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Spittle, Clay, and Creation in John 9:6 and Some Dead Sea Scrolls

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 3, 2013
pp. 659-670 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0038



John 9:6 contains a curious reference to Jesus’ use of spittle and clay to heal a man born blind. Beginning with Irenaeus, patristic exegetes saw here an allusion to God’s use of dust to create Adam. Modern commentators, however, are generally skeptical of this interpretation and are content to make note of the belief popular in antiquity that saliva held therapeutic properties. After noting the presence of other allusions to creation in John 9 and elsewhere in John’s Gospel, this article examines several Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient Near Eastern texts that mention spittle and clay alongside more transparent creation motifs. These texts helpfully illumine the role of spittle and clay in John 9:6 and lend substantial support to Irenaeus’s exegesis.

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