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Bible Commentaries
John 9

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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The healing of a man born blind and the discussions arising out of this miracle .

Verse 1

John 9:1 . Καὶ παράγων . “And as He passed by,” possibly, as Meyer and Holtzmann suppose, on the occasion just mentioned (John 8:59 ), and as He passed the gate of the Temple where beggars congregated; but the definite mention that it was a Sabbath (John 9:14 ) rather indicates that it was not the same day. See on John 10:22 . εἶδεν … γενετῆς . “He saw a man blind from birth,” an aggravation which plays a prominent part in what follows. And first of all it so impresses the disciples that they ask τίς … γεννηθῇ ; Their question implies a belief, repudiated by Jesus here and in Luke 13:1-5 , that each particular sickness or sorrow was traceable to some particular sin; see Job passim and Weber’s Lehren d. Talmud , p. 235. Their question seems also to imply that they supposed even a natal defect might be the punishment of the individual’s own sin. This has received five different explanations: (1) that the pre-existence of souls had been deduced from Wis 8:20 , “being good, I came into a body undefiled”; (2) that metempsychosis was held by some Jews (so Calvin, Beza, and see Lightfoot, p. 1048); or (3) that the unborn babe might sin, see Genesis 25:26 , Luke 1:41-44 ; or (4) that the punishment was anticipatory of the sin; or (5) that the question was one of sheer bewilderment, putting all conceivable possibilities, but without attaching any very definite meaning to the one branch of the alternative. A combination of the two last seems to fit the mental attitude of the disciples. The alternative that the man suffered for his parents’ sin was an idea which would naturally suggest itself. See Exodus 20:5 , etc. ἵνα τυφλὸς γεννηθῇ ; ἵνα expresses result, not purpose; and the form of expression is “the product of false analogy, arising from imitation of a construction which really expresses purpose” (Burton, Moods , 218, 219).

Verses 1-7

John 9:1-7 . The cure narrated .

Verse 3

John 9:3 . Both alternatives are rejected by Jesus, Οὔτε … αὐτοῦ . And another solution is suggested, ἵνα … αυτῷ . Evil furthers the work of God in the world. It is in conquering and abolishing evil He is manifested. The question for us is not where suffering has come from, but what we are to do with it. John 9:4 . The law which is binding on all men Jesus enounces. ἐμὲ δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι … Work, active measures to remove suffering, are more incumbent on men than resentful speculation as to the source of suffering. As to God’s connection with evil, the practical man need only concern himself with this, that God seeks to abolish it. The time for doing so is limited, it is ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν , “so long as it is day,” that is as the next clause shows, so long as life lasts. [On ἕως in N.T. see Burton, Moods , 321 330.] ἔρχεται νύξ , suggested by the threats (John 8:59 , etc.) and by the presence of the blind man.

Verse 5

John 9:5 . ὅταν … κόσμου . We should have expected ἕως and not ὅταν , and the Vulgate renders “quamdiu”. But the “when” seems to be used to suggest a time when He should not be in the world: “when I am in the world, I am the Light of the World,” as He immediately illustrated by the cure of the blind man.

Verse 6

John 9:6 . Ταῦτα εἰπὼν , i.e. , “in this connection,” ἔπτυσε χαμαί … “He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle,” “quia aqua ad manum non erat,” says Grotius; but that spittle was considered efficacious Lightfoot proves by an amusing anecdote and Wetstein by several citations. Tacitus ( Hist. , iv. 81) relates that the blind man who sought a cure from Vespasian begged “ut … oculorum orbes dignaretur respergere oris excremento”. Probably the idea was that the saliva was of the very substance of the person. Tylor ( Prim. Culture , ii. 400) is of opinion the Roman Catholic priest’s touching with his spittle the ears and nostrils of the infant at baptism is a survival of the custom in Pagan Rome in accordance with which the nurse touched with spittle the lips and forehead of the week-old child. Virtue was also attributed to clay in diseases of the eye. A physician of the time of Caracalla prescribes “turgentes oculos vili circumline coeno”. That Jesus supposed some virtue lay in the application of the clay is contradicted by the fact that in other cases of blindness He did not use it. See Mark 10:46 . But if He applied the clay to encourage the man to believe, as is the likely solution, the question of accommodation arises (see Lücke). The whole process of which the man was the subject was apparently intended to deepen his faith.

Verse 7

John 9:7 . The application of the clay was not enough. Jesus further said: Ὕπαγε … ἀπεσταλμένος . Elsner shows that “wash into,” νίψαι εἰς , is not an uncommon construction. But John 9:11 , which gives the same command in a different form, shows that the man understood that εἰς followed ὕπαγε and not νίψαι , The pool of Siloam, supplied from the Virgin’s fountain (Isaiah 8:6 ), lay at the south-east corner of Jerusalem in the Kidron Valley. On the opposite side of the valley lies a village Silwan representing the old name. The name is here interpreted as meaning “Sent” [ שָׁלוּחַ , missus ; not שִׁילוֹחַ , missio sc. aquarum , Meyer]. The word ἀπεσταλμένος is so frequently used by Jesus of Himself that, notwithstanding what Meyer says, we naturally apply it here also to Himself, as if the noiseless Stream which their fathers had despised (Isaiah 7:6 ) and which they could trace to its source, was a fit type of Him whom the Jews rejected because they knew His origin and because he had no external force. His influence consisted in this, that He was ἀπεσταλμένος . The blind man obeyed and received his sight. Cf. Elisha and Naaman. From the succeeding γείτονες several interpreters conclude that ἦλθε means “came” home. Needlessly.

Verse 8

John 9:8 . Οἱ οὖν γείτονες … προσαιτῶν ; “The neighbours, then,” who might or might not be at that time near the man’s home, “and those who formerly used to see him, that he was blind” [but προσαίτης is read instead of τυφλὸς by recent editors], “said, Is not this he that sits and begs?”

Verses 8-12

John 9:8-12 . The people discuss the man’s identity .

Verse 9

John 9:9 . “Others” but evidently of the same description “said, This is he”. Besides those who were doubtful and those who were certain of his identity there was a third opinion uttered: “He is like him”. Naturally the opened eyes would alter his appearance. The doubts as to his identity were scattered by the man’s decisive ἐγώ εἰμι .

Verse 10

John 9:10 . This being ascertained the next question was, Πῶς ἀνεῴχθησάν σου οἱ ὀφθλμοί ; In reply the cured man relates his experience. He had ascertained Jesus’ name from some bystander; and it is noticeable that he speaks of Him as one not widely known: ἄνθρωπος λεγόενος Ἰησοῦς . ἀνέβλεψα . “I recovered sight”. The man, who now saw for the first time, “uses the ordinary language of men, though in strictness it was not applicable to his own case,” Watkins.

Verse 13

John 9:13 . Ἄγουσιν … τυφλόν . “They,” some of the neighbours and others already mentioned, “bring him who had formerly been blind to the Pharisees,” not to the Sanhedrim, but to an informal but apparently authoritative (John 9:34 ) group of Pharisees, who were members of the court.

Verses 13-34

John 9:13-34 . The man is examined by the Pharisees, who eventually excommunicate him ,

Verse 14

John 9:14 . The reason of this action was that the cure had been wrought on a Sabbath. [“Prohibitum erat sputum oculo illinere Sabbato, sub notione aliquâ medicinali,” Lightfoot.]

Verse 15

John 9:15 . πάλιν … ἀνέβλεψεν . πάλιν looks back to the same question put by the people, John 9:10 ; the καὶ serving the same purpose. Their first question admits the man’s original blindness. The man’s reply is simple and straightforward.

Verse 16

John 9:16 . And then the Pharisees introduce their charge and its implication, Οὗτος … τηρεῖ . The miracle is not denied, rather affirmed, but it cannot be a work of God, for it has been done on Sabbath. Cf. John 3:2 and John 5:16 . Some of their party, however, inclined to a different conclusion, Πῶς … ποιεῖν ; How can such a work be done at all, whether on Sabbath or any other day, by a sinner? This breach of the Sabbath law must admit of explanation. It cannot arise from opposition to God. καὶ σχίσμα ἦν ἐν αὐτοῖς , as before among the people, John 7:43 , so now among the authorities a pronounced and permanent cleft was apparent.

Verse 17

John 9:17 . Differing among themselves, they refer the question to the man, Σὺ τί λέγεις … “You, what do you say about Him, on account of His opening your eyes?” The question is not one of fact, but of inference from the fact; the ὅτι means “in that,” “inasmuch as,” and the Vulgate simply renders “Tu quid dicis de illo, qui aperuit oculos tuos?” Promptly the man replies, προφήτης ἐστίν .

Verse 18

John 9:18 . It now appears that their previous admission of the fact of the miracle was disingenuous and that they suspected fraudulent collusion between Jesus and the man; Οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν , “they did not believe” his account (John 9:19 ), ἕως ὅτου … βλέπει ; “until they summoned his parents”.

Verse 20

John 9:20 . To them they put virtually three questions: Is this your son? Was he born blind? (for though you say this of him, ὑμεῖς emphatic, we do not believe it). How does he now see? The first two questions they unhesitatingly answer: This is our son who was born blind. This answer explodes the idea of collusion.

Verse 21

John 9:21 . The third question they have not the means of answering, or as John 9:22 indicates, they shammed ignorance to save themselves; and refer the examiners to the man himself. ἡλικίαν ἔχει , his parents are no longer responsible for him. Examples of the Greek phrase are given by Kypke and Wetstein from Plato, Aristophanes, and Demosthenes, αὐτὸς περὶ αὑτοῦ [better ἑαυτοῦ ] λαλήσει .

Verse 22

John 9:22 . Ταῦτα … ἐρωτήσατε . The reluctance of the parents to answer brings out the circumstance that already the members of the Sanhedrim had come to an understanding with one another that any one who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah should be excommunicated, ἀποσυνάγωγος γένηται . Of excommunication there were three degrees: the first lasted for thirty days; then followed “a second admonition,” and if impenitent the culprit was punished for thirty days more; and if still impenitent he was laid under the Cherem or ban, which was of indefinite duration, and which entirely cut him off from intercourse with others. He was treated as if he were a leper. This, to persons so poor as the parents of this beggar, would mean ruin and death (see Edersheim, Life of Christ , ii. 183 4).

Verse 24

John 9:24 . Baffled by the parents the Pharisees turn again, ἐκ δευτέρου , a second time to the man and say: Δὸς δόξαν τῷ Θεῷ … ἐστιν . They no longer deny the miracle, but bid the man ascribe the glory of it to the right quarter; to God: not to Jesus, because they can assure him knowledge of their own, ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν , that He is a sinner.

Verse 25

John 9:25 . But they find in the man a kind of independence and obstinacy they are not used to. Εἰ ἁμαρτωλός … βλέπω . He does not question their knowledge, and he draws no express inferences from what has happened, but of one thing he is sure, that he was blind and that now he sees.

Verse 26

John 9:26 . Thwarted by the man’s boldness and perceiving that it was hopeless to deny the fact, they return to the question of the means used. Τί ἐποίησέ σοι ; At this the man loses patience. Their crafty and silly attempt to lead him into some inconsistent statement seems to him despicable, and he breaks out (John 9:27 ): Εἶπον … γενέσθαι . No more galling gibe could have been hurled at them than this man’s “Are you also wishing to become His disciples?”

Verse 28

John 9:28 . It serves its purpose of exasperating them and bringing them to the direct expression of their feelings. Ἐλοιδόρησαν … ἐστίν . “They reviled him.” On ἐκείνου Bengel has: “Hoc vocabulo removent Jesum a sese”.

Verse 29

John 9:29 . We know that Moses was a prophet, commissioned by God to speak for Him (for λελάληκεν see Hebrews 1:1 ); and if this man is commissioned He must show proof of His being sent from God, and not leave us in ignorance of His origin.

Verse 30

John 9:30 . This, in the face of the miracle, seems to the man a surprising statement: Ἐν γὰρ τούτῳ , “why, herein is that which is marvellous”. τὸ θαυμαστόν is the true reading. For the use of γάρ in rejoinders see Winer, p. 559, and Klotz, p. 242. It seems to imply an entire repudiation of what has just been said: “You utter an absurdity, for …” The marvel was that they should hesitate about the origin of one who had such power as was manifest in the cure wrought on him.

Verse 31

John 9:31 . This is elaborated in John 9:31 : οἴδαμεν … ἀκούει . They themselves had owned it a work of God, John 9:24 ; but God is not persuaded or induced to give such power to sinners, but only to those who do His will. This man therefore, were He a sinner, would have been unable to do anything, not to speak of such a work as has never before been done. Watkins expresses it as a syllogism. (1) God heareth not sinners but only those who worship Him and do His will; (2) That God heareth this man is certain, for such a miracle could be performed only by divine power; (3) This man, therefore, is not a sinner but is from God.

Verse 32

John 9:32 . ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος , rather “from of old” than “since the world began”. Cf. Luke 1:70 , τῶν ἀπʼ αἰῶνος προφητῶν , and Acts 3:21 ; Acts 15:18 . To this there is no reply but abuse and dismissal.

Verse 34

John 9:34 . Ἐν ἁμαρτίαις … ἔξω . “In sins thou wast wholly born, and dost thou teach us?” They refer his blindness to sin, and reproach him with his calamity. Sin, they say, was branded on the whole man; he was manifestly a reprobate. Yet we, the pure and godly, are to be taught by such a man! ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω , “they cast him out,” not merely from the chamber, but from communion. This is implied both in John 9:35 and all that Jesus says of the shepherds in the following paragraph.

Verse 35

John 9:35 . Ἤκουσεν … The action of the Pharisees threw the man on the compassion of Jesus: “He heard that they had cast him out,” and He knew the reason; therefore, εὑρὼν αὐτὸν , “when He found him,” as He wished and sought to do, His first question was: Σὺ … Θεοῦ ; Perhaps a slight emphasis lies in the Σὺ . “Dost thou believe in the Messiah?”

Verses 35-41

John 9:35 to John 10:21 . The good and the hireling shepherds .

Verse 36

John 9:36 . The man’s answer shows that he was willing to believe in the Messiah if he could identify Him; and having already declared Jesus to be a prophet, he believed that He could tell him who the Messiah was. It may be taken for granted that although he had not seen Jesus since recovering his sight, he knew somehow that he was speaking to the person who had healed him; and was perhaps almost prepared for the great announcement (John 9:37 ): Καὶ ἑώρακας αὐτὸυ , “Thou hast both seen Him,” no doubt: with a reference to the blessing of restored eyesight; καὶ … ἐστιν . This direct revelation, similar to that given to the Samaritan woman (John 4:26 ), was elicited by the pitiable condition of the man as an outcast from the Jewish community, and by the perception that the man was ripe for faith.

Verse 38

John 9:38 . Ὁδὲ … αὐτῷ . He promptly uttered his belief and “worshipped” Jesus. In this Gospel προσκυνεῖν is used of the worship of God: the word is, however, susceptible of a somewhat lower degree of adoration (Matthew 18:26 ); but it includes the acknowledgment of supremacy and a complete submission.

Verse 39

John 9:39 . Summing up the spiritual significance of the miracle Jesus said: Εἰς κρίμα … γένωνται . “For judgment,” for bringing to light and exhibiting in its consequences the actual inward state of men; “that those who see not may see,” that is, that those who are conscious of their blindness and grieved on account of it may be relieved; while those who are content with the light they have lose even that. With a kind of sad humour He points out how easily felt blindness is removed, but how obstinately blind is presumed knowledge. The blind man now saw, because he knew he was blind and used the means Jesus told him to use: the Pharisees were stone-blind to the world Jesus opened to them, because they thought that already they knew much more than He did.

Verse 40

John 9:40 . Some of the Pharisees overheard His words, and unconsciously proved their truth by saying with indignant contempt: μὴ καὶ ἡμεῖς τυφλοί ἐσμεν ; To which Jesus, taking them on their own ground, replies: Εἰ τυφλοὶ ἦτε , οὐκ ἂν εἴχετε ἁμαρτίαν . If ye were ignorant, as this blind man was, aware of your darkness and anxious to be rid of it, your ignorance would excuse you: but now by all your words and actions you proclaim that you are satisfied with the light you have, therefore you cannot receive that fuller light which I bring and in which is deliverance from sin, and must therefore remain under its bondage. Cf. John 8:21 .

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 9". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/john-9.html. 1897-1910.
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