This weekend I heard somebody build a case for a theological position based in part of the kind of healing given to the blind man in John 9.

[John 9:1, NET] Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.

Unfortunately I am unable to see in the text at face value the point that was being made. I'm well aware that the original language may provide descriptive clues that are lost in translation. Does this passage (through verse 22) say anything about the exact physical nature of the blindness or the healing? Even if an exact description is not given, are any possibilities excluded? Could he have not had any eye organs at all? Could he have had the organ but ones that were completely non-functional? Could he have had some limited function but been "legally blind"?

  • As the Gospel does not tell us this, everything else has to be opinion and therefore, I think, off-topic. Perhaps in Christianity.stackhouse, a known, specific theological view could be accepted, but here we rely on hermeneutics. – Dick Harfield Feb 16 '15 at 20:51
  • @Caleb As to a particular root cause(hereditary/biological) I don't believe there's enough in the text to give us that clue-much less the Biblical author making the correct diagnosis. The 'issue' was sin, and Jesus clarified it when He said, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents." One can conclude antithetically, that 'sin that caused his blindness' is the sin in question, and not any sin(the curse causeless shall not come-Prov. 26:2). We see also that the "works of God be manifest" so regardless of the origin, the outcome is beneficial. – Tau Feb 17 '15 at 1:47

I tend to agree that the man was born without eyes. Aside from the thoughts mentioned above, the fact that he was born blind was apparent from looking at him, and, after he was healed, people had a difficult time recognizing him, implying that his appearance had changed.

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    Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. When you read the answer that suggested the man may have been born without eyes, did you read the comments that appeared below. Your answer, and the other answer would be much more convincing with evidence that shows that people can be born without eyes. Here's a link you might want to read so you can add some substance to your answer. – enegue Mar 12 '18 at 6:25

When I first read this question it seemed a bit quixotic. When I read the first suggestion that he had no eyes I felt it would be a condition so rare as to require that it be mentioned explicitly that in addition to not seeing, he had no eyes. However, it turns out that this is (at least in modern times) not at all an uncommon form of congenital blindness:

...Anophthalmia has been reported to be present in 3 out of every 100,000 births.[3] Many instances of anophthalmia also occur with microphthalmia. A recent study in the UK indicated that anophthalmia and microphthalmia had a combined average of 1 in every 10,000 births.[1] The annual rate of occurrence of anophthalmia/microphthalmia in the United States is about 780 children born/year.[4] The most extensive epidemiological survey on this congenital malformation has been carried out by Dharmasena et al[5] and using English National Hospital Episode Statistics, they calculated the annual incidence of anophthalmia, microphthalmia and congenital malformations of orbit/lacrimal apparatus from 1999 to 2011. According to this study the incidence of congenital anophthalmia ranged from 2.4 (95% CI 1.3 to 4.0) per 100 000 infants in 1999 to 0.4 (0 to 1.3) in 2011. Parents that already have a child who suffers from anophthalmia has a 1 in 8 chance of having another child with anophthalmia.[6] Approximately 2/3 of all cases of anophthalmia are determined to be of genetic basis. Anophthalmia is one of the leading causes of congenital blindness and accounts for 3-11% of blindness in children.[7] Anophthalmia and microphthalmia together make up 1.7-1.8% of reconstructive surgical cases in laboratory of plastic surgery and ocular prostheses.[8]...


This being the case to my mind the suggestion that the manipulation of the clay and spittle to make new eyes is not at all off the table since it is hard to see the significance of the action apart from it.

Another matter to consider is the typology which would argue for him having eyes:

KJV Psa_115:5  They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:

Psa_135:16  They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;

Mar 8:18  Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

I don't see anything definitive but personally as of now lean toward the absence of eyeballs or physically compromised eyeballs.

And of course it is explicit that God was the unseen cause, for his own glory.


John 9 1-22 Gk typhlon τυφλὸν blind Adj-AMS 1537 [e] ek ἐκ from Prep 1079 [e] genetēs γενετῆς. birth.


6When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed his eyes with the clay, 7and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (below is the Greek) http://biblehub.com/interlinear/john/9-6.htm

This passage in John 9:1 is unique, in that it is apparently the only place 'blind from birth' appears in the NT., according to Meyer's Commentary. (Bible Hub)

The Greek rendering of the text did not seem to reveal any clues that might fit with what you were asking, clues to the nature of the man's blindness.

However, there is something available in the Greek and English text, that might be otherwise overlooked, if not highlighted, in order to have another look.

What Jesus did to the blind man, by spitting on the earth, and with his spittle, creating clay, with which he touched the eyes of the man, - this is reminiscent of the original creation of man, by God.

In Genesis we have God 'creating Adam from the dust of the earth', and forming him from it. From this visual picture that Jesus gave us, we could assume that this healing of congenital blindness might fall into the category of 'creative miracle', imitating God's own handiwork on Adam, and from this we might assume then, that the man born blind was born without actual eyes, because it appears from the text that Jesus may have built him a pair, by what he did with his Divine saliva, mixing it with clay. (like in the beginning, 'Adam was made from the earth')

In this case, the man's eyeballs may have begun to be created, right there in the Divine spittle and dust. Jesus 'sent' him to the pool called 'sent', to wash, which would have to be an act of faith on the blind man's part, him setting out all muddy, eager to fulfill Jesus' request.

The act of washing in water suggests baptism, repentance from sin, coming up out of the water, cleansed, and in this man's case, physically seeing. Later in the story, Jesus revisits him in such a way as to give him spiritual sight as well, because the man says that he believes on Jesus.

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    Interesting, but to me, "he anointed the man's eyes" indicates that his eyes already existed. – Susan Feb 18 '15 at 0:53
  • @Susan - possibly, 'annointed ...eyes' as opposed to 'annointed...his eye sockets'- still the use of the wording 'annointed his eyes' could be used for actions done to someone who did not have the actual eyeballs. – Hello Feb 18 '15 at 2:50
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    That is not self evident to me. Still, even if it admits of that interpretation, to say that it requires it seems like a stretch. – Susan Feb 18 '15 at 3:19
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    @Hello I'll give this answer a +1, only because it provides a plausible explanation to a creative miracle. I would however agree w/ Susan; it is a stretch, and one not fully supported from the text. – Tau Feb 19 '15 at 5:18

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