Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chap. 9. Christ the Source of Truth and Light illustrated by a Sign
Light is given to the eyes of the man born blind and the Truth is revealed to his soul.
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.1–5. The Prelude to the Sign
1. And as Jesus passed by] Or, And as He was passing by. This was possibly on His way from the Temple (John 8:59), or it may refer to a later occasion near the Feast of the Dedication (John 10:22). We know that this man begged for his living (John 9:8), and that beggars frequented the gates of the Temple (Acts 3:2), as they frequent the entrances of foreign churches now.
blind from his birth] The man would be repeatedly stating this fact to passers by. The Greek for ‘from his birth’ occurs nowhere else in N.T. Justin Martyr uses the phrase twice of those whom Christ healed; Trypho lxix.; Apol. i. xxii. No source is so probable as this verse, for nowhere else is there an account of Christ’s healing a congenital disease. See on John 1:23 and John 3:3.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?2. Master] Better, Rabbi: see on John 4:31.
who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?] Literally, that he should be born blind (see note on John 8:56). This question has given rise to much discussion. It implies a belief that some one must have sinned, or there would have been no such suffering: who then was it that sinned? Possibly the question means no more than this; the persons most closely connected with the suffering being specially mentioned, without much thought as to possibilities or probabilities. But this is not quite satisfactory. The disciples name two very definite alternatives; we must not assume that one of them was meaningless. That the sins of the fathers are visited on the children is the teaching of the Second Commandment and of every one’s experience. But how could a man be born blind for his own sin?
Four answers have been suggested. (1) The predestinarian notion that the man was punished for sins which God knew he would commit in the course of his life. This is utterly unscriptural and scarcely fits the context.
(2) The doctrine of the transmigration of souls, which was held by some Jews: he might have sinned in another body. But it is doubtful whether this philosophic tenet would be familiar to the disciples.
(3) The doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul, which appears Wis 8:20 : the man’s soul sinned before it was united to the body. This again can hardly have been familiar to illiterate men.
(4) The current Jewish interpretation of Genesis 25:22, Psalm 51:5, and similar passages; that it was possible for a babe yet unborn to have emotions (comp. Luke 1:41-44) and that these might be and often were sinful. On the whole, this seems to be the simplest and most natural interpretation, and John 9:34 seems to confirm it.
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.3. Christ shews that there is a third alternative, which their question assumes that there is not. Moreover He by implication warns them against assuming a connexion between suffering and sin in individuals (see on John 5:14). Neither did this man sin (not ‘hath sinned’), nor his parents. The answer, like the question, points to a definite act of sin.
but that] i.e. he was born blind in order that. This elliptical use of ‘but (in order) that’ is common in S. John, and illustrates his fondness for the construction expressing a purpose: see on John 1:8 and John 8:56.
the works of God] All those in which He manifests Himself, not miracles only. Comp. John 11:4. There is an undoubted reference to this passage (1–3) in the Clementine Homilies (John 19:22), the date of which is about a. d. 150. Comp. John 10:9; John 10:27.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.4. I must work, &c.] The reading here is somewhat doubtful, as to whether ‘I’ or ‘we,’ ‘Me’ or ‘us’ is right in each case. The best authorities give, We must work the works of Him that sent Me, and this, the more difficult reading, is probably correct. Some copyists altered ‘we’ into ‘I’ to make it agree with ‘Me,’ others altered ‘Me’ into ‘us’ to make it agree with ‘we.’
‘We must work:’ Christ identifies Himself with His disciples in the work of converting the world. ‘Him that sent Me:’ Christ does not identify His mission with that of the disciples. They were both sent, but not in the same sense. So also He says ‘My Father’ and ‘your Father,’ ‘My God’ and ‘your God;’ but not ‘our Father,’ or ‘our God’ (John 20:17).
while it is day] Or, so long as it is day, i. e. so long as we have life. Day and night here mean, as so often in literature of all kinds, life and death. Other explanations, e.g. opportune and inopportune moments, the presence of Christ in the world and His withdrawal from it,—are less simple and less suitable to the context. If all that is recorded from John 7:37 takes place on one day, these words would probably be spoken in the evening, when the failing light would add force to the warning, night cometh (no article), when no one can work. ‘No one;’ not even Christ Himself as man upon earth: comp. John 11:7-10; Psalm 104:23.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.5. As long as I am in the world] Better, Whensoever I am in the world; it is not the same construction as ‘so long as it is day.’ The Light shines at various times and in various degrees, whether the world chooses to be illuminated or not. Comp. John 1:5, John 8:12. Here there is special reference to His giving light both to the man’s eyes and to his soul. The Pharisees prove the truth of the saying that ‘the darkness comprehended it not.’
I am the light of the world] Or, I am light to the world: no article. Contrast John 8:12.
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,6–12. The Sign
6. anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay] ‘Of the blind man’ should probably be omitted, ‘of it’ inserted, and the rendering in the margin adopted: spread the clay of it (clay made with the spittle) upon his eyes. Regard for Christ’s truthfulness compels us to regard the clay as the means of healing; not that He could not heal without it, but that He willed this to be the channel of His power. Elsewhere He uses spittle; to heal a blind man (Mark 8:23); to heal a deaf and dumb man (Mark 7:33). Spittle was believed to be a remedy for diseased eyes (comp. Vespasian’s reputed miracle, Tac. Hist. iv. 81, and other instances); clay also, though less commonly. So that Christ selects an ordinary remedy and gives it success in a case confessedly beyond its supposed powers (John 9:32). This helps us to conclude why He willed to use means, instead of healing without even a word; viz. to help the faith of the sufferer. It is easier to believe, when means can be perceived; it is still easier, when the means seem to be appropriate.
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.7. wash in the pool] Literally, wash into the pool, i.e. ‘wash off the clay into the pool,’ or, ‘go to the pool and wash.’ The washing was probably part of the means of healing (comp. Naaman) and was a strong test of the man’s faith.
Siloam] Satisfactorily identified with Birket Silwân in the lower Tyropoean valley, S. E. of the hill of Zion. This is probably the Siloah of Nehemiah 3:15 and the Shiloah of Isaiah 8:6. ‘The tower in Siloam’ (Luke 13:4) was very possibly a building connected with the water; perhaps part of an aqueduct.
which is by interpretation] Literally, which is interpreted.
Sent] This is an admissible interpretation; but the original meaning is rather Sending, i.e. outlet of waters, ‘the waters of Shiloah that go softly’ (Isaiah 8:6). S. John sees in the word ‘nomen et omen’ of the man’s cure. Perhaps he sees also that this water from the rock is an image of Him who was sent from the Father.
and came seeing] ‘Came,’ not back to Christ, who had probably gone away meanwhile (John 9:12), but to his own home, as would appear from what follows. Has any poet ever attempted to describe this man’s emotions on first seeing the world in which he had lived so long?
“The scene in which the man returns seeing and is questioned by his neighbours, is vividly described. So too is the whole of that which follows, when the Pharisees come upon the stage. We may accept it with little short of absolute credence. If the opponents of miracles could produce a single Jewish document, in which any event, known not to have happened, was described with so much minuteness and verisimilitude, then it would be easier to agree with them.” S. pp. 162, 163.
The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?8. had seen him that he was blind] The true reading is, saw him that he was a beggar, or perhaps, because he was a beggar, i.e. he was often seen in public places.
he that sat and begged] Or, he that sitteth and beggeth; present participles with the article to express his general habit.
Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.9. Some said] Or, Others said, making three groups of speakers in all.
He is like him] The better reading is, No, but he is like him. The opening of his eyes would greatly change his look and manner: this added to the extreme improbability of a cure made them doubt his identity.
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.11. A man that is called Jesus] This looks as if he had heard little of the fame of Jesus. But the better reading gives, ‘The man that is called Jesus,’ which points the other way.
made clay] He does not say how, for this he had not seen. The rest he tells in order. Omit the words ‘the pool of.’
I received sight] The Greek may mean either ‘I looked up,’ as in Mark 6:41; Mark 7:34; Mark 16:4, &c.; or ‘I recovered sight,’ as Matthew 11:5; Mark 10:51-52, &c. ‘I looked up’ does not suit John 9:15; John 9:18, where the word occurs again: and though ‘I recovered sight’ is not strictly accurate of a man born blind, yet it is admissible, as sight is natural to man.
Note the gradual development of faith in the man’s soul, and compare it with that of the Samaritan woman (see on John 4:19) and of Martha (see on John 11:21). Here he merely knows Jesus’ name and the miracle; in John 9:17 he thinks Him ‘a Prophet;’ in John 9:33 He is ‘of God;’ in John 9:39 He is ‘the Son of God.’ What writer of fiction in the second century could have executed such a study in psychology?
Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.12. Where is he?] That strange (ekeinos) Rabbi who perplexes us so much.
I know not] This shews that he did not return to Jesus after he was healed (John 9:7). ‘He said’ should be, He saith.
They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.13–41. Opposite Results of the Sign
13. They brought, &c.] Better, they bring him to the Pharisees, him that once was blind. These friends and neighbours are perhaps well-meaning people, not intending to make mischief. But they are uncomfortable because work has been done on the Sabbath, and they think it best to refer the matter to the Pharisees, the great authorities in matters of legal observance and orthodoxy (comp. John 7:47-48). This is not a meeting of the Sanhedrin. S. John’s formula for the Sanhedrin is ‘the chief priests and (the) Pharisees’ (John 7:45, John 11:47; John 11:57, John 18:3), or ‘the Pharisees and the chief priests’ (John 7:32).
And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.14. it was the sabbath] We cannot be sure whether this is the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37) or the next Sabbath. There were seven miracles of mercy wrought on the Sabbath: 1. Withered hand (Matthew 12:9); 2. Demoniac at Capernaum (Mark 1:21); 3. Simon’s wife’s mother (Mark 1:29); 4. Woman bowed down eighteen years (Luke 13:14); 5. Dropsical man (Luke 14:1); 6. Paralytic at Bethesda (John 5:10); 7. Man born blind.
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.15. Then again] Better, Again, therefore. The man is becoming impatient of this cross-questioning: he answers much more briefly than at first (John 9:11).
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.16. This man is not of God] Comp. ‘He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils’ (Matthew 9:34); like this, an argument of the Pharisees. The fact of a miracle is not denied: but it cannot have been done with God’s help; therefore it was done with the devil’s help.
How can a man that is a sinner, &c.] The less bigoted, men like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, shew that the argument cuts both ways. They also start from the ‘sign,’ but arrive at an opposite conclusion. Comp. Nicodemus’ question, John 7:51. Perhaps Christ’s teaching about the Sabbath (John 5:17-23) has had some effect.
there was a division] See on John 7:43.
They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.17. There being a division among them they appeal to the man himself, each side wishing to gain him. ‘They’ includes both sides, the whole body of Pharisees present. Their question is not twofold, but single; not, ‘What sayest thou of Him? that He hath opened thine eyes?’ but What sayest thou of Him, because He opened thine eyes? ‘Thou’ is emphatic; ‘thou shouldest know something of Him.’ They do not raise the question of fact; the miracle as yet is not in dispute. His answer shews that only one question is asked, and that it is not the question of fact.
He is a prophet] i.e. one sent by God to declare His will; a man with a special and Divine mission; not necessarily predicting the future. Comp. John 4:19, John 3:2.
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.18. But the Jews did not believe] Better, the Jews, therefore, did not believe. The man having pronounced for the moderates, the bigoted and hostile party begin to question the fact of the miracle. Note that here and in John 9:22 S. John no longer speaks of the Pharisees, some of whom were not unfriendly to Christ, but ‘the Jews,’ His enemies, the official representatives of the nation that rejected the Messiah (see on John 1:19).
And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?19. Three questions in legal form. Is this your son? Was he born blind? How does he now see?
who ye say] Emphasis on ‘ye,’ implying ‘we do not believe it;’ literally, of whom ye say that he was born blind.
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.21. by what means] Better, how, as in John 9:10; John 9:15; John 9:19; John 9:26. In their timidity they keep close to the precise questions asked.
who hath opened] Better, who opened. This is the dangerous point, and they become more eager and passionate. Hitherto there has been nothing emphatic in their reply; but now there is a marked stress on all the pronouns, the parents contrasting their ignorance with their son’s responsibility. ‘Who opened his eyes, we know not: ask himself; he himself is of full age; he himself will speak concerning himself.’ See on John 9:23.
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.22. had agreed] It does not appear when; but we are probably to understand an informal agreement among themselves rather than a decree of the Sanhedrin. A formal decree would be easily obtained afterwards. The word for ‘agreed’ is used of the agreement with Judas (Luke 22:5, where it is translated ‘covenanted’), and of the agreement of the Jews to kill S. Paul (Acts 23:20), and nowhere else. ‘Assented’ in Acts 24:9 is a different compound of the same verb.
that if any man] Literally, in order that if any man: what they agreed upon is represented as the purpose of their agreement. See on John 9:2-3, and John 8:56.
put out of the synagogue] i.e. excommunicated. The Jews had three kinds of anathema. (1) Excommunication for thirty days, during which the excommunicated might not come within four cubits of any one. (2) Absolute exclusion from all intercourse and worship for an indefinite period. (3) Absolute exclusion for ever; an irrevocable sentence. This third form was very rarely if ever used. It is doubtful whether the second was in use at this time for Jews; but it would be the ban under which all Samaritans were placed. This passage and ‘separate’ in Luke 6:22 probably refer to the first and mildest kind of anathema. The principle of all anathema was found in the Divine sentence on Meroz (Jdg 5:23): Comp. Ezra 10:8. The word for ‘out of the synagogue’ is peculiar to S. John, occurring John 12:42, John 16:2, and nowhere else.
Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.23. Therefore] Better, For this cause (John 12:18; John 12:27): comp. John 1:31, John 5:16; John 5:18, John 6:65, John 8:47.
He is of age; ask him] Or, He is of full age; ask him himself. This is the right order of the clauses here, and they have been altered in the Received Text of John 9:21 to match this verse.
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.24. Then again called they] Literally, They called, therefore, a second time. They had cross-questioned the parents apart from the son, and now try to browbeat the son, before he finds out that his parents have not discredited his story.
Give God the praise] Better, Give glory to God (comp. John 5:41 and John 8:54); it is the same word for ‘glory’ as in John 1:14, John 2:11, John 7:18, John 8:50. Even thus the meaning remains obscure: but ‘Give God the praise’ is absolutely misleading. The meaning is not ‘Give God the praise for the cure;’ they were trying to deny that there had been any cure: but, ‘Give glory to God by speaking the truth.’ The words are an adjuration to confess. Comp. Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 6:5; Ezra 10:11; 1Es 9:8; 2 Corinthians 11:31. Wiclif, with the Genevan and Rhemish Versions, is right here. Tyndale and Cranmer have misled our translators.
we know that, &c.] ‘We’ with emphasis; ‘we, the people in authority, who have the right to pronounce decisively. So it is useless for you to maintain that He is a Prophet.’
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.25. He answered] Better, Therefore he answered. He will not commit himself, but keeps to the incontrovertible facts of the case.
whereas I was blind] Literally, being a blind man, but the Greek participle may be either present or imperfect; either ‘being by nature a blind man’ or ‘being formerly blind.’ In John 3:13 and John 19:38 we have the same participle, and a similar doubt as to whether it is present or imperfect: so also in John 9:8.
Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?26. Being baffled, they return to the details of the fact, either to try once more to shake the evidence, or for want of something better to say.
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?27. I have told you] Rather, I told you.
and ye did not hear] Or possibly, and did ye not hear? This avoids taking ‘hear’ in two different senses; (1) ‘pay attention,’ (2) ‘hear.’ The man loses all patience, and will not go through it again.
wherefore would ye hear] Or, wherefore do ye wish to hear.
will ye also, &c.] Or, Surely ye also do not wish to become His disciples. The form of the question is similar to that in John 6:67 and John 7:52 (comp. John 4:29, John 7:35). Moreover, it is not the future tense, but the verb ‘to will’ or ‘wish’ (comp. John 5:40, John 6:67, John 7:17, John 8:44). Lastly, the difference between ‘be’ and ‘become’ is easily preserved here, and is worth preserving (comp. John 8:58). The meaning of ‘also’ has been misunderstood. It can scarcely mean ‘as well as I:’ the man has not advanced so far in faith as to count himself a disciple of Jesus; and if he had, he would not avow the fact to the Jews. ‘Also’ means ‘as well as His well-known disciples.’ That Christ had a band of followers was notorious.
Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples.28. Then they reviled him] Omit ‘then.’ The word for ‘revile’ occurs nowhere else in the Gospels. Comp. 1 Peter 2:23. Argument fails, so they resort to abuse.
Thou art his disciple] Better, Thou art that man’s disciple. They use a pronoun which expresses that they have nothing to do with Him. Comp. John 5:12 and John 7:11.
The pronouns are emphatic in both John 9:28 and John 9:29 : ‘Thou art His disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God hath spoken to Moses; but as for this fellow, &c.’
We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.29. that God spake] Literally, that God hath spoken, i.e. that Moses received a revelation which still remains. This is a frequent meaning of the perfect tense—to express the permanent result of a past action. Thus the frequent formula ‘it is written’ is strictly ‘it has been written,’ or ‘it stands written:’ i.e. it once was written, and the writing still remains. But this is perhaps one of those cases where the Greek perfect is best represented by the English aorist (see on John 8:29; John 8:10 for the converse).
we know not from whence he is] We know not what commission He has received, nor who has sent Him. Comp. John 8:14 and contrast John 7:27. Once more He is compared with Moses, as in the synagogue at Capernaum (John 6:31-32).
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.30. a marvellous thing] Some of the best MSS. read ‘the marvellous thing.’ ‘You, the very people who ought to know such things (John 3:10), know not whether He is from God or not, and yet He opened my eyes.’ ‘You’ is emphatic, and perhaps is a taunting rejoinder to their ‘we know that this man is a sinner’ (John 9:24) and ‘we know that God hath spoken to Moses’ (John 9:29). The man gains courage at their evident discomfiture.
Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.31. God heareth not sinners] i.e. wilful, impenitent sinners. Of course it cannot mean ‘God heareth no one who hath sinned,’ which would imply that God never answers the prayers of men. But the man’s dictum, reasonably understood, is the plain teaching of the O.T., whence he no doubt derived it. ‘The Lord is far from the wicked; but He heareth the prayer of the righteous’ (Proverbs 15:29). Comp. Psalm 66:18-19; Job 27:8-9; Isaiah 1:11-15.
a worshipper of God] Or, God-fearing, religious. The word occurs nowhere else in N.T. The man supposes that miracles must be answers to prayer. Only good men can gain such answers to prayer. Only a very good man could gain such an unprecedented answer as this.
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.32. Since the world began] There is no healing of the blind in O.T.
If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.33. of God] Or, from God: comp. John 1:6.
he could do nothing] The context limits the meaning—nothing at all like this, no miracle.
They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.34. Thou wast altogether born in sins] ‘In sins (first for emphasis) every part of thy nature (comp. John 13:10) has been steeped from thy birth; thou wast born a reprobate.’ They hold the same belief as the disciples, that sin before birth is possible, and maliciously exclude not only the alternative stated by Christ (John 9:3) but even the one stated by the disciples (John 9:2), that his parents might have sinned. Their passion blinds them to their inconsistency. They had been contending that no miracle had been wrought; now they throw his calamity in his face as proof of his sin.
Dost thou teach us?] ‘Dost thou, the born reprobate, teach us, the authorized teachers?’
they cast him out] Or, they put him forth: see on John 10:4. This probably does not mean excommunication. (1) The expression is too vague. (2) There could not well have been time to get a sentence of excommunication passed. (3) The man had not incurred the threatened penalty; he had not ‘confessed that He was Christ’ (John 9:22). Provoked by his impracticability and sturdy adherence to his own view they ignominiously dismiss him—turn him out of doors, if (as the ‘out’ seems to imply) they were meeting within walls.
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?35. Dost thou believe] There is a stress on ‘thou.’ ‘Dost thou, though others deny and blaspheme, believe?’
On the Son of God] Again there is much doubt about the reading. The balance of MSS. authority (including both the Sinaitic and the Vatican MSS.) is in favour of ‘the Son of man,’ which moreover is the expression that our Lord commonly uses respecting Himself in all four Gospels (see on John 1:51). But the reading ‘The Son of God’ is very strongly supported, and is at least as old as the second century; for Tertullian, who in his work Against Praxeas quotes largely from this Gospel, in chap. 22 quotes this question thus, Tu credis in Filium Dei? In John 10:36 and John 11:4 there is no doubt about the reading, and there Christ calls himself ‘the Son of God.’ Moreover, this appellation seems to suit the context better, for the man had been contending that Jesus came ‘from God’ (John 9:33), and the term ‘Son of man’ would scarcely have been intelligible to him. Lastly, a copyist, knowing that the ‘Son of man’ was Christ’s usual mode of designating Himself, would be very likely to alter ‘the Son of God’ into ‘the Son of man.’ Neither title, however, is very frequent in St John’s Gospel. For all these reasons, therefore, it is allowable to retain the common reading. But in any case we once more have evidence of the antiquity of this Gospel. If both these readings were established by the end of the second century, the original text must have been in existence long before. Corruptions take time to spring up and spread. See on John 1:13; John 1:18.
He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?36. Who is he, Lord] We should perhaps insert ‘and’ or ‘then’ with some of the best MSS., and Who is He? or, Who is He then? This ‘and’ or ‘then’ has the effect of intensifying the question. Comp. ‘and who is my neighbour?’ (Luke 10:29); ‘Who then can be saved?’ (John 18:26); ‘Who is he then that maketh me glad?’ (2 Corinthians 2:2). ‘Lord’ should perhaps be ‘Sir’ as in John 4:11; John 4:15; John 4:19; John 4:49; John 5:7 (see on John 6:34): not until John 9:38 does he reach the point at which he would call Jesus ‘Lord.’ But it is the same Greek word in both cases, though the amount of reverence with which he uses it increases, as in the parallel case of the woman at the well.
that I might believe] Literally, in order that I may believe. S. John’s favourite construction again, as in John 9:2-3; John 9:22.
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.37. Thou hast both seen him] Better, Thou hast even seen Him, and He that speaketh with thee is He. The latter half of the sentence is similar to the declaration in John 4:26. “This spontaneous revelation to the outcast from the synagogue finds its only parallel in the similar revelation to the outcast from the nation.” Westcott. Not even Apostles are told so speedily.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.38. Lord, I believe] Or, I believe, Lord: the order is worth keeping. Comp. the centurion’s confession (Matthew 27:54). There is no need to suppose that in either case the man making the confession knew anything like the full meaning of belief in the Son of God: even Apostles were slow at learning that. The blind man had had his own uninformed idea of the Messiah, and he believed that the realisation of that idea stood before him. His faith was necessarily imperfect, a poor ‘two mites;’ but it was ‘all that he had,’ and he gave it readily, while the learned Rabbis of their abundance gave nothing. It is quite gratuitous to suppose that a special revelation was granted to him. There is no hint of this in the narrative, nor can one see why so great an exception to God’s usual dealings with man should have been made.
he worshipped him] This shews that his idea of the Son of God includes attributes of Divinity. The word for ‘worship’ occurs elsewhere in this Gospel only in John 4:20-24 and John 12:20, always of the worship of God.
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.39. And Jesus said] There is no need to make a break in the narrative and refer these words to a subsequent occasion. This is not natural. Rather it is the sight of the man prostrate at His feet, endowed now with sight both in body and soul, that moves Christ to say what follows. His words are addressed to the bystanders generally, among whom are some of the Pharisees.
For judgment I am come] Better, For judgment I came. The precise form of word for ‘judgment’ occurs nowhere else in this Gospel. It signifies not the act of judging (John 5:22; John 5:24; John 5:27; John 5:30) but its result, a ‘sentence’ or ‘decision’ (Matthew 7:2, Mark 12:40, Romans 2:2-3, &c.), Christ came not to judge, but to save (John 3:17, John 8:15); but judgment was the inevitable result of His coming, for those who rejected Him passed sentence on themselves (John 3:19). See on John 1:9 and John 18:37. The pronoun is emphatic.
they which see not] They who are conscious of their own blindness, who know their deficiencies; like ‘they that are sick’ and ‘sinners’ in Matthew 9:12-13, and ‘babes’ in Matthew 11:25. This man was aware of his spiritual blindness when he asked, ‘Who is He then, that I may believe on Him!’
might see] Better, may see, may really see, may pass from the darkness of which they are conscious, to light and truth.
they which see] They who fancy they see, who pride themselves on their superior insight and knowledge, and wish to dictate to others; like ‘they that be whole,’ and ‘righteous’ in Matthew 9:12-13, and ‘the wise and prudent’ in Matthew 11:25. These Pharisees shewed this proud self-confidence when they declared, ‘we know that this man is a sinner,’ and asked ‘Dost thou teach us?’
might be made blind] Or, may become blind, really blind (Isaiah 6:10), may pass from their fancied light into real darkness.
39–41. “The concluding verses contain a saying which is thoroughly in the manner of the Synoptists (cf. Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:16-17; Matthew 23:24; Matthew 23:26). It also supplies a warranty for ascribing a typical significance to miracles.
That the Synoptists do not relate this miracle does not affect its historical character, as the whole of these events in Judaea are equally omitted by them.… The vague and shifting outlines of the Synoptic narrative allow ample room for all the insertions that are made in them with so much precision by S. John.” S. pp. 165, 166.
And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?40. And some of] Better, Those of.
Are we blind also?] Or, Surely we also are not blind? See on John 9:27. Of course they understand Him to be speaking figuratively. It is strange that any should have understood their question as referring to bodily sight. They mean that they, the most enlightened among the most enlightened nation, must be among ‘those who see.’
Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.41. If ye were blind] Christ returns to His own meaning of ‘blind’ or ‘they which see not’ in John 9:39. ‘If ye were conscious of your own spiritual darkness, if ye yearned and strove to reach the light, ye would not have sin (see on John 15:22); for either ye would find the light, or, if ye failed, the failure would not lie at your door.’ For the construction comp. John 5:46; John 8:19; John 8:42; John 15:19; John 18:36.
therefore your sin remaineth] Better, your sin abideth (see on John 1:33): ‘therefore’ is an insertion, and must be omitted. ‘Ye profess to see: your sin in this false profession and in your consequent rejection of Me abideth.’ It was a hopeless case. They rejected Him because they did not know the truth about Him; and they would never learn the truth because they were fully persuaded that they were in possession of it. Those who confess their ignorance and contend against it, (1) cease to be responsible for it, (2) have a good prospect of being freed from it. Those who deny their ignorance and contend against instruction, (1) remain responsible for their ignorance, (2) have no prospect of ever being freed from it. Comp. John 3:36.