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Question: Explain John 1: 12, 13:


[12] To all who received [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God  [13] children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.


Quoted from the New International Version, UK edition


Answer: The begettal by the holy spirit is what is in view here.

There are two occurrences of the word ‘born’ in verse 13.

The second appearance of the word has been supplied by the translators for continuity, and does not appear in the Greek.

The first is the translation of the Greek word gennao, which can contain the meanings of both begettal and its outcome, birth. Here it likely means ‘conceived’.


These verses seem to suggest that the spiritual sonship of the believer was not conferred as a consequence of, say, Jewish maternal or paternal lineage (‘natural descent’), legal adoption (‘human decision’), or sexual intercourse (‘husband’s will’).

Those individuals who accepted Jesus in faith as their Saviour and Lord were ‘conceived’ or begotten as ‘new creatures’ by the holy spirit, and thus became by Divine authority the children of God. (For an explanation regarding the ‘new creature’ see our Web site at