Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.Chap. 9, 10.] Jesus the light, for the healing of the world and the judgment of the Jews.
9:1-41.] Manifestation of Jesus as the Light by a miracle. Judgment of the Jews by the healed man, and by Jesus.
1.] This, if the concluding words of ch. 8. in the . are genuine, would appear to have happened on the same day [as the incidents there related], which is hardly likely, for we should thus have the whole incidents from ch. 7:37 (omitting ch. 7:53-8:12), belonging to one day, and that day a sabbath (ver. 14). And besides, the circumstances under which Jesus here appears are too usual and tranquil to have succeeded immediately to His escape in ch. 8:59. I would rather therefore suppose that there is a break before this verse: how long, we cannot of course say. Thus we have the commencement of a new narrative here, as in ch. 6:1, and 7:1. This is the view of Lücke, Tholuck, and De Wette; Olshausen, Meyer, and Stier believe it to have been the same day; and the former refers the ἦν σάβ. (ver. 14) to its being the last day of the feast (ch. 7:37, where see note).
The blind man was sitting begging (ver. 8), possibly proclaiming the fact of his having been so born; for otherwise the disciples could hardly have asked the following question. The incident may have been in the neighbourhood of the temple (Acts 3:2): but doubtless there were other places where beggars sat, besides the temple entrances.
2.] According to Jewish ideas, every infirmity was the punishment of sin (see ver. 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 Wisd. 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, ἤ 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.
3.] After αὐτοῦ supply ἵνα τυφ. γεν.: ‘neither of these was the cause; but τυφ. ἐγεννήθη, in order that.…’ But how so? οὐ κολαστικῶς, ἀλλʼ οἰκονομικῶς. In the economy of God’s Providence, his suffering had its place and aim, and this was to bring out the ἔργα τ. θεοῦ in his being healed by the Redeemer (see Romans 11:11 and note). So Lücke:—De Wette denies the interpretation, and refers the saying merely to the view of our Lord to bring out his own practical design, to make use of this man to prove His divine power. But see ch. 11:4, which is strictly parallel.
4.] Connected by ἐργάζ. τὰ ἔργα to the former verse. There certainly seems to be some reference to its being the sabbath; see the similar expressions in ch. 5:17. From ὅταν …, in ver. 5, it seems evident that ἡμέρα is the appointed course of the working of Jesus on earth, and νύξ the close of it (see the parallel, ch. 11:9, 10). It is true, that, according to John’s universal diction, the death of Jesus is His glorification; but the similitude here regards the effect on the world, see ver. 5; and the language of Romans 13:12 is in accordance with it, as also Luke 22:53: John 14:30.
5.] This partly explains the ἡμ. and νύξ of the former verse, partly alludes to the nature of the healing about to take place. As before the raising of Lazarus (ch. 11:25), He states that He is the Resurrection and the Life; so now, He sets forth Himself as the source of the archetypal spiritual light, of which the natural, now about to be conferred, is only a derivation and symbol.
6.] See reff. Mark. The virtue especially of the saliva jejuna, in cases of disorders of the eyes, was well known to antiquity. Pliny, . . xxviii. 7, says, “Lippitudines matutina quotidie velut inunctione arceri.” In both accounts (Suet. Vesp. 7: Tacitus, Hist. iv. 8) of the restoring of a blind man to sight attributed to Vespasian, the use of this remedy occurs. See also Wetstein in loc. (Trench, Miracles, 293 note, edn. 2). The use of clay also for healing the eyes was not unknown. Serenus Samonicus (in the time of Caracalla) says: “Si tumor insolitus typho se tollat inani, Turgentes oculos vili circumline cœno.”
No rule can be laid down which our Lord may seem to have observed, as to using, or dispensing with, the ordinary human means of healing. He Himself determined by considerations which are hidden from us. Whatever the means used, the healing was not in them, but in Him alone. The ‘conductor’ of the miraculous power was generally the faith of the recipient: and if such means served to awaken that faith, their use would be accounted for.
7.] The reason of his being sent to Siloam is uncertain. It may have been as part of the cure,—or merely to wash off the clay. The former is most probable, especially as the εἰς must be taken with νίψαι, not with ὕπαγε, and thus would imply immersion in the pool. So x. p. 438 F (in Meyer), λούεσθαι εἰς λουτρῶνας.
A beggar blind from his birth would know the localities sufficiently to be able to find his way; so that there is no necessity to suppose a partial restoration of sight before his going.
The situation of the fountain and pool of Siloam is very doubtful. Robinson makes both at the mouth of the ancient Tyropœon, s.e. of the city. He himself explored a subterranean passage from this spot to the Fountain of the Virgin higher up on the banks of the Kedron. Josephus, B. J. v. 4. 1, says, ἡ δὲ τῶν τυροποιῶν προσαγορευομένη φάραγξ … καθήκει μέχρι Σιλωάμ· οὕτω γὰρ τὴν πηγήν, γλυκεῖάν τε καὶ πολλὴν οὖσαν, ἐκαλοῦμεν. Jerome sets it “ad radices montis Zion” (on Isaiah 8:6), and mentions its intermittent character: but he also says (on Matthew 10:28), “ad radices montis Moria, in quibus Siloo fluit:” so that his testimony exactly agrees with Josephus and Robinson (see Robins. i. 493 ff., and The Land and the Book, pp. 659 ff.). It is mentioned Nehemiah 3:15: Isaiah 8:6. On the subject of a recent suggestion respecting the identity of Siloam and Bethesda, see supplementary note at the end of this volume.
ὃ ἑρμ. ἀπεστ.] The reason of this derivation (Σιλωάμ = שִׁלֹחַ) being stated has been much doubted. Some (e.g. Lücke) consider the words to have been inserted as an early gloss of some allegorical interpreter. But there is no external authority for this; every ms. and version containing them, except the . and Pers. Euthym. says, οἶμαι διὰ τὸν ἀπεσταλμένον ἐκεῖ τότε τυφλόν. So also Nonnus: ὕδωρ στελλομένοιο προώνυμον ἐκ σέο πομπῆς: and Meyer takes this view. But it would be a violent transfer,—of the name of the fountain, to the man who was sent thither. I should rather regard the healing virtue imparted to the water to be denoted, as symbolical of Him who was sent, and whose mission it was to give the healing water of life. , Chrys., Thl., Erasm., Beza, Calvin, &c., and Ebrard and Luthardt, similarly refer ἀπεσταλ. to the Lord Jesus: Stier, to the Holy Spirit,—but as one with, and proceeding from Christ.
ἦλθεν, came back;—apparently to his own house, by the next verse.
8.] θεωροῦντες belongs to τὸ πρότερον, and thus expresses the present relatively to that time,—οἳ ἦσαν τὸ πρότ. θεωροῦντες. The choice of the word θεωροῦντες implies attention and habit.
The reading τυφλός was most likely a correction of some one who thought προσαίτης did not express plainly enough the change in him. The question of identity would be much more likely to turn on whether he was really the person who had sat and begged (the blindness being involved in it), than on the fact of his having been blind.
11.] ἀνέβλ., strictly speaking, is in-appropriate in the case of one born blind. Lücke refers to Aristotle as using the word thus, and cites Pausanias, who speaks of Ὀφιονέα … τὸν ἐκ γενετῆς τυφλόν, whom ἐπέλαβε τῆς κεφαλῆς ἄλγημα ἰσχυρόν, καὶ ἀνέβλεψεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ. Sight being natural to men, the deprivation of it is regarded as a loss, and the reception of it, though never enjoyed before, as a recovery. So Grotius: “nec male recipere quis dicitur, quod communiter tributum humanæ naturæ ipsi abfuit.” There is no emphasis on μου here (as Bp. Wordsw.) nor in vv. 15, 30: nor on σου in vv. 10, 17, 26. See on Matthew 16:18, and compare Luke 12:18.
13.] The neighbours appear to have brought him to the Pharisees, out of hostility to Jesus (see ver. 12): and ver. 14 alleges the reason of this:—or perhaps from fear of the sentence alluded to in ver. 22. The ‘Pharisees’ here may have been the court presiding over the synagogue, or one of the lesser local courts of Sanhedrim. Lücke inclines to think they were an assembly of the great Sanhedrim, whom John sometimes names οἱ Φαρ.: see ch. 7:47; 11:46: Meyer regards them as some formal section of the Pharisees, as a body: but were there such?
14.] Lightf. cites from a Rabbinical treatise on the Sabbath, “sputum etiam super palpebras poni prohibitum.” But the making the clay, as a servile work, seems to be here prominently mentioned.
Meyer notices,—and it is interesting, as a minute mark of accuracy,—that the man only relates what he himself, as being blind, had felt: he says nothing of the spittle.
15.] πάλιν refers to ver. 10. The enquiry was official, as addressed to the chief witness in the matter. We cannot hence infer with Lücke that no one else was present at the healing but Jesus and His disciples.
16. τινὲς … ἄλλοι] Among the latter party would be such as Nicodemus, Joseph, (Gamaliel?); who probably (Joseph certainly, Luke 23:51) at last withdrew, and left the majority to carry out their hate against Jesus.
17.] The question is but one, as in E. V., What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened (i.e. for having opened) thine eyes? The stress is on σύ—‘What hast thou to say to it, seeing we are divided on the matter?’ Both parties are anxious to have the man’s own view to corroborate theirs.
προφ., and therefore παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ.
18.] The hostile party (οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι,—those in authority among these variously-minded Pharisees), disappointed at his direct testimony against them, betake themselves to sifting more closely the evidence of the fact. The parents are summoned as witnesses.
19.] The question is threefold, and in strict legal formality: ‘Is this your son? Was he born blind? How is it that he now sees?’
21.] Notice the emphatic αὐτοῦ—ἡμεις—αὐτόν—αὐ τός. 22.
22.] It is not said when this resolution was come to; and this also speaks for an interval between ch. 7. 8., and this incident. It could hardly have been before the council at the conclusion of ch. 7.
ἀποσυν.] Probably the first of the three stages of Jewish excommunication,—the being shut out from the synagogue and household for thirty days, but without any anathema. The other two,—the repetition of the above, accompanied by a curse,—and final exclusion,—would be too harsh, and perhaps were not in use so early. Trench (Mirr. 299, edn. 2) regards the resolution not as a token that the Sanhedrim had pronounced Him a false Christ, but as shewing that they forbade a private man to anticipate their decision on this point by confessing Him (?).
24. δὸς δ. τ. θεῷ] Not, ‘Give God the praise’ (E. V.), i.e. ‘the glory of thy healing:’ for the Pharisees want to overawe the man by their authority, and make him deny the miracle altogether. The words are a form of adjuration (see ref. Josh.), to tell the truth, q. d. ‘Remember that you are in God’s presence, and speak as unto Him.’
25. ὤν] See on ver. 8. The man shrewdly evades the inference and states again the simple fact. Bear in mind, that ὤν must here be strictly kept to its present sense, as being joined with a present verb βλέπω: the rule for the construction of a pres. part. being, that it is contemporaneous with the verb which rules the time of the sentence. So that we must render, not ‘whereas I was blind, now I see,’ as E. V.: but as A.V.R., being a blind man [or, though a blind man], now I see. The shrewd and naïve disposition of the man furnishes the key to the ænigmatical expression. He puts it to them as the problem, the fact of which he knows for certain but the reason of which it was for them to solve, that he, whom they all knew as a blind man, now saw. So that the ὤν carries not so much present matter of fact, as common designation and title.
26.] They perhaps are trying to shake his evidence,—or to make him state something which should bring out some stronger violation of the sabbath.
27.] οὐκ ἠκούσατε must be in its special meaning of ‘did not heed it.’ The latter clause is of course ironical: ‘you seem so anxious to hear particulars about Him, that you must surely be intending to become His disciples.’
29.] λελάληκεν, not ἐλάλησεν, is important: it betokens the abiding finality of God’s revelation to Moses, in their estimation: q. d. ‘We stand by God’s revelation to Moses.’
πόθεν—‘whether from God or not.’ But see ch. 7:27, 28, where a very different reason is given for disbelieving Him to be the Christ.
30.] ἐν τ. γάρ is well expressed in E. V., Why herein is &c. Cf. Klotz, p. 242: “γάρ respicit ad ea quæ alter antea dixerat, et continet cum affirmatione conclusionem, quæ ex rebus ita comparatis facienda sit.”
ὑμεῖς, you, whose business it is to know such things.
31.] He expresses a general popular conviction, that one who could do these things, must be a pious man: and (ver. 32) very eminently so, since this miracle was unprecedented. Ver. 32, says Meyer, is the minor proposition: ver. 33, the conclusion; both in a popular form.
33.] οὐδέν, nothing of this kind, much less such a thing as this.
34.] See on ver. 2.
ὅλος, altogether,—deeply and entirely, as thy infirmity proved. “They forget that the two charges,—one that he had never been born blind, and so was an impostor,—the other, that he bore the mark of God’s anger in a blindness that reached back to his birth,—will not agree together.” (Trench, Mirr. 305, edn. 2, note.)
ἐξέβ.] They excommunicated him: see on ver. 22. It cannot merely mean, ‘they cast him out of the court’ (Chrys., Mald., Grot., Fritzsche, Tholuck, Meyer); see next verse, where it would hardly be stated that Jesus heard of it, unless it had been some public formal act.
35.] “Tune ille es, qui propter fidem in Jesum quem dicunt Christum, acerbitatem nostrorum magistrorum expertus est? An tu post has molestias etiamnum in filium Dei credis?” Lampe in loc.
36.] This υἱὸς τ. θεοῦ surpasses his present comprehension: and therefore, true to his simple and guileless character, he asks for further information about Him.
καὶ τίς] See reff. and Mark 10:26.
37.] These words καὶ ἑώρακας αὐτ. serve to remind the man of the benefit he has received, and to awaken in him the liveliest gratitude: compare Luke 2:30. They do not refer to a former seeing, when he was healed: this was the first time that he had seen his Benefactor.
39.] There seems to be an interval between the last verse and this, and the narrative appears to be taken up again at some subsequent time when this miracle became again the subject of discourse.
The blind man had recovered sight in two senses,—bodily and spiritual. And as our Lord always treats of the spiritual as paramount, including the bodily, so here He proceeds to speak of spiritual sight.
“We are all, according to the spirit of nature, no better than persons born blind; and to know and confess this our blindness, is our first and only true sight, out of which the grace of the Lord can afterwards bring about a complete receiving of sight. The ‘becoming blind,’ on the other hand, is partly an ironical expression for remaining blind, but partly also has a real meaning in the increasing darkening and hardening which takes place through unbelief.” (Stier, iv. 568; 475, edn. 2.) The βλέποντες here answer to the ἰσχύοντες and δίκαιοι of Matthew 9:12, Matthew 9:13: see note there.
40.] They ask the question, not understanding the words of Jesus in a bodily sense, but well aware of their meaning, and scornfully rejoining, ‘Are then we meant by these blind, we, the leaders of the people?’
41.] The distinction in expression between the two clauses must be carefully borne in mind. Our Lord is referring primarily to the unbelief of the Pharisees and their rejection of Him. And He says, ‘If ye were really blind (not, ‘confessed yourselves blind:’ Kuinoel, Stier, De Wette), ye would not have incurred guilt; but now ye say, “We see;” ye believe ye have the light, and boast that ye know and use the light; and therefore your guilt abideth, remaineth on you.’ Observe there is a middle clause understood, between ‘ye would never have incurred guilt,’ and ‘your guilt remaineth;’ and that is, ‘ye have incurred guilt;’ which makes it necessary to take the λέγετε ὅτι βλέπομεν as in a certain sense implying βλέπετε: viz. ‘by the Scriptures being committed to you, by God’s grace, which ought to have led you to faith in me.’