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Blindness pt. I

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  • cinnamon94@ymail.com
    There are two ways to approach this passage. In the first way, you summarize the events as stated and try to minimize as many faulty translations as you can.
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 4, 2011
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      There are two ways to approach this passage. In the first way, you summarize the events as stated and try to minimize as many faulty translations as you can. The only resources that you need for this kind of analysis are the text itself, a consensus that the translation is correct and maybe a good definition of the following: the Pharisees, Moses, the Sabbath, and the pool of Siloam. The first approach results in a proposition. If people tell the truth under penalty of expulsion and/or only a divine being can cure blindness with spit, clay, and public water then Jesus is the son of G-d. If the reader doesn't believe either or both of these things, then they should be free to discount the argument presented as faulty and move on.

      The second approach assumes that the author is attempting to engage in a multileveled discussion with the reader and is employing multiple discursive tools to do so. The tools necessary for this approach are much more extensive than the text and basic historical facts. The toolbox might include: historical facts about second Temple Judaism; historical facts about who this person "Jesus" is; an understanding of the different sects at the time with special attention to questions of the Messiah; cultural-linguistic concerns related to Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew; archetypical characters, plotlines, or images from this time period; and an understanding of the kinds of things Talmudic and Biblical scholars consider important when examining the meaning of these ancient texts. The second approach results in a more forthright interpretive claim, the merits of which depend on how well 1) the analyst makes the case that these concerns are evident in the text and 2) how well the analyst grounds their thoughts in generally agreed upon features of the above-mentioned concerns.

      Obviously, most biblical scholarship takes the second approach. Most traditions agree that there is much more going on in these texts than a simple recounting of events. Therefore, it makes sense to categorize all interpretations as just that. The first approach can claim to be "just the facts" but only by making a case for ignoring evidence of other discursive modalities in the text. The second rejects that premise and asserts that the "facts" are to be found in how well the analyst defines the context and places the work in it.

      Here's my stab and the first approach. The second will take longer because instead of making the apriori choice to exclude any "extraneous" information I will have to make (and justify) specific choices about what information I would like to bring into my interpretation. For example, I agree with Frank that "blindness" serves as an essential metaphor.
      -------------------

      This passage tells the story of a person named Jesus who passed by a blind man. Since birth, this man did not have the use of his sight. Jesus' followers (students) asked him who had sinned to cause this man to be blind. Jesus replied that neither the man nor his parents had sinned to cause the blindness. He then stated that he must do the work he was sent to do while it is daytime and he spat on the ground, made clay and rubbed it in the eyes of the blind man. He instructed the man to wash it out in the pool of Siloam and the man did so. When the man came back, the man could see. The neighbors debated whether or not the man was the same man who had been begging before. The man said he was the same person. They asked him how Jesus had opened his eyes? The man told them what Jesus did, what he himself did and that these resulted in him "receiving sight." They asked him where Jesus was and he said that he did not know.

      So, the neighbors brought the formerly blind man to the Pharisees, a religious sect. At this time it was noted that Jesus had made the clay on the Sabbath. Some of the Pharisees felt that making clay on the Sabbath meant that Jesus did not faithfully keep the Sabbath. Others noted that not keeping the Sabbath is a sin and a sinner cannot do miracles. The Pharisees wanted to know what the formerly blind man would call this person who made clay and opened his eyes on the Sabbath. The formerly blind man said he was a prophet.

      At this point the translation shifts from the specific questioning of the Pharisees, a religious sect, to stating that a broader group of people (ie those practicing Judaism) did not believe the story until the parents of the man were questioned as well. The parents said he was their son and that he had been born blind. They didn't know how the change had occurred and asked the group to direct their questions to the son, who was old enough to speak for himself. The parents did so because they were fearful of the group. The group had already agreed to throw out anyone who claimed to be the Christ.

      The group once again implored the formerly blind man to only "give G-d the praise" for his new sight and say that the man Jesus is a sinner. The formerly blind man said that he didn't know whether Jesus is a sinner or not and the only thing he knows is that he was once blind and now he can see. The group replied by asking what Jesus did and how he did it. The formerly blind man replied by saying that he had already answered their questions and should he take their repeated questions as meaning that they wish to hear stories concerning Jesus over and over again, thereby making them students of his.

      This response made the group very angry and they said that while the formerly blind man is obviously Jesus' student they are Moses' students because they know G-d spoke to Moses and have no idea where Jesus comes from. This response made the formerly blind man respond that it was marvelous that his eyes being opened didn't tell them anything about where Jesus had come from. He further opined that even though no one, in the history of the world, had heard of a blind man opening his eyes everyone should conclude that it wasn't a miracle because a sinner had done it. Yet, the formerly blind man argues, if Jesus were not of G-d he wouldn't have been able to do what he had done. Turning around the conversation in this way, the group became frustrated and said that the formerly blind man was clearly born from sin and that, from this position, he shouldn't be daring to teach others. They cast him out.

      When Jesus heard about what had happened, he asked him if he believed in the Son of G-d. The man said that he wanted to know who the Son of G-d was before he could say if he believed in him. Jesus said that the formerly blind man had both seen him and talked with him. The formerly blind man then addressed Jesus as Lord and said that he believed in the Son of G-d and worshipped him. Afterwards, Jesus said that he came into this world for judgment and so that people who already see might not see and that people who already see might be made blind. To this, some of the Pharisees who were with him asked if Jesus thought they were blind also. Jesus replied that if they were blind, they would have no sin. However, since they are now saying that they do see, their sin remains.
      _________________

      This passage summarizes a transformation from blindness to sight as a result of an encounter with Jesus. The story details the form and content of the dispute over whether or not this transformation did indeed happen. In the process, alternative explanations (such as this was not the same man or he had not really been blind since birth) were discounted and in the end the proof offered is that the blind man himself credits the transformation to his encounter with Jesus at the risk of being thrown out of the temple. The implication for the reader is that if this man was able to credit Jesus for the transformation then it is reasonable for the reader to do so as well since few alternative explanations exist. Of course, the issue remaining on the table is whether or not a person who had been born blind could cure his blindness by rubbing his eyes with clay, spit and public water from the city of Jerusalem.
    • Frank Thomas Smith
      ... summarize the events as stated and try to minimize as many faulty translations as you can. The only resources that you need for this kind of analysis are
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 4, 2011
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        --- In anthroposophy_tomorrow@yahoogroups.com, "cinnamon94@..." <cinnamon94@...> wrote:
        >
        > There are two ways to approach this passage. In the first way, you summarize the events as stated and try to minimize as many faulty translations as you can. The only resources that you need for this kind of analysis are the text itself, a consensus that the translation is correct and maybe a good definition of the following: the Pharisees, Moses, the Sabbath, and the pool of Siloam. The first approach results in a proposition. If people tell the truth under penalty of expulsion and/or only a divine being can cure blindness with spit, clay, and public water then Jesus is the son of G-d. If the reader doesn't believe either or both of these things, then they should be free to discount the argument presented as faulty and move on.

        The website uses the King James version. In the "New Revised Standard Version" (generally a more reliable translation) verse 35 reads: "...Do you believe in the Son of Man?"... although a footnote reads: "other ancient authorities read "the Son of God". which introduces the further question: "What does "Son of Man" mean?  


        > -------------------
        >
        > The group once again implored the formerly blind man to only "give G-d the praise" for his new sight and say that the man Jesus is a sinner. The formerly blind man said that he didn't know whether Jesus is a sinner or not and the only thing he knows is that he was once blind and now he can see. The group replied by asking what Jesus did and how he did it. The formerly blind man replied by saying that he had already answered their questions and should he take their repeated questions as meaning that they wish to hear stories concerning Jesus over and over again, thereby making them students of his.

        "...if they wanted to become his disciples too... They may have been angry because they took his question to be ironic.

        >
        > This response made the group very angry and they said that while the formerly blind man is obviously Jesus' student they are Moses' students because they know G-d spoke to Moses and have no idea where Jesus comes from. This response made the formerly blind man respond that it was marvelous that his eyes being opened didn't tell them anything about where Jesus had come from. He further opined that even though no one, in the history of the world, had heard of a blind man opening his eyes everyone should conclude that it wasn't a miracle because a sinner had done it. Yet, the formerly blind man argues, if Jesus were not of G-d he wouldn't have been able to do what he had done. Turning around the conversation in this way, the group became frustrated and said that the formerly blind man was clearly born from sin and that, from this position, he shouldn't be daring to teach others. They cast him out.
        >
        > When Jesus heard about what had happened, he asked him if he believed in the Son of G-d.

        This is where the "Son of Man" comes in.

        The man said that he wanted to know who the Son of G-d was before he could say if he believed in him. Jesus said that the formerly blind man had both seen him and talked with him. The formerly blind man then addressed Jesus as Lord and said that he believed in the Son of G-d and worshiped him.

        The Greek word for "lord" is the same as "sir". So this passage could mean that the formerly blind man now believed that Jesus was the Son of Man, because he said so, without necessarily understanding what that meant (although the initiated reader would know) and called him "sir" as a sign of general respect without implying that he was God or the Son of same.

        Afterwards, Jesus said that he came into this world for judgment and so that people who already see might not see and that people who already see might be made blind. To this, some of the Pharisees who were with him asked if Jesus thought they were blind also. Jesus replied that if they were blind, they would have no sin. However, since they are now saying that they do see, their sin remains.

        You must mean here so that those who do not see may see, and that those who do see may become blind.

        The first part is clear, but why should J want to make those who see, blind? 

        Frank
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