Literary Analyses of Johannine Characters
by Randy Lopez

The Man Born Blind

General Information
Appearances "Man Born Blind Narrative" 9:1-41
also mentioned in reference in 11:37
Titles Given  "Man Blind From Birth" (by the author in 9:1)
"Man who Used to Sit and Beg" (by the neighbors in 9:8)
"Man who Had Formerly Been Blind" (by the author in 9:13)
"Blind Man" (by the author in 9:17; by some of the Jews in 11:37)
"Man who Had Received His Sight" (by the author in 9:18)
"Man Who Had Been Blind (by the author in 9:24)
"Man" (by the author in 9:30)
Gender Male
Age Exact age unknown.
Age of a man who is "of age" (9:21, 23)
Marital Status unknown
Occupation not provided by the author
"Beggar" (by the neighbors in 9:8)
Place of Residence unknown
Relatives Unnamed Parents (9:18)
Group Affiliation Jesus' Disciple? (9:28)

Narrator's Portrayal
This character actively participates only in John 9.  He is never given a name, but he is given five titles by the narrator:
                            1. " The Man Blind From Birth" (9:1)
                            2. "The Man who Had Formerly Been Blind" (9:13)
                            3. "The Blind Man" (9:17)
                            4. "The Man who Had Received His Sight" (9:18)
                            5. "The Man who Had Been Blind (by the author in 9:24)
                            6. "The Man" (9:30)
He is mentioned once more by some Jews in reference to the Man Born Blind's reception of sight: "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man (Lazarus) from dying?" (11:37).

 The Actions and Speech of The Man Born Blind
Jesus approaches the Man Born Blind after the discussion regarding the origin of the man's blindness. "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (9:2).  He does not ask Jesus to give him sight.  Instead, Jesus takes the initiative in opening his eyes.  The man's first interaction with Jesus is obeying Jesus when he commands him to "wash in the pool of Siloam" (9:7). The Man Born Blind does not converse with Jesus until the end of the narrative in 9:35.

Concerning the questioning regarding his new found sight, the man becomes more and more defensive in his answers.  In the first set of inquiries, he merely volunteers information as to the process of his reception of sight (9:9-12).  In the last interrogation with  "the Jews",  man gets into a theological discussion regarding God's granting petitions to sinners (9:30-33).

In the first line of inquiries, the neighbors ask themselves as to the identity the man who had formerly been blind and the source of his new found sight (9:8-12).  In this, the man appears and is adamant that he did recently gain sight and offers information as to the process of how he received sight and the identity of the man who is responsible for it (9:9, 11).  He then reveals that the man who granted him his sight was indeed "the man called Jesus" (9:11).

When he is brought up to the Pharisees, the question of doing this act on the day of the sabbath is raised (9:14). In this scene, the man explains the process by which he is healed echoing what he had already said to his neighbors (9:15, 11). In addition to this, the Pharisees also ask the man about his opinion of the man who gave him sight.  He declares Jesus as a prophet (9:17)

The Jews then call upon the man who had formerly been blind (9:24). As before, the man explains the process of gaining sight , but in this round of inquiries, he appears more vexed (9:27). In this hard line of questioning, the man defends Jesus when the authorities claim Jesus as a sinner (9:24).  Here, the man enters into a theological discussion with the authorities claiming that Jesus must be from God (9:34). In addition to this, the man also shifts his voice from the first person singular in all the verses before 9:31,  to the first person singular in 9:31 claiming that "We know that God does not listen to sinners…."  The explanation  refers to the historical setting in which this Gospel is written. In that context, this statement makes sense for it can be seen that the man, here in this set of inquires, is representing the Johannine community or even a community in which Jesus represents the new view of Judaism.

In his conversation with Jesus, the man appears mellow and receptive of instructions. When asked as to his believing in the Son of Man, the man answers by asking for the identity of this Son of Man (9:35-36). He also professes that he believes in Jesus and he also worships him.

Other Characters' Reactions to the Man Born Blind

Jesus reveals that the man is blind "so that God's works might be revealed in him" (9:3).  Through this, the blind man is set up as the receptor of the sign of the work.  Jesus opens the man's eyes and commands him to wash, but Jesus does not interact with him until 9:35.

Jesus finds the man driven out by the Jews in 9:35.  Jesus asks the man if he believes "in the son of man" (9:35).  The man asks as to the identity of the "son of man" so that he may believe (9:36).  Jesus reveals himself to be the "Son of Man" the blind man is searching.

After Jesus is worshiped by the man, Jesus makes a statement concerning the paradox of sight.  "I came to this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind" (9:39).  It is not clear who Jesus is directing this statement--to the man, the Pharisees, or the readers.  The man's last action is worshiping Jesus in 9:38.

The Neighbors
The neighbors see the Man Born Blind as one they had previously noticed as a beggar (9:8). They then ask about the source of his sight and the beggar provides testimony of his healing--Jesus (9:11-12). At this, the interaction of the man and his neighbors abruptly ends. It can be said that his neighbors were satisfied with the answers and did not question him any longer.

The Pharisees
The Pharisees ask three questions regarding the man's sight, the Sabbath, and the blind man's opinion of Jesus:
                            1. How did the man receive his sight? (9:15)
                            2. "How can a man who is a sinner (against the Sabbath) perform such signs (9:16)
                            3. What does the man "say about" Jesus (9:17)
The text does not say that the man is free from the inquiries or that the Pharisees were satisfied with the answers.  Just like the session with the neighbors, their interaction abruptly ends.

The Jews
In the first line of inquiries by the Jews, the main reason to bring up the parents is to bring validity in their belief that the man to question was not blind or had received sight. "The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight" (9:18).  The Jews first ask the man as to the process in which he received his sight (9:26). In this, the Jews call the man a disciple of Jesus as opposed to being a disciple of Moses (9:28). In the end of this session, they drive the man out labeling him being "born entirely in sins" (9:24).

The Parents
The parents of the blind man appear only in 9:18-23 in which they are being interrogated by the authorities. Through the introduction and the testimony of the parents that the man in question was indeed born without sight, the evangelist points out that there was indeed a sign--the man did have an ailment which Jesus remedies. Because of the parents, the evangelist also informs the reader as to the man's familial status--that he does have parents and that he is indeed male and is a son (9:19). The parents also state that the man in question is of legal age and can speak on his own behalf (9:21).

The Movement of the Man Born Blind within the Gospel
The Man Born Blind appears in the story along the path in which Jesus and his disciples were walking (9:1). His presence in the story is two-fold:
                            1. he is there as a vehicle for the sign,
                            2. he is there to testify about Jesus, and
                            3. he is there to represent the Johannine community
In this narrative, the question as to the origin of the man's blindness was brought up by the disciples--whether he was blind because of his own sins or the sins of his parents (9:2). After a brief aside by Jesus (9:3-5), he opens the man's eyes (9:6-7).  In this, Jesus uses the man as a vehicle to which the sign was performed--making the man a sign that points to Jesus as the man who shows the way to the Father.

After the sign is performed, the man becomes an active proclaimer of the sign (9:11). Because of this, he was the subject of inquiries of the neighbors, the Pharisees, and the Jews.  His proclamations have a tone of assertiveness--adamant that he was a blind man who is given sight by Jesus--a man whose prayers are heard by God (9:32).

The man makes a progression in believing that Jesus is the "son of man".  He first testifies that Jesus is "a man", then proclaims him to be "a prophet", then calls Jesus "a man...from God", and finally worships the "son of man" (9:11, 15, 33, 35-38).
WebPage Structure 
Active Characters
Characters by Categories
Characters by Episodes

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