Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Commentary On the Gospel of John According to the Aramaic Peshitta: Chapter 9

And when he crossed over, he saw a man [who was] blind since his mother's womb. And his disciples asked him and said, "Our Master, who sinned: this [man] or his parents, that blind he should be born?" Yeshua said to them, "He did not sin, nor his parents, but that might be seen in him the work of God."- John 9:1-3

"Crossed over" is abar (rb9). The word "Hebrew" comes from this word, which is referring to the people of Israel "crossing over" the Jordan River. In some cases sickness is the result of sin, but not in every case. Sometimes bad things just happen so that God can fix them and reveal His glory and love to humanity. We should always use our infirmities and trials to bring glory to God.

"For me it is necessary to do the works of Him who sent me while it is daytime. The night [is] coming, that man is not able to work. As long as I [am] in the world, I [am] the Light of the world."- John 9:4-5

The "night" refers to the time in which Christ would be taken from this world back to His Father in Heaven. Without Christ, we can do nothing. He came here to do the will of the Father while He had time. We should do likewise, and always do the will of the Father before it is too late. See the notes on John 1:9-13 for a discussion on the significance of "light" in Semitic thought.

And when he said these things, he spat upon the ground and mixed clay with his saliva and he rubbed it upon the eyes of that blind [man]. And he said to him, "Go. Wash in the baptismal of Shilokha," and he went [and] washed, and he came seeing.- John 9:6-7

This miracle signifies the "light" that Christ brings to mankind. This is the 5th of the 7 signs in this Gospel. The word Shilokha (0xwly4) is Aramaic for "sent", which is the word from which the Aramaic word for "apostle" (Shlikha 0xyl4) is derived. The existence of this pool was confirmed in 2004 when the sight was excavated by archaeologists. This was another example of faith being put to the test. I'm sure the blind man was insulted at first when Jesus started rubbing mud in his eyes, but he knew it was Jesus after He spoke (as you can see in the next little section) and obeyed. If he did not have faith, he would not have been healed. 

Now his neighbors, and those who had seen from the beginning that he would beg, were saying, "Is it not this [man]? He who would sit and beg?" [There were] some who were saying that it was [he] and [there were] some who were saying, "No, but he closely resembles him." But he was saying that, "I am [he]." They said to him, "How were your eyes opened?" He answered and said to them, "A man whose name is Yeshua made clay and rubbed it on me, upon my eyes, and he said to me, 'Go [and] wash in the water of Shilokha,' and I went and I washed, and I began to see."- John 9:8-11

The obedience of the blind man brings to mind Naaman the Syrian from II Kings 5, who was told by Elisha to dip himself seven times into the Jordan River in order to be cured of his leprosy. After some rebellion against the Word of the Lord, a servant convinced him to do so and he was healed. Like this, the blind man was told to go and wash his eyes and he was healed. Faith requires action in order to have an effect in your life. Do not be just a hearer of the Word, but a doer of the Word.

They said to him, "Where is he?" He said to them, "I do not know." And they brought he who from the beginning was blind to the Pharisees. It was now the sabbath when Yeshua made the clay and opened his eyes.- John 9:12-14

The people that brought the blind man to the Pharisees were probably not believers and wanted to get Jesus into trouble, so they brought the blind man to witness against him. This confrontation about healing on the Sabbath is similar to many confrontations recorded between Jesus and the Pharisees in the Synoptic Gospels.

And again asked him the Pharisees, "How [is it that] you see?" And he said to them, "He placed clay upon my eyes, and I washed and I see." And some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, he who does keep the sabbath." But others were saying, "How is a sinful man able to do these miracles?" And there was division among them.- John 9:15-16

This is another example of the Pharisaical adherence to the Oral Law as equal to the Torah. The Torah never says that you cannot help someone on the Sabbath, in fact, you are obligated to help your brethren. Jesus and the Pharisees had a lot of similar beliefs, but the Pharisees were hypocritical and added their traditions to the Word of God, which at times caused them to break the Torah for the sake of observing tradition (Mark 7:13). Jesus's disputes with the Pharisees were not about the Torah itself, but about the Oral Law the Pharisees added onto it. 

They said again to that blind man, "What do you say concerning him who opened your eyes?" He said to them, "I say that he [is] the Prophet." But the Yehudeans were not believing concerning him that he was blind yet he saw until they called the parents of him who saw. And they ask them, "If this is your son, he [that] you say that he was born blind, how [is it that] now he sees?" And his parents answered, "We know that this is our son and that he was born blind, but how he sees now or who opened his eyes we do not know. Indeed, he is of age, ask him. He on behalf of himself may speak." These things his parents said because they were afraid of the Yehudeans, for the Yehudeans had decided that if anyone should confess in him that he [is] the Messiah, they would cast him out of the assembly. Because of this his parents said that, "He is of age. Ask him." - John 9:17-23

They probably called his parents in as the second and third witnesses according to the procedure of the law (Deuteronomy 19:15), because after this they did seem to believe that the man was indeed born blind. The blind man clearly was not afraid to confess that Jesus was a man of God, contrary to the teachings of the Pharisees. It's sad that they had the people so afraid to confess what so many of them knew to be true. 

And they called the man a second time, he who was blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God. For we know that this man is a sinner." He answered and said to them, "If he [is] a sinner, I do not know, but one [thing] I know: that I was blind, and now behold, I see!"- John 9:24-25

The Pharisees clearly did not want to accept the possibility that Jesus healed the man because he was "working" on the Sabbath, therefore they concluded that He was a sinner and could not be used by God. The blind man responds in faith that God used this man from Nazareth whether He was a sinner or not. To the blind man, his healing by the hands of the Nazarene prophet was enough evidence that He was a man of God.

They said to him again, "What [did he] do to you? How [did he] open your eyes?" He said to them, "I have told you, yet you have not listened. What? Do you want to hear [it] again? Why? Do you also desire to be disciples to him?" And they reviled him and said to him, "You are a disciple of his, for we are disciples of Moshe. And we know that with Moshe God spoke, but this man, we do not know from where he [is]. That man answered and said to them, "In this therefore is [something] to marvel [at]: that you do not know from where he [is], yet he opened my eyes. We know now that God does not hear the voice of sinners, rather he who fears him and does his will, him he hears. From eternity is has not been heard that someone opened the eyes of a man who was born blind. If this [man] is not from God, he would not be able to do this."- John 9:26-33

The blind man offers some very simple logic here. This healing had to be from God, as the devil would not want to do anything to help someone. Since the man was healed from blindness, then clearly Jesus of Nazareth was being used by God to accomplish of God, and if God is hearing His prayers then He must be a servant of God. 

They answered and said to him, "You entirely were born in sins, and you teach us?" And they cast him outside. And Yeshua heard that they had cast him outside and he found him and said to him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?" And he who was healed answered and said, "Who is he, my Lord, that I may believe in him?" Yeshua said to him, "You have seen him, and he who speaks with you is he." And he said, "I believe, my Lord." And he fell and worshiped him."- John 9:34-38

The self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the Pharisees here is sickening. Even today, a Jewish person who comes to believe that Jesus is the Messiah is in danger of being shunned and exiled by the non-Messianic Jews around him. Many Jewish religious groups state that any Jew who comes to believe Jesus is the Messiah is no longer Jewish. Messianic Jews respond by saying that they are "completed Jews",  who are living in the fulfillment of the promises of our father Abraham and His Seed the Messiah. 

The blind man was clearly convinced by the signs, unlike the Pharisees. Paul Younan states in a footnote on this verse, "The Aramaic root SGD means 'To prostrate oneself before', and is the most submissive form of worship." I believe this is the child-like faith that Jesus wants us to have in Him, as the blind man did not succumb to any of the religious questions and doubts that would have come through traditional teaching and the status quo established by the religious elite, but responded immediately with Jesus's claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God.

And Yeshua said to him, "For the judgment of this world I have come, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." And some of the Pharisees, those who were with him, heard and said to him, "Why? Are even we blind?" Yeshua said to them, "If only you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you say that, 'We see,' because of this, your sin is standing."- John 9:39-41

This man who was blind has been enlightened by Christ (the Light of the world), but those who are supposed to be spiritually knowledgeable are more blind than he ever was. The Pharisees were willingly ignorant, therefore blind of their own will, therefore they are eternally guilty before the Father. Paul Younan's footnote here on the phrase "your sin is standing" says, "'Firmly established', 'unmovable' idiomatically 'eternal.'" This brings to my mind Jesus's teaching on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which many believe is possible by willingly rejecting the message of the Messiah's Gospel (see Matthew 12:31-32). The Pharisees are left in sin because of the hardness of their hearts and their unwillingness to humble themselves before God.

Jesus's statement about judgment here does not contradict Jesus's many statements that He did not come to judge the world. When Jesus is stating that He did not come to judge the world, He is saying that He did not come to condemn the world or judge it in a the superficial manner of the Pharisees. Jesus came to make judicial decisions, and the result of this is that those who are spiritually blind will be given sight into the spiritual things, while those who think that they (like the Pharisees in this passage) see will be blinded.