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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 9:2

And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?"

Adam Clarke Commentary

Who did sin, this man, or his parents - The doctrine of the transmigration of souls appears to have been an article in the creed of the Pharisees, and it was pretty general both among the Greeks and the Asiatics. The Pythagoreans believed the souls of men were sent into other bodies for the punishment of some sin which they had committed in a pre-existent state. This seems to have been the foundation of the disciples question to our Lord. Did this man sin in a pre-existent state, that he is punished in this body with blindness? Or, did his parents commit some sin, for which they are thus plagued in their offspring?

Most of the Asiatic nations have believed in the doctrine of transmigration. The Hindoos still hold it; and profess to tell precisely the sin which the person committed in another body, by the afflictions which he endures in this: they profess also to tell the cures for these. For instance, they say the headache is a punishment for having, in a former state, spoken irrevently to father or mother. Madness is a punishment for having been disobedient to father or mother, or to one's spiritual guide. The epilepsy is a punishment for having, in a former state, administered poison to any one at the command of his master. Pain in the eyes is a punishment for having, in another body, coveted another man's wife. Blindness is a punishment for having killed his mother: but this person they say, before his new birth, will suffer many years' torment in hell. See many curious particulars relative to this in the Ayeen Akbery, vol. iii. p. 168-175; and in the Institutes of Menu, chap. xi. Inst. 48-53.

The Jewish rabbins have had the same belief from the very remotest antiquity. Origen cites an apocryphal book of the Hebrews, in which the patriarch Jacob is made to speak thus: I am an angel of God; one of the first order of spirits. Men call me Jacob, but my true name, which God has given me, is Israel: Orat. Joseph. apud Orig. Many of the Jewish doctors have believed that the souls of Adam, Abraham, and Phineas, have successively animated the great men of their nation. Philo says that the air is full of spirits, and that some, through their natural propensity, join themselves to bodies; and that others have an aversion from such a union. See several other things relative to this point in his treatises, De Plant. Noe - De Gigantibus - De Confus. Ling. - De Somniis, etc.; and see Calmet, where he is pretty largely quoted.

The Hindoos believe that the most of their misfortunes arise out of the sins of a former birth; and, in moments of grief not unfrequently break out into exclamations like the following: - "Ah! in a former birth how many sins must I have committed, that I am thus afflicted!" "I am now suffering for the sins of a former birth; and the sins that I am now committing are to fill me with misery in a following birth. There is no end to my sufferings!"

Josephus, Ant. b. xvii. c. 1, s. 3, and War, b. ii. c. 8, s. 14, gives an account of the doctrine of the Pharisees on this subject. He intimates that the souls of those only who were pious were permitted to reanimate human bodies, and this was rather by way of reward than punishment; and that the souls of the vicious are put into eternal prisons, where they are continually tormented, and out of which they can never escape. But it is very likely that Josephus has not told the whole truth here; and that the doctrine of the Pharisees on this subject was nearly the same with that of the Papists on purgatory. Those who are very wicked go irrecoverably to hell; but those who are not so have the privilege of expiating their venial sins in purgatory. Thus, probably, is the Pharisean doctrine of the transmigration to be understood. Those who were comparatively pious went into other bodies, for the expiation of any remaining guilt which had not been removed previously to a sudden or premature death, after which they were fully prepared for paradise; but others who had been incorrigibly wicked were sent at once into hell, without ever being offered the privilege of amendment, or escape. For the reasons which may be collected above, much as I reverence Bishop Pearce, I cannot agree with his note on this passage, where he says that the words of the disciples should be thus understood: - Who did sin? This man, that he is blind? or his parents, that he was born so? He thinks it probable that the disciples did not know that the man was born blind: if he was, then it was for some sin of his parents - if he was not born so, then this blindness came unto him as a punishment for some crime of his own. It may be just necessary to say, that some of the rabbins believed that it was possible for an infant to sin in the womb, and to be punished with some bodily infirmity in consequence. See several examples in Lightfoot on this place.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 9:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-9.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Master, who did sin? … - It was a universal opinion among the Jews that calamities of all kinds were the effects of sin. See the notes at Luke 13:1-4. The case, however, of this man was that of one that was blind from his birth, and it was a question which the disciples could not determine whether it was his fault or that of his parents. Many of the Jews, as it appears from their writings (see Lightfoot), believed in the doctrine of the transmigration of souls; or that the soul of a man, in consequence of sin, might be compelled to pass into other bodies, and be punished there. They also believed that an infant might sin before it was born (see Lightfoot), and that consequently this blindness might have come upon the child as a consequence of that. It was also a doctrine with many that the crime of the parent might be the cause of deformity in the child, particularly the violation of the command in Leviticus 20:18.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-9.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

And his disciples asked him, saying, Who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?

A strange mixture of truth and error prompted this question. The universal instinct that hails all sorrow and disease as the consequence of sin is correct, all of such things deriving, in the last analysis, from the debacle in Eden; but it is not true that every specific instance of handicap, disease, and sorrow should be invariably ascribed to the individual sin of the sufferer. As Paul stated it, "Death reigned ... even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression" (Romans 5:14).

Without regard to such truth, the apostles were quite ready to blame this man's blindness upon himself, or if not upon him, then upon his parents. It seems ridiculous to us that prenatal sin could be committed; but, as Dummelow noted:

The disciples thought that possibly the man had sinned, either in a previous state of existence (in accordance with the doctrine of transmigration of souls), or more probably as an infant before birth. To the Jews who attributed intelligence to unborn children (Genesis 25:22-26; Luke 1:41), this last was a natural idea.[1]

According to Hendriksen, the Jewish Rabbis held that Esau had tried to kill Jacob in the womb, before either was born.[2] This writer rejects the idea that the apostles of Jesus believed either of those monstrous fantasies. Although even Calvin and Beza thought that they had transmigration of souls in view,[3] there is no evidence whatever of the apostles entertaining any such notions, the basic assumption throughout the entire Bible having always been that "the body" is the soul's unique instrument (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The possibility suggested by the apostles to the effect that the sin of the man's parents might have caused his blindness was certainly not unreasonable; but, even so, if that had been the case, no moral blame would have fallen upon the blind son. The mistake of the apostles here was that of imputing blame where none existed. Both the man and his parents were declared by Jesus to have been guilty of nothing which might have caused the blindness. Therefore, one must hold those apostles guilty of a cruel and unfeeling question. They were like millions today who think that every sufferer and every victim of crime, disease, disaster, or calamity has in some manner DESERVED the evil that came upon him.

It was that same universal prejudice that armed the friends of Job against him with their bold accusations of sins foreign to the holy nature of Job, and inspired the accusations of murder against Paul by the citizens of Malta (Acts 28:4). The reasons underlying this disastrous human prejudice are apparently psychological outcroppings of man's innate selfishness and pride. Ryle said of it:

It has the advantage of rendering it needless to weep with them that weep. It saves a man of the obligation, when he sees heavy affliction, of smiting his breast and saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." It gives the natural man the comfortable feeling that he is so much better than the sufferer, as he is the more fortunate.[4]

Christ taught here the fact of undeserved suffering. This is one of the great problems, and the Scriptures shed this light upon it. Jesus said that the rains and floods beat upon both houses, the one on the rock and the one on the sand (Matthew 7:25). God makes his sun to shine on the just and the unjust. Time and chance happen unto all men (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Therefore, may those whose child was born handicapped, or only to die: and those unfortunates whose lives have been overwhelmed with disease and sufferings; and all whose lot has been to walk in weakness, pain, and humiliation - may all of them take heart. Christ sees and knows; and, for many of them, perhaps it is true that they suffer that "the works of God should be manifest in them"!

[1] J. R. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 790.

[2] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1961), II, p. 73.

[3] Ibid.

[4] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan), p. 583.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-9.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And his disciples asked him,.... It may be that some of the twelve apostles, or others of his disciples, might put the following question to him on sight of this blind man, who by some means or another knew was born blind:

saying, master, who did man, or his parents, that he was born blind? the first of these questions, whether the man himself had sinned before he was born, which might be the occasion of his blindness, proceeds not upon the doctrine of original sin, though the Jews then believed that; See Gill on Romans 5:12; since that was common to all men, and therefore could not admit of such a question; but either upon the notion of transmigration of souls into other bodies; and so the disciples might ask whether this man had sinned in a pre-existent state when in another body, which was the reason of this blindness, or of his being put into a blind body. This notion, Josephus saysF1De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 8. sect. 14. , was embraced by the Pharisees; though, according to him, it seems, that they only understood it of the souls of good men; and if so, this could lay no foundation for such a question, unless these disciples had given into the Pythagorean notion of a transmigration of all souls, which was to be known by defects, as blindness, &c.F2Sallust. de Diis, c. 20. ; or else this question proceeded upon a principle received by the Jews, that an infant might do that which was faulty and criminal, and actually sin in the womb; of which Dr. Lightfoot has given instances: the second question proceeds upon the methods which sometimes God has taken with men, by visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children; or, as the above learned writer observes, upon a notion the Jews had, that a child might suffer for what the mother did whilst it was in the womb; or on another, which prevailed among them, that there should be neither merit nor demerit in the days of the Messiah; that is, that neither the good deeds, nor bad deeds of their parents, should be imputed to their children, neither the one to their advantage, nor the other to their disadvantage: and therefore since he the Messiah was come, they ask, how this blindness should come to pass? what should be the reason of it?


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 9:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-9.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind — not in a former state of existence, in which, as respects the wicked, the Jews did not believe; but, perhaps, expressing loosely that sin somewhere had surely been the cause of this calamity.


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/john-9.html. 1871-8.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

2. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

[Who did sin, this man, or his parents?] I. It was a received doctrine in the Jewish schools, that children, according to some wickedness of their parents, were born lame, or crooked, or maimed and defective in some of their parts, &c.; by which they kept parents in awe, lest they should grow remiss and negligent in the performance of some rites which had respect to their being clean, such as washings and purifyings, &c. We have given instances elsewhere.

II. But that the infant should be born lame or blind, or defective in any part, for any sin or fault of his own, seems a riddle indeed.

1. Nor do they solve the matter who fly to that principle of the transmigration of souls, which they would have the Jews tinctured with; at least if we will admit Josephus as a just interpreter and judge of that principle. For thus he:

It is the opinion of the Pharisees that "the souls of all are immortal, and do pass into another body; that is, those of the good only [observe this]; but those of the wicked are punished with eternal torments." So that unless you will say that the soul of some good man passing into the body of this man was the cause of his being born blind (a supposition that every one would cry shame of), you say nothing to the case in hand. If the opinion of the transmigration of souls amongst the Jews prevailed only so far, that they supposed 'the souls of good men only' passed into other bodies, the very subject of the present question is taken away; and all suspicion of any punishment or defect happening to the infant upon the account of transmigration wholly vanisheth, unless you will say it could happen upon a good soul's passing out of the body of a good man.

2. There is a solution attempted by some from the soul's preexistency; which, they would pretend, the Jews had some smatch of, from what they say about those souls which are in Goph, or Guph.

"R. Jose saith, The Son of David will not come till the souls that are in Goph are consummated." The same passage is recited also in Niddah, and Jevamoth, where it is ascribed to R. Asi.

"There is a repository (saith R. Solomon), the name of which is Goph: and from the creation, all the souls that ever were to be born were formed together and there placed."

But there is another Rabbin brought in by another commentator, that supposeth a twofold Goph, and that the souls of the Israelites and of the Gentiles are not in one and the same Goph. Nay further, he conceives that in the days of the Messiah there will be a third Goph, and a new race of souls made.

R. Jose deduceth his opinion from Isaiah 57:16, miserably wresting the words of the prophet to this sense, "My will shall hinder for the souls which I have made." For so Aruch and the commentators explain his mind.

Grant now that what I have quoted might be sufficient confirmation that the Jews did entertain the opinion of the soul's preexistence, yet what concern the preexistence of souls hath with this place, I confess I have not so quick an apprehension as any way to imagine.

III. I would therefore seek to untie this knot some other way.

I. I would have that passage observed which we have in Vajicra Rabba: "And the days draw nigh, in the which thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them," Ecclesiastes 12:1. "Those are the days of the Messiah, wherein there shall be neither merit nor demerit": that is, if I mistake not, wherein neither the good deserts of the parents shall be imputed to the children for their advantage, nor their deserts for their fault and punishment. They are the words of R. Akibah in locum, and they are his application of that passage in Ecclesiastes, and indeed his own invention: but the opinion itself, that there shall be neither merit nor demerit in the days of the Messiah, is what is commonly received amongst the Jews. If so, then let me a little enlarge this question of our Saviour's disciples, by way of paraphrase, to this purpose: "Master, we know that thou art the Messiah, and that these are the days of the Messiah; we have also learned from our schools, that there is no imputation of merit or demerit from the parents in the days of the Messiah; whence then is it that this man is born blind? that in these days of the Messiah he should bring into the world with him some mark and imputation of fault or blame somewhere? What, was it his parents' fault? This seems against the received opinion. It seems therefore that he bears some tokens of his own fault: is it so, or not?"

2. It was a conceit amongst the Jews, that the infant, when formed and quickened in the womb, might behave itself irregularly, and do something that might not be altogether without fault.

In the treatise last mentioned, a woman is brought in complaining in earnest of her child before the judge, that it kicked her unreasonably in the womb. In Midras Coheleth and Midras Ruth, cap. iii. 13, there is a story told of Elisha Ben Abujah, who departed from the faith, and became a horrible apostate; and, amongst other reasons of his apostasy, this is rendered for one:

"There are which say, that his mother, when she was big with child of him, passing through a temple of the Gentiles, smelt something very strong, and they gave to her of what she smelt, and she did eat; and the child in the womb grew hot, and swelled into blisters, as in the womb of a serpent."

In which story his apostasy is supposed as originally rooted and grounded in him in the womb, upon the fault of his mother eating of what had been offered to idols. It is also equally presumed, that an infant may unreasonably and irregularly kick and punch in the womb of its mother beyond the rate of ordinary infants. The infants in the womb of Rebecca may be for an instance; where the Jews indeed absolve Jacob from fault, though ht took Esau by the heel; but will hardly absolve Esau for rising up against his brother Jacob.

"Antoninus asked R. Judah, 'At what time evil affections began to prevail in the man? Whether in the first forming of the foetus in the womb, or at the time of its coming forth?' The Rabbi saith unto him, 'From the time of its first coming.' 'Then,' saith Antoninus, 'it will kick in the mother's womb and rush out.' The Rabbi saith, 'This I learned of Antoninus; and the scripture seems to back it when it saith, Sin lieth at the door.'"

It appears from this dispute, whether true or feigned, that the ancient opinion of the Jews was, that the infant, from its first quickening, had some stain of sin upon it. And that great doctor, R. Judah the Holy, was originally of that opinion himself, but had lightly changed his mind upon so paltry an argument. Nay, they went a little further, not only that the infant might have some stain of sin in the womb, but that it might, in some measure, actually sin, and do that which might render it criminal. To which purpose this passage of the disciples seems to have some relation; "Did this man sin, that he was born blind?" That is, Did he, when his mother carried him in her womb, do any foul or enormous thing that might deserve this severe stroke upon him, that he should bring this blindness with him into the world?


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on John 9:2". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/john-9.html. 1675.

People's New Testament

Master, who did sin? Many of our misfortunes and physical ills are brought on us either by our own sins, or are inherited from parents and caused by their sins. The disciples ask if the blindness is a judgment, and who caused it? They were, perhaps, not aware that he was blind from birth.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on John 9:2". "People's New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/john-9.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Who did sin? (τις ημαρτενtis hēmarten). Second aorist active indicative of αμαρτανωhamartanō See Acts 3:2; Acts 14:8 for two examples of lameness from birth. Blindness is common in the Orient and Jesus healed many cases (cf. Mark 8:23; Mark 10:46) and mentions this fact as one of the marks of the Messiah in the message to the Baptist (Matthew 11:5). This is the only example of congenital blindness healed. It is not clear that the disciples expected Jesus to heal this case. They are puzzled by the Jewish notion that sickness was a penalty for sin. The Book of Job had shown that this was not always the case and Jesus shows it also (Luke 13:1-5). If this man was guilty, it was due to prenatal sin on his part, a curious notion surely. The other alternative charged it upon his parents. That is sometimes true (Exodus 20:5, etc.), but by no means always. The rabbinical casuists loved to split hairs on this problem. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 18:20) says: “The soul that sinneth it shall die” (individual responsibility for sin committed). There is something in heredity, but not everything.

That he should be born blind (ινα τυπλος γεννητηιhina tuphlos gennēthēi). Probably consecutive (or sub-final) use of ιναhina with first aorist passive subjunctive of γενναωgennaō f0).


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-9.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

This man, or his parents

It was a common Jewish view that the merits or demerits of the parents would appear in the children, and that the thoughts of a mother might affect the moral state of her unborn offspring. The apostasy of one of the greatest Rabbis had, in popular belief, been caused by the sinful delight of his mother in passing through an idol grove.


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-9.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? - That is, was it for his own sins, or the sins of his parents? They suppose (as many of the Jews did, though without any ground from Scripture) that he might have sinned in a pre - existent state, before he came into the world.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on John 9:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/john-9.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

And his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind1?

  1. Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind? They assumed that all suffering was retributive, and asked for whose sins this man suffered, regarding it as a case of extreme hardship, for to be born blind is uncommon, even in the East. Their question had reference to the doctrine of transmigration of souls, the man being regarded as possibly having sinned in some pre-existing state.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 9:2". "The Fourfold Gospel". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-9.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

2.Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man, or his parents? In the first place, as Scripture testifies that all the sufferings to which the human race is liable proceed from sin, whenever we see any person wretched, we cannot prevent the thought from immediately presenting itself to our minds, that the distresses which fall heavily upon him are punishments inflicted by the hand of God. But here we commonly err in three ways.

First, while every man is ready to censure others with extreme bitterness, there are few who apply to themselves, as they ought to do, the same severity. If my brother meets with adversity, I instantly acknowledge the judgment of God; but if God chastises me with a heavier stroke, I wink at my sins. But in considering punishments, every man ought to begin with himself, and to spare himself as little as any other person. Wherefore, if we wish to be candid judges in this matter, let us learn to be quick in discerning our own evils rather than those of others.

The second error lies in excessive severity; for no sooner is any man touched by the hand of God, than we conclude that this shows deadly hatred, and we turn small offenses into crimes, and almost despair of his salvation. On the contrary, by extenuating our sins, we scarcely think that we have committed very small offenses, when we have committed a very aggravated crime.

Thirdly, we do wrong in this respect, that we pronounce condemnation on all, without exception, whom God visits with the cross or with tribulation. (253) What we have lately said is undoubtedly true, that all our distresses arise from sin; but God afflicts his own people for various reasons. For as there are some men whose crimes he does not punish in this world, but whose punishment he delays till the future life, that he may inflict on them more dreadful torments; so he often treats his believing people with greater severity, not because they have sinned more grievously, but that he may mortify the sins of the flesh for the future. Sometimes, too, he does not look at their sins, but only tries their obedience, or trains them to patience; as we see that holy Job — a righteous man, and one that feareth God, (254) is miserable beyond all other men; and yet it is not on account of his sins that he is sore distressed, but the design of God was different, which was, that his piety might be more fully ascertained even in adversity. They are false interpreters, therefore, who say that all afflictions, without any distinction, are sent on account of sins; as if the measure of punishments were equal, or as if God looked to nothing else in punishing men than to what every man deserves.

Wherefore, there are two things here that ought to be observed: that

judgment begins, for the most part, at the house of God,
(
1 Peter 4:17;)

and, consequently, that while he passes by the wicked, he punishes his own people with severity when they have offended, and that, in correcting the sinful actions of the Church, his stripes are far more severe. Next, we ought to observe that there are various reasons why he afflicts men; for he gave Peter and Paul, not less than the most wicked robbers, into the hands of the executioner. Hence we infer, that we cannot always put our finger on the causes of the punishments which men endure.

When the disciples, following the common opinion, put the question, what kind of sin it was that the God of heaven punished, as soon as this man was born, they do not speak so absurdly as when they ask if he sinned before he was born. And yet this question, absurd as it is, was drawn from a common opinion which at that time prevailed; for it is very evident from other passages of Scripture, that they believed the transmigration ( μετεμψύχωσις) of which Pythagoras dreamed, or that souls passed from one body into another. (255) Hence we see that the curiosity of men is an exceedingly deep labyrinth, especially when presumption is added to it. They saw that some were born lame, some squint-eyed, some entirely blind, and some with a deformed body; but instead of adoring, as they ought to have done, the hidden judgments of God, they wished to have a manifest reason in his works. Thus through their rashness they fell into those childish fooleries, so as to think that a soul, when it has completed one life, passes into a new body, and there endures the punishment due on account of the life which is already past. Nor are the Jews in the present day ashamed to proclaim this foolish dream in their synagogues, as if it were a revelation from heaven.

We are taught by this example, that we ought to be exceedingly careful not to push our inquiries into the judgments of God beyond the measure of sobriety, but the wanderings and errors of our understanding hurry and plunge us into dreadful gulfs. It was truly monstrous, that so gross an error should have found a place among the elect people of God, in the midst of which the light of heavenly wisdom had been kindled by the Law and the Prophets. But if God punished so severely their presumption, there is nothing better for us, in considering the works of God, than such modesty that, when the reason of them is concealed, our minds shall break out into admiration, and our tongues shall immediately exclaim, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, and thy judgments are right though they cannot be comprehended.”

It is not without reason that the disciples put the question, Did his parents sin ? For though the innocent son is not punished for his father’s fault, but

the soul which hath sinned shall itself die,
(
Ezekiel 18:20,)

yet it is not an empty threatening, that the Lord throws the crimes of the parents into the bosom of the children, and

revenges them to the third and fourth generation,
(
Exodus 20:5.)

Thus it frequently happens that the anger of God rests on one house for many generations; and, as he blesses the children of believers for the sake of their fathers, so he also rejects a wicked offspring, destining the children, by a just punishment, to the same ruin with their fathers. Nor can any man complain, on this account, that he is unjustly punished on account of the sin of another man; for, where the grace of the Spirit is wanting, from bad crows — as the proverb says (256) — there must be produced bad eggs. This gave reason to the apostles to doubt if the Lord punished, in the son, some crime of his parents.


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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-9.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Ver. 2. Who did sin, this man?] How could he sin before he was born? But the disciples dreamed of a Pythagorical transanimation; hence this foolish question. Imbuti erant Iudaei dogmate μετεμφυχωσεως. Beza.


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Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 9:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-9.html. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Here observe, Something implied or supposed; namely,

1. That all bodily afflictions and calamities do come upon us for sin. Whereas afflictions although they always fall upon a sinner, yet they are not always sent to punish sin, but by way of purigation and prevention of sin.

2. It is here supposed, that as some afflictions come upon men for personal sins, so others come upon them for parental sins, and that children may, and oft-times do, very justly suffer for their parents sins.

3. It is here supposed, that there is no other reason of a person's sufferings, but only sin: whereas though sin be much and often the cause of suffering.

4. It is implied here, that there is a transmigration of souls from one body to another; the disciples supposed, that this soul, when it was in another body, and was now punished by being put into a blind body. This pythagon error was crept in amoung the Pharisees, and the disciples here seemed to be tainted and infected with it. This may teach us, how far the holiest and wisest of men are from an infallible spirit, and that the best of men may be misled by a common error.


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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 9:2". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/john-9.html. 1700-1703.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

By this question of the disciples, we cannot suppose that they meant in relation to original sin; as if they doubted the universal corruption of mankind in Adam. This could not be the sense of the disciples' words. They knew what the Lord had said by Moses; that the iniquity of the Father is visited upon the children. Exodus 20:5. But the Reader should be told, that many years before the coming of Christ, a system of Philosophy had been introduced, by one called Pythagorus, who taught, that all mankind had existed in some other body before their appearance in the present form of human nature: and that the sins which had been committed by any of them during that former state, was punished in this. The disciples availed themselves perhaps of this opportunity, to know Christ's sentiments upon it, and put the question, whether the present blindness of this man was according to this system, the result of his father's sins, or his own. I should not have noted the folly and wickedness of such a doctrine, but with a view to call upon the Reader to remark with me, the awful blindness and ignorance of the world before the coming of Christ; when among the wisest of men, such childish and ridiculous notions prevailed. My brother! calculate, if you be able, the auspicious and blessed consequences which the Son of God brought with him, when he graciously visited our world!


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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/john-9.html. 1828.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

2.] According to Jewish ideas, every infirmity was the punishment of sin (see John 9:34). From Exodus 20:5, and the prevailing views on the subject, the disciples may have believed that the man was visited for the sins of his parents: but how could he himself have sinned before his birth? Beza and Grotius refer the question to the doctrine of metempsychosis; that he may have sinned in a former state of existence; this however is disproved by Lightfoot and Lampe. The Pharisees believed that the good souls only passed into other bodies, which would exclude this case (see Jos. Antt. xviii. 1. 3, and B. J. ii. 8. 14). Lightfoot, Lücke, and Meyer refer it to the possibility of sin in the womb; Tholuck to predestinated sin, punished by anticipation: De Wette to the general doctrine of the præ-existence of souls, which prevailed both among the Rabbis and Alexandrians: see Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20 (the applicability of which passage is doubted by Stier, iv. 455 note, edn. 2). So Isidore of Pelusium in the Catena (Lücke, ii. 372), οὗτος, ὥς φασιν ἕλληνες,ἢ οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ, ὥς φασιν ἰουδαῖοι.

The question may have been asked vaguely without any strict application of it to the circumstances, merely taking for granted that some sin must have led to the blindness, and hardly thinking of the non-applicability of one of the suppositions to this case. Or perhaps, as Stier inclines to suppose, the οὖτος, may mean, ‘this man, or, for that is out of the question (dieser selbst, oder, da uns dies doch nicht denkbar ist, …), his parents?’

ἵνα as a cause why he should be …,—used τελικῶς:—not ἐκβατικῶς (Olsh.), expressing the mere consecution of events.


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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 9:2". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-9.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

John 9:2. ἠρώτησαν, asked) They were well aware of the [omniscient] knowledge of their Master.— ὗυτος, this man) This question of the disciples ought not to be curiously examined into; whether, and when, that blind man could have sinned and thence contracted blindness. An interrogation, especially a disjunctive one, asserts nothing; and an assertion of the disciples would not compel us to an assent.— γεννηθῇ, that he should be born) That he was born blind, the disciples had heard from others.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 9:2". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-9.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The disciples question supposed two things for truth:

1. That all bodily punishments and afflictions come upon men for sin.

2. That as some come upon them for personal sins, so others come upon them for the sins of their parents.

The latter is unquestionably true: so is the former, but not universally: as there are afflictions which are punishments of sin, so there are some that are trials.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 9:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-9.html. 1685.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

2. Rabbi. see on John 1:39, John 4:31.

ἵνα τ. γεννηθῇ. That he should be born blind, in accordance with the Divine decree; comp. John 4:34, John 6:29; John 6:40, and see on John 8:56. They probably knew the fact from the man himself, who would often state it to the passers-by. This question has given rise to much discussion. It implies a belief that some one must have sinned, or there would have been no such suffering: who then was it that sinned? Possibly the question means no more than this; the persons most closely connected with the suffering being specially mentioned, without much thought as to possibilities or probabilities. But this is not quite satisfactory. The disciples name two very definite alternatives; we must not assume that one of them was meaningless. That the sins of the fathers are visited on the children is the teaching of the Second Commandment and of every one’s experience. But how could a man be born blind for his own sin?

Four answers have been suggested. [1] The predestinarian notion that the man was punished for sins which God knew he would commit in his life. This is utterly unscriptural and scarcely fits the context.

[2] The doctrine of the transmigration of souls, which was held by some Jews: he might have sinned in another body. But it is doubtful whether this philosophic tenet would be familiar to the disciples.

[3] The doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul, which appears Wisdom of Solomon 8:20 : the man’s soul sinned before it was united to the body. This again can hardly have been familiar to illiterate men.

[4] The current Jewish interpretation of Genesis 25:22, Psalms 51:5, and similar passages; that it was possible for a babe yet unborn to have emotions (comp. Luke 1:41-44) and that these might be and often were sinful. On the whole, this seems to be the simplest and most natural interpretation, and John 9:34 seems to confirm it.


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"Commentary on John 9:2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/john-9.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2. Who did sin?—We have here a bit of speculative theology. The disciples assume the prevalent doctrine as true, that special calamities are the result of special sinfulness. If they had assumed that the race is liable to miseries because the race is depraved, there would have been no error. It is also true that many sins entail particular sufferings upon posterity, physical, moral, and political. Nevertheless, special sufferings are not absolute proof of special guilt.

This man, or his parents—But how could the apostles conceive that this man had sinned before his birth? Some commentators have held that they imagined that the man’s soul may have sinned in a previous body. That would imply the doctrine of metempsychosis or transmigration, by which the same soul is supposed to inhabit different bodies; and so the soul may have sinned in a former body and be punished in this. There is no clear proof that this doctrine was prevalent among these Jews. Others hold that they believed that the child in the womb, before its birth, could be guilty of wicked impulses and motions. Others, that the disciples asked a confused question without distinctly perceiving the implications it contained. But, note, this may have been the very difficulty they desired the Lord ultimately to explain; namely, how this man’s birth-blindness could have been the result of his own sin. On the popular supposition that suffering was the result of a sin, they desire to know of whose sin this man’s suffering is the consequence. Was it his parents’ sin or his own? And if Jesus had replied his own the next question would have been, If his own, how?


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-9.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The Jews regarded blind people as especially worthy of charity. [Note: Ibid, 2:178.] The disciples" question reflected popular Jewish opinion of their day. Clearly the Old Testament taught that sin brings divine punishment (e.g, Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Ezekiel 18:4). This cause and effect relationship led many of the Jews, as well as many modern people, to conclude that every bad effect had an identifiable sinful cause. [Note: Cf. Talmud tractates Shabbath55 a, and Nedarim41 a, quoted in Edersheim, 1:494.] That conclusion goes farther than the Bible does (cf. Job; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 4:13). Sin does lie behind all the suffering and evil in the world, but the connection between sin and suffering is not always immediate or observable.

The disciples, like their contemporaries, assumed that either one or both of the blind man"s parents had sinned, or he had, and that this sin was the cause of his blindness.

"It is not absolutely certain they were thinking of the possibility of the man having sinned in a pre-natal condition. As R. A. Knox points out, they may not have known that the man was born blind, and the Greek might be understood to mean, "Did this man sin? or did his parents commit some sin with the result that he was born blind?"" [Note: Tasker, p126. The source mentioned is Ronald A. Knox, The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ newly translated from the Vulgate Latin ..., 1945 ed.]

"The disciples did not look at the man as an object of mercy but rather as a subject for a theological discussion. It is much easier to discuss an abstract subject like "sin" than it is to minister to a concrete need in the life of a person." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:324.]


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-9.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 9:2. And his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind? It is not said that the disciples were moved to pity, but it is not right to assume the contrary. That Jesus had looked on the blind man would be enough to raise their expectation of a cure; but expressly to relate this might well seem needless. Whatever feeling, however, the sight may have stirred in them, it recalled a problem which was very familiar to the thought of the Jews, and which repeatedly meets us in the Scriptures of the Old Testament,—the connection between personal sin and bodily suffering or defect. Here was a signal example of physical infirmity: what was its cause? The question seems to show a conviction on their part that the cause was sin; but the conviction may have been less firm than the words themselves would imply. In assuming that the blindness was the consequence of sin they were following the current theology of their time: but how was this dogma to be applied in the case before them? Who had sinned? Was it the man himself? Or had his parents committed some offence which was now visited upon their child? (comp. Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Numbers 14:33; Jeremiah 32:18). The passages to which we have referred throw light on the latter alternative; but what is the meaning of the former, as the man was born blind? It is not necessary to discuss the various explanations that have been given, some of which seem wholly improbable. Three only need be mentioned, as having apparently some sanction from what we know of Jewish thought in the apostolic age. (1) We are told by Josephus that the Pharisees held the belief that, whereas the souls of the wicked are eternally punished, the souls of the righteous pass into other bodies. Hence it has been maintained that the Pharisees held the doctrine of the transmigration of souls; and the passage before us is frequently explained accordingly. If, however, we compare all the passages in which Josephus refers to tenets of the Pharisees respecting the state of man after death, it will at least appear very uncertain that such a meaning should be attached to his words as quoted above. It is very possible that the historian is there referring entirely to a state of being beyond the limits of this world’s history; or that, in the attempt to present the belief of his countrymen in a form familiar to the Roman conquerors, he has used language which conveys an erroneous impression. At all events we cannot assume that the transmigration of souls was a tenet widely embraced by the Jewish people of that age, without far stronger evidence than we now possess. (2) The philosophic doctrine of the pre-existence of souls was certainly held by many Jews at the time of which we are speaking. As early as the book of Wisdom we find a reference to this doctrine (see chap. John 8:19-20), and passages of similar tendency may easily be quoted from Philo. Yet it seems improbable that an opinion which was essentially a speculation of philosophy, and was perhaps attractive to none but philosophic minds, should manifest itself in such a question as this, asked by plain men unacquainted with the refinements of Greek thought. (3) It seems certainly to have been an ancient Jewish opinion that sin could be committed by the unborn child; and that the narrative of Genesis 25, appearing to teach that the odious character of a supplanter belonged to Jacob even before birth, gave the authority of Scripture to such a belief. On the whole this seems to afford the best explanation of the question of the disciples: Was the sin so severely punished committed by this man himself, in the earliest period of his existence, or have the iniquities of his parents been visited upon him? (On the word Rabbi, see chap. John 1:38.)


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-9.html. 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Christ healed the paralytic, he dismissed him with this injunction: Behold thou art made whole; now sin no more. From this the disciples concluded, that his infirmity was sent him in punishment of former sins. When, therefore, they saw this man afflicted with blindness, they inquired of their divine Master, whether it was on account of his or his parents' sin. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lv. in Joan.)


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on John 9:2". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/john-9.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

disciples. Not necessarily the Twelve. See note on "neighbours" (John 9:8) and Structure "M".

asked. Greek. erotao. App-135.

Master. Greek. Rabbi. App-98.

sin. App-128. The only sign (with the third; "C", p. 194)* connected with sin. See John 5:14. *[Conversion Note: The original text is shown here. Page 194 references Numbers 10:10-10:36. It"s completely unclear which of his comments or Bible text the author is referring to. The author presented no Structure diagrams on page 194.]

this man. The Lord was appealed to as Rabbi to settle a much controverted point as to pre-natal sin; or another question that "there shall be neither merit nor demerit in the days of the Messiah "(Lightfoot, xii, p. 326), referring back to "My day "(John 8:56).

that = in order that. Greek. hina.

was = should be.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 9:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/john-9.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? [ hina (Greek #2443) tuflos (Greek #5185) genneethee (Greek #1080)] - or 'should be born blind.' Since the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls, and that of the 'metempsychosis' (the transmission of the soul of one person into the Body of another), though held by certain of the more philosophical Jews, was never a current belief of the people, we are not to understand the disciples here to refer to sin committed in a former state of existence; and probably it is but a loose way of concluding that sin somewhere had surely been the cause of this calamity.


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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-9.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) Who did sin, this man, or his parents?—The disciples noticed that He looked at the man, and it may be that He halted as He was walking by. Their attention is directed to the sufferer, and with suffering they connect the idea of sin. They ask a question which may have come to them many times before, and which has in various forms come to men’s hearts many times since. Some of them may have heard it discussed in Rabbinic schools, and may have wished to know what answer He whom they had come to regard as greater than the Rabbis, would give. But it is a question not of the learned only, but of men generally, and those who now ask it do not propound it as a matter for discussion, but as a mystery of human life brought home to them in all its darkness, and for which they seek a solution at His hands. His teaching on the wider questions of the existence of evil and the connection of sin and suffering, though coming in the order of events after these words, and in part probably arising out of them, has in the order of the record occurred before them, and has been already dealt with in Notes on Luke 13:1-5. What is special to the question, as it meets us here, is that what is deemed to be the punishment had come with birth before possibility of thought or action, and therefore, as we think, before possibility of sin.

The form of the question puts two alternatives on precisely the same grounds; and we have no right therefore to assume that one of them is excluded by the questioners themselves. The fact of sin is stated as beyond question. The problem is, “Was the sin that of the man himself, or that of his parents?” The latter alternative is familiar to us, and daily experience shows us that within limits it holds good in both the moral and the physical worlds. It was clearly taught in the Second Commandment, and there is abundant evidence that the belief was at this time widely spread. We have greater difficulty in tracing the origin of the former alternative. It is not easy to accept the view that they thought of sin in his mother’s womb, though it seems certain that the Jews currently interpreted such passages as Genesis 25:22, and Psalms 51:5 in this sense. That a more or less definite belief in the transmigration of souls was common among Jews at the time of our Lord’s ministry, is made probable by references in Philo and Josephus. We know it was a doctrine of the Essenes and of the Cabbala; and we find it in the nearly contemporary words of the Wisdom of Solomon, “Yea rather being good, I came into a body undefiled” (Wisdom of Solomon 8:20). Still it has been urged that it is not likely that such a belief would have made its way among the fishermen of Galilee. We have to remember, however, that among the disciples there are now men of Jerusalem as well as of Galilee, and that questions which men found hard to understand were constantly being raised and answered in the Rabbinic schools. In the meetings of the yearly festivals the answers of great Rabbis would be talked over and become generally known, and be handed on as maxims to those who knew little of the principle on which they were based. It was, then, probably with some thought that the life in this maimed body may not have been the first stage of his existence, that they ask, Did this man sin?


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 9:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-9.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
who
34; Matthew 16:14

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 9:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-9.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

Whose sin was it? They think all such trouble as this, comes as a "judgment" for sin. It is true that we bring many things on ourselves. But read what Jesus said in Luke 13:1-5.


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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on John 9:2". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/john-9.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ver. 2. "And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

It is an undeniable fact, that severe sicknesses are not seldom the consequences of great sins. Experience testifies it; and in the threatenings of God's law against daring transgressors, sicknesses are expressly mentioned amongst many other evils: Deuteronomy 28:22; Leviticus 26:16. This is the basis of fact for the widely extended notion that all severe sicknesses, and generally all heavy afflictions, are the result of special and extraordinary transgressions. This current and popular opinion—which cannot but mislead to uncharitable judgment upon the sufferer, and Pharisaic self-complacency—we find the Pharisees arguing from as a settled axiom, ver. 34. In the book of Job it is represented by a trio of persons, in age and rank the chief figures round Job; whilst behind them the youthful Elihu, the representative of a new development of wisdom, introduces a better interpretation of evil. This book condemned that notion for ever; but it is not given to every man to penetrate its meaning and spirit; and thus the fallacy which it contends against has ever anew sprung up. It commends itself to low and common spirits by its simplicity and palpableness; it has the advantage of rendering it unnecessary to weep with those that weep; it saves a man from the obligation, when he looks at heavy affliction, of smiting on his breast and saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner; "it gives the natural man the comfortable feeling that he is so much better than the sufferer, as he is more fortunate. The disciples themselves could not disentangle themselves from this notion, to which they here give expression, just as Acts 28:4 represents the current view in the heathen world. Yet their question here shows that the feeling of its unsoundness was stirring in their minds.

The disciples did not ask about sin generally, but about that sin in particular which, in its nature, would draw after it such and so fearful a punishment. Jesus was expected not only to say who had sinned, but also, when He had decided for the one or the other, to solve those apparently insuperable difficulties which the solution itself would encounter. Probably they were not without a secret presentiment that there was a third solution; but as yet they speak only after the current notion. That third explanation of the problem could not be entertained without impeaching the Divine righteousness; and the piety of the disciples was too living and pure to allow them to admire the thought of "a simply natural side of evil,"—a hypothesis which would place nature by the side of God as a second and independent power. Yet the first and second explanations were surrounded by many and great difficulties. The man born blind could not himself be chargeable as the cause of his own misery; for if he had been born in sin and shapen in iniquity, yet this was common to all mankind, and could not justify a punishment so enormous in his case, and so far exceeding the ordinary limits of mortal punishment. Nor was the sin of his parents sufficient to account for so great a calamity. It is the all-pervading doctrine of Scripture, that no man is punished unless himself guilty; and that only ungodly sons are involved in the doom of their parents. (Comp. Beiträge, Th. 3 , s. 545.) Where there is a notorious transmission of bodily evil from parents to children, that transmission must be looked at from a quite different point of view: it must not be regarded as the punishment of guiltless children for the sin of their parents. The saying of Exodus 20:5, "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children," is falsely interpreted when it is made to declare the punishment of innocent children on account of their parents guilt. There, children are spoken of who are like their parents. Onkelos was right in adding, quando pergunt filii in peccando pone parentes. There are two great classes exhibited: that of the ungodly, in whom the curse works onwards; and that of the pious, in whom the blessing works inwards. But this man born blind was generally known to be one who feared God. It is said in Deuteronomy 24:16, "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin." It is true that this passage treats primarily of the rule which the Jewish magistracy were to observe, and not of the rule which God observes. But if Exodus 20:5 is made to refer to a common suffering of even guiltless sons, then the ministers of God would be obliged, in executing vengeance upon evil-doers, to include the children in the punishment. But, on the other hand, if Exodus 20:5 refers only to those sons who are connected with their fathers in the fellowship of guilt, then there must be a distinction between the heavenly and the earthly judge, and the latter must not involve the sons in the punishment of their fathers. For God alone is the "Trier of the hearts and reins;" God alone knoweth with certainty whether or not the root of sin is thriving in the children. After all that has been said, in the background of the disciples minds the question rose, And if neither of these sinned, how is the problem to be solved?


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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 9:2". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/john-9.html.

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