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John 9:1-2

Context
Healing a Man Born Blind

9:1 Now as Jesus was passing by, 1  he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 9:2 His disciples asked him, 2  “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man 3  or his parents?” 4 

1 tn Or “going along.” The opening words of chap. 9, καὶ παράγων (kai paragwn), convey only the vaguest indication of the circumstances.

sn Since there is no break with chap. 8, Jesus is presumably still in Jerusalem, and presumably not still in the temple area. The events of chap. 9 fall somewhere between the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) and the feast of the Dedication (John 10:22). But in the author’s narrative the connection exists – the incident recorded in chap. 9 (along with the ensuing debates with the Pharisees) serves as a real-life illustration of the claim Jesus made in 8:12, I am the light of the world. This is in fact the probable theological motivation behind the juxtaposition of these two incidents in the narrative. The second serves as an illustration of the first, and as a concrete example of the victory of light over darkness. One other thing which should be pointed out about the miracle recorded in chap. 9 is its messianic significance. In the OT it is God himself who is associated with the giving of sight to the blind (Exod 4:11, Ps 146:8). In a number of passages in Isa (29:18, 35:5, 42:7) it is considered to be a messianic activity.

2 tn Grk “asked him, saying.”

3 tn Grk “this one.”

4 tn Grk “in order that he should be born blind.”

sn The disciples assumed that sin (regardless of who committed it) was the cause of the man’s blindness. This was a common belief in Judaism; the rabbis used Ezek 18:20 to prove there was no death without sin, and Ps 89:33 to prove there was no punishment without guilt (the Babylonian Talmud, b. Shabbat 55a, although later than the NT, illustrates this). Thus in this case the sin must have been on the part of the man’s parents, or during his own prenatal existence. Song Rabbah 1:41 (another later rabbinic work) stated that when a pregnant woman worshiped in a heathen temple the unborn child also committed idolatry. This is only one example of how, in rabbinic Jewish thought, an unborn child was capable of sinning.



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