John 9

CHAPTER IX.

Account of the man who was born blind, 1-5.

Christ heals him, 6, 7.

The man is questioned by his neighbours, 8-12.

He is brought to the Pharisees, who question him, 13-17,

and then his parents, 18-23.

They again interrogate the man, who, vindicating the conduct

of Christ, is excommunicated by them, 24-34.

Jesus, hearing of the conduct of the Pharisees, afterwards

finds the man, and reveals himself to him, 35-38.

He passes sentence on the obduracy and blindness of the

Pharisees, 39-41.

NOTES ON CHAP. IX.

Verse 1. And as Jesus passed by] This chapter is a continuation

of the preceding, and therefore the word Jesus is not in the Greek

text: it begins simply thus-And passing along, καιπαραγων, &c.

Having left the temple, where the Jews were going to stone him,

(Joh 8:59,) it is probable our Lord went, according to his

custom, to the mount of Olives. The next day, which was the

Sabbath, Joh 9:14, he met a man who had been born blind, sitting

in some public place, and asking alms from those who passed by,

Joh 9:8.

Verse 2. 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, &c.; 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.

Verse 3. Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents] That is,

the blindness of this person is not occasioned by any sin of his

own, nor of his parents, but has happened in the ordinary course

of Divine providence, and shall now become the instrument of

salvation to his soul, edification to others, and glory to GOD.

Many of the Jews thought that marks on the body were proofs of sin

in the soul. From a like persuasion, probably arose that proverb

among our northern neighbours-Mark him whom God marks.

Verse 4. While it is day] Though I plainly perceive that the

cure of this man will draw down upon me the malice of the Jewish

rulers, yet I must accomplish the work for which I came into the

world whole it is day-while the term of this life of mine shall

last. It was about six months after this that our Lord was

crucified. It is very likely that the day was now declining, and

night coming on; and he took occasion from this circumstance to

introduce the elegant metaphor immediately following. By this we

are taught that no opportunity for doing good should be

omitted-DAY representing the opportunity: NIGHT, the loss of that

opportunity.

Verse 5. I am the light of the world.] Like the sun, it is my

business to dispense light and heat every where; and to neglect no

opportunity that may offer to enlighten and save the bodies and

souls of men. See Joh 8:12.

Verse 6. Anointed the eyes of the blind man] It would be

difficult to find out the reason which induced our Lord to act

thus. It is certain, this procedure can never be supposed to have

been any likely medical means to restore sight to a man who was

born blind; this action, therefore, had no tendency to assist

the miracle. If his eye-lids had been only so gummed together that

they needed nothing but to be suppled and well washed, it is not

likely that this could possibly have been omitted from his birth

until now. The Jews believed that there was some virtue in spittle

to cure the diseases of the eye; but then they always accompanied

this with some charm. Our Lord might make clay with the spittle to

show that no charms or spells were used, and to draw their

attention more particularly to the miracle which he was about to

work. Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from this is: That God

will do his own work in his own way; and, to hide pride from man,

will often accomplish the most beneficial ends by means not only

simple or despicable in themselves, but by such also as appear

entirely contrary, in their nature and operation, to the end

proposed to be effected by them.

Verse 7. Siloam] Called also Shiloah, Silos, or Siloa, was a

fountain under the walls of Jerusalem, towards the east, between

the city and the brook Kidron. Calmet thinks that this was the

same with En-rogel, or the fuller's fountain, which is mentioned

in Jos 15:7; 18:16; in 2Sa 17:17; and in 1Ki 1:9. Its waters

were collected in a great reservoir for the use of the city; and a

stream from it supplied the pool of Bethesda.

By interpretation, SENT.] From the Hebrew shalach, he sent:

either because it was looked upon as a gift sent from God, for the

use of the city; or because its waters were directed or sent by

canals or pipes, into different quarters, for the same purpose.

Some think there is an allusion here to Ge 49:10; that this

fountain was a type of Shiloh, the Christ, the SENT of God; and

that it was to direct the man's mind to the accomplishment of the

above prophecy that our Lord sent him to this fountain. This

supposition does not appear very solid. The Turks have this

fountain still in great veneration, and think the waters of it are

good for diseases of the eyes. Lightfoot says that the spring of

Siloam discharged itself by a double stream into a twofold

pool-the upper was called shiloach-the lower,

shelach; the one signifying απεσταλμενος, sent, the latter,

κωδιων fleeces; and that our Lord marked this point so

particularly, to inform the blind man that it was not to Shelach,

but to Shiloach, that he must go to wash his eyes. These two pools

seem to be referred to in Isa 7:23; 22:9.

Verse 8. That he was blind] οτιτυφλοςην: but, instead of

this, προσαιτης, when he begged, or was a beggar, is the reading

of ABC*DKL, seven others, both the Syriac, both the Arabic,

later Persic, Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Sahidic, Gothic,

Slavonic, Vulgate, eight copies of the Itala, and some of the

primitive fathers. This is in all probability the true reading,

and is received by Griesbach into the text.

Beggars in all countries have a language peculiar to themselves.

The language of the Jewish beggars was the following:

Deserve something by me-Give me something that God may reward

you. O ye tender-hearted, do yourselves good by

me. Another form, which seems to have been used by such as had

formerly been in better circumstances, was this:

Look back and see what I have

been; look upon me now, and see what I am. See Lightfoot.

Verse 9. Some said, This is he] This miracle was not wrought in

private-nor before a few persons-nor was it lightly credited.

Those who knew him before were divided in their opinion concerning

him: not whether the man who sat there begging was blind

before-for this was known to all; nor, whether the person now

before them saw clearly-for this was now notorious; but whether

this was the person who was born blind, and who used in a

particular place to sit begging.

Others said, He is like him] This was very natural: for

certainly the restoration of his sight must have given him a very

different appearance to what he had before.

Verse 11. A man that is called Jesus] The whole of this relation

is simple and artless in the highest degree. The blind man had

never seen Jesus, but he had heard of his name-he felt that he

had put something on his eyes, which he afterwards found to be

clay-but how this was made he could not tell, because he could

not see Jesus when he did it; therefore he does not say, he made

clay of spittle-but simply, he made clay, and spread it upon my

eyes. Where a multitude of incidents must necessarily come into

review, imposture and falsehood generally commit themselves, as

it is termed; but, however numerous the circumstances may be in a

relation of fact, simple truth is never embarrassed.

Verse 12. Where is he?] They had designed to seize and deliver

him up to the Sanhedrin, as a violater of the law, because he had

done this on the Sabbath day.

Verse 13. They brought to the Pharisees] These had the chief

rule, and determined all controversies among the people; in every

case of religion, their judgment was final: the people, now fully

convinced that the man had been cured, brought him to the

Pharisees, that they might determine how this was done, and

whether it had been done legally.

Verse 14. It was the Sabbath] Some of the ancient rabbins

taught, and they have been followed by some moderns, not much

better skilled in physic than themselves, that the saliva is a

cure for several disorders of the eyes; but the former held this

to be contrary to the law, if applied on the Sabbath. See

LIGHTFOOT'S Hor. Talm.

Verse 16. This man is not of God] He can neither be the Messiah,

nor a prophet, for he has broken the Sabbath. The Jews always

argued falsely on this principle. The law relative to the

observation of the Sabbath never forbade any work but what was of

the servile and unnecessary kind. Works of necessity and mercy

never could be forbidden on that day by him whose name is mercy,

and whose nature is love; for the Sabbath was made for man, and

not man for the Sabbath; were it otherwise, the Sabbath would be

rather a curse than a blessing.

How can a man that is a sinner, &c.] They knew very well that

though magicians and impostors might do things apparently

miraculous, yet nothing really good could be performed by them. We

might have safely defied all the magicians in Egypt, who are said

to have been so successful in imitating some of the miracles of

Moses, to have opened the eyes of one blind man, or to have done

any essential good either to the body or to the soul.

And there was a division among them.] σχισμα, a schism, a

decided difference of opinion, which caused a separation of the

assembly.

Verse 17. He is a prophet.] They had intended to lay snares for

the poor man, that, getting him to acknowledge Christ for the

Messiah, they might put him out of the synagogue, Joh 9:22, or

put him to death, that such a witness to the Divine power of

Christ might not appear against them. But, as the mercy of God had

given him his sight, so the wisdom of God taught him how to escape

the snares laid for his ruin. On all thy glory there shall be a

defense, says the prophet, Isa 4:5. When God gives any particular

mercy or grace, he sends power to preserve it, and wisdom to

improve it. The man said, He is a prophet. Now, according to a

Jewish maxim, a prophet might dispense with the observation of the

Sabbath. See Grotius. If they allow that Jesus was a prophet,

then, even in their sense, he might break the law of the Sabbath,

and be guiltless: or, if they did not allow him to be a prophet,

they must account for the miracle some other way than by the power

of God; as from Satan or his agents no good can proceed-to do this

it was impossible. So the wisdom of God taught the poor man to

give them such an answer as put them into a complete dilemma, from

which they could not possibly extricate themselves.

Verse 18. But the Jews did not believe] All the subterfuge they

could use was simply to sin against their conscience, by asserting

that the man had not been blind; but out of this subterfuge they

were soon driven by the testimony of the parents, who, if tried

farther on this subject, might have produced as witness, not only

the whole neighbourhood, but nearly the whole city: for it appears

the man got his bread by publicly begging, Joh 9:8.

That he had been blind, and received his sight] This clause is

omitted in some MSS., probably because similar words occur

immediately after. There is, however, no evidence against it,

sufficient to exclude it from the test.

Verse 21. He is of age] ηλικιανεχει, literally, he has

stature, i.e. he is a full-grown man; and in this sense the

phrase is used by the best Greek writers. See Kypke and Raphelius.

Mature age was fixed among the Jews at thirty years.

Verse 22. Put out of the synagogue.] That is,

excommunicated-separated from all religious connection with

those who worshipped God. This was the lesser kind of

excommunication among the Jews and was termed nidui. The cherem,

or anathema, was not used against the followers of Christ till

after the resurrection.

Verse 24. Give God the praise] Having called the man a second

time, they proceeded to deal with him in the most solemn manner;

and therefore they put him to his oath; for the words above were

the form of an oath, proposed by the chief magistrate to those who

were to give evidence to any particular fact, or to attest any

thing, as produced by or belonging to the Lord. See Jos 7:19;

1Sa 6:5, and Lu 17:18. But, while they solemnly put him to his

oath, they endeavoured to put their own words in his mouth, viz.

he is a sinner-a pretender to the prophetic character, and a

transgressor of the law of God:-assert this, or you will not

please us.

Verse 25. Whereas I was blind, now I see.] He pays no attention

to their cavils, nor to their perversion of justice; but, in the

simplicity of his heart, speaks to the fact, of the reality of

which he was ready to give them the most substantial evidence.

Verse 27. I have told you already] So he did, Joh 9:15.

And did ye not hear? Ye certainly did. Why then do you wish to

hear it again? Is it because ye wish to become his disciples? The

poor man continued steady in his testimony; and, by putting this

question to them, he knew he should soon put an end to the debate.

Verse 28. Then they reviled him] ελοιδορησαν. Eustathius

derives λοιδορια from λογος, a word, and δορυ, a

spear:-they spoke cutting, piercing words. Solomon talks of some

who spoke like the piercings of a sword, Pr 12:18. And the

psalmist speaks of words that are like drawn swords, Ps 55:21,

words which show that the person who speaks them has his heart

full of murderous intentions; and that, if he had the same power

with a sword as he has with his tongue, he would destroy him whom

he thus reproaches.

We are Moses' disciples.] By this they meant that they were

genuine Pharisees; for they did not allow the Sadducees to be

disciples of Moses.

Verse 29. We know not from whence he is.] As if they had said:

We have the fullest assurance that the commission of Moses was

Divine; but we have no proof that this man has such a commission:

and should we leave Moses, and attach ourselves to this stranger?

No.

Verse 30. Why herein is a marvellous thing] As if he had said,

This is wonderful indeed! Is it possible that such persons as

you are, whose business it is to distinguish good from evil, and

who pretend to know a true from a false prophet, cannot decide in

a case so plain? Has not the man opened my eyes? Is not the

miracle known to all the town; and could any one do it who was not

endued with the power of God?

Verse 31. God heareth not sinners] I believe the word αμαρτωλων

signifies heathens, or persons not proselyted to the Jewish

religion; and therefore it is put in opposition to θεοσεβης, a

worshipper of the true God. See the note on Lu 7:37. But in what

sense may it be said, following our common version, that God

heareth not sinners? When they regard iniquity in their heart-when

they wish to be saved, and yet abide in their sins-when they will

not separate themselves from the workers and works of iniquity. In

all these cases, God heareth not sinners.

Verse 32. Since the world began] εκτουαιωνος, From the

age-probably meaning from the commencement of time. Neither

Moses nor the prophets have ever opened the eyes of a man who was

born blind: if this person then were not the best of beings, would

God grant him a privilege which he has hitherto denied to his

choicest favourites?

Opened the eyes of one that was born blind.] It will readily

appear that our Lord performed no surgical operation in this cure:

the man was born blind, and he was restored to sight by the power

of God; the simple means used could have had no effect in the

cure; the miracle is therefore complete. That there are cases, in

which a person who was born blind may be restored to sight by

surgical means, we know: but no such means were used by Christ:

and it is worthy of remark that, from the foundation of the world,

no person born blind has been restored to sight, even by surgical

operation, till about the year of our Lord, 1728; when the

celebrated Dr. Cheselden, by couching the eyes of a young man, 14

years of age, who had been born blind, restored him to perfect

soundness. This was the effect of well directed surgery: that

performed by Christ was a miracle.

Verse 33. If this man were not of God, &c.] A very just

conclusion: God is the fountain of all good: all good must proceed

from him, and no good can be done but through him; if this person

were not commissioned by the good God, he could not perform such

beneficent miracles as these.

Verse 34. Thou wast altogether born in sins] Thou hast not only

been a vile wretch in some other pre-existent state, but thy

parents also have been grossly iniquitous; therefore thou and they

are punished by this blindness: Thou wast altogether born in

sins-thou art no other than a sinful lump of deformity, and

utterly unfit to have any connection with those who worship God.

And they cast him out.] They immediately excommunicated him, as

the margin properly reads-drove him from their assembly with

disdain, and forbade his farther appearing in the worship of God.

Thus a simple man, guided by the Spirit of truth, and continuing

steady in his testimony, utterly confounded the most eminent

Jewish doctors. When they had no longer either reason or argument

to oppose to him, as a proof of their discomfiture and a monument

of their reproach and shame, they had recourse to the secular arm,

and thus silenced by political power a person whom they had

neither reason nor religion to withstand. They have had since many

followers in their crimes. A false religion, supported by the

state, has, by fire and sword silenced those whose truth in the

end annihilated the system of their opponents.

Verse 35. Dost thou believe on the Son of God?] This was the

same with, Dost thou believe on the Messiah? for these two

characters were inseparable; see Joh 1:34, 49; 10:36; Mt 16:16;

Mr 1:1.

Verse 36. Who is he, Lord?] it is very likely that the blind man

did not know that it was Jesus the Christ who now spoke to him;

for it is evident he had never seen him before this time; and he

might now see him without knowing that he was the person by whom

he was cured, till our Lord made that discovery of himself,

mentioned in the following verse.

Verse 38. And he said, Lord, I believe.] That is, I believe thou

art the Messiah; and, to give the fullest proof of the sincerity

of his faith, he fell down before and adored him. Never having

seen Jesus before, but simply knowing that a person of that name

had opened his eyes, he had only considered him as a holy man and

a prophet; but now that he sees and hears him he is convinced of

his divinity, and glorifies him as his Saviour. We may hear much

of Jesus, but can never know his glories and excellencies till he

has discovered himself to our hearts by his own Spirit; then we

believe on him, trust him with our souls, and trust in him for

our salvation. The word κυριε has two meanings: it signifies Lord,

or Sovereign Ruler, and Sir, a title of civil respect. In the

latter sense it seems evidently used in the 36th verse,

Joh 9:36 because the poor man did not then know that Jesus

was the Messiah; in the former sense it is used in this verse-now

the healed man knew the quality of his benefactor.

Verse 39. For judgment I am come] I am come to manifest and

execute the just judgment of God: 1. By giving sight to the blind,

and light to the Gentiles who sit in darkness. 2. By removing the

true light from those who, pretending to make a proper use of it,

only abuse the mercy of God. In a word, salvation shall be taken

away from the Jews, because they reject it; and the kingdom of God

shall be given to the Gentiles.

Verse 40. Are we blind also?] These Pharisees understood Christ

as speaking of blindness in a spiritual sense, and wished to know

if he considered them in that state.

Verse 41. If ye were blind] If ye had not had sufficient

opportunities to have acquainted yourselves with my Divine nature,

by the unparalleled miracles which I have wrought before you? and

the holy doctrine which I have preached, then your rejecting me

could not be imputed to you as sin; but because ye say, we see-we

are perfectly capable of judging between a true and false prophet,

and can from the Scriptures point out the Messiah by his works-on

this account you are guilty, and your sin is of no common nature,

it remaineth, i.e. it shall not be expiated: as ye have rejected

the Lord from being your deliverer, so the Lord has rejected you

from being his people. When the Scripture speaks of sin remaining,

it is always put in opposition to pardon; for pardon is termed the

taking away of sin, Joh 1:29; Ps 32:5. And this is the proper

import of the phrase, αφεσιςτωναμαρτιως, which occurs so

frequently in the sacred writings.

1. THE history of the man who was born blind and cured by our

Lord is, in every point of view, instructive. His simplicity, his

courage, his constancy, and his gratitude are all so many

subjects worthy of attention and emulation. He certainly confessed

the truth at the most imminent risk of his life; and therefore, as

Stephen was the first martyr for Christianity, this man was the

first confessor. The power and influence of TRUTH, in supporting

its friends and confounding its adversaries, are well exemplified

in him; and not less so, that providence of God by which he was

preserved from the malice of these bad men. The whole story is

related with inimitable simplicity, and cannot be read by the most

cold-hearted without extorting the exclamation, How forcible are

right words?

2. It has already been remarked that, since the world began,

there is no evidence that any man born blind was ever restored to

sight by surgical means, till the days of Mr. Cheselden, who was a

celebrated surgeon at St. Thomas's Hospital, London. For though,

even before the Christian aera, there is reason to believe that

both the Greek and Roman physicians performed operations to remove

blindness occasioned by the cataract, yet we know of none of these

ever attempted on the eyes of those who had been born blind, much

less of any such persons being restored to sight. The cure before

us must have been wholly miraculous-no appropriate means were used

to effect it. What was done had rather a tendency to prevent and

destroy sight than to help or restore it. The blindness in

question was probably occasioned by a morbid structure of the

organs of sight; and our Lord, by his sovereign power,

instantaneously restored them to perfect soundness, without the

intervention of any healing process. In this case there could be

neither deception nor collusion.

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