Healing a Man Born Blind
1 Now as Jesus was passing by,tn Or “going along.” The opening words of chap. 9, καὶ παράγων (kai paragwn), convey only the vaguest indication of the circumstances. sn Since there is no break with chap. 8, Jesus is presumably still in Jerusalem, and presumably not still in the temple area. The events of chap. 9 fall somewhere between the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) and the feast of the Dedication (John 10:22). But in the author’s narrative the connection exists – the incident recorded in chap. 9 (along with the ensuing debates with the Pharisees) serves as a real-life illustration of the claim Jesus made in 8:12, I am the light of the world. This is in fact the probable theological motivation behind the juxtaposition of these two incidents in the narrative. The second serves as an illustration of the first, and as a concrete example of the victory of light over darkness. One other thing which should be pointed out about the miracle recorded in chap. 9 is its messianic significance. In the OT it is God himself who is associated with the giving of sight to the blind (Exod 4:11, Ps 146:8). In a number of passages in Isa (29:18, 35:5, 42:7) it is considered to be a messianic activity. he saw a man who had been blind from birth.
2 His disciples asked him,tn Grk “asked him, saying.” “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this mantn Grk “this one.” or his parents?”tn Grk “in order that he should be born blind.”sn The disciples assumed that sin (regardless of who committed it) was the cause of the man’s blindness. This was a common belief in Judaism; the rabbis used Ezek 18:20 to prove there was no death without sin, and Ps 89:33 to prove there was no punishment without guilt (the Babylonian Talmud, b. Shabbat 55a, although later than the NT, illustrates this). Thus in this case the sin must have been on the part of the man’s parents, or during his own prenatal existence. Song Rabbah 1:41 (another later rabbinic work) stated that when a pregnant woman worshiped in a heathen temple the unborn child also committed idolatry. This is only one example of how, in rabbinic Jewish thought, an unborn child was capable of sinning.
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this mantn Grk “this one.” nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so thattn Grk “but so that.” There is an ellipsis that must be supplied: “but [he was born blind] so that” or “but [it happened to him] so that.” the actstn Or “deeds”; Grk “works.” of God may be revealedtn Or “manifested,” “brought to light.” through what happens to him.tn Grk “in him.”
4 We must perform the deedstn Grk “We must work the works.” of the one who sent metn Or “of him who sent me” (God). as long astn Or “while.” it is daytime. Night is coming when no one can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”sn Jesus’ statement I am the light of the world connects the present account with 8:12. Here (seen more clearly than at 8:12) it is obvious what the author sees as the significance of Jesus’ statement. “Light” is not a metaphysical definition of the person of Jesus but a description of his effect on the world, forcing everyone in the world to ‘choose up sides’ for or against him (cf. 3:19-21).
6 Having said this,tn Grk “said these things.” he spat on the ground and made some mudtn Or “clay” (moistened earth of a clay-like consistency). The textual variant preserved in the Syriac text of Ephraem’s commentary on the Diatessaron (“he made eyes from his clay”) probably arose from the interpretation given by Irenaeus in Against Heresies: “that which the Artificer, the Word, had omitted to form in the womb, he then supplied in public.” This involves taking the clay as an allusion to Gen 2:7, which is very unlikely. with the saliva. Hetn Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, the conjunction καί (kai) was replaced by a third person pronoun and a new sentence started here in the translation. smeared the mud on the blind man’stn Grk “on his.” eyes
7 and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam”tn The pool’s name in Hebrew is shiloah from the Hebrew verb “to send.” In Gen 49:10 the somewhat obscure shiloh was interpreted messianically by later Jewish tradition, and some have seen a lexical connection between the two names (although this is somewhat dubious). It is known, however, that it was from the pool of Siloam that the water which was poured out at the altar during the feast of Tabernacles was drawn. (which is translated “sent”).sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. Why does he comment on the meaning of the name of the pool? Here, the significance is that the Father sent the Son, and the Son sent the man born blind. The name of the pool is applicable to the man, but also to Jesus himself, who was sent from heaven. So the blind mantn Grk “So he”; the referent (the blind man) is specified in the translation for clarity. went away and washed, and came back seeing.
8 Then the neighbors and the people who had seen him previouslytn Or “formerly.” as a beggar began saying,tn An ingressive force (“began saying”) is present here because the change in status of the blind person provokes this new response from those who knew him. “Is this not the mantn Grk “the one.” who used to sit and beg?”
9 Some people said,tn Grk “Others were saying.” “This is the man!”tn Grk “This is the one.” while others said, “No, but he looks like him.”tn Grk “No, but he is like him.” The man himselftn Grk “That one”; the referent (the man himself) is specified in the translation for clarity. kept insisting, “I am the one!”tn Grk “I am he.”
10 So they asked him,tn Grk “So they were saying to him.” “How then were you made to see?”tn Grk “How then were your eyes opened” (an idiom referring to restoration of sight).
11 He replied,tn Grk “That one answered.” “The man called Jesus made mud,tn Or “clay” (moistened earth of a clay-like consistency). smeared ittn Grk “and smeared.” Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when obvious from the context. on my eyes and told me,tn Grk “said to me.” ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and was able to see.”tn Or “and I gained my sight.”
12 They saidtn Grk “And they said.” to him, “Where is that man?”tn Grk “that one.” “Man” is more normal English style for the referent. He replied,tn Grk “He said.” “I don’t know.”
The Pharisees’ Reaction to the Healing
13 They brought the man who used to be blindtn Grk “who was formerly blind.” to the Pharisees.sn See the note on Pharisees in 1:24.
14 (Now the day on which Jesus made the mudtn Or “clay” (moistened earth of a clay-like consistency). and caused him to seetn Grk “and opened his eyes” (an idiom referring to restoration of sight). was a Sabbath.)sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
15 So the Pharisees asked him again how he had gained his sight.tn Or “how he had become able to see.”sn So the Pharisees asked him. Note the subtlety here: On the surface, the man is being judged. But through him, Jesus is being judged. Yet in reality (as the discerning reader will realize) it is ironically the Pharisees themselves who are being judged by their response to Jesus who is the light of the world (cf. 3:17-21). He replied,tn Grk “And he said to them.” “He put mudtn Or “clay” (moistened earth of a clay-like consistency). on my eyes and I washed, and nowtn The word “now” is not in the Greek text, but is supplied to indicate the contrast between the man’s former state (blind) and his present state (able to see). I am able to see.”
16 Then some of the Pharisees began to say,tn As a response to the answers of the man who used to be blind, the use of the imperfect tense in the reply of the Pharisees is best translated as an ingressive imperfect (“began to say” or “started saying”). “This man is not from God, because he does not observetn Grk “he does not keep.” the Sabbath.”sn The Jewish religious leaders considered the work involved in making the mud to be a violation of the Sabbath. But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner performtn Grk “do.” such miraculous signs?” Thus there was a divisiontn Or “So there was discord.” among them.
17 So again they asked the man who used to be blind,tn Grk “the blind man.” “What do you say about him, since he caused you to see?”tn Grk “since he opened your eyes” (an idiom referring to restoration of sight). “He is a prophet,” the man replied.tn Grk “And he said, ‘He is a prophet.’”sn At this point the man, pressed by the Pharisees, admitted there was something special about Jesus. But here, since prophet is anarthrous (is not accompanied by the Greek article) and since in his initial reply in 9:11-12 the man showed no particular insight into the true identity of Jesus, this probably does not refer to the prophet of Deut 18:15, but merely to an unusual person who is capable of working miracles. The Pharisees had put this man on the spot, and he felt compelled to say something about Jesus, but he still didn’t have a clear conception of who Jesus was, so he labeled him a “prophet.”
18 Now the Jewish religious leaderstn Or “the Jewish religious authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” In NT usage the term ᾿Ιουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) may refer to the entire Jewish people, the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory, the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. (For further information see R. G. Bratcher, “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John,” BT 26 : 401-9.) Here the phrase refers mainly to the Pharisees, mentioned by name in John 9:13, 15, 16. References in this context to Pharisees and to the synagogue (v. 22) suggest an emphasis on the religious nature of the debate which is brought out by the translation “the Jewish religious leaders.” refused to believetn The Greek text contains the words “about him” at this point: “the Jewish authorities did not believe about him…” that he had really been blind and had gained his sight until at last they summonedtn Grk “they called.” the parents of the man who had become able to see.tn Or “the man who had gained his sight.”
19 They asked the parents,tn Grk “and they asked them, saying”; the referent (the parents) has been specified in the translation for clarity. “Is this your son, whom you saytn The Greek pronoun and verb are both plural (both parents are addressed). was born blind? Then how does he now see?”
20 So his parents replied,tn Grk “So his parents answered and said.” “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
21 But we do not know how he is now able to see, nor do we know who caused him to see.tn Grk “who opened his eyes” (an idiom referring to restoration of sight). Ask him, he is a mature adult.tn Or “he is of age.” He will speak for himself.”
22 (His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jewish religious leaders.tn Or “the Jewish religious authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” Twice in this verse the phrase refers to the Pharisees, mentioned by name in John 9:13, 15, 16. The second occurrence is shortened to “the Jewish leaders” for stylistic reasons. See the note on the phrase “the Jewish religious leaders” in v. 18. For the Jewish leaders had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesustn Grk “confessed him.” to be the Christtn Or “the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).sn See the note on Christ in 1:20. would be put outtn Or “would be expelled from.” of the synagogue.sn This reference to excommunication from the Jewish synagogue for those who had made some sort of confession about Jesus being the Messiah is dismissed as anachronistic by some (e.g., Barrett) and nonhistorical by others. In later Jewish practice there were at least two forms of excommunication: a temporary ban for thirty days, and a permanent ban. But whether these applied in NT times is far from certain. There is no substantial evidence for a formal ban on Christians until later than this Gospel could possibly have been written. This may be a reference to some form of excommunication adopted as a contingency to deal with those who were proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah. If so, there is no other record of the procedure than here. It was probably local, limited to the area around Jerusalem. See also the note on synagogue in 6:59.
23 For this reason his parents said, “He is a mature adult,tn Or “he is of age.” ask him.”)sn This is a parenthetical note by the author explaining the parents’ response.
24 Then they summonedtn Grk “they called.” the man who used to be blindtn Grk “who was blind.” a second time and said to him, “Promise before God to tell the truth.tn Grk “Give glory to God” (an idiomatic formula used in placing someone under oath to tell the truth). We know that this mantn The phrase “this man” is a reference to Jesus. is a sinner.”
25 He replied,tn Grk “Then that one answered.” “I do not know whether he is a sinner. I do know one thing – that although I was blind, now I can see.”
26 Then they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he cause you to see?”tn Grk “open your eyes” (an idiom referring to restoration of sight).
27 He answered,tn Grk “He answered them.” The indirect object αὐτοῖς (autois) has not been translated for stylistic reasons. “I told you already and you didn’t listen.tn Grk “you did not hear.” Why do you want to hear ittn “It” is not in the Greek text but has been supplied. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when they were clearly implied in the context. again? You peopletn The word “people” is supplied in the translation to clarify the plural Greek pronoun and verb. don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”
28 Theytn Grk “And they.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here. heaped insultstn The Greek word means “to insult strongly” or “slander.” on him, saying,tn Grk “and said.” “You are his disciple!tn Grk “You are that one’s disciple.” We are disciples of Moses!
29 We know that God has spoken to Moses! We do not know where this mantn Grk “where this one.” comes from!”
30 The man replied,tn Grk “The man answered and said to them.” This has been simplified in the translation to “The man replied.” “This is a remarkable thing,tn Grk “For in this is a remarkable thing.” that you don’t know where he comes from, and yet he caused me to see!tn Grk “and he opened my eyes” (an idiom referring to restoration of sight).
31 We know that God doesn’t listen totn Grk “God does not hear.” sinners, but if anyone is devouttn Or “godly.” and does his will, Godtn Grk “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity. listens totn Or “hears.” him.tn Grk “this one.”
32 Never beforetn Or “Never from the beginning of time,” Grk “From eternity.” has anyone heard of someone causing a man born blind to see.tn Grk “someone opening the eyes of a man born blind” (“opening the eyes” is an idiom referring to restoration of sight).
33 If this mantn Grk “this one.” were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 They replied,tn Grk “They answered and said to him.” This has been simplified in the translation to “They replied.” “You were born completely in sinfulness,tn Or “From birth you have been evil.” The implication of this insult, in the context of John 9, is that the man whom Jesus caused to see had not previously adhered rigorously to all the conventional requirements of the OT law as interpreted by the Pharisees. Thus he had no right to instruct them about who Jesus was. and yet you presume to teach us?”tn Grk “and are you teaching us?” So they threw him out.
The Man’s Response to Jesus
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, so he found the mantn Grk “found him”; the referent (the man) has been specified in the translation for clarity. and said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”tc Although most witnesses (A L Θ Ψ 070 0250 Ë1,13 33 Ï lat) have θεοῦ (qeou, “of God”) instead of ἀνθρώπου (anqrwpou, “of man”) here, the better witnesses (Ì66,75 א B D W sys) have ἀνθρώπου. Not only is the external evidence decidedly on the side of ἀνθρώπου, but it is difficult to see such early and diverse witnesses changing θεοῦ to ἀνθρώπου. The wording “Son of Man” is thus virtually certain.
36 The mantn Grk “That one.” replied,tn Grk answered and said.” This has been simplified in the translation to “replied.” “And who is he, sir, thattn Or “And who is he, sir? Tell me so that…” Some translations supply elliptical words like “Tell me” (NIV, NRSV) following the man’s initial question, but the shorter form given in the translation is clear enough. I may believe in him?”
37 Jesus told him, “You have seen him; hetn Grk “that one.” is the one speaking with you.”tn The καί – καί (kai – kai) construction would normally be translated “both – and”: “You have both seen him, and he is the one speaking with you.” In this instance the English semicolon was used instead because it produces a smoother and more emphatic effect in English. [
38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.sn Assuming the authenticity of John 9:38-39a (see the tc note following the bracket in v. 39), the man’s response after Jesus’ statement of v. 37 is extremely significant: He worshiped Jesus. In the Johannine context the word would connote its full sense: This was something due God alone. Note also that Jesus did not prevent the man from doing this. The verb προσκυνέω (proskunew) is used in John 4:20-25 of worshiping God, and again with the same sense in 12:20. This would be the only place in John’s Gospel where anyone is said to have worshiped Jesus using this term. As such, it forms the climax of the story of the man born blind, but the uniqueness of the concept of worshiping Jesus at this point in John's narrative (which reaches its ultimate climax in the confession of Thomas in John 20:28) may suggest it is too early for such a response and it represents a later scribal addition.
39 Jesustn Grk “And Jesus.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here. said,]tc ‡ Some early and important witnesses (Ì75 א* W b sams ac2 mf) lack the words, “He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him. Jesus said,” (vv. 38-39a). This is weighty evidence for the omission of these words. It is difficult to overstate the value of Ì75 here, since it is the only currently available papyrus ms extant for the text of John 9:38-39. Further, א is an important and early Alexandrian witness for the omission. The versional testimony and codex W also give strong support to the omission. Nearly all other mss, however, include these words. The omission may have been occasioned by parablepsis (both vv. 37 and 39 begin with “Jesus said to him”), though it is difficult to account for such an error across such a wide variety of witnesses. On the other hand, the longer reading appears to be motivated by liturgical concerns (so R. E. Brown, John [AB], 1:375), since the verb προσκυνέω (proskunew, “I worship”) is used in John 4:20-25 of worshiping God, and again with the same sense in 12:20. If these words were authentic here, this would be the only place in John’s Gospel where Jesus is the explicit object of προσκυνέω. Even if these words are not authentic, such an omission would nevertheless hardly diminish John’s high Christology (cf. 1:1; 5:18-23; 14:6-10; 20:28), nor the implicit worship of him by Thomas (20:28). Nevertheless, a decision is difficult, and the included words may reflect a very early tradition about the blind man’s response to Jesus. “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight,tn Or “that those who do not see may see.” and the ones who see may become blind.”
40 Some of the Phariseessn See the note on Pharisees in 1:24. who were with him heard thistn Grk “heard these things.” and asked him,tn Grk “and said to him.” “We are not blind too, are we?”tn Questions prefaced with μή (mh) in Greek anticipate a negative answer. This can sometimes be indicated by using a “tag” at the end in English (here the tag is “are we?”).
41 Jesus replied,tn Grk “Jesus said to them.” “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin,tn Grk “you would not have sin.” but now because you claim that you can see,tn Grk “now because you say, ‘We see…’” your guilttn Or “your sin.” remains.”sn Because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains. The blind man received sight physically, and this led him to see spiritually as well. But the Pharisees, who claimed to possess spiritual sight, were spiritually blinded. The reader might recall Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in 3:10, “Are you the teacher of Israel and don’t understand these things?” In other words, to receive Jesus was to receive the light of the world, to reject him was to reject the light, close one’s eyes, and become blind. This is the serious sin of which Jesus had warned before (8:21-24). The blindness of such people was incurable since they had rejected the only cure that exists (cf. 12:39-41).
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