These words spoke 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)For the Jews had agreed already.—This does not imply a formal decree of the Sanhedrin, but an agreement on the part of the leaders which they had made known to the people, and which they would have had little difficulty in carrying into effect. The word rendered “agreed” occurs again in the New Testament only twice. It expresses the covenant made with Judas, in Luke 22:5, and the agreement of the Jews to kill Paul, in Acts 23:20.
He should be put out of the synagogue.—Comp. John 16:2, and Note on Luke 6:22. The Jews at a later date distinguished three kinds of excommunication. (1) The lightest continued for thirty days, and prescribed four cubits as a distance within which the person may not approach any one, not even wife or children; with this limitation, it did not make exclusion from the synagogue necessary. (2) The severer included absolute banishment from all religious meetings, and absolute giving up of intercourse with all persons, and was formally pronounced with curses. (3) The severest was a perpetual banishment from all meetings, and a practical exclusion from the fellowship of God’s people. It has been sometimes supposed that the words of Luke 6:22, (a) “separate you,” (b) “reproach you,” (c) “cast out your name,” refer to these gradations, but probably the only practice known in the time of our Lord was that which was later regarded as the intermediate form, falling short of perpetual banishment, but being, while the ban lasted, exclusion from all the cherished privileges of an Israelite.
He is of age - He is of sufficient age to give testimony. Among the Jews this age was fixed at thirteen years.
If any man did confess that he was Christ - Did acknowledge that he was the Messiah. They had prejudged the case, and were determined to put down all free inquiry, and not to be convinced by any means.
Put out of the synagogue - This took place in the temple, or near the temple. It does not refer, therefore, to any immediate and violent putting forth from the place where they were. It refers to excommunication from the synagogue. Among the Jews there were two grades of excommunication; the one for lighter offences, of which they mentioned 24 causes; the other for greater offences. The first excluded a man for 30 days from the privilege of entering a synagogue, and from coming nearer to his wife or friends than 4 cubits. The other was a solemn exclusion forever from the worship of the synagogue, attended with awful maledictions and curses, and an exclusion from all contact with the people. This was called the curse, and so thoroughly excluded the person from all communion whatever with his countrymen, that they were not allowed to sell to him anything, even the necessaries of life (Buxtorf). It is probable that this latter punishment was what they intended to inflict if anyone should confess that Jesus was the Messiah: and it was the fear of this terrible punishment that deterred his parents from expressing their opinion.
The fear of man bringeth a snare, Proverbs 29:25; it is often a temptation to men to deny the truth, or, at least, not to own and confess it when God calls to them for a public owning and confession of it: but nothing of that nature appeareth in this case; for it doth not appear that his parents were present when Christ wrought this great miracle; which if they were not, they were not obliged to tell the Pharisees what themselves had only received by rumour and hearsay: so that their answer seems but a prudential answer, to avoid an eminent danger. For they were not ignorant of a decree made by the Jewish sanhedrim. That if any did publicly say, or declare, that Jesus was Christ, he should be excommunicated; for that is meant by being
put out of the synagogue.
because they feared the Jews; the Jewish sanhedrim, otherwise they were Jews themselves:
for the Jews had agreed already; the sanhedrim had made a decree, either at this time, upon this account, or some time before,
that if any man did confess that he was Christ; that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah,
he should be put out of the synagogue; which was not that sort of excommunication which they called "Niddui", a separation from civil society for the space of four cubits, and which held but thirty days, if the person repented; if he did not, it was continued to sixty days; and after that, in case of non-repentance, to ninety days; and if no amendment, then they proceeded to another excommunication called "Cherem", or "Shammatha", whereby such were anathematized, and cut off from the whole body of the Jewish church and people, called sometimes the synagogue and congregation of Israel (r); and this struck great terror in the minds of the people; and this was what intimidated the parents of the blind man, being what is intended here. Though these are sometimes put one for another, and signify the same thing; and he that was under the former of those censures, is said to be "separated from the congregation" (s), a phrase by which the word here used may be very well rendered: but in some things there was a difference between them; the one was without cursing, the other with; he that was under "Niddui", might teach others the traditions, and they might teach him; he might hire workmen, and be hired himself: but he that was under "Cherem" might neither teach others, nor they teach him; but he might teach himself, that he might not forget his learning; and he might neither hire, nor be hired; and they did not trade with him, nor did they employ him in any business, unless in very little, just to keep him alive (t); yea, the goods which he was possessed of, were confiscated, and which they conclude should be done from (u) Ezra 10:8, which may be compared with this passage; so that this greatly and chiefly affected them in the affairs of civil life, and which made it so terrible: for I do not find that they were obliged to abstain from the temple, or temple worship, or from the synagogue, and the worship of it, and which is the mistake of some learned men: it is certain, they might go into places of worship, though with some difference from others; for it is said (w), that
"all that go into the temple, go in, in the right hand way, and go round, and come out in the left, except such an one to whom anything has befallen him, and he goes about to the left; (and when asked) why dost thou go to the left? (he answers) because I am a mourner; (to whom it is replied) he that dwells in this house comfort thee: (or) , "because I am excommunicated"; (to whom they say) he that dwells in this house put it into thy heart (that thou mayest hearken to the words of thy friends, as it is afterwards explained) and they may receive thee.''
And it is elsewhere said (x), that
"Solomon, when he built the temple, made two gates, the one for bridegrooms, and the other for mourners and excommunicated persons; and the Israelites, when they went in on sabbath days, or feast days, sat between these two gates; and when anyone came in by the gate of the bridegrooms, they knew he was a bridegroom, and said unto him, he that dwells in this house make thee cheerful with sons and daughters: and when anyone came in at the gate of mourners, and his upper lip covered, they knew that he was a mourner, and said unto him, he that dwells in this house comfort thee: and when anyone came in at the gate of mourners, and his upper lip was not covered, they knew , "that he was excommunicated"; and said unto him, he that dwells in this house comfort thee, and put it into thy heart to hearken to thy friends.''
And it is afterwards also said in the same place, that when the temple was destroyed, it was decreed that such persons should come into synagogues and schools; but then they were not reckoned as members of the Jewish church, but as persons cut off from the people of Israel, and scarce allowed to be of their commonwealth. And it may be further observed, that excommunication with the Jews was not only on religious accounts, but on civil accounts; on account of money, or when a man would not pay his debts, according to the decree of the sanhedrim (y). The twenty four reasons of excommunication, given by Maimonides (z), chiefly respect contempt of the sanhedrim, and of the wise men, and breach of the traditions of the elders; sometimes they excommunicated for immorality, particularly the Essenes, as Josephus relates, who says (a), that such who are taken in grievous sins, they cast them out of their order; and he that is so dealt with commonly dies a miserable death; for being bound by oaths and customs, he cannot eat the food of others, and so starves. The same is reported (b) by R. Abraham Zachuth: and sometimes excommunication was for Epicurism, or heresy, and such they reckoned the belief of Jesus of Nazareth, as the Messiah, on account of which this decree was made, and which continued with them; for not only this blind man was cast out of the synagogue by virtue of it, but our Lord tells his disciples, that they should be so treated by the Jews after his death; and we find it remained in force and practice many hundreds of years afterwards. Athanasius (c) relates of a Jew, that lived in Berytus, a city in Syria, between Tyre and Sidon, that an image of Christ being found in his house by another Jew, though unknown to him; and this being discovered to the chief priests and elders of the Jews, they cast him out of the synagogue. Sometimes this sentence was pronounced by word of mouth, and sometimes it was delivered in writing: the form of one is given us by Buxtorf (d), out of an ancient Hebrew manuscript; and a dreadful shocking one it is; and is as follows:
"according to the mind of the Lord of lords, let such an one, the son of such an one, be in "Cherem", or anathematized, in both houses of judgment, of those above, and those below; and with the anathema of the saints on high, with the anathema of the "Seraphim" and "Ophanim", and with the anathema of the whole congregation, great and small; let great and real stripes be upon him, and many and violent diseases; and let his house be an habitation of dragons; and let his star be dark in the clouds; and let him be for indignation, wrath, and anger; and let his carcass be for beasts and serpents; and let those that rise up against him, and his enemies, rejoice over him; and let his silver and his gold be given to others; and let all his children be exposed at the gate of his enemies, and at his day may others be amazed; and let him be cursed from the mouth of Addiriron and Actariel, (names of angels, as are those that follow,) and from the mouth of Sandalphon and Hadraniel, and from the mouth of Ansisiel and Pathchiel, and from the mouth of Seraphiel and Zaganzael, and from the mouth of Michael and Gabriel, and from the mouth of Raphael and Meshartiel; and let him be anathematized from the mouth of Tzabtzabib, and from tile mouth of Habhabib, he is Jehovah the Great, and from the mouth of the seventy names of the great king, and from the side of Tzortak the great chancellor; and let him be swallowed up as Korah and his company, with terror, and with trembling; let his soul go out; let the reproof of the Lord kill him; and let him be strangled as Ahithophel in his counsel; and let his leprosy be as the leprosy of Gehazi; and let there be no raising him up from his fall; and in the sepulchres of Israel let not his grave be; and let his wife be given to another; and let others bow upon her at his death: in this anathema, let such an one, the son of such an one be, and let this be his inheritance; but upon me, and upon all Israel, may God extend his peace and his blessing. Amen.''
And if he would, he might add these verses in Deuteronomy 29:19, "and it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate, him unto evil, out of all the tribes of Israel, according, to all the curses of the covenant, that are written in this book of the law". There were many rites and ceremonies, which in process of time were used, when such a sentence was pronounced, as blowing of horns and trumpets, and lighting of candles, and putting them out: hence, trumpets are reckoned (d) a among the instruments of judges. It is said (e) of R. Judah, that being affronted by a certain person, he resented the injury, and brought out the trumpets and excommunicated him: and they tell us (f), that Barak anathematized Meroz, whom they take to be some great person, with four hundred trumpets: and they also say (g), that four hundred trumpets were brought out, and they excommunicated Jesus of Nazareth; though these words are left out in some editions of the Talmud. Now this was done in order to inject terror both into those that were guilty, and also into the whole congregation of the people, that they might hear and fear; for the "Cherem", or that sort of excommunication which goes by that name, was done publicly before the whole synagogue, all the heads and elders of the church being gathered together; and then candles were lighted, and as soon as the form of the curse was finished, they were put out, as a sign that the excommunicated person was unworthy of the heavenly light (h). Very likely the Papists took their horrible custom from hence of cursing with bell, book, and candle.
(r) Vid. Maimon. Talmud Tora, c. 7. sect. 6. Buxtorf. Lex. Rab. col. 1303. & Epist. Heb. Institut. p. 57. (s) Maimon. Hilchod Talmud Tora, c. 7. sect. 4. (t) Ib. sect. 5. (u) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16. 1.((w) Misn. Middot, c. 2. sect. 2.((x) Pirke Eiiezer, c. 17. (y) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16. 1. & Gloss in ib. (z) Hilchot Talmud Tora, c. 6. sect. 14. (a) De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 8. sect. 8. (b) Juchasin, fol. 139. 2.((c) Oper. ejus, Tom. 2. p. 12, 17. Ed. Commelin. (d) Lex Rab. col. 828. (d) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol 7. 2.((e) T. Bab. Kiddushin, c. 4. in Beth Israel, fol. 57. 1.((f) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16. 1. & Shebuot, fol. 36. 1.((g) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 107. 2. Ed. Venet. (h) Buxtorf. Epist. Heb. Institut. c. 6. p. 56.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 9:22. ʼΉδη γὰρ συνετέθ.] for—so great cause had they for that fear—the Jews had already agreed, had already come to an understanding with each other; conspiraverant, Vulgate. Comp. Luke 22:5; Acts 23:20; Thuc. 4. 19; 1Ma 9:70; Ast, Lex. Plat. III. p. 340. The context does not justify the assumption of a decree of the Sanhedrim to that effect. The hope, however, was cherished of being able without difficulty to convert the arrangement in question into a decree of the Sanhedrim; and the parents of the blind man might easily have come to know of this. We can easily understand that they should prefer exposing their son rather than themselves to this danger, since they must have been certain that he would not for the sake of his benefactor refuse to make the dangerous confession.
ἵνα] that which they had agreed on is conceived as the intention of their agreement. Comp. ἀξιοῦν ἵνα in Dem. de Cor. 155 (see Dissen on the passage), and Nägelsbach on the Iliad, p. 62, ed. 3.
ἀποσυνάγ. γέν.] Exclusion from the fellowship of the synagogue, and in connection therewith from the common intercourse of life, was probably at this time the sole form of excommunication. See on Luke 6:22.John 9:22. Ταῦτα … ἐρωτήσατε. The reluctance of the parents to answer brings out the circumstance that already the members of the Sanhedrim had come to an understanding with one another that any one who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah should be excommunicated, ἀποσυνάγωγος γένηται. Of excommunication there were three degrees: the first lasted for thirty days; then followed “a second admonition,” and if impenitent the culprit was punished for thirty days more; and if still impenitent he was laid under the Cherem or ban, which was of indefinite duration, and which entirely cut him off from intercourse with others. He was treated as if he were a leper. This, to persons so poor as the parents of this beggar, would mean ruin and death (see Edersheim, Life of Christ, ii. 183–4).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.John 9:22. Ἐφοβοῦντο, they were afraid of) to such a degree that they left their son [at whose receiving of the gift of sight, however, they without doubt were exceedingly rejoiced.—V. g.] alone in the danger; and not only did not acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, but did not even acknowledge that, from which it followed as a consequence.—ἀποσυναγωγος, expelled from the synagogue) which was a most severe punishment.Verse 22. - The evangelist accounts for the reticence of the parents by their fear of consequences. These things said his parents, because they feared the Jews. This passage provides strong evidence of the technical use of the term "the Jews." Doubtless these parents were Israelites, but they were not "Jews" in the Johannine sense. The "Jews" were the hierarchical and ecclesiastico-political authorities. For they had already come to the agreement (Luke 22:5; Acts 23:20; 1 Macc. 9:70); had mutually determined - it does not follow that the Sanhedrin had issued a public order, but that a formidable party of "Jews" had made a συνθήκη, had pledged each other and made it sufficiently known even to such persons as the poverty-stricken parents of the blind beggar, that it would be carried out by the adequate authority in such a matter - that if any man should confess that he was Christ ("he" (αὐτὸν) is remarkable - it shows how full the thoughts of the evangelist were of the Personality of Jesus), he should be put out of the synagogue; or, become unsynagoqued. The Talmud speaks of three kinds of excommunication (cf. also Matthew 5:22), of which the first two were disciplinary; the third answers to complete and final expulsion (in 'Jeremiah Moed. K.,' 81, d, הוא יבדל מקהל, Edersheim). The general designation was shammata, from ךשמַד, to destroy. The first form of it was called nesephah, and did not amount to more than severe rebuke. It would exclude from religious privileges for seven or thirty days, according to the dignity of the authority by whom it was pronounced (cf. 1 Timothy 5:1). The second form of shammata was called niddui, which lasted for thirty days at the least, and might be repeated at the end of them. If these admonitions failed to produce their right effect, it might lead to the third and final excommunication, called cherem, or ban, whose duration was indefinite. The second of these forms was accompanied by blast of trumpet and terrible curses, which deprived the sufferer of all kinds of social intercourse. He was avoided as a leper; if he died, he was buried without funeral or mourning. The cherem was even a more terrible anathema, and might last for life. The parents of the blind man might easily fear such a curse. The ban to which this blind man was eventually exposed did not prevent him from moving about the city. The ban pronounced on Jesus led doubtless to the condemnation, issuing in his ignominy and trial for a capital offence. It was probably the second of the three forms of anathema to which he was ultimately condemned. It was quite sufficient temptation for these poor parents to have preserved an obstinate reticence.
The sense is, had formed an agreement in order to bring about this end, viz., that the confessor of Christ should be excommunicated.
He should be put out of the synagogue (ἀποσυνάγωγος)
The literal rendering cannot be neatly given, as there is no English adjective corresponding to ἀποσυνάγωγος, which means excluded from the synagogue: as nearly as possible - that He should become banished from the synagogue. The adjective occurs only in John's Gospel - here, John 12:42; John 16:2. Three kinds of excommunication were recognized, of which only the third was the real cutting off, the other two being disciplinary. The first, and lightest, was called rebuke, and lasted from seven to thirty days. The second was called thrusting out, and lasted for thirty days at least, followed by a "second admonition," which lasted for thirty days more. This could only be pronounced in an assembly of ten. It was accompanied by curses, and sometimes proclaimed with the blast of the horn. The excommunicated person would not be admitted into any assembly of ten men, nor to public prayer. People would keep at the distance of four cubits from him, as if he were a leper. Stones were to be cast on his coffin when dead, and mourning for him was forbidden. If all else failed, the third, or real excommunication was pronounced, the duration of which was indefinite. The man was to be as one dead. No intercourse was to be held with him; one must not show him the road, and though he might buy the necessaries of life, it was forbidden to eat and drink with him. These severer forms appear to have been of later introduction, so that the penalty which the blind man's parents feared was probably separation from all religious fellowship, and from ordinary intercourse of life for perhaps thirty days.
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