Original Research

Not by human seed but born from above to become children of God: Johannine metaphor of the family or ancient science?

Jonathan A. Draper
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 51, No 3 | a2201 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i3.2201 | © 2017 Jonathan A. Draper | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 October 2016 | Published: 12 May 2017

About the author(s)

Jonathan A. Draper, School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


This article provides a critical reflection on Jan van der Watt’s theory of the network of the metaphor of the family in John’s Gospel, taking the Johannine understanding of the seed as a case study. In his reflections on God’s act of creation, Philo uses the language of impregnation and (re)birth of the natural man by his divine seed to produce children of virtue for those who open themselves to divine wisdom. His Middle-Platonic construction is unlikely to have been understood as ‘absurd, irrelevant or untrue’, which characterises a metaphor in Van der Watt’s definition. The discourse on the relationship between seed/sperm and life reflects ancient ‘scientific’ understanding of the world for Philo and John’s Gospel. This article analyses the connections and differences between Philo’s conception and the mysticism of John’s understanding of rebirth from above as contrasted with ‘natural’ birth.


Metaphor in John; Logos in Philo and John; Sperma Theou and Regeneration; John 1-3


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