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In John chapter 9, there is a man that has been blind from birth. He had never seen anything in his life. Yeshua anoints the man's eyes with clay, and then tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man, still blind, goes to the pool and recieves his sight. Other men that had seen the blind man before, asked him how he recieved his sight. He tells them what happened, and they cast him out. Then...

"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 (Critical Text and every other translation: man)?

He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?

And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both (Καὶ) seen (ἑώρακας: perfect active) him, and it is he that talketh with thee." (John 9:35-37)

Yeshua tells him that he has both seen the son of man in the past, and he is looking at the son of man presently. However, the man had never seen Yeshua before because he was still blind when he went to the pool of Siloam. So I have two questions...

Was Yeshua referring to the "neighbors" when he told the blind man he has seen the son of man before?

[A previous version of this question also asked, Who is the son of man in John 9:35?]

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    It sounds like you're reading too much into the grammar, as if the fact that ἑώρακας is a perfect form means there was someone else because it happened "in the past", or the fact that he says "you have seen him" instead of "you have seen me". But allow Jesus to smile a little bit while he says it and it's just a wordier version of "you know who (pause for effect); it's me!". – fumanchu Jul 16 '16 at 17:14
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    I think fumanchu's got the right idea about the author's intentions, although I'm not sure it's reading "too much" into he grammar so much as it is reading the wrong category of meaning into the grammar (i.e. the fact that ἑώρακας is perfect) . This is the stuff of lively debates in Greek grammar, much of it reflected in the so-called Porter/Fanning debate. See also this answer on verbal "markedness", similarly arising from an (apparently) "anomalous" perfect. – Susan Jul 17 '16 at 22:31
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    Thank you @fumanchu. I guess I could allow Yeshua to smile a bit, but I'd rather understand what he actually says as opposed to what I think he should have said. This is the only verse that has Yeshua explicitly answer who the son of man is, and he does so in a peculiar way that is very relevant to understanding every occurrence of the son of man. Isn't this at least worthy of further investigation? Perhaps there is a particular occurrence that you believe is incomprehensible if applied to all men (or at least the righteous). I'm sure the answer is there, because it's always there. – Cannabijoy Jul 22 '16 at 18:38
  • Thank you @Susan. I wrote fumanchu back, but it would only allow me to respond to one person at a time. Thanks for the resources. It seems I'm free to agree or disagree with either position, so I choose to accept that Yeshua was referring to the men that the blind man saw previously. The detailed order of events seem to confirm that this is how we should interpret this passage. Would you agree that this is the most plausible explanation based on John chapter 9 alone? – Cannabijoy Jul 22 '16 at 18:42
  • @anonymouswho, could you please clarify? The bulk of your post seems to concern the meaning of v.37a (per fumanchu & Susan above). You suggest Jesus said the man had just seen his 'neighbors', not that the man had seen 'him', meaning Jesus, per the traditional reading. Are you asking if your reading is exegetically valid? Or, unrelated to all this, are you asking if v.35 should read 'son of man' (which you also assert)? Or are you asking if Jesus identifies himself as the 'son of man' in v.37b (which you also assert)? What's your real question? Thanks! – Schuh Aug 16 '16 at 19:49
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+50

First, I agree that technically, Brian Weigand's answer is valid. However, I think there are two other explanations that fit the context better, one of which is simply a refining of Brian's answer.

First Possibility

There is a small statement in the sequence of events that the OP missed (bolded below). Notice the sequence:

  • Jesus makes clay, anoints eyes, and commands the blind man to go wash in the pool of Siloam (Jn 9:6-7a).
  • The man leaves and does so (Jn 9:7b)
  • The man "came back seeing" (Jn 9:7c; NKJV, no textual variants)
  • Neighbors react (Jn 9:8-12)
  • Neighbors bring him to the Pharisees for initial interrogation (Jn 9:13-17)
  • Pharisees call the parents (Jn 9:18-23)
  • Pharisees interrogate man again (Jn 9:24-34a)
  • Pharisees cast him out (Jn 9:34b)
  • Jesus finds him and makes the statements in question (Jn 9:35-38)

Nothing in the text indicates that Jesus removed himself from where he had placed clay on the man, yet verse 7 clearly states the man came back to that place "seeing." So it may well be that Jesus (and his disciples) were among the crowd of people that the man was first beholding when he returned. It was only after this that the neighbors shuttled him off to the Pharisees and thus Jesus had to then go find him after hearing they had cast him out.

Would Jesus have "stood out" if He were still there? Not necessarily. Recall this all happened in what appears to be a place just outside the temple (Jn 8:59 and 9:1), at least within Jerusalem, so the crowd was likely quite large, and seems enough so that Jesus was able to avoid capture. So there was likely a large crowd, and Jesus and his 12 disciples may not have been "noticed" from among a larger crowd by anyone associated with this event (neighbors or otherwise).

If this possibility is correct, it would make Jesus' statement referring to a slightly more remote past event of the man seeing him just after his return from the pool.

Second Possibility

Another possibility is that Jesus is referring to the immediate past, but emphasizing the fact that the man who was blind has seen Jesus. The Greek uses the word καί there with another καί, and so the translation "both" for the first use is reasonable as a translation of καί used in such a correlative sense. But a correlative sense for καί can also be rendered "not only ... but also."1

If the latter English rendering is used, it brings out the emphasis that seems implied to be in the verse "not only have you seen him [you who could not see is the implied contrast], but also it is that one [ἐκεῖνος] who is talking with you!" This translation conveys a more intensive idea, similar to "even you have seen him and it is that one who is talking to you" (as καί can give an intensive idea),2 but that intensive is better expressed in a correlative through the "not only ... but also" rendering.

But a question may arise: why the switch from perfect tense to present tense within the statement ("you have seen ... it is that one who is talking")?

It may simply be due to the switch in subject. The first statement is with the former blind man as subject, the latter with Jesus, though referring to himself as a third person "that one," or the "he" that was the object of the first statement of who had been seen.

But there also is a literary and theological reason in the context. The emphasis in Jesus's statement is on the man having already received his sight, but now was receiving the revelation of the specific individual who performed the miracle, that being the person presently talking to him. This phrasing sets up a reverse contrast with what follows of the Pharisees who already knew the specific individual who worked the miracle, but were yet presently "blind" to His work (v.39-41).

Conclusion

Either concept provides a reasonable explanation for Christ's use of language. He is either playing off the fact that the man had already seen him (but did not know it) after his return from the pool or the fact that the man could now see him (for he had been during their short discussion), emphasizing the miracle (and thus Jesus being who He said He was) and this man seeing that miracle for what it demonstrated, that Jesus was a man from God.


NOTES

1 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v. καί 1.f.

2 Ibid., 2.b.

  • Thanks for the answer Scott. I went ahead and gave you the bounty because you're the only person that hasn't tried to change the text by saying "son of God". I'm not sure I'm ready to make this the answer though, because I have a few issues. In your first scenario, you simply wrote "the neighbors react" for John 9:8-12. However, the man tells them it was Yeshua, so they ask "where is he" and he says "I don't know". Now I understand he was blind, so he wouldn't know, but the neighbors knew the blind man and they would have noticed if an unknown man with 12 disciples was standing around. – Cannabijoy Aug 23 '16 at 17:26
  • I'm also still having trouble understanding why Yeshua used the past tense to indicate something happening presently. He could have said "you see him, and it is he that talks to you" or rather "you have both seen him, and it is he that talked to you". The second example would work because Yeshua had just said "Do you believe in the son of man?" If he used the past tense for such a small interaction, why not use it for the past question he had asked? – Cannabijoy Aug 23 '16 at 17:26
  • @anonymouswho I've edited to answer your objection on the 1st. I will edit further to address your issue with past tense (whether to your satisfaction or not remains to be seen), and FWIW, I hold to majority text reading, so I believe the text also reads "son of God" correctly, but that was not relevant to the statement about "have seen," so I did not feel it necessary to comment on. – ScottS Aug 23 '16 at 20:02
  • Thank you Scott. This is a great answer. However, for me personally, I cannot accept answers that essentially say "he said that, but he meant this". I hope you understand. I think this answer will help many that consider this verse, but for me it doesn't validate that Yeshua is the only 'son of man'. I've searched every instance that he uses this term, and it can always be correlated to something said about mankind; even with Hosea 6:2. So this answer is great if one wishes to keep preconceived ideas, but hopefully the question will give some people something to think about. – Cannabijoy Aug 23 '16 at 20:38
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    @anonymouswho: I'm not sure what you mean by "he said that, but he meant this" not being acceptable. All interpretation is focused on determining what is meant by what was said. Nor do I believe Jesus is the "only 'son of man,'" as we are all sons of man (i.e., sons of Adam). But that phrasing "Son of man" (assuming it is in fact what was said here; as I noted, I believe Son of God is the correct statement here) when used by Jesus is in reference to Himself, emphasizing that He has joined into mankind, the Emmanuel aspect, "God with us," in a way far more intimate than mere presence. – ScottS Aug 23 '16 at 21:14
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Jesus said this to assure the man that He was the Son of God and the One who healed him.

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”

38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” -John 9:35-39 (NKJV)

"You have both seen Him..." is in reference to any time in the past, which includes the 30 or more seconds in the past it would have taken Jesus to walk up to the man and start this dialog. There is no time limit for something in the past to not be far enough in the past to not qualify as being in the past (I never thought I'd get the opportunity to say something like that).

Jesus directly refers to Himself as the 'Son of God' (or 'Man' for the NU-Text) in verses 35-37, with the man's reaction of calling Jesus 'Lord' and worshiping Him in verse 38 acknowledging the fact that he understood that Jesus was calling Himself the Son of God.

The man would have seen Jesus walk up to him, and when Jesus started talking to the man, his response in verse 36 clearly shows that he was not aware that this was the One who healed him. So Jesus tells him that He is the Son of God in verse 37 and acknowledges His own power to provide sight in verse 39.

  • Thank you for the answer @BrianWeigand. I'm fairly certain this should say 'the son of man', because the manuscripts say 'the son of man'. The man calls Yeshua lord, and then he προσκυνέω (prostrate) toward him, just as David did towards Saul (1 Samuel 24:8) and all of Israel did towards David (1 Chronicles 29:20). The man recognix That seems like a lot of words to say "it's me". He could have just said "It is he who is talking to you", and there wouldn't be any confusion. And it seems strange to say "Also, you saw me 30 seconds ago." Is this a normal Greek phrase? – Cannabijoy Aug 23 '16 at 1:57
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    @anonymouswho - There is no confusion. – Bʀɪᴀɴ Aug 23 '16 at 3:10
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The majority of Greek texts, as well as early Latin and Syriac translations, actually read "son of God" [υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ], not "son of man". The so-called "Critical Text" compiled by Nestle-Aland chose to insert a variant reading that occurs in 9 manuscripts. The Bible translation you are using probably relies on this particular text. The most authoritative commentary on the Gospel of John in antiquity is that of John Chrysostom in the late 4th century; he cites this verse as saying "son of God" in his Homily LIX.

Since Christ Himself used the expression "son of Man" to refer to Himself (e.g. Matthew 8:20, 9:6, etc.; Mark 2:10,28, etc.; Luke 5:24, 6:5, etc.; John 3:14, 6:27, etc.), it is not surprising that some copyists may have inserted "son of man" instead of "son of God" in this particular verse.

In any case, from either Patristic commentary or the conflation we see in the available manuscripts, I believe that it is safe to say that those manuscripts which contain the phrase "son of man" are referring to Christ, the son of God.

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    (+)1 for mentioning this. However, there are many people here that would disagree with accepting a commentary written 500 years after the event as enough evidence to support "son of God" as original- bibledifferences.net/2016/05/04/138-son-of-man I'd like to wait and see what these people think. I do have one question though. When did the blind man see the son of God before John 9:35? – Cannabijoy Jul 17 '16 at 4:09
  • I find it important to remember that Jerome's translation was felt to be needed because in his day the manuscripts were so corrupt that they could not be trusted so it is a bit of a fool's errand to decide what was in the autographs from a commentary in the late 4th century. That being said, the text doesn't say that the blind guy saw anything but the man Jesus. – user10231 Jul 17 '16 at 22:57
  • Hey @WoundedEgo. If you read the entire chapter, the blind man received his sight at the pool. When the neighbors saw him, they began to question how he had received his sight. The blind man definitely saw these MEN, because he responded to their questions and they threw him out. Yeshua tells the blind man that he HAD BOTH SEEN (sometime in the past) the son of man, AND he was looking at him presently. If Yeshua is the son of man, it's impossible that the blind man saw him prior to this conversation. – Cannabijoy Jul 18 '16 at 0:06
  • Does this answer the question, though? – user862 Aug 18 '16 at 1:25
  • @SimplyaChristian, the original post included several muddled questions, including the one addressed here tacked on the end. Comments and editing clarified the OP's actual intent. – Schuh Aug 18 '16 at 3:56

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