104 J. Duncan M. Derret
Not long ago it was suggested2 that what was at issue was tbe ancient
biblical principie (Ex 20:5, already qualified at Dt 24,l6; 2 Kgs 14,6) that
children, grandchildren, etc., must bear the weight of their ancestorsâ€™
sins. This idea that children can vicariously expiate their parentsâ€™ guilt is
rabbinic and is a known part of the doctrine of zekkÃ»t. Jer 51,29-30 and
Ezk 18,2-4.19-20 denied that any but the offender must carry the weight
of his sins, a reformistâ€™s view. Here was an obvious test case: who could
be blamed for the youthâ€™s woeful condition? That Christianity represents
the prophetsâ€™ position is not disputed. Taking Jn 9,3 in this sense, Jesus
denies such deferred punishment, that children bear their parentsâ€™ guilt.
However, this hardly meets the case. The disciples assume that someone
sinned and they are prepared to accept that the Man Born Blind sinned
in the womb or in a previous life. Can one prove an unknown person
sinless at birth? Jesus seems to deny both propositions, that countered by
the prophets and yet another, to which we shall come.
2. Greek syntax
The construction Î¿á½/Î¼á½µ...á¼€Î»Î»á½± is a relative negative3. It appears at Mt
9,13; 15,24; Lk 10,20; Jn 7,16; 12,44; Acts 5,4c; 1Cor 15,10. It indicates
a preference and is not a simple denial. In Latin it would be either non
solum ... sed etiam as at Mt 18,22, a fine instance; or non tam . . . quam
as at Mk 9,37b; Mt 10,20; 15,24. Our meaning is, therefore, it is not
so much the case that either this man sinned or his parents, but rather
that (he is so) in order that the works of God shall be manifested in (i.e.
through) him. We must work the works of him who sent me as long as
there is daylight. The phrase beginning â€œin order thatâ€ is á¼µÎ½Î± preceded,
by an ellipsis4. As parallels one notices Mk 14,4 á¼µÎ½Î± Ï€Î»Î·Ïá¿¶ÏƒÎ¹Î½ (cf. Mt
25,56) and Hermas, sim. 8.6.1 á¼µÎ½Î± á¼´Î´á¿ƒÏ‚. More relevant are Jn 1,8 Î¿á½Îº á¼¦Î½...
á¼€Î»Î»á¾¿ á¼µÎ½Î± Î¼Î±ÏÏ„Ï…Ïá½µÏƒá¿ƒ, and Jn 13,l8 á¼µÎ½Î± á¼¡ Î³ÏÎ±Ï†á½´ Ï€Î»Î·ÏÏ‰Î¸á¿‡ Jn 15,25 á¼µÎ½Î±
Ï€Î»Î·ÏÏ‰Î¸á¿‡, also 1 Jn 2,19 á¼µÎ½Î± Ï†Î±Î½ÎµÏÏ‰Î¸á¿¶ÏƒÎ¹Î½.
F. A. GarcÃa Romero, â€œBreve comentario a Jn 9,1-3. Objeciones al supuesto cristianis-
mo de Trifiodoroâ€, FN 2/1 (1989) 95-97.
W.F. Moultonâ€™s edn. of G.B. Winer, Treatise on the Grammar of the New Testament
(Edinburgh 31882), pt. III, sect. 55Â§8 (a) and (b); F. Blass-A. Debrunner-R.W. Funk,
Greek Grammar of the New Testament (Cambridge and Chicago 1961) 233 col.1, Â§448. A.
Kuschke, ZNW 43 (1950/1), 262.
Winer-Moulton (above), pt. III, sect. 43, p. 398; Blass-Debrunner-Funk, Greek Gram-
mar Â§ 448 (7). The latter cite our verse.