Born Blind, Jn.9:2

leather@southern.edu (Donn Leatherman) wrote:
>>      "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 
Implies two possibilities:
>> a.   That God would punish a child (an unborn child, at that) for the 
>> sins of his parents, or
>> b.   That God would punish a person for sins before that person had 
>> committed them.
davidco@nethost.multnomah.lib.or.us (David Coomler) responded:
>I have a great deal of difficulty with interpretation #2.  It seems more
>likely that some theory of pre-existence is implied, but I am open to
>contrary evidence.
     John 9:34 is probably an indication of where the disciples' question
of 9:2 came from.  It was the Pharisees who said to the man born blind,
"You were born entirely in sins...." which they apparently inferred from
his blindness.
     There are some citations from Josephus that may shed light on what the
Pharisees believed concerning this point.  In _Jewish Antiquities_, XVIII,
13, he says, 
     Though [the Pharisees] postulate that everything is brought about by 
     fate, still they do not deprive the human will of the pursuit of what
     is in man's power, since it was God's good pleasure that there should 
     be a fusion and that the will of man with his virtue and vice should 
     be admitted to the council-chamber of fate.  They believe that souls 
     have power to survive death and that there are rewards and 
     punishments under the earth for those who have led lives of virtue or
Such an attitude toward "fate" (we should temper our understanding of this
word by remembering that Josephus was writing for a Roman, not a Jewish,
audience) might indicate that the Pharisees could believe that someone
might suffer for sins he would some
 day commit.  
     Statements by Josephus that might be interpreted to the effect that
the Pharisees believed in reincarnation, like "They believe souls have
power to survive death....", as cited above, should be understood in the
light of what Josephus, himself a Pha
risee, says about life after death.  Speaking of the righteous dead, he
writes, "[T]heir souls, remaining spotless and obedient, are allotted the
most holy place in heaven, whence, in the revolution of the ages (EK
PERITROPHS AIWNWN), they return to find 
in chaste bodies a new habitation" (_Jewish War_, III, 374).  This latter,
of course, is what we also know of the Pharisees from the NT (cf. Acts
23:6ff.): that they believed in the resurrection of the dead.
     So, it would seem that, if the disciples' question was predicated on
the Pharisees' teaching about sin and its punishment, there would be no
warrant for thinking they had in mind an idea of transmigration of souls or
David L. Moore