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NICODEMUS (nĭk'ō-dē'mŭs, Gr. Nikodēmos, victor over the people). A leading Pharisee, “a ruler of the Jews,” and a member of the Sanhedrin. Perhaps from curiosity, and possibly under conviction, but certainly led of God, he came to Jesus by night (
NICODEMUS nĭk’ ə de’ məs (Νικόδημος, G3773, victor over the people), a Pharisee and later a disciple of Jesus (
Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews which meant that he was a member of the court of seventy elders, known as the Sanhedrin, which was the highest religious body among the Jews. He also was described as “the” (article present in Gr.) teacher of Israel. This did not mean that he was a teacher superior to all other teachers, but simply that he was the well-known and acknowledged teacher who even had a place in the Sanhedrin. It could be expected of such a man that he knew the OT well indeed. As a teacher “of Israel” it was pointed out that he had a special responsibility for the religious instruction of the people of God. The fact that Nicodemus was a Pharisee was related directly to the conversation which Jesus had with him, for such a conversation would have been impossible with a Sadducee or a Herodian. Nicodemus was of interest to the author of the fourth gospel because he afforded an opportunity to set out Jesus’ teaching. Only the first part of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is set in dialogue (
As a Pharisee, Nicodemus’ entire religious hope rested upon his lineage, a physical descent from Abraham. The Pharisees were noted for their claim to be Abraham’s seed. It was this heir of Pharisaic teaching concerning the importance of racial heritage in religion that was introduced to Jesus’ teaching concerning the necessity of a new birth. Nicodemus is represented as having misunderstood the teaching about being born again. This came from the fact that the word “again” in Gr. was capable of other meanings, esp. important in the instance was the meaning “from above,” therefore “from God.” The lesson taught through the encounter with Nicodemus was the necessity of spiritual generation for the man who possessed God’s life, as against the teaching of the Pharisees who emphasized natural generation through Abraham.
Many have observed a progression in Nicodemus’ relationship to Jesus. He began with Jesus in “the night” which has suggested to most of the interpreters that he was hesitant and afraid to be seen with Jesus, coming as he did in secrecy out of regard for his reputation and to protect himself. At a later time Nicodemus defended, even if hesitantly, Jesus before the Sanhedrin, insisting “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
A Pharisee and a "ruler of the Jews," mentioned only by John. He
(1) interviewed Christ at Jerusalem and was taught by Him the doctrine of the New Birth (
(2) defended Him before the Sanhedrin (
(3) assisted at His burial (
1. The Interview:
2. The Defense:
3. The Burial:
By this open act of reverence Nicodemus at last made public profession of his being of the following of Christ. His wealth enabled him to provide the "mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds," with which the body of Jesus was embalmed (
Theand other apocryphal works narrate that Nicodemus gave evidence in favor of Christ at the trial before Pilate, that he was deprived of office and banished from Jerusalem by the hostile Jews, and that he was baptized by Peter and John. His remains were said to have been found in a common grave along with those of Gamaliel and Stephen.
Nicodemus is a type of the "well-instructed and thoughtful Jew who looked for the consummation of national hope to follow in the line along which he had himself gone, as being a continuation and not a new beginning" (Westcott). The manner in which the Gospel narrative traces the overcoming of his natural timidity and reluctant faith is in itself a beautiful illustration of the working of the Spirit, of how belief in theis in truth a new birth, and the entrance into eternal life.