Do you know about Nicodemus?

By COGwriter

Nicodemus was a Pharisee who lived among the Jews in the time of Jesus. His discussion with Jesus in John 3 is the basis of various doctrines that true Christians hold today.

This article provides both biblical and extra-biblically references about him.

Nicodemus is Mentioned in Three Chapters of the Book of John

It is in the Gospel of John that the Bible tells about Nicodemus. 

Here is the first, and perhaps most important, time:

1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"

10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?  11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.  12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.  14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."  (John 3:1-21)

There are many things learned from the above.  The first is that many of the religious leaders of Jesus' day knew that Jesus was special and that logic told them that He had to be doing God's work (but most rejected Him and His work, as most still reject God's true leaders and work today).

The next main item is the teaching about being born again.  Details about this are in the article Born Again: A Question of Semantics?

The next one to mention is that God's plan involving Jesus and humanity is about love.  Jesus was also teaching that He came to die for all and not a few (see also Universal Offer of Salvation and Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants ).  And then Jesus finishes with telling that humans often love darkness and evil and that they hate the light, which is the truth.  This is one reason why real Christians have long been subject to ridicule and persecution (see also Persecutions by Church and State).

Getting back to Nicodemus, he has further mention in scripture:

47 Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."

50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"

52 They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."  (John 7:47-52)

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.  (John 19:38-42)

So, Nicodemus even helped lay Jesus' body in the tomb.  This shows that after his encounter with Jesus in John 3, Nicodemus remained a believer.

Josephus May Have Mentioned Nicodemus

Some believe that Josephus (a first century Jewish historian) mentioned this same Nicodemus in the following:

1. A Little afterward Pompey came to Damascus, and marched over Celesyria; at which time there came ambassadors to him from all Syria, and Egypt, and out of Judea also...2. In a little time afterward came ambassadors again to him, Antipater from Hyrcanus, and Nicodemus from Aristobulus; which last also accused such as had taken bribes; first Gabinius, and then Scaurus,—the one three hundred talents, and the other four hundred; by which procedure he made these two his enemies, besides those he had before. (Josephus.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book XIV, Chapter 3).

If this was the Nicodemus of scripture, it implies that he had a certain amount of influence when alive.

Accounts from the Catholic and Jewish Encyclopedias

Both the Catholic and Jewish encyclopedias of the early 20th century have brief articles on Nicodemus.

The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches the following about him:


A prominent Jew of the time of Christ, mentioned only in the Fourth Gospel. The name is of Greek origin, but at that epoch such names were occasionally borrowed by the Jews, and according to Josephus (Ant. of the Jews, XIV, iii, 2) Nicodemus was the name of one of the ambassadors sent by Aristobulus to Pompey. A Hebrew form of the name (Naqdimon) is found in the Talmud. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and in his capacity of sanhedrist, (John 7:50) was a leader of the Jews. Christ, in the interview when Nicodemus came to him by night, calls him a master in Israel. Judging from John 19:39, Nicodemus must have been a man of means, and it is probable that he wielded a certain influence in the Sanhedrim. Some writers conjecture from his question: "How can a man be born when he is old?", that he was already advanced in years, but the words are too general to warrant such a conclusion. He appears in this interview as a learned and intelligent believer, but timid and not easily initiated into the mysteries of the new faith. He next appears (John 7:50-51) in the Sanhedrim offering a word in defence of the accused Galilean; and we may infer from this passage that he embraced the truth as soon as it was fully made known to him. He is mentioned finally in John 19:39, where he is shown co-operating with Joseph of Arimathea in the embalming and burial of Jesus. His name occurs later in some of the apocryphal writings, e.g. in the so-called "Acta Pilati", a heterogeneous document which in the sixteen century was published under the title "Evangelium Nicodemi" (Gospel of Nicodemus). The time of his death is unknown. The Roman Martyrology commemorates the finding of his relics, together with those of Sts. Stephen, Gamaliel, and Abibo, on 3 August. (Driscoll, James F. "Nicodemus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. 3 Aug. 2013 <>. )

The Jewish Encyclopedia teaches this about him:


Prominent member of the Sanhedrin, and a man of wealth; lived in Jerusalem in the first century C.E. He is mentioned in John iii. 1-21, vii. 50, xix. 39. In the first of these passages he is represented as "a ruler of the Jews" who learned from Jesus what "rebirth by baptism" meant, as if that rabbinical term had been altogether unknown to him (but see Baptism and Birth, New). The second passage records how he made his visit to Jesus by night, in order that he might not be known as one of the latter's disciples. In the third passage he and Joseph of Arimathæa are described as having taken charge of the body of Jesus in order to give it decent burial. That the man brought into such prominence in the fourth Gospel must havebeen a well-known figure of Jewish society at the time is evident. In all probability he is identical with the Talmudical Nicodemus ben Gorion, a popular saint noted for his miraculous powers; and this would explain also the reference to "heavenly things" in Jesus' arguments with him (John iii. 12).

The apocalyptic Gospel of Nicodemus, which gives an account of Jesus before Pilate and the Sanhedrin, as well as of his death and resurrection, belongs to the third century, while the oldest extant manuscript of it dates from the twelfth. (Nicodemus.  Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906. viewed 08/03/13)

Notice that the so-called Gospel of Nicodemus was believed to have originated well after Nicodemus would have died and hence is not a true writing from him.  There is also no reliable evidence that Nicodemus performed any miracles, but it is possible that God used him in that capacity.

Tradition holds that Nicodemus was later martyred, and that is possible, though not certain.

Nicodemus believed Jesus, stood up for following Him, and helped place Him in the tomb.  His encounter with Jesus in John 3 presented the opportunity for Jesus to make various doctrinal statements that God wanted recorded for our time.

Do you truly understand what Jesus was teaching Nicodemus?

Thiel B. Do you know about Nicodemus? COGwriter (c) 2013

If you want to know more, some items of possibly related interest may include:

Born Again: A Question of Semantics? Many Protestants use the term born-again. Do they know where the concept came from or does it matter? Are you born or begotten upon proper baptism?
Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis Do you believe what the Bible actually teaches on this? Will all good things be restored? Will God call everyone? Will everyone have an opportunity for salvation? Does God's plan of salvation take rebellion and spiritual blindness into account?
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants How the real Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background. [Português: Esperança do salvação: Como a igreja do deus difere da maioria de protestantes]
Persecutions by Church and State This article documents some persecutions that have occurred against those associated with the COGs and some prophesied to occur. Will those with the cross be the persecutors or the persecuted? This article has the shocking answer. There is also a YouTube video sermon you can watch: The Coming Persecution of the Church.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?