By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Men in the New Testament

  • The name Nicodemus was common in the first century.
  • Nicodemus was a member of the ruling council. That almost certainly means he was a member of the Sanhedrin.
  • Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and the Sanhedrin was comprised of both Pharisees and Sadducees.
  • If he were a member of the Sanhedrin, it would indicate that the Sanhedrin was not completely unified. The Pharisees and Sadducees were notorious for not getting along. During the first century, the Sadducees were in the majority.)
  • Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night.
  • Scholars differ on whether this was due to his fear of publicity or a desire to have an uninterrupted conversation with Jesus. (It is well known that many rabbis continued teaching long into the night [remember Paul and Eutychus])
  • Nicodemus began his address to Jesus with a word of praise.
  • He called him “Rabbi,” a collegial and respectful greeting.
  • He also recognized that he was no ordinary teacher, but someone sent by God.
  • Because Nicodemus began the conversation by saying, “we know,” some scholars think he might have had a contingency of followers with him. More likely, though, Nicodemus was speaking on behalf of his colleagues, saying the words out loud that had been whispered by many.
  • Nicodemus knew of Jesus through his signs. Signs were generally thought to be an indication of God’s presence.
  • Rather than respond to Nicodemus’ greeting, Jesus challenged him with a teaching.
  • Jesus deliberately used an ambiguous word. Anothen can either be translated “again” or “from above.” (This is a Greek word with no comparable meaning in either Hebrew or Aramaic [or English, for that matter]. Part of Nicodemus’ misunderstanding must be seen in not knowing which to choose. Translators who pick one over the other have made that choice for their readers.)
  • Nicodemus thought the word literally meant “again.”
  • For a Jew, to “see the kingdom of God” meant participating in the kingdom at the end of the age, eternal life.
  • Jesus insisted that no one could “see” the kingdom without a spiritual rebirth – a new beginning, an inner transformation.
  • Nicodemus’ second question indicates his lack of understanding, but it provides a vehicle for Jesus to give a lengthy explanation.
  • Nicodemus, however, disappears from the scene.
  • Later on, during Jesus’ second trip to Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin wanted the guards to arrest Jesus. When they deferred on the basis that he had such a charismatic effect on the crowds, Nicodemus came to Jesus’ defense.
  • His remarks do not indicate that he had become a follower, only that he believed (as a member of the ruling council) that they needed to follow the law.
  • The law required that Jesus have a full hearing before any action was to be taken. (The irony is unmistakable: The keepers of the law didn’t want to keep the law.)
  • His question is written in a way that indicates they had to agree with him.
  • Their scornful remark suggests they were not happy with his rational argument nor did they have a very high regard for people from Galilee.
  • The last mention of Nicodemus comes after Jesus’ death.
  • He, along with Joseph of Arimathea, prepared Jesus’ body for burial.
  • John is the only gospel that mentions the involvement of Nicodemus.
  • Myrrh was a resin used for embalming, rendered into a powder by Jews. That, along with the aloes (aromatic sandalwood), was meant to combat the inevitable smell associated with the corpse.
  • What is noteworthy is the amount of myrrh and aloes – roughly sixty-five pounds! (Did he have that amount on hand, or did he have to go out and buy it during the whole ordeal?)
  • The amount of spices surely indicates that Nicodemus was a wealthy man.
  • Some scholars think it was John’s way of verifying Jesus’ kingship since apparently this would not have been an unusual amount for royalty.
  • Although the text reads that Nicodemus and Joseph wrapped his body in linens with the spices, it is more likely that they supervised their servants in doing so. If not, both men would have rendered themselves unclean and would not have been able to celebrate the Passover.
  • They go to great lengths to follow the traditional Jewish burial customs.
  • Some scholars see the two men coming forward to bury Jesus as an indication of their love for him and their willingness to be counted among his disciples, but this cannot be confirmed.
  • It is not known whether Jesus ever appeared to Nicodemus after his resurrection.


Barclay, William. "John." Daily Study Bible. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press. 1975.

Beasley-Murray, George. "John." Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1999.

Carson, DA. "The Gospel According to John." The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans. 1991.

Gaebelein, Frank. "John." Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 1985.

Keck, Leander, ed. New Interpreter's Bible, Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. Vol. 9. 1995.

Kostenberger, Andreas. "John." Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2004.

Morris, Leon. "The Gospel According to John." The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans. 1971.

Bible Characters