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John 9

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Healing of a Man Born Blind A Man Born Blind Receives Sight Jesus Manifests Himself as the Light of Life Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind The Cure of the Man Born Blind
9:1-12 9:1-12 9:1-12 9:1-2 9:1-5
      9:3-5  
      9:6-7 9:6-7
      9:8 9:8-12
      0:9a  
      9:9b  
      9:10  
      9:11  
      9:12a  
      9:12b  
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing The Pharisees Excommunicate the Healed Man   The Pharisees Investigate the Healing  
9:13-17 9:13-34 9:13-17 9:13-15 9:13-17
      9:16a  
      9:16b  
      9:17a  
      9:17b  
9:18-23   9:18-23 9:18-19 9:18-23
      9:20-23  
9:24-34   9:24-34 9:24 9:24-34
      9:25  
      9:26  
      9:27  
      9:28-29  
      9:30-33  
      9:34  
Spiritual Blindness True Vision and True Blindness   Spiritual Blindness  
9:35-39 9:35-41 9:35-41 9:35 9:35-39
      9:36  
      9:37  
      9:37  
      9:39  
9:40-41     9:40 9:40-41
      9:41  

READING CYCLE THREE

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 1-41

A. Healing of the blind, a very frequent miracle in Jesus' ministry, is surprisingly accomplished by several different techniques.

 

B. Healing of the blind was a Messianic sign (cf. Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7; Matt. 11:5). The significance of these healings is seen in the immediate context of Jesus' statement that He was the Light of the world (cf. John 8:12 & 9:5). The Jews wanted a sign; they had several! Only YHWH can open eyes!

 

C. This chapter is an acted-out parable of the physical blindness of a man and the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees (cf. John 9:39-41; Matt. 6:23).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 9:1-12
 1As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" 3Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." 6When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. 8Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, "Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?" 9Others were saying, "This is he," still others were saying, "No, but he is like him." He kept saying, "I am the one." 10So they were saying to him, "How then were your eyes opened?" 11He answered, "The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went away and washed, and I received sight." 12They said to him, "Where is He?" He said, "I do not know."

9:1 "blind from birth" This is the only example of a cure of this type. There was no possibility of a fraud.

9:2 "His disciples" This is the first mention of His disciples since chapter 6. This could refer to (1) the Judean disciples mentioned in chapter 7:3 or (2) the Twelve.

▣ "who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind" This question has generated much theological discussion. We must interpret it in terms of ancient Judaism, not Eastern religions. There are several possibilities.

1. this refers to prenatal sins which the rabbis theorized from Gen. 25:22

2. this refers to sins of parents or immediate ancestors which affected the unborn child (cf. Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9)

3. this refers to the relationship between sin and sickness, so common in rabbinical theology (cf. James 5:15-16; John 5:14)

This has nothing to do with the eastern cyclical theology of reincarnation or the wheel of karma. This is a Jewish setting. For a good discussion of this issue see James W. Sire's Scripture Twisting, pp. 127-144.

9:3 This verse gives Jesus' answer to the disciples' question in John 9:2. Several truths are implied: (1) sin and sickness are not automatically linked and (2) problems often provide the opportunity for God's blessing.

9:4 "We. . .Me" These pronouns obviously do not agree. Several Greek manuscripts have changed one or the other to bring grammatical agreement. They do seem to reflect the theological position that as Jesus was the light of the world, we are to reflect that light in our own day (cf. Matt. 5:14).

"night is coming" A comparison with John 9:5 shows that this is obviously metaphorical. The night can represent

1. the coming judgement

2. a period of opportunity closed

3. the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus

 

9:5 "While I am in the world" This seems to refer to the period of the incarnation, the time from Bethlehem to Calvary/Mt. of Olives. Jesus was here for only a limited time. His hearers must respond now to His message. This phrase is theologically parallel to John 9:4.

One wonders how much the "I am" implies in a context like this!

"I am the Light of the world" John often uses "light" and "darkness" as metaphors of spiritual realities. Jesus as the "light of the world" (cf. John 1:4-5, 8-9; 3:17-21; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46) may reflect OT Messianic implications (cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:1,3). See note at John 8:12.

9:6 "made clay of the spittle" Saliva was a Jewish medical home remedy. It was not allowed to be used on the Sabbath (cf. John 9:14). The Gospels record three examples of Jesus' use of saliva (cf. Mark 7:33; 8:23; and here). By using this accepted, even expected, method of healing, Jesus was physically encouraging this man's faith, but also deliberately challenging the Pharisees' traditions and rules!

9:7 "the pool of Siloam" Siloam means "the One who has been sent." This pool was used in the ritual of the Feast of the Tabernacles.

"(which is translated, Sent)" The term "sent" was related to the fact that the water of the pool was piped in from the Gihon springs, which was outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The rabbis connected the word "sent" with Messianic implications. This is another editorial comment by the author.

▣ "washed" This was his act of faith. He acted on Jesus' words! Yet this was not yet "saving faith" (cf. John 9:11,17,36,38). It was faith in process. Of all the Gospels, John's reveals "levels" of faith. Chapter 8 shows a group who "believed," but not unto salvation (cf. Matt. 13; Mark 4; the parable of the soils).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (GREEK VERB TENSES)

9:8 "the neighbors" There are three groups mentioned in this chapter as bearing testimony to this miracle: (1) his neighbors (John 9:8); (2) the man himself (John 9:11); and (3) his parents (John 9:18). There was disagreement among the neighbors, as there was among the Pharisees, over this healing.

▣ "Is not this the one who used to sit and beg" This Greek question expects a "yes" answer.

9:9 "I am the one" This is the same Greek idiom Jesus uses in John 4:26; 6:20; 8:24,28,58; 13:19; 18:5,6,8. This context shows that this form did not automatically have divine connotations. There is much of the same ambiguity in the term kurios used in verses 36 (sir) and 38 (Lord) of this chapter.

9:11-12 This conversation shows that this man's healing did not immediately involve spiritual salvation. This man's faith develops through his meetings with Jesus (cf. John 9:35).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 9:13-17
 13They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. 14Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, "He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see. 16Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them. 17So they said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?" And he said, "He is a prophet."

9:13 "they" This must refer to the neighbors.

"the Pharisees" The Jewish leaders go by two different terms in John. They are usually referred to as "the Jews" (cf. John 9:18, 22). However, in this chapter they are called the Pharisees in John 9:13, 15, 16, and 40. See Special Topic at John 1:24.

9:14 "Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay" The Jewish leaders' traditional rules (the Oral Traditions codified in the Talmud) took precedent over this person's need (cf. John 5:9; 9:16; Matt. 23:24). It is almost as if Jesus acted on the Sabbath intentionally for the purpose of entering into a theological dialog with these leaders. See note at John 5:9.

9:16 The Pharisees might have been basing their judgement of Jesus on Deut 13:1-5.

▣ "there was a division among them" Jesus always causes this (cf. John 6:52; 7:43; 10:19; Matt. 10:34-39).

9:17 "He is a prophet" This chapter shows the development of this man's faith (cf. John 9:36, 38). For "Prophet" see Special Topic at John 4:19.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 9:18-23
  18The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, 19and questioned them, saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?" 20His parents answered them and said, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23For this reason his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."

9:22-23 "if any one confessed Him to be Christ" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. The parents were afraid of these Jewish leaders. There are several witnesses who validated this healing: (1) the neighbors (John 9:8-10); (2) the man himself (John 9:11-17, 24-33); and (3) his parents (John 9:18-23).

SPECIAL TOPIC: CONFESSION

9:22 "he was to be put out of the synagogue" Obviously the parents were afraid of being excommunicated (cf. John 12:42; 16:2). This procedure may go back to Ezra (cf. John 10:8). We know from rabbinical literature that there were three types of exclusions: (1) for one week; (2) for one month; or (3) for life.

John, writing toward the closing years of the first century, knew well the excommunication from the Synagogue because of confessing Jesus as the Christ. These historical "curse formulas" were developed by the Pharisees after the 70 a.d. Jewish resurgence from Jamnia.

▣ "he should be put out of the synagogue" This was a serious act of disfellowshipping (cf. John 12:42; 16:2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 9:24-34
   24So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner." 25He then answered, "Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." 26So they said to him, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?" 27He answered them, "I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?" 28They reviled him and said, "You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from." 30The man answered and said to them, "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. 32Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, He could do nothing." 34They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?" So they put him out.

9:24 "Give glory to God" This was a formula of oath-taking to insure truthfulness (cf. Joshua 7:19).

9:25 This answer must refer to John 9:16. The man does not want to argue theology, but he asserts the results of his meeting Jesus.

9:27 "You do not want to become His disciples too, do you" The Greek grammatical form expects a "no" answer, but the very asking of the question was sharp irony and shows the wit of this blind beggar.

9:28a "You are His disciple" There is a real question as to what point in this chapter the man became a believer. It seems initially that Jesus' healing was not connected with this man's faith in Him as the Messiah; only later did Jesus confront him with His Messianic claims (cf. John 9:36-38). This episode shows that physical healing did not necessarily bring salvation.

9:28b-29 This shows the difficulty that the religious leaders faced. They tried to equate the detailed, specific interpretations of the Oral Tradition (Talmud) with the inspired revelation to Moses. Their eyes were blinded by their theological prejudices (cf. Matt. 6:23). They were disciples of human traditions (cf. Isa. 29:13).

9:29 "we do not know where He is from" This is another example of John's irony (cf. John 7:27-28; 8:14). Jesus had come from the Father (cf. John 8:42; 13:3; 16:28) but in their blindness the disciples did not know

1. His origin

2. His birth place

 

9:30 "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes" This is another example of the sharp wit and biting irony of this blind beggar as he refutes the logic of the Pharisees.

9:31-33 This uneducated blind man had better, more consistent theology then the religious leaders!

9:33 "If" This is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact." It should be understood as, "If this man had not come from God, which He did, then He could not have done anything like this, but He did."

9:34 "You were born entirely in sins" It is interesting to note that rabbinical Judaism has no concept of "original sin" (cf. Job 14:1,4; Ps. 51:5). The fall of Genesis 3 was not emphasized in rabbinical Judaism. The Jews asserted that there was a good and bad intent (yetzer) in every man. These Pharisees were asserting that this healed man's testimony and logic were invalid because obviously he was a sinner evidenced by being born blind.

▣ "they put him out" This is literally "they cast him outside." The reference is to (1) membership and attendance in the local synagogue or (2) dismissal from the meeting. In context #2 seems best.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 9:35-41
 35Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" 36He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" 37Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you." 38And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him. 39And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." 40Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we?" 41Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."

9:35

NASB, NRSV,
TEV, NJB"'Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
NKJV"'Do you believe in the Son of God?"

The ancient Greek uncial manuscripts A and L have "Son of God," but P66, P75, א, B, D, and W have "Son of Man." From John's usage and the manuscript evidence "Son of Man" is a far more appropriate, and probably original. The UBS4 gives "man" an "A" rating (certain). The question grammatically expects a "yes" answer.

9:36

NASB, NKJV,"Lord"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB"Sir"

We can see the theological development of the faith of this man within the chapter, as the man moves from calling Jesus

1. a man (John 9:11)

2. to a prophet (John 9:17)

3. to the honorific title of "Sir" (John 9:36)

4. to "Lord," in the full theological usage of this term (John 9:38)

The Greek word is the same in both John 9:36 and 38. Only context can determine the connotation. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at John 6:20. The Greek Kurios can reflect the Hebrew Adon, which became an oral substitute for YHWH.

9:38 This is the climax of the account, as far as the salvation of the healed man is concerned. It is surprising that this verse is missing from a few ancient Greek manuscripts (P75, א, W) and the Diatessaron (an early combination of the four Gospels). It does contain two rare terms: (1) the phrase "he said" occurs only here and 1:23 and (2) the term "he worshiped" occurs only here in John. It is included in most modern translations.

9:39 "For judgment I came into this world" This seems to be in line with 5:22, 27 which speaks of end-time (eschatological) judgement. However, this seems to contradict 3:17-21 and 12:47, 48. This can be reconciled by the fact that Jesus came for the purpose of redemption, but humans who reject His offer automatically judge themselves.

▣ "that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind" This was a double fulfillment of prophecy especially from Isaiah.

1. the proud Israelite will not understand God's message (cf. Isa. 6:10, 42:18-19; 43:8; Jer. 5:21; Ezek. 12:2)

2. the poor, outcast, physically affected who are repentant and humble will understand (cf. Isa. 29:18; 32:3-4; 35:5; 42:7, 16)

Jesus is the light of the world for all who choose to see (cf. John 1:4-5, 8-9).

9:40 "We are not blind too, are we" The Greek syntax expects a "no" answer (cf. Matt. 15:14; 23-24). These last few verses show that this chapter was an acted-out parable of spiritual blindness which cannot be healed (the unpardonable sin of unbelief, see Special Topic at John 5:21), and physical blindness, which can!

9:41 This verse expresses a general truth (cf. John 15:22,24; Rom. 3:20; 4:15; 5:13; 7:7,9). Humans are held responsible for the light they have or have been exposed to!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

 1. Does this chapter deal primarily with physical healing or spiritual healing? Physical blindness or spiritual blindness?

2. How could this man have sinned before he was born?

3. At what point in this chapter does the man receive salvation?

4. Did Jesus come into the world to judge the world or to save the world?

5. Explain the background of the term "Son of Man."

6. List the points of irony in the blind man's responses to the Jewish leaders.