ICC New Testament Commentary
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.Cure of a Man Blind from His Birth (9:1-13)
1. καὶ παράγων εἶδεν κτλ. This is an abrupt beginning, but the introductory καί is thoroughly Johannine. παράγειν does not occur again in the Fourth Gospel; but cf. 1 John 2:8, 1 John 2:17.
τυφλὸν ἐκ γενετῆς. Probably the man was a well-known figure, as he begged for alms (v. 8) near the Temple or at some other much-frequented place. γενετή does not appear again in the N.T., but the phrase τυφλὸς ἐκ γενετῆς is common in secular writers (see Wetstein).
It is not reported of any other case of healing in the Gospels that the person cured had been sick, blind, or lame from his birth (cf. Acts 3:2, Acts 14:8), and some critics have found here an instance of Jn.`s alleged habit of magnifying the miraculous element in the ministry of Jesus (see Introd., p. clxxx). This healing goes beyond any of the healings of blind men recorded by the Synoptists, Jn., after his wont, selecting one typical and notable case for record (see below on v. 6).
Diseases of the eye are common in the East, and it is not surprising that blind folk should have been brought for cure to Jesus. There is no mention in the O.T. of a blind person being cured (unless the case of Tob. 11:11 be reckoned as such); but to the prophet the blessings of the Messianic age included the opening of the eyes of the blind (Isaiah 35:5), and the Baptist was reminded of this in connexion with the cures wrought by Jesus (cf. Matthew 11:5). Mk. records two special cases, sc. at Mark 8:23 (to which further reference must be made) and Mark 10:46 (cf. Matthew 20:29, Luke 18:35). See also Matthew 9:27, Matthew 12:22 (cf. Luke 11:14) 15:30, 21:14. But the singularity of the case recorded by Jn. is that the blindness is said to have been congenital.
There is a passage in Justin (Tryph. 69) which seems to presuppose a knowledge of this verse. Justin has quoted Isaiah 35:1-7, and he proceeds: πηγὴ ὕδατος ζῶντος παρὰ θεοῦ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ γνώσεως θεοῦ … ἀνέβλυσεν, sc. Christ, τοὺς ἐκ γενετῆς καὶ κατὰ τὴν σάρκα πηροὺς καὶ κωφοὺς καὶ χωλοὺς ἰάσατο (cf. Apol. i. 22). πηρός is used of blindness, as well as of other bodily disabilities; but, apart from that, the phrase ἐκ γενετῆς indicates a knowledge of John 9:1, for it occurs nowhere else in the Gospels, nor is the circumstance that Jesus healed men of congenital infirmities mentioned elsewhere in the N.T.
2. ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ. These disciples may have been His Jewish adherents, as distinct from the Twelve, or the Twelve or some of them may be indicated (see on 2:2). But the nature of the question which they put betrays an intimate relation of discipleship (note the word Rabbi, and see on 1:38); and the close connexion of c. 9 with c. 10, in which the discourse about the Good Shepherd seems specially appropriate to the inner circle of His followers, suggests that οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ here at any rate includes the Twelve.
τίς ἥμαρτεν κτλ. The question is as old as humanity. The first of the alternative answers suggested is that the man himself had sinned and that his blindness was a punishment divinely sent. As to this, it may be true in an individual case, but the whole drift of the Book of Job is to show that suffering is not always due to sin, and with this may be compared the words of Jesus at Luke 13:2, Luke 13:4 (see on 5:14 above). In this particular instance which drew forth the disciples` question, as the man had been blind from birth, if his blindness was a punishment for his own sin, it must have been prenatal sin. This was a possibility, according to some Rabbinical casuists (see Bereshith, R xxxiv, cited by Wetstein). Cf. v. 34. It is hardly likely that the questioners had in view sins committed in a former body, although the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls was not unknown to later Judaism; cf. Wisd. 8:19, 20.
The other alternative answer, as it seemed to the disciples, was that the man’s blindness was divinely sent as a punishment for the sins of his parents, a doctrine which is frequently stated in the O.T. (Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 79:8, Psalm 109:14, Isaiah 65:6, Isaiah 65:7). This was the doctrine of punishment which Ezekiel repudiated, declaring that justice is only to be found in the operation of the principle, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).
The question of the relation between sin and suffering was discussed by the Gnostic Basilides in a passage quoted by Clem. Alex. (Strom. iv. 12), but although the problem raised is similar to that in the text, the discussion does not contain any allusion to the story before us.
3. ἀπεκρίθη υΙησοῦς. See for the omission of ὁ before Ἰης. on 1:50.
The answer of Jesus to the questioners approved neither of the alternatives which they put before Him. His answer, as set forth by Jn., is that the man’s blindness was foreordained so that it might be the occasion of the exhibition of Divine power in his cure, ἵνα φανερωθῇ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.1 Cf. 5:36 for the witness borne to the Divine mission of Jesus by His ἔργα; and 11:4 (where see note), where the sickness of Lazarus is said to have been “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby.”
The doctrine of predestination is apparent at every point in the Fourth Gospel, every incident being viewed sub specie aternitatis, as predetermined in the mind of God. See on 2:4 and 3:14.
4. ἐμὲ δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός με. So אaACNΓΔΘ, the Lat. and Syr. vss. (including Syr. sin.). But א*BDLW read ἡμᾶς δεῖ, and for τοῦ πέμψαντός με, אLW read τοῦ πέμψαντος ἡμᾶς. The latter variant may be rejected, both on the MS. evidence and because the phrase “He that sent me” is characteristically Johannine (see on 4:34), while “He that sent us” would be foreign to the phraseology of the Gospels. But ἡμᾶς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι, etc., would give a tolerable sense (see on 3:11). It is adopted by Westcott-Hort, and by the R.V., as having the weight of uncial authority, the combination of א*BD (and also apparently the evidence of Origen) being strong. Yet although it is true of all of us that “we must work while it is day” (cf. Ecclus. 51:30), “the works of Him that sent me” in this passage has special reference to the ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ, such as were made manifest in the cure of the blind man, which could not be wrought by the disciples, but were the “signs” of Jesus alone. In the doing of such ἔργα Jesus never associated others with Himself.
Nor, again, is it in the manner of Jn. to report a mere maxim of experience, such as “We must all work while it is day” would be. The force of δεῖ goes deeper, for the words of Jesus here (vv. 3, 4) express that Divine predestination of events which is so prominently brought out in Jn. (see Introd., p. clii, and on 2:4). The man ’s blindness had been foreordained in the Divine purpose ἵνα φανερωθῇ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ (v. 3); and in like manner there was a Divine necessity that Jesus should do the works of “Him that sent Him” (see on 4:34 for this phrase). The only reading that brings out the force of the passage and gives consistency to the sentence is the rec. reading ἐμὲ δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός με.
Some expositors find in these words an allusion to 5:17 ὁ πατήρ μου ἕως ἄρτι ἐργάζεται, κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι (see note in loc.); this healing at Siloam, like the healing at Bethesda, having been wrought on a Sabbath (v. 14). But the allusion to 5:17 is doubtful.
ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν. The day is the time for labour, while the night is for rest (Psalm 104:23); and the day is none too long for its appointed task. Jesus had already spoken of the shortness of His time (see on 7:33). The “night” was coming for Him in this sense only, that when His public ministry on earth was ended, the “works” which it exhibited would no longer be possible.
ἕως with the pres. indic. occurs in Jn. only here and at 21:22, 23 (but cf. 12:35), and is in these passages to be rendered “while” (cf. 13:38, where, followed by οὗ, it is “until”).
ἔρχεται νύξ κτλ.: cf. 11:9, 12:35.
5. ὅταν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὦ, φῶς εἰμὶ τοῦ κόσμου. We had in 8:12 the majestic claim ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου (see note in loc.). Here it reappears, but not in so universal or exclusive a form: ἐγώ is omitted; so is the article before φῶς, and it is introduced by a clause which seems to limit its application to the time of the ministry of Jesus upon earth. “While I am in the world, I am a light of the world,” He says; and He proceeds to impress His meaning upon His hearers by restoring his sight to the blind man. When Jn. says that Christ was “in the world” (1:10) he refers quite definitely to the period of His historical manifestation in the flesh (cf. also 17:11); and the context in the present passage shows that the same meaning must be given here to ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. Christ is always, and always has been, and will be, τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου; but that thought is not fully expressed by ὅταν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὦ, φῶς εἰμὶ τοῦ κόσμου. The thought here is that it had been eternally ordered in the Divine purpose that He should “work the works of God” during His earthly ministry; and another way of expressing this is to say that while He is in the world He is, inevitably, a light of the world, whose brightness cannot be hidden.
6. Jesus is represented here (as also at 5:6) as curing the sufferer without waiting to be asked. This is unlike the Synoptic narratives of healing, e.g. Mark 8:23, the cure of the blind man at Bethsaida, who was brought to Jesus by his friends. In that case, however, as in this, Jesus is said to have resorted to the use of physical means for the recovery of the patient, sc. the eyes were treated with spittle (cf. also Mark 7:33).
The curative effects of saliva (especially of fasting saliva) have been, and still are, accepted in many countries. “Magyars believe that styes on the eye can be cured by some one spitting on them.”1 A blind man who sought a cure from Vespasian asked “ut … oculorum orbes dignaretur respergere oris excremento” (Tacitus, Hist. iv. 81). Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. in loc.) quotes a Rabbinical story which embodies the same idea. It was, apparently, a current belief in Judæa that spittle was good for diseased eyes, and that Jesus accommodated Himself to that belief is reported both by Mk. and Jn., although in neither case is it stated that He Himself accepted it as well founded. This tradition of Jesus curing blindness by means of His spittle is not found in Mt. or Lk. It is evidently the oldest tradition.
Severus Sammonicus, a second-century physician, quoted by Wetstein, prescribes the use of clay for smearing bad eyes, “turgentes oculos uili circumline caeno.”2
These strange remedies may be compared with those mentioned in a second-century inscription:3 Οὐαλερίῳ Ἄπρῳ στρατιώτῃ τυφλῷ ἐχρημάτισεν ὁ θεὸς ἐλθεῖν καὶ λαβεῖν αἷμα ἐξ ἀλεκτρυῶνος λευκοῦ μετὰ μέλιτος καὶ κολλυρίου συντρῖψαι (cf. the mixture of clay and spittle) καὶ ἐπὶ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἐπιχρεῖσαι ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς (cf. ἐπέχρισεν … ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς, v. 6) καὶ ἀνέβλεψεν καὶ ἐλήλυθεν καὶ ηὐχαρίστησεν δημοσίᾳ τῷ θεῷ.1
ἔπτυσεν χαμαί. πτύειν occurs again only Mark 7:33, Mark 7:8:23; it should be noted that at Mark 8:23 Jesus spat into the eyes of the blind man, πτύσας εἰς τὰ ὄμματα αὐτοῦ. χαμαί only occurs again 18:6.
ἐπέχρισεν. So אADNWΘ; BC* give ἐπέθηκεν. In the N.T. ἐπιχρίω occurs again only at v. 11.
The true text (אBLNΘ) proceeds: αὐτοῦ τὸν πηλὸν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς, i.e. “and smeared its clay” (sc. the clay which He had mixed with His spittle) “on the eyes.” The rec. text after ὀφθαλμούς adds τοῦ τυφλοῦ, “He smeared the clay on the eyes of the blind man.”
Irenæus has a curious comment on the use of clay. He says (Hær. v. xv. 2) that the true work of God (cf. v. 3) is the creation of man, “plasmatio hominis,” and he quotes Genesis 2:7 of God making man out of the dust of the earth. He concludes that the use of clay for the cure of the blind man was similar to this; being blind from his birth, he had virtually no eyes, and Jesus created them out of the clay.
7. ὕπαγε. See on 7:33 for ὑπάγειν, a favourite verb with Jn. νίψαι. For the aor. imperative, see on 2:5.
εἰς τὴν κολυμβήθραν. The man interpreted this command (v. 11) as meaning, “Go to the Pool, and wash.” νίψαι εἰς τήν κτλ., however, may be translated as “wash in the Pool,” εἰς being often used where the verb of motion is not expressed but only implied, e.g. ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν κτλ. (Matthew 2:23; cf. Matthew 4:13), and cf. ἐντετυλιγμένον εἰς ἕνα τόπον (20:7). See, further, on 19:13.
The man, apparently, was not directed to bathe in the Pool, but only to go there to wash off the clay with which his eyes had been smeared. The Egyptian vss. render νίψαι as meaning “wash thy face” (cf. v. 10).
The Pool of Siloam (there are two pools) is situated to the south of the Temple area, at the mouth of the Tyropœon Valley. It is mentioned Isaiah 8:6, where “the waters of Shiloah that go softly” are contrasted with “the waters of the Euphrates, strong and many,” which typify the Assyrian power; cf. also Nehemiah 3:15, Luke 13:4. The waters which gather in the Pool are connected by a subterranean tunnel or conduit with the Virgin’s Well (see on 5:2). שָׁלַח, misit, is the root of the name Shiloah, or Siloam, which thus means, etymologically, “sent,” this name having been given to the Pool because the water is “sent” or “conducted” thither by the artificial aqueduct which goes back to the time of Hezekiah, or even earlier.1
In the note ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Ἀπεσταλμένος we observe the tendency to interpret Hebrew proper names for his Greek readers, of which we have many instances in Jn. (see on 1:38). Σιλωὰμ ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Ἀπεσταλμένος is exactly parallel to Κηφᾶς ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Πέτρος (1:42). Hence it is unnecessary, and even perverse, to seek esoteric symbolism in the note ὃ ἑρμ. Ἀπεσταλμένος, such as is suggested by commentators who call attention here to the fact that Jesus was “sent” by God (6:29 etc.). The evangelist knew that the name Siloam was given to the Pool because the water was conducted or “sent” there artificially; and he naturally passes on the information to his readers.2 The word “Siloam” is not strictly a proper name, and this Jn. indicates by prefixing the article, τοῦ Σιλωάμ, as in Isaiah 8:6, Luke 13:4.
ἀπῆλθεν οὖν καὶ ἐνίψατο, καὶ ἦλθεν βλέπων. B omits οὖν … ἦλθεν, an omission due to homoioteleuton (ἀπῆλθεν … ἦλθεν). The man did as he was bidden. He was able to find his way to the Pool of Siloam, for he was no doubt familiar with the streets near the place where he was accustomed to solicit alms. Apparently, he had some confidence in the power of Jesus to heal him, for he did not hesitate, as Naaman did when bidden to bathe in the Jordan.
ἦλθεν βλέπων. The mention of his neighbours in the next verse suggests that ἦλθεν means that he went home after he had visited the Pool. At any rate, it is not clearly said that the cure was instantaneous (but cf. v. 11). The restoration or improvement of sight may not have been observed for a day or more; and some days may have elapsed between v. 7 and v. 8. See v. 13 τόν ποτε τυφλόν.
8. The lively account which follows, of the experiences of the blind man who had recovered his sight, may go back to the evidence of the man himself.
οἱ θεωροῦντες αὐτὸν ὅτι κτλ. θεωρεῖν is used here (see on 2:23) of “taking notice,” as at 10:12, 20:6 etc. They noticed the man because he was a familiar figure, as a blind beggar. Burney urges that ὅτι must mean “when,” and that it is a misrendering of the Aramaic particle דְּ, which might be translated either “that” or “when.” But this is unnecessary. They had noticed the man formerly because he used to beg from them; cf. 12:41.
For προσαίτης (אABC*DNWΘ) the rec. has τυφλός.
With ὁ καθήμενος καὶ προσαιτῶν cf. Mark 10:46 τυφλὸς προσαίτης ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν. A blind man begging by the wayside is a common figure in the East.
9. His neighbours and those who had formerly noticed the poor man, were not sure of his identity, now that his sight had been restored. His appearance would naturally be changed. Some said he was the man, others thought not. But he himself (ἐκεῖνος, cf. vv. 11, 12, 25, 36) set them right. ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am the man.” This is a simple affirmation of identity, not to be confused with the mystical use of ἐγώ εἰμι in Jn. (see Introd., p. cxx).
10. πῶς οὖν ἠνεῴχθησάν σου οἱ ὀφθαλμοί; The fact that the man’s sight had been restored is not challenged; it is only the manner of the cure that is in question. See vv. 15, 19, 26.
11. Ὁ ἄνθρ. ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰησοῦς κτλ., “the man who is called Jesus,” etc. He does not yet acknowledge Jesus as the Christ (cf. v. 36).
ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν Σιλωὰμ καὶ νίψαι. Some Latin and Syriac renderings give “wash thy eyes”; the Egyptian versions have “wash thy face.” (See on v. 7 above.)
νιψάμενος ἀνέβλεψα. For ἀναβλέπειν of recovering sight, see Tob. 14:2, Matthew 11:5, Mark 10:51, Luke 18:41; and cf. Luke 4:18. The aor. ἀνέβλεψα would suggest that the man was cured immediately after the washing at the Pool of Siloam; but cf. v. 7 above. Strictly speaking, the verb is inappropriate to the case of congenital blindness; but a parallel is cited from Pausanias (Messen. iv. 12. 10), in which a man, who is described as τὸν ἐκ γενετῆς τυφλόν, after an attack of headache recovers his sight (ἀνέβλεψεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ), although only temporarily.
12. Ποῦ ἐστιν ἐκεῖνος; See on 7:11 for the same question.
The Pharisees Investigate the Cure of the Blind Man on the Sabbath (vv. 13-34)
13. The cure was so striking, and the technical breach of the Sabbath so obvious, that some of those who had been interesting themselves in the case brought the man that had been cured before the Pharisees, as the most orthodox and austere of the religious leaders (see on 7:32). This was not on the day of the cure, but on a later day. Note τόν ποτε τυφλόν.
14. ἦν δὲ σάββατον (cf. 5:9) ἐν ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ (so אBLW, but the rec. has simply ὅτε, with ADNΓΔΘ) τὸν πηλὸν ἐποίησεν. It was the kneading of the clay that primarily called for notice, as it was obviously a work of labour and so was a breach of the Sabbath.
15. πάλιν οὖν ἠρώτων κτλ. The questioning (see v. 10) had to begin all over again, for this was an official inquiry, and the brevity and sharpness of the man’s answers now show that he is tired of replying to queries as to the manner and circumstances of his cure.
16. There was a division of opinion among the Pharisees who heard the story of the man whose sight had been restored. The strict legalists among them fastened on one point only, viz. that the Sabbath had been broken. οὐκ ἔστιν οὗτος παρὰ θεοῦ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, “this person is not from God,” i.e. has not been sent by God, has no Divine mission. For παρά cf. 1:6, also 1 Macc. 2:15, 17; and see on 6:46 for the deeper meaning which παρὰ θεοῦ has elsewhere.
ὅτι τὸ σάββατον οὐ τηρεῖ. This was the charge that had been made against Jesus on a former occasion, when He healed the impotent man at Bethesda and told him to carry his mat away (5:10). There was a twofold violation of the Sabbath laws apparent in this case, for not only had the clay been kneaded (v. 14), but it was specially forbidden to use spittle to cure bad eyes on the Sabbath: “As to fasting spittle; it is not lawful to put it so much as upon the eyelids.”1
It is curious that the phrase τὸ σάββατον τηρεῖν does not occur again in the Greek Bible; but τηρεῖν is a favourite verb with Jn. (see on 8:51).
Others among the Pharisees took a larger view of the situation, probably such men as Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathæa. They called attention to the σημεῖα of Jesus as wonderful, no matter what the day was on which they were wrought. πῶς δύναται ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλὸς (this word “sinner” is only found in Jn. in this chapter) τοιαῦτα σημεῖα (see on 2:11) ποιεῖν; How could a sinner do such things?
καὶ σχίσμα ἦν ἐν αὐτοῖς. Cf. for similar divisions of opinion, 7:43, 10:19; and see also 6:52, 7:12.
17. λέγουσιν οὖν τῷ τυφλῷ πάλιν, “they,” sc. the Pharisees collectively who were present, “say again to the blind man,” i.e. they resume their inquiry, to get more details.
τί σὺ λέγεις περὶ αὐτοῦ; “What do you say about Him?”
ὅτι ἠνέῳξέν implies that as Jesus had opened his eyes, the man’s opinion was worth having. “What do you say, inasmuch as it was your eyes that He opened?” conveys the sense. For the constr., cf. 2:18. Burney suggested that ὅτι is here a mistranslation of the Aramaic relative דְּ, and points to the Vulgate qui aperuit. But it is not necessary to appeal to an Aramaic original here. See Abbott, Diat. 2183.
The man’s answer was προφήτης ἐστίν. He did not say that Jesus was “the prophet,” as the multitude said after the miracle of the loaves (6:14), but only that He was “a prophet,” a simple answer like that of the Samaritan woman (4:19), i.e. that He was an extraordinary person who could do extra-ordinary things.
18. Up to this point the Pharisees have not directly challenged the statement that the man’s sight had been restored, having confined themselves to the question about the breach of the Sabbath which was involved. But the answer of the man, προφήτης ἐστίν, leads the more hostile of them (οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, see on 5:10) to suspect collusion between Jesus and the patient, and so they summon the parents for further inquiry as to their son’s blindness and its cure.
γονεῖς occurs in Jn. only in this chapter: the word in the N.T. is always used in the plural.
19. The Pharisees now cross-examine the parents, in strict fashion. “Is this your son? the son whom you say was born blind? How is it that he now sees?”
ἄρτι is a favourite word with Jn., and signifies “at this moment,” as distinct from the vaguer νῦν, “at the present time.” Cf. v. 25, 13:7, 33, 37, 16:12, 31.
20. ἀπεκρίθησαν οὖν οἱ γονεῖς κτλ. אB support οὖν, which is omitted in the rec. text, αὐτοῖς being put in its place (om. אBLW).
The parents were anxious to avoid responsibility in the matter of the cure, being afraid of the Jewish leaders (v. 22). They admit, of course, that the man was their son, and that he had been born blind, but they disclaim all knowledge of the manner of his cure. Perhaps they had not been present when Jesus smeared the man’s eyes. At any rate, they repudiate with special emphasis any knowledge of who it was that healed him: τίς ἤνοιξεν αὐτοῦ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἡμεῖς οὐκ οἴδαμεν.
21. αὐτὸν ἐρωτήσατε, ἡλικίαν ἔχει, “ask him, he is of age,” and therefore a legal witness. ἡλικία in the Synoptists always means “stature,” but in this passage and at Hebrews 11:11 it means “age.” ἡλικίαν ἔχει is a good classical phrase, and is found in Plato. αὐτὸς περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λαλήσει, “he will tell you about himself.” The parents were much alarmed.
αὐτὸν ἐρωτήσατε is omitted by א*W b and the Sahidic vss. (including Q), a remarkable combination.
22. ταῦτα εἶπαν … ὅτι ἐφοβοῦντο τοὺς Ἰουδαίους. The fear of “the Jews” (see 1:19, 5:10), the Jewish opponents of Jesus, whose leaders were the Pharisees, was very definite (cf. 7:13). They were determined to check His success, and to put down His popularity. Cf. 7:44f.
ἤδη συνετέθειντο, they had formed a compact (cf. 7:32, 47-49), and decided that strong measures must be taken against any one confessing (see on 1:20) Jesus as Christ. He had not yet declared Himself openly in Jerusalem (10:24), but it had been debated whether He were not indeed the Christ (7:26f.).
Except when Jn. is interpreting Μεσσίας (1:41, 4:25), this is the only place in the Gospel where we find Χριστός without the def. article: “if any one should confess Him as Christ.” Cf. Romans 10:9 for a similar constr.: ἐὰν ὁμολογήσῃς Κύριον Ἰησοῦν, “if thou shalt confess Jesus as Lord.”
ἀποσυνάγωγος, “excommunicate.” The word is found in the Greek Bible only here and at 12:42, 16:2. Full excommunication involved a cutting off from the whole “congregation of Israel” (cf. Matthew 18:17); but it is probable that the lesser penalty of exclusion from the synagogue for a month (the usual period) is all that is indicated here. That he who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah was to be treated as ἀποσυνάγωγος is mentioned again 12:42.1
23. διὰ τοῦτο, “wherefore,” referring (as generally in Greek) to what precedes; cf. 13:11, 15:19, 16:15, 19:11, 1 John 4:5. For διὰ τοῦτο as referring to what follows, see on 5:16.
ὅτι Ἡλικίαν ἔχει, αὐτὸν ἐπερωτήσατε (so אBW). ὅτι is recitantis, purporting to introduce the actual words spoken. Note that the order of the words has been changed, for in v. 21 we have αὐτὸν ἐρωτήσατε, ἡλίκιαν ἔχει. Jn. is not punctilious in his narrative about reproducing the exact words or the order of words (see on 3:16).
24. The Jewish leaders summon the man himself for re-examination (ἐκ δευτέρου, cf. v. 17). They now press him on the point of his former evidence, which they suggest was not true.
δὸς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ. This does not mean here “Thank God” (cf. Luke 17:18), but it is a form of adjuration meaning “Speak the truth,” as at Joshua 7:19 (cf. 1 Ezra 9:8).
ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν, “we know,” speaking with ecclesiastical authority, “that this man is a sinner,” although the blind man had said (v. 17) that He was a prophet. They suggest that the man was lying, and was in collusion with Jesus.
25. The shrewdness and obstinacy of the man reveal themselves in his answer. He refuses to discuss their assertion that Jesus was a sinner. “One thing I know, that being a blind man, now I see.” That is all he will say.
26. Accordingly his questioners attempt a further cross-examination, hoping to elicit some damaging admission.
After αὐτῷ, the rec. text has πάλιν (אcANΓΔΘ), but om. א*BDW.
27. The man who has recovered his sight now becomes irritable, and turns on his questioners: εἶπον ὑμῖν ἤδη καὶ οὐκ ἠκούσατε, “I told you already (v. 15), and you did not hear,” i.e. you did not heed. Fam. 13 have ἐπιστεύσατε for ἠκούσατε, and the O.L. r has creditis, an attempt to interpret ἠκούσατε.
μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς θέλετε αὐτοῦ μαθηταὶ γενέσθαι; “Surely you do not wish to become disciples of His?” He could not refrain from this ironical gibe, which he must have known would irritate the Pharisees. καί before ὑμεῖς, “you also,” suggests that it was known that Jesus had made some disciples already, and that the Pharisees were aware of it.
28. καὶ ἐλοιδόρησαν αὐτόν, “and they reviled him.” Having failed to get anything out of the man which might be damaging to Jesus, they angrily accuse him of being on the side of Jesus.
Σὺ μαθητὴς εἶ ἐκείου, “you yourself are a disciple of that fellow.” ἐκεῖνος conveys a suggestion of contempt; and, as Bengel says, “hoc vocabulo remouent Iesum a sese.”
ἡμεῖς δέ κτλ., “we, on the contrary, are disciples of Moses,” as all orthodox Rabbis claimed to be.
29. ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν (cf. v. 24) ὅτι Μωϋσεῖ λελάληκεν ὁ θεός (cf. Hebrews 1:1): that was why they were proud to be disciples of Moses.
τοῦτον δὲ οὐκ οἴδαμεν πόθεν ἐστίν. They profess complete ignorance of the antecedents of Jesus. Some of the people of Jerusalem knew, indeed, whence He came, τοῦτον οἴδαμεν πόθεν ἐστίν (7:27, where see note), although there was a deeper sense in which none of the Jews knew it (8:14). But the Pharisees would not admit that they either knew or cared what was His origin or who were His kindred.
30. The man whose sight had been restored is now thoroughly angry, and he goes on to argue in his turn, shrewdly enough, beginning with a mocking retort.
ἐν τούτῳ γὰρ (this is the order of words in אBLΘ) τὸ θαυμαστόν ἐστιν κτλ., “Why, then, here is an astonishing thing, that you (ὑμεῖς, whose business it is to know about miracle-workers) do not know whence He is, and yet (καί) He opened my eyes!” Syr. sin., with a b c ff2, om. γάρ, D and e replacing it by οὖν; but γάρ must be retained. Blass says that we should treat the sentence as an interrogative, “Is not this, then, an astonishing thing?” (see Abbott, Diat. 2683). But it is simpler to take γάρ as referring back to what had just been said, “Why, if that be so, etc.”
On καί for καιτοί, see on 1:10.
31. The argument is clear. God does not hear the prayers of sinners. Miracles are granted in answer to the prayers of a good man. Jesus has worked a miracle. Therefore Jesus is a good man.
οἴδαμεν, “we all know,” introducing a maxim which no one will dispute; cf. 3:2, 1 John 5:18.
ἁμαρτωλῶν ὁ θεὸς οὐκ ἀκούει, “sinners are not heard by God,” ἁμαρτωλῶν being put in the first place (with אALNWΓΔ, but BDΘ have ὁ θε. ἁμ.) for emphasis. ἀκούειν here takes the genitive, because it implies a hearing with attention; see on 3:8.
The principle that God does not hearken to the prayers of sinners appears frequently in the O.T.; cf. Job 27:9, Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 1:15, Isaiah 59:2, Ezekiel 8:18, Micah 3:4, Zechariah 7:13. For the converse principle, that God hears the prayer of a godly man, cf. Psalm 34:15, Psalm 145:19, Proverbs 15:29, Jam 5:16.
θεοσεβής is not found again in the N.T. (it occurs in the LXX, e.g. Job 1:1); but cf. 1 Timothy 2:10 for θεοσέβεια.
ἐάν τις … τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ ποιῇ, τούτου ἀκούει. That Jesus “did the will of God” is a frequent thought in Jn.; see on 4:34. For the answer always given to His prayers, cf. 11:22, 41.
32. ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος. The phrase ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος or ἀπʼ αἰῶνος occurs Luke 1:70, Acts 3:21, Acts 15:18, and is common in the LXX (1 Chronicles 16:36, Psalm 25:6, Psalm 90:2, Ecclus. 14:17, Jeremiah 2:20, etc.), as it is in the papyri. But ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος does not occur again in the Greek Bible, the nearest phrase being ἐξ αἰῶνος, Proverbs 8:21. (Wetstein illustrates it freely from non-Biblical authors.) We have here an instance of the interchangeability of ἐκ and ἀπό which we have already observed in Jn. (see on 1:44, 6:38).
ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος κτλ., “Since the world began it was unheard of that any one opened the eyes of one who was born blind.” It is this point, viz. that the blindness was congenital, that is insisted on throughout; whereas in the case of the cure of the man at Bethesda, the circumstance that he had been infirm for thirty-eight years (5:5) passes out of view at once, and attention is concentrated on the fact that he was cured on a Sabbath day.
33. εἰ μὴ ἦν … ποιεῖν οὐδέν. This was a principle recognised by Nicodemus (3:2), to which reference is made again at 10:21. “If this man were not sent from God (cf. v. 16 for παρὰ θεοῦ), He could do nothing,” sc. of this wonderful nature.
34. The Pharisees will not stoop to refute a low person who ventures to argue with them; but the retort ascribed to them is weak, for it admits what they had previously questioned (v. 19), viz. that the blindness was congenital, and assigns as a reason for it the man’s prenatal sin (cf. v. 2).
ἐν ἁμαρτίαις (the emphatic words beginning the sentence) σὺ ἐγεννήθης ὃλος. Cf. Psalm 51:5; and for ὅλος cf. 13:10.
σὺ διδάσκεις ἡμᾶς; Every word is scornfully emphatic.
καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω. This does not signify “they excommunicated him” (v. 22), a formal act which could only be done at a formal sitting of the Sanhedrim. It only means “they put him out,” sc. of their presence; cf. note on 6:37, where ἐκβάλλειν ἐκ is shown to be a Johannine phrase.
The Man Who Was Cured Accepts Jesus as the Son of Man (vv. 35-38)
35. ἤκουσεν Ἰησοῦς א*B omit ὁ before Ἰησοῦς, perhaps rightly; see on 1:29, 50.
When Jesus heard of the repulse of the man by the Pharisees, after his courageous utterances, He sought him out. With εὑρὼν αὐτόν cf. 1:43, 5:14.
σὺ πιστεύεις εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου; The form of the question presupposes an affirmative reply, “Thou, at least, believest in the Son of Man?” The man’s simplicity and constancy, in the presence of those whom he had good reason to fear, show Jesus that he is already on the way to become a disciple. Not only did he assert before the Pharisees that his Healer must have a Divine mission (παρὰ θεοῦ, v. 33), but his faith was beginning to go deeper. He was on the point of believing in (see on 1:12 for the force of πιστεύειν εἰς … and cf. 4:39) the Son of Man (see Introd., p. cxxxi). This is the criterion of Christian discipleship which was placed before him.
We follow אBDW and Syr. sin. in reading τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου But ALΘ and most vss. read τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, which is the usual title in Jn. when confession of faith is in question. See, e.g., 1:34, 49, 11:27; and cf. Matthew 16:16. According to 20:31, the purpose of the Fourth Gospel is that readers may believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” But if “the Son of God” were the original reading here, it is surprising that scribes should have altered it to “the Son of Man,” which does not appear in any of the other confessions of faith; while the change from the unusual “Son of Man” to “Son of God,” the usual title in similar contexts, is easily explicable (see 6:69 for a similar alteration by scribes). Further, v. 36 shows that the would-be disciple did not understand who was meant by “the Son of Man” or that Jesus was claiming such a title for Himself. As we have seen (1:49), the Messiah was popularly designated “the Son of God,” but “the Son of Man” was not a recognised Messianic title (see Introd., p. cxxx). The man to whom Jesus spoke was evidently puzzled (cf. 12:34).
36. ἀπεκρίθη ἐκεῖνος καὶ εἶπεν καὶ τίς ἐστιν, κύριε; For this BW have the shorter form καὶ τίς ἐστιν, ἔφη, κύριε
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.
But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:
But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.
These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples.
We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.