Sacraments & Sacramentals

What Does “Water and Spirit” Mean?

by Steve Ray on September 26, 2016

Since we are at the VERY place where Jesus was baptized in water and the Spirit came down, I thought I would share this post again. A while ago a Protestant friend tried to prove that Born Again by “water and Spirit” did not mean baptism. Here is one paragraph that he sent me:

In John, chapter 3, Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews and a Pharisee, that one must be born ‘from above’ (Gr. anothen) in order to enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus asked if one could enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born. But Jesus told him that one must be born ‘of the Spirit’ in order to enter the kingdom of God.

A better translation of John 3.5 would read: “… except a man be born of water—even of the Spirit—he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” The little greek word kai is often translated “even”—which I believe better conveys the Lord’s meaning here. He is contrasting the water of the womb and fleshly birth, with the water of the Spirit and heavenly birth.

Water is often symbolic of the Holy Spirit in scripture (John 4.10-14; 7.37-39; Revelation 22.1, 17; Isaiah 12.3; 44.3; Matthew 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33).

So I responded:

Hello Friend

Thanks for your recent e-mail. In reading even the first part of the article you sent I see it is exactly the arguments I used before I realized better and became Catholic. The paragraph referred to is utter nonsense and though the author cites a lot of Scripture, his reasoning and conclusion are blatantly unscriptural. I tried to explain to you the biblical understanding of “born again” when we had lunch but I saw at the time that you either were not listening or it went right over your head — I’m not sure which.

1_9_baptism_lordMy Comments:
First, the Greek word anothen can and does mean both “born again” or “born from above”. They both apply. John frequently uses words with two meanings (eg. pneuma which means both “wind” and “spirit”).

Born of water and the Spirit“: Using the word “even” instead of “and“ is NOT a better translation. It is a cop-out. The little Greek word “kai” is the common word for “and” and only if someone has a Fundamentalist doctrinal bias would they try to slip the word “even” into the translation. It is dishonest and I am surprised you would fall for it.

John 3:5 in the best Evangelical Translations of the Bible
Here are you major Protestant translations. Notice NONE of them cheat and use the word “even”! Why not? Because they know something your web author is being dishonest about. Like you said to me, “Please study carefully with an open heart to the Holy Spirit” (and not to denominational bigots who twist Scripture to teach the doctrines of men). This is just one sampling of how I could decimate the whole article if I considered it worthy of my time — which I don’t.

The King James Version The New International Version Young’s Literal Translation The Revised Standard Version The New Jerusalem Bible The Good News Translation The Contemporary English Version
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 5 Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say to thee, If any one may not be born of water, and the Spirit, he is not able to enter into the reign of God; 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 5 Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; 5 “I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus. “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 5 Jesus answered: I tell you for certain that before you can get into God’s kingdom, you must be born not only by water, but by the Spirit.

So, if the best translation is of kai is actually “even”, then why don’t the best Protesant translations use “even” instead of “and“? Huh?

The Very First Christians (unanimously!!)
By the way, notice how the very first Christians interpreted John 3:5 below. Look how far you have strayed for the Early Church, the followers of the first apostles and the martyrs and champions of the faith.

St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165), “Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated [reborn]: in the name of God the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Except you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ . . . The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles” (The First Apology 1, 61) (Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985],1:183).

St. Theophilus of Antioch (died c. 185 A.D.), who first coined the word “Trinity,” writes, “Those things which were created from the waters [Gen 1] were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration” (To Autolycus 2, 16) (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970], 1:75).

Origen (c. 185-c. 254) “The Church received from the Apostles the tradition [custom] of giving Baptism even to infants. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentary on Romans 5, 9) (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, 1:209).

St. Augustine (AD 354-430) “Who is so wicked as to want to exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven by prohibiting their being baptized and born again in Christ?” (Pecc. merit. 3, 6, 12) (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publ., 1971], 5:244). “This [infant baptism] the Church always had, always held; this she received from the faith of our ancestors; this she perseveringly guards even to the end” (Sermon 11, De Verb Apost) (Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. Charles Herbermann, et al, [New York: Robert Appleton, 1907], 2:270).

Protestant Commentators
“Even” (no pun intended) scholarly Evangelical commentators will tell you the truth about this verse:

Baptist commentator George Beasley-Murray wrote in one of the most solid Evangelical commentaries on John’s Gospel, “Suggestions like these do not do justice to the text [of John 3:5] and have not commended themselves to scholarly opinion. It would seem that the text relates birth from above to baptism and the Holy Spirit” (Word Biblical Commentary: John, [Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987],36:48).

Protestant commentator R.V.G. Tasker agreed, “In light of the reference to the practice by Jesus of water baptism in verse 22, it is difficult to avoid construing the words ‘of water and of the Spirit’ conjunctively, and regarding them as a description of Christian baptism, in which cleansing and endowment are both essential elements” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Gospel According to St. John [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publ., 1977], 4: 71).

Look what Martin Luther said!  “Here [John 3:5] Christ is speaking of Baptism, of real and natural water such as a cow may drink. . . . Here Christ also speaks of the Holy Spirit and teaches us to regard Baptism as a spiritual, yes, a Spirit-filled water, in which the Holy Spirit is present and active. . . . And thus the person who has been baptized is said to be born anew. . . . . In this passage Christ declares that whoever is not born anew of the water and the Holy Spirit cannot come into the kingdom of God. Therefore God’s words dare not be tampered with. Of course, we are well aware that Baptism is natural water. But after the Holy Spirit is added to it, we have more than mere water. It becomes a veritable bath of rejuvenation, a living bath which washes and purges man of sin and death, which cleanses him of all sin” (“Sermons on the Gospel of St. John” Luther’s Works ed. Jaroslav Pelikan [St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publ. House, 1957], 22:283).

Keep an open mind Friend! Come home to where you belong.


A man sent a challenge that the Fathers of the Church claim the Eucharist is a symbol and therefore NOT the Real Presence of Christ. Is that true? My friend Gary Michuta answers the question.

Thanks for including me in on this conversation. Brian, there are three issues that commonly trip up non-Catholics when they read the early fathers on the Eucharist.

 The first obstacle is their inability to understand the difference between a complimentary statement and a contradictory statement. For example, the two following statements can be complimentary (that is both true in the same manner and time):

1) This ball is red
2) This ball is round.

 A contradictory statement cannot be true in the same manner and at the same time. for example:

1) This ball is red
2) This ball is NOT red

 When an early father says that Eucharist is a symbol, it is not necessarily contradictory since the Eucharist can be both a symbol and the reality of Christ’s body and blood. A statement that would contradict Catholic teaching would be The Eucharist is ONLY a symbol.

 This brings up the second stumbling block. Catholic teaching on the Eucharist is much more complex than saying it is Christ’s body and blood (as you know). It is a Sacrament, which is a visible sign (symbol, type, figure) that points to an invisible reality (Christ Himself). Many non-Catholics are surprised that the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is a symbol (in regards to the Sacramental species or its outward appearances). 

 The Council of Trent, for example, said, “This, indeed, the most Holy Eucharist has in common with the other sacraments, that is a “symbol of a sacred thing and a visible form of an invisible grace (DS 1639). It elsewhere says that Christ “offered to the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine, and under the symbols of those same things gave to the apostles… so that we might partake.” (DS 1740). The old Roman Catechism (the Catechism of the Council of Trent) speaks in the same way. When the early Fathers speak of the Eucharist in terms of its species (mode in which it is given to us), it is correct to use terms like symbols, figures, types, and the like. However, when one is speaking about the invisible reality of the Eucharist (Christ Himself) we cannot speak of it as a symbolic (see DS 1651). 

 The third stumbling block, which this author seems totally oblivious, is the fact that the early Fathers interpreted Scripture according to a four-fold sense (literal, allegorical, moral and  anagogical). Protestantism recognizes only one sense of Scripture, the literal (ala  the Westminster Confession, 1, 9). There were schools in the ancient Church that specialized on these different senses. Antioch was known for its literal interpretations. Alexandria was known for its allegorical interpretations.

It’s not surprising that the two examples the author gives as being most surprising to Catholics are Clement and Origen. What a shock! They both taught in Alexandria and both are known for their allegorical interpretation. The quotes he gives shows very clearly that they are not talking about the literal sense of Christ’s words, but the allegorical (or perhaps moral / spiritual sense). But this sense tells us nothing about what the Eucharist truly, literally, is.

The Eucharist is both a symbol and IS what it symbolizes. 


What’s the Deal with Infant Baptism?

by Steve Ray on August 16, 2016

What’s the Deal with Infant Baptism?
by Steve Ray

IMG_2819a sm.jpgMy past tradition — Fundamentalist Baptist — rejected Infant Baptism. In fact, the Baptist tradition originated during the “Reformation” when they broke from Rome (and Luther) and promoted “ana-baptism” which means — baptized again.

The infant baptism taught by the Catholic Church was utterly rejected and they “re-baptized” their converts. Baptists misunderstood Scripture and rejected the monolithic witness of the early Church.

(Note: the baby in the picture is my grandson Joshua Thomas Ray, son of Jesse and Anna Ray. Deacon Dan Foley is baptizing Joshua. Click on the image for a larger picture.)

So, why was I a Baptist? Good question. I think it was because I was born with a pair of Baptist glasses strapped to my head — glasses which focused my vision from Day One.

Glasses.jpgBy the way, there are many types of “glasses” available and we all wear one kind or another — Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, atheists, secularist, Lutheran, Catholic, Hindu, etc. We see the world through the lenses of our accepted (or ingrained) tradition. Everything is interpreted through the pair of glasses we have accepted.

But back to Baptism: Is baptism for adults only? Is it correct to limit it to “believers’ baptism”? How does the Jewish background influence our view of baptism? Is baptism necessary for salvation? How is one “born again”? How does circumcision fit in? What did the early Church teach and practice.

-For my full article on Infant Baptism, click here.
-To listen to my talk on “Born Again? Faith Alone?” click here.

-For more such articles and letters, click here.

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Eucharistic Miracles Website

August 15, 2016

Interesting site with articles on the Eucharist and the Real Presence, a catalog of Eucharistic miracles and more. It is a wealth of information — especially as we approach Corpus Christi Sunday. I knew nothing of this as a Protestant and find it absolutely intriguing now. I am so glad to be a Catholic and […]

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Can Relics and Sacramentals Relay the Power of God?

June 28, 2016

Some might claim that Catholic teaching on relics and Sacramentals is unbiblical. Really? Check out these biblical passages: “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face CLOTHS or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came […]

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Canon Law and the Pope’s Unfortunate Words on Cohabitation and Non-sacramental Marriages

June 19, 2016

There are so many issues to write about; I would have wished that this would not be one of them, but… Canon Lawyer Dr. Ed Peters brings clarity to the confusion caused by the Pope’s recent words.  If you’re concerned about marriage, the problems in the Church in that regard, the Pope’s recent words about […]

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UPDATED 6/18/16: Pope: “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null” -Ed Peters Responds

June 17, 2016

Updates: Dr. Peters’ follow-up to article below: The Missing Middle Term on the Pope’s Off the Cuff Comments on Marriage John Allen of Crux responds to Dr. Peters and defends the Pope: Lets Not Get Bent Out of Shape by Changes to Papal Transcripts Canon Lawyer Ed Peters fires back to John Allen’s comments and criticism: A […]

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The Kiss of Mercy

June 14, 2016

My daughter-in-law Anna is very insightful about spiritual things, and in raising our grandkids. Couldn’t ask for a better daughter (in-law, though we consider her our daughter by now :-) She put this up on her FaceBook page and I was compelled to share it. Janet and I read this with tears in our eyes […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 12, 2016

I will be on Catholic Answers Live Monday at 6:00 PM Eastern. We will discuss the Miracles of Jesus with an emphasis on the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE.  In […]

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Washing Women’s Feet on Holy Thursday not a Requirement

March 22, 2016

March 16, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Amid reports of priests saying their bishops are insisting they wash the feet of women during the Holy Thursday liturgy, Pope Francis’ liturgy chief has told reporters that washing the feet of women during the Holy Thursday celebration is not a requirement according to the new rite.  Cardinal Robert Sarah, […]

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Was Baptism Instituted Before or After Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?

March 22, 2016

The other day a friend wrote and asked a question. It was an interesting question. “Is the answer to this that in the earlier examples, only the disciples did the baptizing and John is using a Hebraic figure of speech such that his disciples did them in his name and by his authority? If so, […]

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Easter is Coming! Get to Confession! Five Benefits of Frequent Confession

March 3, 2016

5 Benefits of Frequent Confession It’s Lent! This season provides us as Catholics an opportunity to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” One of the ways we can best do this is by going to Confession, where we have the opportunity to accept the many graces God has in store for us through this beautiful […]

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Pope Decrees That Holy Thursday Foot Washing Ceremony Can Include Women

January 21, 2016

See story here

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Updated Sacrament Chart – Print and Use Freely

January 19, 2016

In the past I prepared a Sacrament Chart for a class I was teaching. Many found it helpful so I provided it here. Today I updated it, partly to insert some of the revised wording at Mass and to sharpen a few points. I hope you find it helpful… Click on the image to download […]

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Interesting Explanation of Baptism from Protestant Dictionary – “baptism…in itself is unimportant”

January 10, 2016

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they […]

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

December 30, 2015

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It […]

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