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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

John 9

Verses 1-99

Cure of a Man Blind from His Birth (9:1-13)

1. καὶ παράγων εἶδεν κτλ. This is an abrupt beginning, but the introductory καί is thoroughly Johannine. παράγειν does not occur again in the Fourth Gospel; but cf. 1 John 2:8, 1 John 2:17.


τυφλὸν ἐκ γενετῆς. Probably the man was a well-known figure, as he begged for alms (v. 8) near the Temple or at some other much-frequented place. γενετή does not appear again in the N.T., but the phrase τυφλὸς ἐκ γενετῆς is common in secular writers (see Wetstein).

It is not reported of any other case of healing in the Gospels that the person cured had been sick, blind, or lame from his birth (cf. Acts 3:2, Acts 14:8), and some critics have found here an instance of Jn.`s alleged habit of magnifying the miraculous element in the ministry of Jesus (see Introd., p. clxxx). This healing goes beyond any of the healings of blind men recorded by the Synoptists, Jn., after his wont, selecting one typical and notable case for record (see below on v. 6).

Diseases of the eye are common in the East, and it is not surprising that blind folk should have been brought for cure to Jesus. There is no mention in the O.T. of a blind person being cured (unless the case of Tob. 11:11 be reckoned as such); but to the prophet the blessings of the Messianic age included the opening of the eyes of the blind (Isaiah 35:5), and the Baptist was reminded of this in connexion with the cures wrought by Jesus (cf. Matthew 11:5). Mk. records two special cases, sc. at Mark 8:23 (to which further reference must be made) and Mark 10:46 (cf. Matthew 20:29, Luke 18:35). See also Matthew 9:27, Matthew 12:22 (cf. Luke 11:14) 15:30, 21:14. But the singularity of the case recorded by Jn. is that the blindness is said to have been congenital.

There is a passage in Justin (Tryph. 69) which seems to presuppose a knowledge of this verse. Justin has quoted Isaiah 35:1-7, and he proceeds: πηγὴ ὕδατος ζῶντος παρὰ θεοῦ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ γνώσεως θεοῦ …�John 9:1, for it occurs nowhere else in the Gospels, nor is the circumstance that Jesus healed men of congenital infirmities mentioned elsewhere in the N.T.


2. ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ. These disciples may have been His Jewish adherents, as distinct from the Twelve, or the Twelve or some of them may be indicated (see on 2:2). But the nature of the question which they put betrays an intimate relation of discipleship (note the word Rabbi, and see on 1:38); and the close connexion of c. 9 with c. 10, in which the discourse about the Good Shepherd seems specially appropriate to the inner circle of His followers, suggests that οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ here at any rate includes the Twelve.

τίς ἥμαρτεν κτλ. The question is as old as humanity. The first of the alternative answers suggested is that the man himself had sinned and that his blindness was a punishment divinely sent. As to this, it may be true in an individual case, but the whole drift of the Book of Job is to show that suffering is not always due to sin, and with this may be compared the words of Jesus at Luke 13:2, Luke 13:4 (see on 5:14 above). In this particular instance which drew forth the disciples` question, as the man had been blind from birth, if his blindness was a punishment for his own sin, it must have been prenatal sin. This was a possibility, according to some Rabbinical casuists (see Bereshith, R xxxiv, cited by Wetstein). Cf. v. 34. It is hardly likely that the questioners had in view sins committed in a former body, although the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls was not unknown to later Judaism; cf. Wisd. 8:19, 20.

The other alternative answer, as it seemed to the disciples, was that the man’s blindness was divinely sent as a punishment for the sins of his parents, a doctrine which is frequently stated in the O.T. (Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18, Psalms 79:8, Psalms 109:14, Isaiah 65:6, Isaiah 65:7). This was the doctrine of punishment which Ezekiel repudiated, declaring that justice is only to be found in the operation of the principle, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).


The question of the relation between sin and suffering was discussed by the Gnostic Basilides in a passage quoted by Clem. Alex. (Strom. iv. 12), but although the problem raised is similar to that in the text, the discussion does not contain any allusion to the story before us.

3.�

ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν. The day is the time for labour, while the night is for rest (Psalms 104:23); and the day is none too long for its appointed task. Jesus had already spoken of the shortness of His time (see on 7:33). The “night” was coming for Him in this sense only, that when His public ministry on earth was ended, the “works” which it exhibited would no longer be possible.


ἕως with the pres. indic. occurs in Jn. only here and at 21:22, 23 (but cf. 12:35), and is in these passages to be rendered “while” (cf. 13:38, where, followed by οὗ, it is “until”).

ἔρχεται νύξ κτλ.: cf. 11:9, 12:35.

5. ὅταν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὦ, φῶς εἰμὶ τοῦ κόσμου. We had in 8:12 the majestic claim ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου (see note in loc.). Here it reappears, but not in so universal or exclusive a form: ἐγώ is omitted; so is the article before φῶς, and it is introduced by a clause which seems to limit its application to the time of the ministry of Jesus upon earth. “While I am in the world, I am a light of the world,” He says; and He proceeds to impress His meaning upon His hearers by restoring his sight to the blind man. When Jn. says that Christ was “in the world” (1:10) he refers quite definitely to the period of His historical manifestation in the flesh (cf. also 17:11); and the context in the present passage shows that the same meaning must be given here to ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. Christ is always, and always has been, and will be, τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου; but that thought is not fully expressed by ὅταν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὦ, φῶς εἰμὶ τοῦ κόσμου. The thought here is that it had been eternally ordered in the Divine purpose that He should “work the works of God” during His earthly ministry; and another way of expressing this is to say that while He is in the world He is, inevitably, a light of the world, whose brightness cannot be hidden.

6. Jesus is represented here (as also at 5:6) as curing the sufferer without waiting to be asked. This is unlike the Synoptic narratives of healing, e.g. Mark 8:23, the cure of the blind man at Bethsaida, who was brought to Jesus by his friends. In that case, however, as in this, Jesus is said to have resorted to the use of physical means for the recovery of the patient, sc. the eyes were treated with spittle (cf. also Mark 7:33).


The curative effects of saliva (especially of fasting saliva) have been, and still are, accepted in many countries. “Magyars believe that styes on the eye can be cured by some one spitting on them.”1 A blind man who sought a cure from Vespasian asked “ut … oculorum orbes dignaretur respergere oris excremento” (Tacitus, Hist. iv. 81). Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. in loc.) quotes a Rabbinical story which embodies the same idea. It was, apparently, a current belief in Judæa that spittle was good for diseased eyes, and that Jesus accommodated Himself to that belief is reported both by Mk. and Jn., although in neither case is it stated that He Himself accepted it as well founded. This tradition of Jesus curing blindness by means of His spittle is not found in Mt. or Lk. It is evidently the oldest tradition.

Severus Sammonicus, a second-century physician, quoted by Wetstein, prescribes the use of clay for smearing bad eyes, “turgentes oculos uili circumline caeno.”2

These strange remedies may be compared with those mentioned in a second-century inscription:3 Οὐαλερίῳ Ἄπρῳ στρατιώτῃ τυφλῷ ἐχρημάτισεν ὁ θεὸς ἐλθεῖν καὶ λαβεῖν αἷμα ἐξ�

ἔπτυσεν χαμαί. πτύειν occurs again only Mark 7:33, Mark 7:8:23; it should be noted that at Mark 8:23 Jesus spat into the eyes of the blind man, πτύσας εἰς τὰ ὄμματα αὐτοῦ. χαμαί only occurs again 18:6.


ἐπέχρισεν. So אADNWΘ; BC* give ἐπέθηκεν. In the N.T. ἐπιχρίω occurs again only at v. 11.

The true text (אBLNΘ) proceeds: αὐτοῦ τὸν πηλὸν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς, i.e. “and smeared its clay” (sc. the clay which He had mixed with His spittle) “on the eyes.” The rec. text after ὀφθαλμούς adds τοῦ τυφλοῦ, “He smeared the clay on the eyes of the blind man.”

Irenæus has a curious comment on the use of clay. He says (Hær. v. xv. 2) that the true work of God (cf. v. 3) is the creation of man, “plasmatio hominis,” and he quotes Genesis 2:7 of God making man out of the dust of the earth. He concludes that the use of clay for the cure of the blind man was similar to this; being blind from his birth, he had virtually no eyes, and Jesus created them out of the clay.


7. ὕπαγε. See on 7:33 for ὑπάγειν, a favourite verb with Jn. νίψαι. For the aor. imperative, see on 2:5.

εἰς τὴν κολυμβήθραν. The man interpreted this command (v. 11) as meaning, “Go to the Pool, and wash.” νίψαι εἰς τήν κτλ., however, may be translated as “wash in the Pool,” εἰς being often used where the verb of motion is not expressed but only implied, e.g. ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν κτλ. (Matthew 2:23; cf. Matthew 4:13), and cf. ἐντετυλιγμένον εἰς ἕνα τόπον (20:7). See, further, on 19:13.


The man, apparently, was not directed to bathe in the Pool, but only to go there to wash off the clay with which his eyes had been smeared. The Egyptian vss. render νίψαι as meaning “wash thy face” (cf. v. 10).

The Pool of Siloam (there are two pools) is situated to the south of the Temple area, at the mouth of the Tyropœon Valley. It is mentioned Isaiah 8:6, where “the waters of Shiloah that go softly” are contrasted with “the waters of the Euphrates, strong and many,” which typify the Assyrian power; cf. also Nehemiah 3:15, Luke 13:4. The waters which gather in the Pool are connected by a subterranean tunnel or conduit with the Virgin’s Well (see on 5:2). שָׁלַח, misit, is the root of the name Shiloah, or Siloam, which thus means, etymologically, “sent,” this name having been given to the Pool because the water is “sent” or “conducted” thither by the artificial aqueduct which goes back to the time of Hezekiah, or even earlier.1

In the note ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Ἀπεσταλμένος we observe the tendency to interpret Hebrew proper names for his Greek readers, of which we have many instances in Jn. (see on 1:38). Σιλωὰμ ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Ἀπεσταλμένος is exactly parallel to Κηφᾶς ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Πέτρος (1:42). Hence it is unnecessary, and even perverse, to seek esoteric symbolism in the note ὃ ἑρμ. Ἀπεσταλμένος, such as is suggested by commentators who call attention here to the fact that Jesus was “sent” by God (6:29 etc.). The evangelist knew that the name Siloam was given to the Pool because the water was conducted or “sent” there artificially; and he naturally passes on the information to his readers.2 The word “Siloam” is not strictly a proper name, and this Jn. indicates by prefixing the article, τοῦ Σιλωάμ, as in Isaiah 8:6, Luke 13:4.


ἀπῆλθεν οὖν καὶ ἐνίψατο, καὶ ἦλθεν βλέπων. B omits οὖν … ἦλθεν, an omission due to homoioteleuton �

With ὁ καθήμενος καὶ προσαιτῶν cf. Mark 10:46 τυφλὸς προσαίτης ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν. A blind man begging by the wayside is a common figure in the East.


9. His neighbours and those who had formerly noticed the poor man, were not sure of his identity, now that his sight had been restored. His appearance would naturally be changed. Some said he was the man, others thought not. But he himself (ἐκεῖνος, cf. vv. 11, 12, 25, 36) set them right. ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am the man.” This is a simple affirmation of identity, not to be confused with the mystical use of ἐγώ εἰμι in Jn. (see Introd., p. cxx).

10. πῶς οὖν ἠνεῴχθησάν σου οἱ ὀφθαλμοί; The fact that the man’s sight had been restored is not challenged; it is only the manner of the cure that is in question. See vv. 15, 19, 26.

11. Ὁ ἄνθρ. ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰησοῦς κτλ., “the man who is called Jesus,” etc. He does not yet acknowledge Jesus as the Christ (cf. v. 36).

ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν Σιλωὰμ καὶ νίψαι. Some Latin and Syriac renderings give “wash thy eyes”; the Egyptian versions have “wash thy face.” (See on v. 7 above.)

νιψάμενος�Matthew 11:5, Mark 10:51, Luke 18:41; and cf. Luke 4:18. The aor.�


12. Ποῦ ἐστιν ἐκεῖνος; See on 7:11 for the same question.

The Pharisees Investigate the Cure of the Blind Man on the Sabbath (vv. 13-34)

13. The cure was so striking, and the technical breach of the Sabbath so obvious, that some of those who had been interesting themselves in the case brought the man that had been cured before the Pharisees, as the most orthodox and austere of the religious leaders (see on 7:32). This was not on the day of the cure, but on a later day. Note τόν ποτε τυφλόν.

14. ἦν δὲ σάββατον (cf. 5:9) ἐν ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ (so אBLW, but the rec. has simply ὅτε, with ADNΓΔΘ) τὸν πηλὸν ἐποίησεν. It was the kneading of the clay that primarily called for notice, as it was obviously a work of labour and so was a breach of the Sabbath.

15. πάλιν οὖν ἠρώτων κτλ. The questioning (see v. 10) had to begin all over again, for this was an official inquiry, and the brevity and sharpness of the man’s answers now show that he is tired of replying to queries as to the manner and circumstances of his cure.

16. There was a division of opinion among the Pharisees who heard the story of the man whose sight had been restored. The strict legalists among them fastened on one point only, viz. that the Sabbath had been broken. οὐκ ἔστιν οὗτος παρὰ θεοῦ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, “this person is not from God,” i.e. has not been sent by God, has no Divine mission. For παρά cf. 1:6, also 1 Macc. 2:15, 17; and see on 6:46 for the deeper meaning which παρὰ θεοῦ has elsewhere.

ὅτι τὸ σάββατον οὐ τηρεῖ. This was the charge that had been made against Jesus on a former occasion, when He healed the impotent man at Bethesda and told him to carry his mat away (5:10). There was a twofold violation of the Sabbath laws apparent in this case, for not only had the clay been kneaded (v. 14), but it was specially forbidden to use spittle to cure bad eyes on the Sabbath: “As to fasting spittle; it is not lawful to put it so much as upon the eyelids.”1

It is curious that the phrase τὸ σάββατον τηρεῖν does not occur again in the Greek Bible; but τηρεῖν is a favourite verb with Jn. (see on 8:51).

Others among the Pharisees took a larger view of the situation, probably such men as Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathæa. They called attention to the σημεῖα of Jesus as wonderful, no matter what the day was on which they were wrought. πῶς δύναται ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλὸς (this word “sinner” is only found in Jn. in this chapter) τοιαῦτα σημεῖα (see on 2:11) ποιεῖν; How could a sinner do such things?

καὶ σχίσμα ἦν ἐν αὐτοῖς. Cf. for similar divisions of opinion, 7:43, 10:19; and see also 6:52, 7:12.

17. λέγουσιν οὖν τῷ τυφλῷ πάλιν, “they,” sc. the Pharisees collectively who were present, “say again to the blind man,” i.e. they resume their inquiry, to get more details.

τί σὺ λέγεις περὶ αὐτοῦ; “What do you say about Him?”

ὅτι ἠνέῳξέν implies that as Jesus had opened his eyes, the man’s opinion was worth having. “What do you say, inasmuch as it was your eyes that He opened?” conveys the sense. For the constr., cf. 2:18. Burney suggested that ὅτι is here a mistranslation of the Aramaic relative דְּ, and points to the Vulgate qui aperuit. But it is not necessary to appeal to an Aramaic original here. See Abbott, Diat. 2183.

The man’s answer was προφήτης ἐστίν. He did not say that Jesus was “the prophet,” as the multitude said after the miracle of the loaves (6:14), but only that He was “a prophet,” a simple answer like that of the Samaritan woman (4:19), i.e. that He was an extraordinary person who could do extra-ordinary things.

18. Up to this point the Pharisees have not directly challenged the statement that the man’s sight had been restored, having confined themselves to the question about the breach of the Sabbath which was involved. But the answer of the man, προφήτης ἐστίν, leads the more hostile of them (οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, see on 5:10) to suspect collusion between Jesus and the patient, and so they summon the parents for further inquiry as to their son’s blindness and its cure.

γονεῖς occurs in Jn. only in this chapter: the word in the N.T. is always used in the plural.

19. The Pharisees now cross-examine the parents, in strict fashion. “Is this your son? the son whom you say was born blind? How is it that he now sees?”

ἄρτι is a favourite word with Jn., and signifies “at this moment,” as distinct from the vaguer νῦν, “at the present time.” Cf. v. 25, 13:7, 33, 37, 16:12, 31.

20.�

21. αὐτὸν ἐρωτήσατε, ἡλικίαν ἔχει, “ask him, he is of age,” and therefore a legal witness. ἡλικία in the Synoptists always means “stature,” but in this passage and at Hebrews 11:11 it means “age.” ἡλικίαν ἔχει is a good classical phrase, and is found in Plato. αὐτὸς περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λαλήσει, “he will tell you about himself.” The parents were much alarmed.


αὐτὸν ἐρωτήσατε is omitted by א*W b and the Sahidic vss. (including Q), a remarkable combination.

22. ταῦτα εἶπαν … ὅτι ἐφοβοῦντο τοὺς Ἰουδαίους. The fear of “the Jews” (see 1:19, 5:10), the Jewish opponents of Jesus, whose leaders were the Pharisees, was very definite (cf. 7:13). They were determined to check His success, and to put down His popularity. Cf. 7:44f.

ἤδη συνετέθειντο, they had formed a compact (cf. 7:32, 47-49), and decided that strong measures must be taken against any one confessing (see on 1:20) Jesus as Christ. He had not yet declared Himself openly in Jerusalem (10:24), but it had been debated whether He were not indeed the Christ (7:26f.).

Except when Jn. is interpreting Μεσσίας (1:41, 4:25), this is the only place in the Gospel where we find Χριστός without the def. article: “if any one should confess Him as Christ.” Cf. Romans 10:9 for a similar constr.: ἐὰν ὁμολογήσῃς Κύριον Ἰησοῦν, “if thou shalt confess Jesus as Lord.”

ἀποσυνάγωγος, “excommunicate.” The word is found in the Greek Bible only here and at 12:42, 16:2. Full excommunication involved a cutting off from the whole “congregation of Israel” (cf. Matthew 18:17); but it is probable that the lesser penalty of exclusion from the synagogue for a month (the usual period) is all that is indicated here. That he who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah was to be treated as�

23. διὰ τοῦτο, “wherefore,” referring (as generally in Greek) to what precedes; cf. 13:11, 15:19, 16:15, 19:11, 1 John 4:5. For διὰ τοῦτο as referring to what follows, see on 5:16.


ὅτι Ἡλικίαν ἔχει, αὐτὸν ἐπερωτήσατε (so אBW). ὅτι is recitantis, purporting to introduce the actual words spoken. Note that the order of the words has been changed, for in v. 21 we have αὐτὸν ἐρωτήσατε, ἡλίκιαν ἔχει. Jn. is not punctilious in his narrative about reproducing the exact words or the order of words (see on 3:16).

24. The Jewish leaders summon the man himself for re-examination (ἐκ δευτέρου, cf. v. 17). They now press him on the point of his former evidence, which they suggest was not true.

δὸς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ. This does not mean here “Thank God” (cf. Luke 17:18), but it is a form of adjuration meaning “Speak the truth,” as at Joshua 7:19 (cf. 1 Ezra 9:8).


ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν, “we know,” speaking with ecclesiastical authority, “that this man is a sinner,” although the blind man had said (v. 17) that He was a prophet. They suggest that the man was lying, and was in collusion with Jesus.

25. The shrewdness and obstinacy of the man reveal themselves in his answer. He refuses to discuss their assertion that Jesus was a sinner. “One thing I know, that being a blind man, now I see.” That is all he will say.

26. Accordingly his questioners attempt a further cross-examination, hoping to elicit some damaging admission.

After αὐτῷ, the rec. text has πάλιν (אcANΓΔΘ), but om. א*BDW.

27. The man who has recovered his sight now becomes irritable, and turns on his questioners: εἶπον ὑμῖν ἤδη καὶ οὐκ ἠκούσατε, “I told you already (v. 15), and you did not hear,” i.e. you did not heed. Fam. 13 have ἐπιστεύσατε for ἠκούσατε, and the O.L. r has creditis, an attempt to interpret ἠκούσατε.

μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς θέλετε αὐτοῦ μαθηταὶ γενέσθαι; “Surely you do not wish to become disciples of His?” He could not refrain from this ironical gibe, which he must have known would irritate the Pharisees. καί before ὑμεῖς, “you also,” suggests that it was known that Jesus had made some disciples already, and that the Pharisees were aware of it.

28. καὶ ἐλοιδόρησαν αὐτόν, “and they reviled him.” Having failed to get anything out of the man which might be damaging to Jesus, they angrily accuse him of being on the side of Jesus.

Σὺ μαθητὴς εἶ ἐκείου, “you yourself are a disciple of that fellow.” ἐκεῖνος conveys a suggestion of contempt; and, as Bengel says, “hoc vocabulo remouent Iesum a sese.”

ἡμεῖς δέ κτλ., “we, on the contrary, are disciples of Moses,” as all orthodox Rabbis claimed to be.

29. ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν (cf. v. 24) ὅτι Μωϋσεῖ λελάληκεν ὁ θεός (cf. Hebrews 1:1): that was why they were proud to be disciples of Moses.


τοῦτον δὲ οὐκ οἴδαμεν πόθεν ἐστίν. They profess complete ignorance of the antecedents of Jesus. Some of the people of Jerusalem knew, indeed, whence He came, τοῦτον οἴδαμεν πόθεν ἐστίν (7:27, where see note), although there was a deeper sense in which none of the Jews knew it (8:14). But the Pharisees would not admit that they either knew or cared what was His origin or who were His kindred.

30. The man whose sight had been restored is now thoroughly angry, and he goes on to argue in his turn, shrewdly enough, beginning with a mocking retort.

ἐν τούτῳ γὰρ (this is the order of words in אBLΘ) τὸ θαυμαστόν ἐστιν κτλ., “Why, then, here is an astonishing thing, that you (ὑμεῖς, whose business it is to know about miracle-workers) do not know whence He is, and yet (καί) He opened my eyes!” Syr. sin., with a b c ff2, om. γάρ, D and e replacing it by οὖν; but γάρ must be retained. Blass says that we should treat the sentence as an interrogative, “Is not this, then, an astonishing thing?” (see Abbott, Diat. 2683). But it is simpler to take γάρ as referring back to what had just been said, “Why, if that be so, etc.”

On καί for καιτοί, see on 1:10.

31. The argument is clear. God does not hear the prayers of sinners. Miracles are granted in answer to the prayers of a good man. Jesus has worked a miracle. Therefore Jesus is a good man.

οἴδαμεν, “we all know,” introducing a maxim which no one will dispute; cf. 3:2, 1 John 5:18.


ἁμαρτωλῶν ὁ θεὸς οὐκ�

The principle that God does not hearken to the prayers of sinners appears frequently in the O.T.; cf. Job 27:9, Psalms 66:18, Isaiah 1:15, Isaiah 59:2, Ezekiel 8:18, Micah 3:4, Zechariah 7:13. For the converse principle, that God hears the prayer of a godly man, cf. Psalms 34:15, Psalms 145:19, Proverbs 15:29, James 5:16.

θεοσεβής is not found again in the N.T. (it occurs in the LXX, e.g. Job 1:1); but cf. 1 Timothy 2:10 for θεοσέβεια.


ἐάν τις … τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ ποιῇ, τούτου�

32. ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος. The phrase�Luke 1:70, Acts 3:21, Acts 15:18, and is common in the LXX (1 Chronicles 16:36, Psalms 25:6, Psalms 90:2, Ecclus. 14:17, Jeremiah 2:20, etc.), as it is in the papyri. But ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος does not occur again in the Greek Bible, the nearest phrase being ἐξ αἰῶνος, Proverbs 8:21. (Wetstein illustrates it freely from non-Biblical authors.) We have here an instance of the interchangeability of ἐκ and�


ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος κτλ., “Since the world began it was unheard of that any one opened the eyes of one who was born blind.” It is this point, viz. that the blindness was congenital, that is insisted on throughout; whereas in the case of the cure of the man at Bethesda, the circumstance that he had been infirm for thirty-eight years (5:5) passes out of view at once, and attention is concentrated on the fact that he was cured on a Sabbath day.

33. εἰ μὴ ἦν … ποιεῖν οὐδέν. This was a principle recognised by Nicodemus (3:2), to which reference is made again at 10:21. “If this man were not sent from God (cf. v. 16 for παρὰ θεοῦ), He could do nothing,” sc. of this wonderful nature.

34. The Pharisees will not stoop to refute a low person who ventures to argue with them; but the retort ascribed to them is weak, for it admits what they had previously questioned (v. 19), viz. that the blindness was congenital, and assigns as a reason for it the man’s prenatal sin (cf. v. 2).

ἐν ἁμαρτίαις (the emphatic words beginning the sentence) σὺ ἐγεννήθης ὃλος. Cf. Psalms 51:5; and for ὅλος cf. 13:10.


σὺ διδάσκεις ἡμᾶς; Every word is scornfully emphatic.

καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω. This does not signify “they excommunicated him” (v. 22), a formal act which could only be done at a formal sitting of the Sanhedrim. It only means “they put him out,” sc. of their presence; cf. note on 6:37, where ἐκβάλλειν ἐκ is shown to be a Johannine phrase.

The Man Who Was Cured Accepts Jesus as the Son of Man (vv. 35-38)

35. ἤκουσεν Ἰησοῦς א*B omit ὁ before Ἰησοῦς, perhaps rightly; see on 1:29, 50.

When Jesus heard of the repulse of the man by the Pharisees, after his courageous utterances, He sought him out. With εὑρὼν αὐτόν cf. 1:43, 5:14.

σὺ πιστεύεις εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ�

We follow אBDW and Syr. sin. in reading τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ�Matthew 16:16. According to 20:31, the purpose of the Fourth Gospel is that readers may believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” But if “the Son of God” were the original reading here, it is surprising that scribes should have altered it to “the Son of Man,” which does not appear in any of the other confessions of faith; while the change from the unusual “Son of Man” to “Son of God,” the usual title in similar contexts, is easily explicable (see 6:69 for a similar alteration by scribes). Further, v. 36 shows that the would-be disciple did not understand who was meant by “the Son of Man” or that Jesus was claiming such a title for Himself. As we have seen (1:49), the Messiah was popularly designated “the Son of God,” but “the Son of Man” was not a recognised Messianic title (see Introd., p. cxxx). The man to whom Jesus spoke was evidently puzzled (cf. 12:34).


36.�

καὶ τίς ἐστιν; “Who then is He?” For the initial καὶ, cf. καὶ τίς δύναται σωθῆναι; (Mark 10:26, Luke 18:26) and καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον; (Luke 10:29). Cf. also 14:22.


He addresses Jesus with respect: κύριε, “sir” (see on 12:21). κύριε generally comes at the beginning of the sentence, but here and at v. 38 it comes at the end.

ἵνα πιστεύσω εἰς αὐτόν, taking up the words of Jesus in the preceding verse. There is an ellipsis before ἵνα, which has full telic force. “Who is He?” for I want to know in order that I may put my trust in Him.” Cf., for a similar constr., 1:22.

37. The reply of Jesus, beginning καὶ ἑώρακας αὐτόν, has a special force as addressed to a man who had been blind from his birth. “You have seen Him.” This was one of the first blessings which came to him through “the opening of his eyes.” In his case, faith followed immediately on the “seeing” of Jesus, in marked contrast with the case of those to whom it was said ἑωράκατέ [με] καὶ οὐ πιστεύετε (6:36, where see note).

καὶ ὁ λαλῶν μετὰ σοῦ ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν, “He who is talking with you is He.” Cf. 4:26 for a similar discovery of Himself to the Samaritan woman. For ἐκεῖνος, used by the speaker or narrator of himself, see on 19:35.

38. The man’s response is unhesitating: πιστεύω, κύριε, “I believe, Lord”; κύριε being now used with a respect which has passed into reverence (see on 1:38, 4:1), for the narrator adds καὶ προσεκύνησεν αὐτῷ “and he worshipped Him.” προσκυνεῖν (see on 4:20) is always used in Jn. to express divine worship.

The man who has been cured of his blindness now passes out of the story.

The whole of v. 38 and the words καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς in v. 39 are omitted in א*W, the O.L. b, and the fourth-century Coptic MS. described as Q. The O.L. l also omits the clause, with the exception of καὶ προσεκύνησεν αὐτῷ. Such a consensus of Greek, Coptic, and Latin authorities for this omission is remarkable, as a textual phenomenon; but the omission cannot be original.

The Inner Meaning of the Healing, and the Condemnation of the Pharisees (vv. 39-41)

39. Here is given, in brief, the interpretation of the story, for this miracle was a σημεῖον (v. 16). The cure of the man’s blindness was symbolic of the giving of spiritual vision to those conscious of their spiritual blindness, who are therefore willing to be healed. But some do not feel the need of a Healer. This is the dividing line between man and man. And the mission of Jesus leads up to judgment, according as men do or do not recognise their Deliverer in Him.

εἰς κρίμα ἐγὼ εἰς τὸν κόσμον τοῦτον ἦλθον. Cf. 16:28, 18:37 for the saying “I am come into the world”; and cf. also 6:14. For the phrase “this world,” see on 8:23. It means the earthly world, the home of fallen man, which is therefore imperfect. κρίμα (a word not found again in Jn.) is the result of a κρίσις or act of distinguishing between good and bad, and so of judging. So the sentence means, “It was with a view to that ultimate decision which shall distinguish man from man that I came into this world,” special emphasis being laid on ἐγώ.

There is no mention of the Agent of this Judgment, i.e. of the Personality of the Judge, and so there is no inconsistency with 3:17 (cf. 8:15). Jesus does not say here that He came to execute Judgment (cf. 5:22), but in order that by His coming men might be tested and so judgment reached at last. The supreme test, as always (cf. v. 35, and see on 3:15), is faith in Himself. Those who recognise Him for what He is are in one category; those who fail to do so, in another.

He came, not only to give recovery of sight to the physically blind (Isaiah 61:2, quoted by Himself Luke 4:18), but to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. It was the challenge of a prophet, “Look, ye blind, that ye may see” (Isaiah 42:18); and Jesus came to bring this illumination to those conscious of their blindness, ἵνα οἱ μὴ βλέποντες βλέπωσιν.

There is also a severer purpose in the coming of Jesus. It was ἵνα … οἱ βλέποντες τυφλοὶ γένωνται, “that those who see should become blind” (cf. Mark 4:12). There is a darkening of moral vision which is caused by complacent satisfaction with the light that is already enjoyed (cf. Revelation 3:17, Revelation 3:18). Those who see only dimly, and do not desire to see more clearly, lose the power of sight wholly; they become blind. This was the end of the Pharisees (the “blind guides” of Matthew 23:16), who did not see anything exceptional in Jesus. They could not see at first, because they would not; and so the judgment of blindness fell upon them. See further on 12:40.


40. Some Pharisees who were near overheard what Jesus said, and interjected the scornful question, “Are we also blind?”

ἐκ τῶν φαρισαίων … οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ ὄντες. The Sinai Syriac renders “who were near Him,” μετά indicating proximity in place, but not necessarily any attachment of discipleship. See τοὺς πτωχοὺς γὰρ πάντοτε ἔχετε μεθʼ ἑαυτῶν (12:8); and cf. Matthew 9:15. The crushing reply of Jesus (v. 41) to their question forbids the hypothesis that these Pharisees are to be reckoned among the half-believing Jews mentioned at 8:31.


μὴ καὶ ἡμεῖς τυφλοί ἐσμεν; “Are we also spiritually blind,” we who are the recognised religious teachers of the nation? The form of the question, μὴ καὶ ἡμεῖς …, suggests that a negative answer is believed by the questioners to be the obviously true answer See on 6:67.

41. The answer of Jesus is as overwhelming as it was unforeseen. The Pharisees had expected that He would say, “Yes, you are blind, despite your authoritative position as religious guides” (cf. Matthew 23:16). But instead of that, He said, “No, you are not wholly blind; that is the worst feature of your case.”

εἰ τυφλοὶ ἦτε, οὐκ ἂν εἴχετε ἁμαρτίαν. If they were wholly and involuntarily blind to the presentation of the Divine which Jesus embodied, they would not be blameworthy for refusing to acknowledge it. Cf. εἰ μὴ ἦλθον καὶ ἐλάλησα αὐτοῖς ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ εἴχοσαν (15:22). But this was not their situation. The perpetual reproach with which Jesus challenged them (cf., e.g., 8:47) was that their failure to accept Him was a moral failure. Their self-satisfaction prevented them from seeing what they ought to have seen in Him (see on v. 39 above). Their claim to “see,” βλέπομεν, was arrogant, and shut them out from the larger vision which had offered itself (cf. Proverbs 26:12). So “your sin abides,” i.e. is not removed.

For the Johannine constr. ἔχειν ἁμαρτίαν, cf. 15:22, 19:11 and 1 John 1:8.

ἡ ἁμαρτία ὑμῶν μένει. There is a sin against light which is eternal in its consequences. Cf. Mark 3:29 for the Synoptic form of this tremendous judgment.









1 For the ellipse in�1 John 2:19.


אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

A Alexandrinus (δ 4). British Museum. v. Cc. 6:50-8:52 are missing.

C Ephræmi (δ 3). Paris. v. Palimpsest. Contains considerable fragments of Jn.

N Purpureus Petropolitanus (ε 19). Dispersed through the libraries of Leningrad, Patmos, Rome, Vienna, and British Museum. vi. Some pages are missing. Edited by H. S. Cronin in Cambridge Texts and Studies (1899).

Γ̠(ε 70) Oxford and Leningrad. ix-x. Contains Song of Solomon 1:1-13 8:3-15:24 19:6 to end.


Δ̠Sangallensis (ε 76). St. Gall. ix-x. Græco-Latin.

Θ̠Koridethi (ε 050). Tiflis. vii-ix. Discovered at Koridethi, in Russian territory, and edited by Beermann & Gregory (Leipzig, 1913). The text is akin to that of fam. 13, fam. 1, and the cursives 28, 565, 700 See Lake and Blake in Harvard Theol. Review (July 1923) and Streeter, The Four Gospels. Cf. also J.T.S. Oct. 1915, April and July 1925.

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

D Bezæ (δ 5). Cambridge. v-vi. Græco-Latin. Cc. 18:14-20:13 are missing in the Greek text, and the gap has been filled by a ninth-century scribe (Dsupp).

L Regius (ε 56). Paris. viii. Cc. 15:2-20 21:15-25 are missing.

W Freer (ε 014). Washington. iv-vi. Discovered in Egypt in 1906. The Gospels are in the order Mt., Jn., Lk., Mk. Collation in The Washington MS. of the Four Gospels, by H. A. Sanders (1912).

1 See ERE xi. 102, s.v. “Saliva.”

2 See, for other illustrations, Trench, Miracles, p. 294.

3 See Moulton-Milligan, s.v. ἐπιχρίω.

1 The paratactic style of this inscription, καί … καί, is very like that of vv. 5-8, and shows that a redundance of καί conjunctions does not always point to a Semitic original (cf. Introd., p. lxvii).

1 See G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, i. 102 ff.

2 Grotius tried to identify Siloam with Shiloh, and noted that the Vulgate of Genesis 49:10 renders Shiloh by “qui mittendus est.”


1 Shabb. c. 21, cited by Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. on 9:6.

Diat. E. A. Abbott’s Diatessarica, including his Johannine Vocabulary and Johannine Grammar, Parts I.-X. (1900-1915).

1 See, for Jewish excommunications, Schürer, History of Jewish People, 11. ii. 61.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 9". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/john-9.html. 1896-1924.