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‘Day and Night’ and the Punctuation of John 9.3

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2009

John C. Poirier
(3080 Broadway, New York, NY 10027, USA)


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Short Studies
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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1 On the morphology of the papyric text, see Skeat, T. C., ‘Early Christian Book-Production: Paypyri and Manuscripts’, in The Cambridge History of the Bible (ed. Lampe, G. W. H.; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1969) 2.57Google Scholar. On the history of word-division among several ancient languages, cf. Millard, A. R., ‘“Scriptio Continua” in Early Hebrew: Ancient Practice or Modern Surmise?’, JSS 15 (1970) 215Google Scholar. Even from the earliest times of Greek writing, Millard notes, word-division by points was sometimes used. Scriptio continua was the norm, although local practices varied.

2 The first three being: (1) the setting of the historical aphorism, (2) that of its traductive formulation, and (3) that of the evangelist. For examples of exegetically significant punctuation variants, see ‘punctuation’ in the index to Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987)Google Scholar. Cf. also Bruce Metzger, M., The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (3rd ed.; New York: Oxford University, 1992) 26–7.Google Scholar

3 Aland and Aland, 282. The Alands give the following as examples of NT passages where punctuation affects meaning (these having ms. variants): Matt 11.7–8; Matt 25.15; Mark 2.15–16; John 1.3–4.

4 From time to time, alternate punctuation has been suggested for NT verses. Cf. Romaniuk, K., ‘Exégèse du Nouveau Testament et Ponctuation’, NovTest 23 (1981) 195209Google Scholar; and the several notes by different scholars in ExpT 55 (1944) 110—11.

5 Ethelbert Stauffer calls the disciples' question ‘aetiological’ and Jesus' response ‘teleological’. He thinks that the ϊνα in v. 3 corresponds to the ϊνα in v. 2 (‘ϊνα’, TDNT 3 [1965] 327).Google Scholar

6 Rensberger, David, Johannine Faith and Liberating Community (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988) 43–4.Google Scholar

7 Dodd, C. H., Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1963) 187CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Dodd finds a parallel in Luke 13.1–5, but these verses disqualify the notion of a one-for-one retribution for sin without offering an alternative theodicy. Thus (read on), they are really closer parallels for the new reading suggested here. writes, Thomas L. Brodie, ‘Around [the blind man] hover two possible worlds – a vindictive world of sin and punishment and a world in which one may reveal the works of God’ (The Gospel according to John: A Literary and Theological Commentary [Oxford: Oxford University, 1993] 345)Google Scholar. Deleting the determinism implicit in the traditional reading allows the ‘hovering’ of the two worlds to remain in Brodie's sentence.

8 Dodd, 186. I was ‘scooped’ on this suggestion of a misplaced period fifty years ago in a short note (nine lines) by Spencer, W. Herbert, ‘John ix.3’, ExpT 55 (1944) 110Google Scholar. Spencer, however, offers as his only support that ‘some part at least of the difficulty of the passage is removed. Jesus then declines to discuss the suggested origin of the man's misfortune, and pointing out the opportunity which it presents, proceeds at once to its cure.’

9 Bultmann, Rudolf, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971) 331Google Scholar. On the development of rabbinic hamartiology, cf. Elman, Yaakov, ‘The Suffering of the Righteous in Palestinian and Babylonian Sources’, JQR 80 (1990) 315–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar; idem, ‘Righteousness as Its Own Reward: An Inquiry into the Theologies of the Stam’, PAAJR 57 (1991) 35–67; and esp. the chapter on Mishnah, and Avot, in David, Kraemer, Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature (Oxford: Oxford University, 1995) 5165Google Scholar. On blindness as punishment for sin, see Schrage, Wolfgang, ‘τυψλός κτλ’, TDNT 8 (1972) 283.Google Scholar

10 Martyn, J. Louis, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel (2nd ed.; Nashville: Abing-don, 1979) 28Google Scholar. The question of the ‘night's’ specificum will not detain us, but the problems with associating ‘night’ with the Passion should be noted. If‘night’ refers to the Passion, as is often suggested, then references to the disciples' future works do not make sense in the light of 9.4, unless one supposes that, in the Johannine scheme, another ‘day’ dawns after the ‘night’.

11 Jesus claims discontinuity with the Jewish expectations, but in the sense of bursting sadly inadequate categories. ‘At the critical moment more is said than can be said in categories of sending’ (Jonge, Marinus de, Christology in Context: The Earliest Christian Response to Jesus [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988] 146).Google Scholar

12 Trumbower, Jeffrey A., Born from Above: The Anthropology of the Gospel of John (HUT 29; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1992) 97–8Google Scholar. Cf. also Grob, who observes a chiastic structure in John 9, linking vv. 1–5 with vv. 39–41 (Grob, Francis, Faire l'æuvre de Dieu [Etudes d'histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses 68; Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1986] 3045).Google Scholar

13 On ‘light’ in the Fourth Gospel, cf. esp. Petersen, Norman R., The Gospel of John and the Sociology of Light: Language and Characterization in the Fourth Gospel (Valley Forge: Trinity, 1993) 72–9Google Scholar; Borgen, Peder, ‘Logos Was the True Light: Contributions to the Interpretation of the Prologue of John’, NovT 14 (1972) 115–30Google Scholar; Schwankl, Otto, ‘Die Metaphorik von Licht und Finsternis im johanneischen Schrifttum’, in Metaphorik und Mythos im Neuen Testament (ed. Karl, Kertelge; Quaestiones Disputatae 126; Freiburg: Herder, 1990) 135–65Google Scholar; Painter, John, ‘John 9 and the Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel’, JSNT 28 (1986) 53–5.Google Scholar

14 Sentences begin with ‘αλλ’ frequently in the NT. Cf. Matt 11.8, 9; Mark 16.7; Luke 12.7; 22.36 (beginning of direct quotation); 23.15; 24.22; John 4.23; 6.36, 64; 7.49; Acts 19.2 (beginning of direct quotation); 26.16; Rom 5.15; 8.37; 10.18; 1 Cor 3.2; 6.6; 9.12; 10.20; 15.35; 2 Cor 8.7; Gal 2.3; Phil 1.18; 3.8; Heb 3.16; Jas 2.18. BAGD notes, ‘The use of ‘αλλ’ in the Johannine lit. is noteworthy, in that the parts contrasted are not always of equal standing grammatically’, and lists John 9.3 (understood as a single sentence) as an example (along with 1.8,31; 3.28) (BAGD, s.v. $$$λλ$$$, 1b).

15 Cf. Odeberg, Hugo, The Fourth Gospel (Amsterdam: B. R. Grüner, 1968) 1.312Google Scholar. Re resumption of earlier passages, it should be pointed out that 8.12 is also echoed in 9.5: ‘… I am the light of the world.’

16 Culpepper, R. Alan, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983) 192.Google Scholar

17 Cf. Duke, Paul D., Irony in the Fourth Gospel (Atlanta: John Knox, 1985) 118–19Google Scholar. The word appears several times with no explicit mention of light: 1.31; 2.11; 7.4 (by Jesus' brothers); 17.6; and 21.14.

18 Schwankl, 153.

19 Petersen, 42.

20 Wayne A. Meeks writes, ‘The “accomplishment of the work” is a theme that recurs throughout the gospel (4.34; 5.36; 9.3f.; 10.25, 32–8; 14.10,12; 15.24), culminating in the cry from the cross, τετέλεσται! (19.30). The crucifixion is the completion of the work; the summary in chapter 17 of course presupposes the crucifixion as accomplished.’ (The Prophet-King: Moses Traditions and the Johannine Christology [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967] 304Google Scholar n. 2.) Cf. Grob's interesting parallel reading of John 9.1–6 and the Genesis creation story (Grob, 43–5).

21 Bultmann, who also thinks the themes of work and light do not go together naturally, regards the work theme as the more original to this setting in John's source (Bultmann, 332 n. 1). Bultmann assumes a more redactorial view of the evangelist than I do. Scholars differ on whether the opening unit of John 9 is a miracle story or pronouncement story. E.g., Painter accepts the former while Staley accepts the latter (despite the miracle setting) (Painter, 33–4; Staley, Jeffrey L., ‘Stumbling in the Dark, Reaching for the Light: Reading Character in John 5 and 9’, Semeia 53 [1991] 64–5).Google Scholar