Posted by: chuckbumgardner | August 26, 2012

“Worship” of Jesus in John 9:38 by the Man Born Blind

The works of God reveal by the works of Jesus Christ!I’m currently reading through John’s Gospel and am noticing that there are individuals who have only a relatively brief experience with Jesus and yet accord him quite a high status—witness Nathaniel (1:45-49) or the Samaritan woman (4:7-*29). The only such individual that John portrays as having “worshipped” Jesus, however, is the man born blind in 9:35ff.

[35] Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” [36] He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” [37] Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” [38] He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Now, on the one hand, I would certainly expect a response of utter gratefulness and the accordance of a very high status to Jesus.  Indeed, as he was earlier sparring with the Pharisees, the man born blind straightforwardly gave his opinion about Jesus: that “he is a prophet” (9:17) and that he was from God (9:33).  No doubt the blind man had heard of Jesus—this was, after all, Jerusalem, and the speculations of the people (cf. 7:25-27) would have been available to one who sat begging all day and constantly heard others’ conversations.  But would this information in addition to his healing not have brought him at most to the conclusion that Jesus was Messiah?  So where does the “worshiping” of the man born blind come from?

Perhaps it would be best to translate proskunew here with a broader term than “worship”.  It appears the Greek term had a bit more breadth than strictly “worship of someone as a deity” and could include somewhat lesser acts of homage and reverence.  Due to this slightly broader connotation, John could use the term to accurately portray the intention of the man born blind (homage without attribution of deity), but also to allow the reader to see that, although unintended by the blind man, the act of homage was suitable as an act of worship of a deity as well.  I’m not sure we have such a word in English.  “Fell down before him” is perhaps not a bad translation, but might be obscure for a reader who is not used to that idea as part of worship and might just think of someone collapsing for one reason or another.  “Bowed before him” might be better; it allows for the intention of the man born blind, while also broad enough to include an act of worship toward a deity.

Köstenberger (John, BECNT, 295 n82) notes that “the majority of commentators” support the full sense of “worship” here, but Beasley-Murray is an exception: “It would seem that in John 9:38 the healed man is ascribing honor to the Redeemer from God, which is beyond that due to other men but short of that due to God Almighty” (John, WBC, 160).  Carson says it more fully:

It is not clear that the healed man is yet ready to address Jesus as Thomas did after the resurrection, ‘My Lord and my God’ (20:28).  It is likely that the healed man is offering obeisance to Jesus as the redeemer from God, the revealer of God.  That is already a great step forward from his earlier references to Jesus (vv. 11, 17, 33).  But the Evangelist, who knows that the Christological confessions in his Gospel will climax with 20:28 (cf. 1:1, 18), doubtless understands that the healed man is ‘worshipping’ better than he knew.” (The Gospel according to John, Pillar, 377, emphasis added)

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