The Gospel of John uses a simple and yet very powerful teaching technique called "misunderstanding".

On several occasions when Jesus has a conversation with someone, there is a misunderstanding. This usually revolves around a single term that has a double meaning. Jesus intends one meaning while the other person understands this term to mean something much different.

A few examples of this are listed below:

Verse Greek Term English Translation Jesus Meaning Hearer's Meaning
3:3 ἄνωθεν again, above, beginning, first above, beginning born again physically
4:10 ζῶν live, living, running, alive, life life/living running water verses well water
11:23 ἀναστήσεται raise, resurrection raise now resurrection on the last day


Why is this technique used? Because it creates a simple yet powerful mental process.

The hearer is thinking one way while Jesus' teaching will require that they think in a new way. To simply present the new way would allow the hearer to continue to keep the concepts disconnected. And once they are disconnected it is possible to do some mental tricks and still hold onto the old while we mentally say we also believe in the new.

But when the misunderstanding is used it forces us to consider both the new and the old next to one another. This accomplishes two important points.

  1. It forces those who hear the teaching to acknowledge that there is a new meaning
  2. In the future, any time a person thinks of the old, the new will now intrude upon it and take it captive.


Thus, teaching through misunderstanding allows the new idea to be intimately connected to the old way of thinking. By doing so any time the old enters the heart and mind of the hearer, the new will now intrude. This brings about true change.

© 2010, VoiceWind. . .Greg Loveless. All rights reserved.

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