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Posted June 28, 2010

Book: The Gospel of John Set Free: Preaching without Anti-Judaism
Author: George M. Smiga
Paulist Press. New York. 2001. Pp. 180

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In The Gospel of John Set Free, Father George Smiga has written a must-read book for all preachers that alerts them to the anti-Jewish sentiment so commonly — and dangerously — misread into the Gospel of John as it appears in the Roman Catholic Lectionary. Excerpts from the Lectionary ar followed by Fr. Smiga’s explication of the text and context — and where the preacher needs to step carefully.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Rabbinic notes on the cure of the man born blind: John 9:1-41

This story poses a question central to rabbinic discussion of Jesus’ day: Is illness God’s punishment for sin? Throughout this story, the relationship of the sinner to God, of illness to sin, and of sin to punishment is explored from several points of view. Jesus’ teaching denies that the disability of the blind man came from his sin or that of his parents. Instead, this blindness is one whose cure signals the arrival of messianic times. Just as Jesus connects sin and self-deception in John 5:14. This was a rabbinic practice emanating from commonplace readings of the scriptures (Exod. 20-5, Ezek 18:20, Exod 4:11, Deut 28:28).

9:2: His disciples asked him “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

The way the question is put to Jesus is in its most natural and conversational form. Some rabbis thought that an infant could sin in the womb (cf. Exod 20:5).

9:5: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

“I am” here would have been taken as a messianic signal, found in other passages — John 4:25ff; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8 — and developed from Deuteronomy 26:5ff., where “I am” is used to denote the presence of the redeeming God at that moment in Jewish history (cf. Haggadah prayers at Seder). See also Isaiah 35:5 and 42:7 for messianic cure of blindness, as well as the Midrash on Psalm 146:8. Some rabbis thought that in the messianic times to come that neither fault nor merit would pass from one generation to another, but each would be accountable solely for its own deeds.

Table of Contents:

Readings from John Cycle A

Readings from John Cycle B

Readings from John Cycle C