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Bible Commentaries

Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels
John 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-7

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?3. Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work. 5. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,7. And said to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

CHRYS. The Jews having rejected Christ"s words, because of their depth, He went out of the temple, and healed the blind man; that His absence might appease their fury, and the miracle soften their hard hearts, and convince their unbelief. And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. It is to be remarked here that, on going out of the temple, He betook Himself intently to this manifestation of His power.

He first saw the blind man, not the blind man Him: and so intently did He fix His eye upon him, that His disciples were struck, and asked, Rabbi, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

BEDE. Mystically, our Lord, after being banished from the minds of the Jews, passed over to the Gentiles. The passage or journey here is His descent from heaven to earth, where He saw the blind man, i.e. looked with compassion on the human race.

AUG. For the blind man here is the human race. Blindness came upon the first man by reason of sin: and from him we all derive it: i.e. man is blind from his birth.

AUG. Rabbi is Master. They call Him Master, because they wished to learn: they put their question to our Lord, as to a Master.

THEOPHYL. This question does not seem a proper one. For the Apostles had not been taught the fond notion of the Gentiles, that the soul has sinned in a previous state of existence. It is difficult to account for their putting it.

CHRYS. They were led to ask this question, by our Lord having said above, on healing the man sick of the palsy, Lo, you are made whole; sin no more. Thinking from this that the man had been struck with the palsy for his sins, they ask our Lord of the blind man here, whether he did sin, or his parents; neither of which could have been the reason of his blindness; the former, because he had been blind from his birth; the latter, because the son does not suffer for the father. Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents.

AUG. Was he then born without original sin, or had he never added to it by actual sin? Both this man and his parents had sinned, but that sin was not the reason why he was born blind. Our Lord gives the reason; viz. That the works of God should be made manifest in him.

CHRYS. He is not to be understood as meaning that others had become blind, in consequence of their parents" sins: for one man cannot be punished for the sin of another. But had the man therefore suffered unjustly? Rather I should say that that blindness was a benefit to him: for by it he was brought to see with the inward eye. At any rate He who brought him into being out of nothing, had the power to make him in the event no loser by it. Some too say, that the that here, is expressive not of the cause, but of the event, as in the passage in Romans, The law entered that sin might abound, the effect in this case being, you our Lord by opening the closed eye, and healing other natural infirmities, demonstrated His own power.

GREG. One stroke falls on the sinner, for punishment only, not conversion; another for correction; another not for correction of past sins, but prevention of future; another neither for correcting past, nor preventing future sins, but by the unexpected deliverance following the blow, to excite more ardent love of the Savior"s goodness.

CHRYS. That the glory of God should be made manifest, He said of Himself, not of the Father; the Father"s glory was manifest already.I must work the works of Him that sent Me; i.e. I must manifest Myself, and show that I do the same that My Father does.

BEDE. For when the Son declared that He worked the works of the Father, He proved that His and His Father"s works were the same: which are to heal the sick, to strengthen the weak, and enlighten man.

AUG. By His saying, Who sent Me, He gives all the glory to Him from Whom He is. The Father has a Son Who is from Him, but has none from whom He Himself is.

CHRYS. While it is day, He adds; i.e. while men have the opportunity of believing in Me; while this life lasts; The night comes, when none can work. Night here means that spoken of in Matthew, Cast him into outer darkness. Then will there be night, wherein none can work, but only receive for that which he has worked. While you live, do that which you will do: for beyond it is neither faith, nor labor, nor repentance.

AUG. But if we work now, now is the day time, now is Christ present; as He says, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. This then is the day. The natural day is completed by the circuit of the sun, and contains only a few hours: the day of Christ"s presence will last to the end of the world: for He Himself has said, Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.

CHRYS. He then confirms His words by deeds: When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. He who had brought greater substances into being out of nothing, could much more have given sight without the use of any material: but He wished to show that He was the Creator, Who in the beginning used clay for the formation of man. He makes the clay with spittle, and not with water, to make it evident that it was not the pool of Siloam, whither He was about to send him, but the virtue proceeding from His mouth, which restored the man"s sight.

And then, that the cure might not seem to be the effect of the clay, He ordered the man to wash: And He said to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. The Evangelist gives the meaning of Siloam, which is by interpretation, Sent, to intimate that it was Christ"s power that cured him even there. As the Apostle says of the rock in the wilderness, that that Rock was Christ, so Siloam had a spiritual character: the sudden rise of its water being a silent figure of Christ"s unexpected manifestation in the flesh.

But why did He not tell him to wash immediately, instead of sending him to Siloam? That the obstinacy of the Jews might be overcome, when they saw him going there with the clay on his eyes. Besides which, it proved that He was not averse to the Law, and the Old Testament. And there was no fear of the glory of the case being given to Siloam: as many had washed their eyes there, and received no such benefit.

And to show the faith of the blind man, who made no opposition, never argued with himself, that it was the quality of clay rather to darken, than give light, that He had often washed in Siloam, and had never been benefited; that if our Lord had the power, He might have cured him by His word; but simply obeyed: he went his way therefore, and washed and came seeing. Thus our Lord manifested His glory: and no small glory it was, to be proved the Creator of the world, as He was proved to be by this miracle.

For on the principle that the greater contains the less, this act of creation included in it every other. Man is the most honorable of an creatures; the eye the most honorable member of man, directing the movements, and giving him sight. The eye is to the body, what the sun is to the universe; and therefore it is placed aloft, as it were, upon a royal eminence.

THEOPHYL. Some think that the clay was not laid upon the eyes, but made into eyes.

AUG. Our Lord spat upon the ground, and made clay of the spittle, because He was the Word made flesh. The man did not see immediately as he was anointed; i.e. was, as it were, only made a catechumen. But he was sent to the pool which is called Siloam, i.e. he was baptized in Christ; and then he was enlightened. The Evangelist then explains to us the name of this pool: which is by interpretation, Sent: for, if He had not been sent, none of us would have been delivered from our sins.

GREG. Or thus: By His spittle understand the savor of inward contemplation. It runs down from the head into the mouth, and gives us the taste of revelation from the Divine splendor even in this life. The mixture of His spittle with clay is the mixture of supernatural grace, even the contemplation of Himself with our carnal knowledge, to the soul"s enlightenment, and restoration of the human understanding from its original blindness.


Verses 8-17

8. The neighbors therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?9. Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10. Therefore said they to him, How were your eyes opened?11. He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. 12. Then said they to him, Where is he? He said, I know not. 13. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said to them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. 16. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keeps not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. 17. They say to the blind man again, What say you of him, that he has opened your eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

CHRYS. The suddenness of the miracle made men incredulous: The neighbors therefore, and they which had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Wonderful clemency and condescension of God! Even the beggars He heals with so great considerateness: thus stopping the mouths of the Jews; in that He made not the great, illustrious, and noble, but the poorest and meanest, the objects of His providence. Indeed He had come for the salvation of all.

Some said, This is he. The blind man having been clearly recognized in the course of his long walk to the pool; the more so, as people"s attention was drawn by the strangeness of the event; men could no longer say, This is not he; Others said, Nay, but he is like him.

AUG. His eyes being opened had altered his look. But he said, I am he. He spoke gratefully; a denial would have convicted Him of ingratitude.

CHRYS. He was not ashamed of his former blindness, nor afraid of the fury of the people, nor averse to show himself, and proclaim his Benefactor. Therefore said they to him, How were your eyes opened? How they were, neither he nor any one knew: he only knew the fact; he could not explain it.

He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes. Mark his exactness. He does not say how the clay was made; for he could not see that our Lord spat on the ground; he does not say what he does not know; but that He anointed him he could feel. And said to me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash. This too he could declare from his own hearing; for he had heard our Lord converse with His disciples, and so knew His voice. Lastly, he shows how strictly he had obeyed our Lord. He adds, And I went, and washed, and received sight.

AUG. Lo, he is become a proclaimer of grace, an evangelist, and testifies to the Jews. That blind man testified, and the ungodly were vexed at the heart, because they had not in their heart what appeared upon his countenance. Then said they to him, Where is He?

CHRYS. This they said, because they were meditating His death, having already begun to conspire against Him. Christ did not appear in company with those whom He cured; having no desire for glory, or display. He always withdrew, after healing any one; in order that no suspicion might attach to the miracle. His withdrawal proved the absence of all connection between Him and the healed; and therefore that the latter did not publish a false cure out of favor to Him. He said, I know not.

AUG. Here he is like one anointed, but unable yet to see: he preaches, and knows not what he preaches.

BEDE. Thus he represents the state of the catechumen, who believes in Jesus, but does not, strictly speaking, know Him, not being yet washed. It fell to the Pharisees to confirm or deny the miracle.

CHRYS. The Jews, whom they asked, Where is He? were desirous of finding Him, in order to bring Him to the Pharisees; but, as they could not find Him, they bring the blind man. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind; i.e. that they might examine him still more closely.

The Evangelist adds, And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes; in order to expose their real design, which was to accuse Him of a departure from the law, and thus detract from the miracle: as appears from what follows,

Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. But mark the firmness of the blind man. To tell the truth to the multitude before, from whom he was in no danger, was not so great a matter: but it is remarkable, now that the danger is so much greater, to find him disavowing nothing, and not contradicting any thing that he said before: He said to them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. He is more brief this time, as his interrogators were already informed of the matter: not mentioning the name of Jesus, nor His saying, Go, and wash; but simply, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see; the very contrary answer to what they wanted. They wanted a disavowal, and they receive a confirmation of the story. Therefore said some of the Pharisees.

AUG. Some, not all: for some were already anointed. But they, who neither saw, nor were anointed, said, This man is not of God, because he keeps not the sabbath day. Rather He kept it, in that He was without sin; for to observe the sabbath spiritually, is to have no sin. And this God admonishes us of, when He enjoins the sabbath, saying, In it you shall do no servile work. What servile work is, our Lord tells us above, Whosoever commits sin, is the servant of sin. They observed the sabbath carnally, transgressed it spiritually.

CHRYS. Passing over the miracle in silence, they give all the prominence they can to the supposed transgression; not charging Him with healing on the sabbath, but with not keeping the sabbath. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? They were impressed by His miracles, but only in a weak and unsettled way. For whereas such might have strewn them, that the sabbath was not broken; they had not yet any idea that He v as God, and therefore did not know that it was the Lord of the sabbath who had worked the miracle. Nor did any of them dare to say openly what his sentiments were, but spoke ambiguously; one, because he thought the fact itself improbable; another, from his love of station. It follows, And there was a division among them. That is, the people were divided first, and then the rulers.

AUG. It was Christ, who divided the day into light Au and darkness.

CHRYS. Those who said, Can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? wishing to stop the others" mouths, make the object of our Lord"s goodness again come forward; but without appearing to take part with Him themselves: They say to the blind man again, What say you of Him, that He has opened your eyes?

THEOPHYL. See with what good intent they put the question. They do not say, What say you of Him that keeps not the sabbath, but mention the miracle, that He has opened your eyes; meaning, it would seem, to draw out the healed man himself; He has benefited them, they seem to say, and you ought to preach Him.

AUG. Or they sought how they could throw reproach upon the man, and cast him out of their synagogue. he declares however openly what he thinks: He said, He is a Prophet. Not being anointed yet in heart, he could not confess the Son of God; nevertheless, he is not wrong in what he says: for our Lord Himself says of Himself, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.


Verses 18-23

18. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19. And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?20. His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:21. But by what means he now sees, we know not or who has opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22. These words spoke his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.

CHRYS. The Pharisees being unable, by intimidation, to deter the blind man from publicly proclaiming his Benefactor, try to nullify the miracle through the parents. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they had called the parents of him that had received his sight.

AUG. i.e. had been blind, and now saw.

CHRYS. But it is the nature of truth, to be strengthened by the very snares that are laid against it. A lie is its own antagonist, and by its attempts to injure the truth, sets it off to greater advantage: as is the case now. For the argument which might otherwise have been urged, that the neighbors knew nothing for certain, but spoke from a mere resemblance, is cut off by introduction of the parents, who could of course testify to their own son.

Having brought these before the assembly, they interrogate them with great sharpness, saying, Is this your son, (they say not, who was born blind, but) who you say was born blind? Say. Why what father is there, that would say such things of a son, if they were not true? Why not say at once, Whom you made blind? They try two ways of making them deny the miracle: by saying, Who you say was born blind, and by adding, How then does he now see?

THEOPHYL. Either, say they, it is not true that he now sees, or it is untrue that he was blind before: but it is evident that he now sees; therefore it is not true that he was born blind.

CHRYS. Three things then being asked, - if he were their son, if he had been blind, and how he saw, - they acknowledge two of them: his parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind.

But the third they refuse to speak to: But by what means he now sees, we know not. The inquiry in this way ends in confirming the truth of the miracle, by making it rest upon the incontrovertible evidence of the confession of the healed person himself; He is of age, they say, ask him; he can speak for himself.

AUG. As if to say, We might justly be compelled to speak for an infant, that could not speak for itself: but he, though blind from his birth, has been always able to speak.

CHRYS. What sort of gratitude is this in the parents; concealing what they knew, from fear of the Jews? as we are next told; These words spoke his parents, because they feared the Jews. And then the Evangelist mentions again what the intentions and dispositions of the Jews were: For the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

AUG. It was no disadvantage to be put out of the synagogue: whom they cast out, Christ took in. Therefore said, his parents, He is of age, ask him.

ALCUIN. The Evangelist shows that it was not from ignorance, but fear, that they gave this answer.

THEOPHYL. For they were fainthearted; not like their son, that intrepid witness to the truth, the eyes of whose understanding had been enlightened by God.


Verses 24-34

Then again called they the man that was blind, and said to him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26. Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he your eyes?27. He answered them, I have told you already, and you did not hear: wherefore would you hear it again? will you also be his disciples?28. Then they reviled him, and said, You are his disciple; but we are Moses" disciples. 29. We know that God spoke to Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. 30. The man answered and said to them, Why herein is a marvelous thing, that you know not from whence he is, and yet he has opened mine eyes. 31. Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshiper of God, and does his will, him he hears. 32. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34. They answered and said to him, You were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us? And they cast him out.

CHRYS. The parents having referred the Pharisees to the healed man himself, they summon him a second time: Then again called they the man that was blind. They do not openly say now, Deny that Christ has healed you, but conceal their object under the presence of religion: Give God the praise, i.e. confess that this man has had nothing to do with the work.

AUG. Deny that you have received the benefit. This is not to give God the glory, but rather to blaspheme Him.

ALCUIN. They wished him to give glory to God, by calling Christ a sinner, as they did: We know that this man is a sinner.

CHRYS. Why then did you not convict Him, when He said above, Which of you convinces Me of sin?

ALCUIN. The man, that he might neither expose himself to calumny, nor at the same time conceal the truth, answers not that he knew Him to be righteous, but, Whether He is a sinner or no, I know not.

CHRYS. But how comes this, whether He be a sinner, I know not, from one who had said, He is a Prophet? Did the blind fear? far from it: he only thought that our Lord"s defense lay in the witness of the fact, more than in another"s pleading. And he gives weight to his reply by the mention of the benefit he had received: One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see: as if to say, I say nothing as to whether He is a sinner; but only repeat what I know for certain.

So being unable to overturn the fact itself of the miracle, they fall back upon former arguments, and inquire the manner of the cure: just as dogs in hunting pursue wherever the scent takes them: Then said they to him again, What did He do to you? How opened He your eyes? i.e. was it by any charm. For they do not say, How did you see? but, How opened He your eyes? to give the man an opportunity of detracting from the operation.

So long now as the matter wanted examining, the blind man answers gently and quietly; but, the victory being gained, he grows bolder: He answered them, I have told you already, and you did not hear: wherefore would you hear it again? i.e. you do not attend to what is said, and therefore I will no longer answer you vain questions, put for the sake of cavil, not to gain knowledge: Will you also be His disciples?

AUG. Will you also? i.e. I am already, do you wish to be? I see now, but do not envy. He says this in indignation at the obstinacy of the Jews; not tolerating blindness, now that he is no longer blind himself.

CHRYS. As then truth is strength, so falsehood is weakness: truth elevates and ennobles whomever it takes up, however mean before: falsehood brings even the strong to weakness and contempt. Then they reviled him, and said, You are His disciple.

AUG. A malediction only in the intention of the speakers, not in the words themselves. May such a malediction be upon us, and upon our children! It follows: But we are Moses" disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses. But you should have known, that our Lord was prophesied of by Moses, after hearing what He said, Had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me. Do you follow then a servant, and turn your back on the Lord? Even so, for it follows: As for this fellow, we know not whence He is.

CHRYS. You think sight is less evidence than hearing; for what you say, you know, is what you have heard from your fathers. But is not He more worthy of belief, who has certified that He comes from God, by miracles which you have not heard only, but seen? So argues the blind man: The man answered and said, Why herein is a marvelous thing, that you know not whence He is, and yet He has opened mine eyes.

He brings in the miracle every where, as evidence which they could not invalidate: and, inasmuch as they had said that a man that was a sinner could not do such miracles, he turns their own words against them; Now we know that God hears not sinners; as if to say, I quite agree with you in this opinion.

AUG. As yet however He speaks as one but just anointed, or God hears sinners too. Else in vain would the publican cry, God be merciful to me a sinner. By that confession he obtained justification, as the blind man had his sight.

THEOPHYL. Or, that God hears not sinners, means, that God does not enable sinners to work miracles. When sinners however implore pardon for their offenses, they are translated from the rank of sinners to that of penitents.

CHRYS. Observe then, when he said above, Whether He be a sinner, I know not, it was not that he spoke in doubt; for here he not only acquits him of all sin, but holds him up as one well pleasing to God: But if any man be a worshiper of God, and does His will, him He hears. It is not enough to know God, we must do His will.

Then he extols His creed: Since the world began, was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind: as if to say, If you confess that God hears not sinners; and this Man has worked a miracle; such an one, as no other man has; it is manifest that the virtue whereby He has wrought it, is more than human: If this Man were not of God, He could do nothing.

AUG. Freely, steadfastly, truly. For how could what our Lord did, be done by any other than God, or by disciples even, except when their Lord dwelt in them?

CHRYS. So then because speaking the truth he was in nothing confounded, when they should most have admired, they condemned him: You were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us?

AUG. What means altogether? That he was quite blind. Yet He who opened his eyes, also saves him altogether.

CHRYS. Or, altogether, that is to say, from your birth you are in sins. They reproach his blindness, and pronounce his sins to be the cause of it; most unreasonably. So long as they expected him to deny the miracle, they were willing to believe him, but now they cast him out.

AUG. It was they themselves who had made him teacher; themselves, who had asked him so many questions; and now they ungratefully cast him out for teaching.

BEDE It is commonly the way with great persons to disdain learning anything from their inferiors.


Verses 35-41

Ver 1a. In the beginning was the Word,

 


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Bibliography Information
Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on John 9:4". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gcc/john-9.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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