he wrote 60 years (or more) after the Jesus life's events he recall.

Now, according 1 Joh 5:6-8 there are 'three that bear witness on earth' about Jesus.

1) The Water - This term - through a synecdoche (a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, as in England 'lost by six wickets', meaning 'the English cricket team') refers to the baptism of the Messiah;

2) The Blood - This term - through a synecdoche, again - refers to the sacrificial death of the Messiah (1 Tim 2:5-6);

3) The Spirit (of God) - The Spirit did bear witness in several occasion and in several manner, demonstrating that Jesus of Nazareth was the real Messiah. For an example, "And Jesus, having been baptised, went up straightway from the water, and lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him" (Mat 3:16, Darby). The same Spirit enabled Jesus Christ to perform the - for God's glory - a lot of miracles. In fact, in one occasion the Messiah stated: "But if I cast out the deuils by the spirite of God: then is the kingdome of God come vpon you" (Mat 12:28, Bishops).

Finally, I've found a fine confirmation of this conclusion in the Adam Clarke's Commentary (on this verse; bold is mine): "'[...] he that came by water and blood' - Jesus was attested to be the Son of God and promised Messiah by water, i.e. his baptism, when the Spirit of God came down from heaven upon him, and the voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Jesus Christ came also by blood. He shed his blood for the sins of the world; and this was in accordance with all that the Jewish prophets had written concerning him. Here the apostle says that the Spirit witnesses this; that he came not by water only - being baptized, and baptizing men in his own name that they might be his followers and disciples; but by blood also - by his sacrificial death, without which the world could not be saved, and he could have had no disciples. As, therefore, the Spirit of God witnessed his being the Son of God at his baptism, and as the same Spirit in the prophets had witnessed that he should die a cruel, yet a sacrificial, death; he is said here to bear witness, because he is the Spirit of truth."

At this point Clarke (with modesty, starting the paragraph with a 'perhaps') added a very interesting comparison between Christ on one hand, and on the other hand, Moses and Aaron:

"Perhaps St. John makes here a mental comparison between Christ, and Moses and Aaron; to both of whom he opposed our Lord, and shows his superior excellence. Moses came by water - all the Israelites were baptized unto him in the cloud and in the sea, and thus became his flock and his disciples; 1Co_11:1, 1Co_11:2. Aaron came by blood - he entered into the holy of holies with the blood of the victim, to make atonement for sin. Moses initiated the people into the covenant of God by bringing them under the cloud and through the water. Aaron confirmed that covenant by shedding the blood, sprinkling part of it upon them, and the rest before the Lord in the holy of holies. Moses came only by water, Aaron only by blood; and both came as types. But Christ came both by water and blood, not typically, but really; not by the authority of another, but by his own. Jesus initiates his followers into the Christian covenant by the baptism of water, and confirms and seals to them the blessings of the covenant by an application of the blood of the atonement; thus purging their consciences, and purifying their souls. Thus, his religion is of infinitely greater efficacy than that in which Moses and Aaron were ministers. See Schoettgen."

Speaking about the testimony of the spirit of God, Clarke closed his comment so: "*It may be said, also, that the Spirit bears witness of Jesus by his testimony in the souls of genuine Christians, and by the spiritual gifts and miraculous powers with which he endowed the apostles and primitive believers. This is agreeable to what St. John says in his gospel, Joh_15:26, Joh_15:27 : When the Comforter is come, the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me; and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. This place the apostle seems to have in his eye; and this would naturally lead him to speak concerning the three witnesses, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, 1Jn_5:8."

I hope this data help to answer your question.

  • I have never thought of the Moses / Aaron and water / blood connection. I'll have to ponder that awhile. Thanks for brining in that connection.
    – wcochran
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 2:21

It may be that when 1 John 5:6 says by "water" it means physical birth and "blood" it means physical death. The Spirit is His presence.

That is how I understand the gospel of John 3:5-6 where Jesus says in v5 "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God," followed by v6 where Jesus says "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

I believe that verse 6 is parallel with verse 5. Water is equated with physical birth. Whereas, Spirit is equated with spiritual birth. So Jesus says you must not only be born physically but spiritually.

John spends many verses in the epistle of 1 John countering the gnostic arguments of the day floating around where some of them taught that Jesus either never came in the flesh, or some taught that Jesus was some kind of phantom, or some taught that the Christ nature entered Him at baptism and exited Him just before the crucifixion.

If this is the case, John may be saying that "the Word made flesh" (Jesus) physically came and physically died. John would then be saying that the Spirit bears witness of this truth because the Spirit is truth. The "water" "blood" and "Spirit" being in agreement in verse 8 would simply be summarizing the fact that Jesus was born, died, and resurrected.

This runs contrary to the gnostic teaching of the day but compliments John's other claims throughout the book defending Jesus' true Personhood.

1 John 1:1 - "That which we have heard have seen with our eyes our hands have handled"

1 John 4:2 - "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God"

1 John 4:3 - "Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God."

1 John 4:14 - "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world"

  • I'm very grateful for your participation here. We're a little different from a forum, so do take the site tour if you haven't already. Answers are expected to have informed argument, cite evidence (primary and secondary). You may want to see What are we looking for in answers?. Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 4:08
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    The connection with John 3 is important since John (the same Author) quotes Christ using two of the three terms: "water" and "spirit". None of the other answers (which are excellent btw) even mention John 3. So your response is more informed in that regard (thus I don't understand @paul-vargas comment).
    – wcochran
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 21:53

What is the meaning of “water and blood” in 1 John 5:6?

Jesus came into the world and there are three that testify (verse 7) that Jesus is the son of God- the water- the blood, and -the spirit

1 John 5:5-8 (NASB)

5 "Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement."

1/ The Water.

The water was a witness , when Jesus goes to John the Baptizer at the Jordan river to be baptized, thus he presented himself to God to do God's will, on coming up from the water, God announces:“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.( Mat. 3:17b NASB)

Matthew 3:13,16,17 NASB

The Baptism of Jesus

13 "Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

2/ The Blood.

Jesus gave his blood as a ransom for the forgiveness of our trespasses , and his subsequent resurrection by God as an immortal spirit in heaven ,showed that Jesus is God's Son.

1 Peter 1:18-20 (NASB)

18 "Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared [b]in these last times for the sake of you."

1 Peter 3:18 (NASB)

18 "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the [a]spirit."

3/ The holy spirit.

The holy spirit also bears witness that Jesus is the Son of God, by descending like a dove on Jesus on his baptism , this enabled him to: "doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38b NASB)

32 "Then John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. 33 And I did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining—this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have both seen and testified that this man is the Chosen One of God.”


I take the view that the water and blood refer to Jesus Christs human birth.

1 John 5:6

6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

1.The Spirit is life, so is able to testify.

2 The blood is life,so is able to testify.

3 The water is life,so is able to testify.

Concerning the blood,

Leviticus 17:11

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.'

One can understand from the above scripture that it is the blood that gives life to the flesh and without the blood there is no life.

John 1:14 New International Version (NIV)

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

One can now see that the "word", (Jesus Christ), became flesh.Not just flesh, but flesh and blood and it is the blood that testifies because the blood is life.

Take the death of Abel for example,his blood still testifies today,Please read here

Genesis 4:10-11

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

Concerning the water,

People consider that the water and the spirit are one, in the text in question, but in his comment to the answer from Matthew Miller,diego b correctly makes the point that,

If water represents his divine nature, then that would make the water and the spirit in that verse one single witness instead of two wouldn't it? Because it's equating the water and Spirit.(This is a very important statement and the reader needs to "grasp this", to gain understanding with regards to water and spirit association)

So the water is distinct from the spirit and it is also distinct from the blood.But how can water be life and be able to testify?

When the virgin carried in her womb the baby Jesus,the baby developed and grew inside a bag of fluid called the amniotic sac. When it was time for Jesus to be born, the sac breaks and the amniotic fluid drains out through the vagina. This is the waters breaking.

Amniotic fluid

The amniotic sac is filled with clear, pale, straw-coloured fluid in which the unborn baby floats and moves.

The amniotic fluid helps to cushion the baby from bumps and injury, and maintains constant temperature for the baby. (in other words,it is "life water").

It also helps your baby's lungs, digestive system and musculoskeletal system to develop.

The amniotic sac starts to form and fill with fluid within days of a woman conceiving.

Amniotic fluid is mainly water. The unborn baby swallows the amniotic fluid and passes tiny amounts of urine into the fluid.

The amount of amniotic fluid increases gradually during pregnancy until about week 38, when it reduces slightly until the baby's born.

In a comment from @ rhetorician concerning another question born of water and Spirit,his view is,

Please forgive my lateness in entering the fray, but I have thought for years that since Nicodemus raised the question of natural, physical birth, Jesus was correcting him by saying, in effect, "No, Nicodemus, you must be born both naturally and spiritually." The bursting of the amniotic sac of a mother just prior to childbirth is the birth of "water." We often say of this event, "Her water broke!"

It can be said, (considering the data given) that the water contained in the amniotic sac
does function as "life water" and this life water protects the baby Jesus until the virgin Marys' waters break. One can now understand how, along with the blood and the Spirit,the water is able to testify-because the water is life, but this water is not to be confused with the term "living water", which is spiritual water and not human water.This question helps to explain my reasoning born of water and Spirit.


I hold to my view that,the scripture in question means "natural childbirth", and that Jesus Christ came into this world by way of human childbirth through water and blood.

He came by way of human water, which today, still testifies.

He came by way of human blood, which today, still testifies

His human life and death is clarified by the outpouring of blood and water at the crucifixion.

When they came to Jesus, He was already dead so they did not break His legs (John 19:33). Instead, the soldiers pierced His side (John 19:34) to assure that He was dead. In doing this, it is reported that “blood and water came out”


The verbal noun ἔρχομαι (he that came) is in the second aorist tense which has to do with the spelling of the word and differs in no other way from the regular aorist.

Tense - Aorist The aorist tense is characterized by its emphasis on punctiliar action; that is, the concept of the verb is considered without regard for past, present, or future time. There is no direct or clear English equivalent for this tense, though it is generally rendered as a simple past tense in most translations. The events described by the aorist tense are classified into a number of categories by grammarians. The most common of these include a view of the action as having begun from a certain point ("inceptive aorist"), or having ended at a certain point ("cumulative aorist"), or merely existing at a certain point ("punctiliar aorist"). The categorization of other cases can be found in Greek reference grammars. The English reader need not concern himself with most of these finer points concerning the aorist tense, since in most cases they cannot be rendered accurately in English translation, being fine points of Greek exegesis only. The common practice of rendering an aorist by a simple English past tense should suffice in most cases. (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?page=12&strongs=g2064&t=nasb#lexResults

It is usually rendered in English past tense because there is no English equivalent but the tense has no particular linkage to past, present, or future. Therefore the phrase in 1 John "he that came" need not refer specifically to Jesus' birth, baptism, or death only but may, rather, refer to all of the incarnation as necessary parts of the larger concept of the Messiah coming into the Kingdom.

"Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” - Luke 17:20-21

"Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” - Luke 24:26

The word ἔρχομαι allows definite or metaphorical meanings and so might indicate a single, temporal change in location or it could refer to something more like the process of a rise to power. Since Jesus, in this passage, came by water and blood it is difficult to assume these refer to both baptism and crucifixion as a single temporal event. If a single event is necessary it would have to be the water and blood that came out of his side.

Given that much of the larger context of 1 John seems devoted to asserting the literal nature of the Incarnation as both "in the flesh" and "Son of God" and, since the verb allows metaphorical interpretation that is not time specific it seems acceptable to include birth, baptism, death, and resurrection; all of which being proof that Jesus is the Son of God with power. John's point seems to be that if you're not believing all of it as a complete package then you don't really have any of it.

"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord," Romans 1:1-4 (bold added)


I do not see any evidence for the claim that "1 John 5:6 operates as a counter claim to those who hold that Jesus Christ came in water but not in blood." Instead, John seems to emphasize his point by three witnesses. Water is one witness, but it is not alone. It is supported by two other witnesses, the blood and the Spirit. In Jewish thought and tradition, a matter will stand on the basis of two or three witnesses. One witness is not enough.

It is commonly accepted that one of the main concerns John had when he wrote both the first and second letter was to go against the false teaching of Docetism which basically states that Jesus was not a true human being but was a spirit who appeared in the form of a person. This is especially clear from 1 John 2.18-23, 26, 4.1-6, and 2 John 7. The proof case John gives is whether a person acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who "came in the flesh," that is, that Jesus was sent from God into this world as a human being. (John uses the word "flesh" to denote a human being, while Paul primarily uses the same word to denote what belongs to the old nature of Adam in contrast to the new nature of Christ in us).

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2 ESV)

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 7 ESV)

The word "coming" in 5.6 refers primarily to Jesus' coming into the world, that is, to his birth. But, in a wider sense, it also refers to his coming from God to live as a human being on earth.

It is most likely that the two metonymies of water and blood refer to two different events rather than two aspects of the same event. This follows from verse 8 which says that there are three different witnesses and they agree in their witness to Jesus' humanity: the water, the blood, and the Spirit.

The blood metonymy may allude to how blood was shed when Jesus died. The word "blood" is commonly used in the New Testament as a figure of speech denoting death (for example, Acts 5.28 "You are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood"). If Jesus had only had the appearance of a human body, no blood would have come out when he died-a spirit does not have blood (cf. John 19.34). Therefore, when his death was accompanied by the shedding of blood, it was a witness to (or proof of) his humanity. Jesus had to go through a human death experience with the shedding of real blood, because he was a true human and not just a spirit that left the body before he died.

The water metonymy is more difficult. In the context of water in a well in John 4, Jesus uses the metaphor of "living water" referring to the Holy Spirit, who is the source of eternal and spiritual life in a person. The same metaphor is used in John 7.38-39 where it is explicitly stated that it refers to the Holy Spirit. These references to living water are not similar enough to the figure of speech in 1 John 5.6 to shed any light on its use there. As far as I know, there is only one other place in the Bible where the word "water," unqualified by another word, is used in a figurative way, and that is John 3.5, which has traditionally been as puzzling to commentators as 1 John 5.6.

There are passages in which the word "water" is part of a cleansing motif that has a metaphorical sense. That is, in these contexts, the cleansing with water does not refer to a physical bath but to a spiritual cleansing. However, in all such cases, the figurative meaning is carried by a word for cleansing (occasionally with the word "water" added) but never by the word "water" alone. No such cleansing is in view in John 3.5, but rather the theme of birth, so these cleansing contexts are not relevant for a discussion of John 3.5 and 1 John 5.6.

Jesus "came through water and blood" fits nicely with the water being a reference to his physical birth. His birth was undoubtedly preceded by a flow of water, for Jesus was born just like any other human baby. A spirit is not "born" in this way. Jesus Christ was a human being going through birth and through death. Not only was he born as other human beings are born, with water coming out, but the manner of his death also showed that he was truly a human being, in that when he was speared in the side, blood came out.

The common suggestion that "water" refers to baptism does not support the crucial point that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. That God after his baptism says "This is my Son" is not a witness to the fact that Christ came in the flesh. It witnesses to Jesus as the Son of God.

I discussed this in a bit more detail here.


The purpose of 1 John is not in dispute and has been established by the other answers, namely to counter false teachings which doubted the historicity (the physicality) of Jesus's full incarnation into humanity, not only in birth but also in death. In 1 John 5:5-10, John added as proof the testimonies of the three: the Spirit, the water, and the blood.

Not happy with the existing answers, bagpipes wanted another interpretation:

I know that Jesus left this world by way of "water and blood", but the emphasis in the text is on his coming into the world and not leaving the world.If you choose to answer please show your work so i can understand how you came to your conclusion.

But why separate Jesus's "coming into" and "leaving" the world? The doctrine of incarnation's main point, clarified to a great extent in the creeds that Jesus is fully God and fully man, considers Jesus's human mission as a single package deal consisting of the following:

  • entered creation as a real human baby as a physical descendant of David (John 7:42),
  • fulfilled what Israel couldn't do (lived sinless life, 1 John 3:5),
  • during physical water baptism, John the Baptist saw God testifying that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:32-34),
  • represented the full humanity as the second Adam (1 Cor 15:21-22),
  • defeated Satan by dying obediently on the cross (Col 2:11-14)

The various false teachings "picked and chose", denying Jesus the full humanity in one or more aspects of Jesus's "mission". Apostle John in his gospel and letters defended Jesus's full humanity in all of his human ministry/incarnation. Therefore it looks like the "standard view" does make sense and probably your reading of "coming into the world and not leaving the world" is a translation issue.

The following is from the 2012 Evangelical Exegetical Commentary on 1, 2, & 3 John by Gary Derickson.

Derickson's translation of 5:6-8 [unlike most translations where the same English word "by" is used, he emphasized the 2 different Greek words by translating them differently: διὰ -> "through" and ἐν -> "by"]:

This is the One coming through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not only by water but by water and by blood; and the Spirit is the one testifying, because the Spirit is the truth. So that there are three who bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and the three agree as one.

Commentary on 5:6 [emphasis mine]:

Jesus, as the Son of God, came in the flesh. John now moves to describe Jesus in terms of His earthly ministry. This complex sentence introduces truths about Jesus that one must believe as part of the definition of Jesus as the Son of God. It clarifies the truth of Jesus’ physical life and ministry on earth and the physical reality of His crucifixion. It is another way of affirming His humanity after clearly affirming His deity in the previous verses.

Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἐλθὼν διʼ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος, Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, “This is the One coming through water and blood, Jesus Christ.” Introducing this sentence with the emphatic pronoun οὗτός whose referent is the subject of the last sentence (Painter, 302; Westcott, 181), John uses the now familiar designation for Jesus in this epistle (Brooke, 134; Culy, 124).

He describes Jesus with the articular aorist participle ὁ ἐλθὼν and so focuses attention on His incarnation as a completed historical event (Brooke, 134; Haas, de Jonge, and Swellengrebel, 137; Kistemaker, 355; Lenski, 525; Westcott, 181). He describes Jesus’ incarnational ministry as “coming through water and blood.” The sequence of nouns is certainly not accidental (Bruce, 118). However, to what do they refer? Both are metonymies in which water and blood symbolize something else to which they are each related

Six major views on the meaning of “water and blood” have been proposed:

(1) The water and blood refer to the sacraments Schnackenburg, 257–60) [skipped]

(2) This is a reference to the water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side when thrust through with the spear, and so is symbolic of Jesus’ death on the cross (Brown, 578; Culpepper, 272; Grayston, 136–37; Harris, 212–13; Smith, 123–24; Thompson, 133) [skipped]

(3) It is a reference to Jesus’ incarnation, with water indicating His birth and blood referring to His crucifixion (Culy, 126). The idea of baptism is strengthened in that the first three references to “water” in the Gospel of John have to do with baptism by John the Baptist ἐν ὕδατι. Burge (201) describes this as a “summing up the totality of Jesus’ incarnational ministry.” He notes that both the third and this view see the false teachers “demoted the cross.” Baptism is both the predominant and best of these last two options (Brown, 576–78; Bruce, 118; Bultmann, 79–80; Hobbs, 126; Marshall, 231–32; Schnackenburg, 257; Smalley, 278). If water is a reference to Jesus’ birth, then John is drawing attention to Jesus’ humanity. Lalleman gives two arguments against “water” meaning Jesus’ baptism: (a) “The Gospel and the epistles do not explicitly mention the baptism of Jesus; in the case of the Gospel this is a deliberate omission.” (b) this “would seem to accept the Docetic position that Christ had not been the incarnate son from the beginning, but only from his baptism.” Therefore, he takes “water” to be “referring to the very beginning of Christ’s life; as such it can be a circumlocution of birth or of that which causes birth, the male seed.” Since “ ‘blood’ is taken by most to refer to Jesus’ death, to believe in his ‘coming in water (only)’ would amount to a denial of his death.” He then argues that “blood” here should be understood in light of John 1:13 and so “represents the corporeal-human side of existence” and concludes “that blood has a physiological sense here, and that in combination with ἔρχομαι it refers to the beginning of life.” Lieu (210) rejects this on the basis that it is not polemically effective and might be used by the docetic opponents against John. If it is a reference to His baptism, the focus is on His ministry. The birth-death view accords best with John’s contention with Cerinthus, who claimed that Jesus, the man, was indwelt by the Christ Spirit at His baptism and deserted by the same Spirit before His death. However, this is a case where context should contribute more to our understanding than a theorized historical background. The baptism-death view connects to Jesus’ ministry, starting with His public appearance and ending with His finished work on the cross.

(4) It is a reference to His incarnation, with water referring to Jesus’ baptism and blood again referring to His crucifixion (Akin, 196; Barker, 350; Brooke, 133; Bruce, 118–19; Bultmann, 80; Burdick, 366; Haas, de Jonge, and Swellengrebel, 137–38; Houlden, 127; Kruse, 177; Marshall, 232–33; Moody, 105–6; Perkins, 61; Smalley, 278–79; Smith, 123; Stott, 180–81; Walls and Anders, 223; Yarbrough, 282) [skipped]

(5) The “water” represents the giving of the Holy Spirit (Grayston, 19–20; Strecker, 186) [skipped]

(6) Kruse (174–80) and de Boer argue for “water” to mean Jesus’ baptismal ministry depicted in John’s Gospel (John 3:22; 4:1–2) [skipped]

John’s use of διὰ may prove helpful in understanding his point. The two best options for how it is being used here are either instrumental (Brooke, 135; Lenski, 525–26) or attendant circumstance. Hodges (218) argues for this being an attendant circumstantial use of the preposition with the resulting sense of “with respect to” or “in relationship to,” and so meaning that “He came to be baptized and to die. Not just to be baptized.” Thus John would be focusing on the purpose of His coming. However, it is better seen as instrumental, giving the means of His coming, with the resultant translation of “through” (Brown, 573). This is strengthened by John’s use of ἐν with the (anaphoric) articular nouns in the following clause to clarify his meaning here. John is focusing on both the fact of these events and that they were the means by which Jesus accomplished His incarnational ministry.

Of note is John’s use of the title, “Jesus Christ.” De Jonge sees Χριστός to be interchangeable with the expression ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ in 5:5. However, it is more likely connected to the confession of 5:1 and designed to stress His humanity and deity. As Painter (303) notes well: “The use of the double name affirms the identity of the human Jesus and the divine Christ in one Jesus Christ.”

οὐκ ἐν τῷ ὕδατι μόνον ἀλλʼ ἐν τῷ ὕδατι καὶ ἐν τῷ αἵματι·, “not only by water but by water and by blood.” John changes the preposition from διὰ to ἐν in this following clause. His use of the dative proves as troublesome as his namesake, John the Baptist, when he said that Jesus would baptize “in the Holy Spirit and fire” (ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί). Just as in Luke the preposition could have a range of nuances, so too, here with both “water” and “blood.” The parenthetical role of this clause, explaining what he means by the previous clause, indicates that he intends ἐν to communicate the same sense as διὰ. Thus, it seems best to see these as datives of means. The means Jesus chose to use in “coming” included water and blood, His baptism and death. John’s use of διὰ singularly in the first clause with both nouns while repeating ἐν in the following clause indicates that John saw Jesus’ incarnational ministry as a single event, but is emphasizing that Jesus came in both modes and that they are distinct. Painter (303) notes: “The overlapping use of these prepositions confirms a common translation of ‘by’ indicating agency (dia) and instrumentality (en).” Culy (126) also sees an intended difference between διὰ and ἐν in this and the previous verse. He says it “may be appropriate … to maintain that διὰ focuses on the actual vehicle or instrument by which the event was carried out, while ἐν focuses more on the circumstances in which the event took place.”

Further, his use of the adverb μόνον with the correlative conjunctions, οὐκ … ἀλλʼ … καὶ, along with limiting the referent of ὕδωρ, clarifies that the two, “water” and “blood” are to be viewed as describing the same event viewed in its entirety. Whereas the nouns ὕδωρ and αἵμα were anarthrous in the previous clause, they are articular here. However, no significance should be given their articular state since both nouns naturally follow the preposition that makes them definite. These articles are simply anaphoric, clarifying that the water and blood referred to is the same as that described in the previous clause. John’s point is that both aspects of Jesus’ ministry are in view, its beginning and end, as they relate to His purpose in coming. John’s focus is not on just why Jesus came, but that all He did demonstrated His Sonship. This accords with the focus of John’s Gospel on Jesus as the Son of God, who came to reveal His Father.

  • 1
    @Bagpipes I appreciate the bounty. I learned a lot while contributing to this site, helping us to understand the Bible more for improving our faith. Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 16:06

Hypocratic Treat Of Diet, (Περὶ διαίτης, De Victu) Hippocrate, Fayard, 1992, page 557

Man, like other living beings, is made up of two primary substances, fire and water, inseparable and complementary. The fire, hot and dry, has for property to move; the water, cold and humid, has for property to nourish, but the changes operate between these two elements from the mixtures, what explains the diversity of the living beings. Birth is the gathering of these elements, and death, separation.

This is a good way of research, but I am stressed to make the connection to the Jewish context, surely the answer must be in Philo of Alexandria.

and you say that because there is mortal substance there must also be immortal substance. On that showing, because there are mortal men, there are also some that are immortal, and because there are men born on land, there are men born in the water.

and since it is agreed that the gods are supremely happy, and no one can be happy without virtue, and virtue cannot exist without reason, and reason is only found in the human shape, it fouows that the gods possess the form of man. Yet their form is not corporeal, but only resembles bodily substance ; it does not contain blood, but the semblance of blood.



This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. (1 John 5:6-9)

…What is the meaning of water and blood?

Here are the next two verses.

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:10-11)

It appears another party had been arguing that Jesus became the Son of God at His baptism and ceased to have that status prior to His passion. John directly addressed that error with “but by water and blood”, meaning Jesus’ baptism and His death on the cross. John was claiming that the events were inseparable from the testimony given by the Spirit, who is the truth. If anyone denied that, he’d be calling God “a liar” (v. 10).

Note: One thing that might be blocking our understanding of this is time, something we humans always have to deal with during life on earth. The Trinity, however, isn’t forced to deal with time like we are. They can see our events in a completely different way.

  • We're a little different from other sites, we aren't a forum. Please expand this answer after reading through this.
    – Dan
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 1:40
  • @Dan This answer of Dec 16, 2019 is completely different from the one I posted and then deleted in 2013. Thanks Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 21:10

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