The origin of the New Testament metaphor of rebirth
Part I deals with the imagery of rebirth in Hellenism. The metaphor was widely-used in the common speech - we collect over 280 examples - and it is therefore possible that the New Testament writers drew their rebirth imagery from the common speech. But there is not one text which proves that in pre-Christian times rebirth was a technical metaphor of any Mystery cult. Part II discusses the New Testament rebirth passages. Rebirth is a metaphor for conversion, not baptism. It is the fulfillment of the eschatological promise for a Spiritual regeneration and is equivalent to a "birth from God." The New Testament verses seem to draw the metaphor out of a Jewish milieu. Παλιγγεvsσíα in Titus 315 does not mean "rebirth" but "regeneration" and so it, as well as James 1:18, are not examples of rebirth imagery. Part III argues that Judaism provides the attitudes, concepts, and metaphors from which the Christian metaphor of rebirth could have developed. We note especially the metaphors of a proselyte being like a "newborn babe" and "birth from God" (especially Ps 2:7). The latter contains, implicitly, the idea of rebirth. The conclusion offers two possible historical reconstructions of the metaphor's formulation. If John 3:3 is dominical then, in response to Judaism's view of salvation by birth as a Jew, Jesus says that it is necessary to be born again through the power of God. If v.3 is not dominical then the church, because it was convinced that in conversion the believer had begun a new life, drew on the common metaphor of rebirth and the Jewish concept of birth from God in order to create their own metaphor of rebirth to describe the beginning of this new life. 1 Peter 1:3,23 draw their imagery from traditional material.