From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Only once does this term refer to the absence of physical sight ( Acts 13:11), yet even there moral blindness is symbolized (cf. also the case of St. Paul,  Acts 9:8 ff;  Acts 20:11, a temporary condition due to suggestion, or to sudden severe nervous tension which soon gave place to normal sight). All the other references to blindness ( Romans 2:19,  2 Corinthians 4:4,  2 Peter 1:9,  1 John 2:11,  Revelation 3:17) are metaphysical and indicate a moral condition. Apart from the general fitness of such a figure to signify a moral condition, a special reason for its use by St. Paul is found in his experience before and after his conversion.- 1. Blindness is alleged as a simple fact without explanation ( 2 Peter 1:9,  Revelation 3:17).- 2. It is referred to the character and influence of the world, from which some of those who have joined themselves to the Christian community have not yet emerged-they still remain in the darkness in which they were before ( 1 John 2:11).- 3. The god of this world, or Satan, who is supposed to have power over the course of affairs in the present ace, is assigned as the cause of this condition (cf.  Ephesians 6:12, Ascension of Isaiah , ed. Charles, 1900, pp. 11, 24, where Beliar = the ruler of this world).- 4. To God is attributed in part the activity which results in moral blindness ( Acts 28:26,  Romans 11:8;  Romans 11:10). This conception belongs to the circle of Jewish religious ideas-the prophetic doctrine of the absoluteness of God, the Pharisaic teaching of Divine predestination. Both of these lay in the background of St. Paul’s thought (cf.  Isaiah 6:9-10,  Psalms 69:23,  Romans 9:20 ff.), yet other elements also entered into and modified it. From the point of view of the Divine absoluteness, the Apostle did not doubt that God had the unquestioned right to be the sole cause of blindness in one or of Eight in another-a prerogative which, however, He refrained from exercising. Hence a somewhat different explanation wag to be sought for the blindness of Israel. That God had rejected the Jews as a whole was for the Apostle abundantly evident. Yet this did not contradict God’s election and promise. Israel’s guilt had, indeed, for the time being, annulled these; still, this was only one side of the reality. God’s rejection of Israel was neither without purpose nor was it irrevocable. God’s purpose was universal, embracing Gentiles as well as Jews, and if it appeared to pass from the Jews to the Gentiles, this was not the whole truth, nor was it final. For, firstly, some Jews had always remained faithful to the election, and secondly, the blindness of the remainder was only temporary-until the ‘fullness of the Gentiles,’ when all Israel, beholding the salvation of the Gentiles, should once more turn to God. The blindness is marked by two features. It is conceived of as pertaining not to individuals, but to the community; and it is one stage in the unfolding of a vast theodicy. The latter fact does not, however, relieve the community of either responsibility or guilt. Whether all the community living in the interim, that is, previous to the removal of the social blindness, will share in the recognition and acceptance of the election, is not considered by the Apostle. In the other passages of the Authorized Versionthe Greek words which are translated ‘blinded’ ( Romans 11:7,  2 Corinthians 3:14) and ‘blindness’ ( Romans 11:25,  Ephesians 4:18) are replaced in the Revised Versionby their proper equivalents ‘hardened’ and ‘hardness,’ which express also insensibility to the truth of the gospel.

Literature.-Article‘Blindness’ in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels  ; Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5 ( International Critical Commentary , 1902); J. Armitage Robinson, Ephesians , 1903, p. 264ff.; B. F. Westcott, Ephesians , 1906, p. 66; Journal of Theological Studies iii. [1901-02] 81.

C. A. Beckwith.

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

 John 9:1-3

Because of their severe handicap, blind persons had little opportunity to earn a living. A blind man was even ineligible to become a priest ( Leviticus 21:18 ). Frequently, the blind became beggars ( Mark 10:46 ).

The possibility of a blind person being mistreated was recognized and forbidden by God. The law prohibited the giving of misleading directions ( Deuteronomy 27:18 ) or doing anything to cause the blind to stumble ( Leviticus 19:14 ).

Physical Cause Many things caused blindness in ancient times. One could be born blind ( John 9:1 ) due to some developmental defect or as a result of infection prior to birth. Usually, however, blindness began later. The most common cause was infection. Trachoma, a painful infection of the eye, is a common cause of blindness today and was probably prevalent in ancient times. Leprosy can also cause blindness. In old age, vision may be severely impaired in some persons ( Genesis 27:1 ). Some develop cataracts. Some have a gradual atrophy of portions of the eye.

Ancient people used salves of various types to treat disorders of the eye. Simple surgical procedures such as the lancing of boils near the eye and the extraction of inverted eyelashes were also employed.

In reality, almost no effective treatment was available to those who suffered from diseases of the eye and blindness. There were no antibiotics, no effective surgical procedures for most problems, and no eyeglasses. Miraculous healing was often sought ( John 5:2-3 ).

Jesus frequently healed blind persons ( Matthew 9:27-31;  Matthew 12:22;  Matthew 20:30-34;  Mark 10:46-52;  John 9:1-7 ). Perhaps there is no greater evidence of His compassion and power than that seen in His willingness and ability to heal those who lived in darkness and hopelessness.

Spiritual blindness The Bible addresses spiritual blindness as the great human problem. Israel was supposed to be God's servant ( Isaiah 42:19 ) but was blind to the role God wanted them to fill. Called to be watchmen protecting the nation, they instead blindly preyed on the people ( Isaiah 56:10 ). As the Pharisees gained leadership, they became blind leaders of the blind ( Matthew 15:14;  Matthew 23:16-26 ). Jesus came to reverse the situation, making it clear who had spiritual sight and who was spiritually blind ( John 9:39-41 ). Peter listed the qualities a person must have to have spiritual sight. Without these, a person is blind ( 2 Peter 1:5-9 ). The problem is that the spiritually blind do not know they are blind ( Revelation 3:17 ). They are blinded by the “god of this world” ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 ). They walk in darkness, eventually being blinded by the moral darkness of hatred ( 1 John 2:11 ).

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [3]

Scripture often employs the imagery of blindness to describe the spiritual condition of persons who are either unable or unwilling to perceive divine revelation. The things of God are perceived not by observation and inquiry, but by revelation and illumination ( Matthew 11:25-27;  1 Corinthians 1:21;  2 Peter 1:19-21 ). It is the Lord who "gives sight to the blind" ( Psalm 146:8;  Isaiah 42:16 ).

The figure of blindness is a favorite device of Isaiah, who repeatedly announces to rebellious Israel that God has afflicted them and their apostate prophets, priests, and rules with blindness (43:8; 56:10; 59:10). Zephaniah reveals that this condition is divinely imposed upon the hardhearted (1:17). Appropriately, then, the Messiah's ministry would be marked by opening the eyes of the spiritually blind ( Isaiah 42:7,16,18 ). At the outset of his public ministry, Jesus lay claim to the messianic office by revealing that he would fulfill Isaiah's prophetic promise to proclaim "recovery of sight to the blind" ( Luke 4:18 ).

Some of Jesus' strongest outbursts were directed at the Pharisees, who masqueraded their superficial conformity to Jewish ceremonial laws as sincere and sufficient righteousness in the sight of God. Jesus follows the form of Isaiah in castigating the Pharisees as "blind guides of the blind" ( Matthew 15:14;  23:16-26;  John 9:39-41 ). He announces that he will impose judgment on these self-righteous legalists, "so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind" ( John 9:39 ).

Paul tells the Corinthian believers that blindness aptly describes the spiritual state of pagan unbelievers. He points out that this blindness is inflicted by the "god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 ). The New Testament reveals that believers are subject to spiritual blindness. Peter deems those who fail increasingly to exhibit diligence in pursuit of spiritual virtue as blind or nearsighted ( 2 Peter 1:9 ). And the exalted Lord of the church views the lukewarm but haughty Laodicean church as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked ( Revelation 3:17 ).

Spiritual blindness, then, refers in some instances to the inability of unbelievers to comprehend spiritual truth, specifically failure to recognize the true identity of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. It is vital, therefore, to conduct all Christian witness in dependence on the Holy Spirit, who works to counteract the cataracts of Satan and to reveal the truth of God. But spiritual blindness can also afflict believers who fail to perceive their true spiritual condition. To avoid the plague of spiritual blindness and escape the condemnation of leading others into spiritual ruin, believers must be quick to appropriate and obey the Word of God.

Ralph E. Enlow, Jr.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

This distressing malady is very prevalent in the East. Many physical causes in those countries unite to injure the organs of vision. The sun is hot, and in the atmosphere floats a very fine dust, which enters and frets the eye. The armies of France and England, which were so long in Egypt during the French was, suffered severely from ophthalmic disease. In the cities of Egypt, blindness is perpetuated as a contagious disease by the filthy habits of the natives. It is of frequent occurrence also on the coast of Syria. In ancient times the eyes of person hated or feared were often torn out,  Judges 16:21   1 Samuel 11:2   2 Kings 25:7 . Blindness was sometimes inflicted as a punishment,  Genesis 19:11   Acts 13:6; and it was often threatened as a penalty,  Deuteronomy 28:28 . The Jews were enjoined by the humane laws of Moses to show all kindness and consideration to the blind,  Leviticus 19:14   Deuteronomy 27:18 . No one affected with this infirmity could officiate as priest,  Leviticus 21:18 .

Our Savior miraculously cured many cases of blindness, both that which was caused by disease and that which had existed from birth. In these cases there was a double miracle; for not only was the organ of sight restored, but also the faculty of using it which is usually gained only by long experience,  Mark 8:22-25 . The touching of the eyes of the blind, and anointing them with clay,  Matthew 9:29   John 9:6 , can not have had any medicinal or healing effect. The healing was miraculous, by the power of God.

"Blindness" is often used for ignorance and error, especially our sinful want of discernment as to spiritual things,  Matthew 15:14   2 Corinthians 4:4 . The abuse of God's mercy increases this blindness,  John 12:40 . Blessed are the eyes that fix their adoring gaze first of all on the Redeemer.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [5]

Its cure is one of our Lord's most frequent miracles ( Luke 7:21;  Matthew 9:27;  Mark 8:23;  John 5:3;  John 9:1), as had been foretold ( Isaiah 29:18;  Isaiah 35:5). In coincidence with this is the commonness of it in the E. In Ludd (Lydda) the saying is, every one is either blind or has but one eye. Jaffa has 500 blind out of 5,000 of a population. The dust and sand pulverized by the intense heat, the constant glare, and in the sandy districts the absence of the refreshing "green grass," (the presence of which Mark notices as noteworthy in the miracle of the feeding the multitudes,) the cold sea air on the coasts, the night dews affecting those sleeping on the roofs, all tend to produce blindness.

It is a constant image used of spiritual darkness, and Jesus' restoration of sight to the blind pointed to the analogous spiritual bestowal of sight on the soul. Paul, who had passed through both the physical and the spiritual transition from darkness to light ( Acts 9:8-9), instinctively, by an obviously undesigned coincidence confirming authenticity, often uses the expressive image ( Acts 26:18;  2 Corinthians 4:4;  Ephesians 1:18;  Ephesians 4:18;  Colossians 1:13). Elymas was smitten with blindness at Paul's word ( Acts 13:11, compare  Genesis 19:11;  2 Kings 6:18). The blind were to be treated kindly ( Leviticus 19:14;  Deuteronomy 27:18). The pagan conquerors sometimes blinded captives ( 2 Kings 25:7;  1 Samuel 11:2).

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [6]

The Scripture very frequently makes use of this word, by way of expressing the blindness of the soul while in an unawakened unregenerate state. Persons of this description are said to "have eyes, and see not;" and "ears, and hear not." And such, indeed, is the case of every man by nature. They see not their own corruption; they have no apprehension of their want of Christ; they see no beauty in Christ. So awful a state is this, that the Holy Ghost no less than seven times, in his blessed word, speaks of it in the same strong figures. (See  Isaiah 6:9;  Matthew 13:14;  Mark 4:12;  Luke 8:10;  John 12:40;  Acts 28:26;  Romans 11:8) It is a blessed testimony that Jesus hath opened our eyes to say, with the poor man at the pool of Siloam, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see." ( John 9:25)

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [7]

is often used in Scripture to express ignorance or want of discernment in divine things, as well as the being destitute of natural sight. See  Isaiah 42:18-19;  Isaiah 6:10;  Matthew 15:14 . "Blindness of heart" is the want of understanding arising from the influence of vicious passions. "Hardness of heart" is stubbornness of will, and destitution of moral feeling. Moses says, "Thou shalt not put a stumbling block before the blind,"  Leviticus 19:14 , which may be understood literally; or figuratively, as if Moses recommended that charity and instruction should be shown to them who want light and counsel, or to those who are in danger of going wrong through their ignorance. Moses says also, "Cursed be he who maketh the blind to wander out of his way,"  Deuteronomy 27:18 , which may also be taken in the same manner. An ignorant or erring teacher is compared by our Lord to a blind man leading a blind man;—a strong representation of the presumption of him that professes to teach the way of salvation without due qualifications, and of the danger of that implicit faith which is often placed by the people in the authority of man, to the neglect of the Holy Scriptures.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [8]

Blindness. Blindness is extremely common in the East, from many causes. Blind beggars figure repeatedly, in the New Testament,  Matthew 12:22, and "opening the eyes of the blind" is mentioned in prophecy, as a peculiar attribute of the Messiah .  Isaiah 29:18;  Isaiah 42:7, etc.

The Jews were specially charged to treat the blind with compassion and care.  Leviticus 19:14;  Deuteronomy 27:18. Blindness willfully inflicted for political or other purposes is alluded to in Scripture.  1 Samuel 11:2;  Jeremiah 39:7.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [9]

 Romans 11:25 (a) This describes the condition of the minds of Israel in that they could not and did not understand the person and the work of Christ and the fulfillment of the provision made by GOD. The same meaning applies in2Co  3:14.

 Ephesians 4:18 (b) As in the former Scriptures, their minds were blind so that their thoughts were perverted. In this passage, the heart did not understand the things of GOD, therefore the feelings were perverted.

 2 Corinthians 4:4 (b) This is a picture of the effect that Satan produces on the minds of people when he presents to them false teachings, erroneous doctrines, and baseless theories.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [10]

Used metaphorically to describe the state of man by nature under the influence of Satan,  2 Corinthians 4:4; also a professing Christian who hates his brother,  1 John 2:11; also the state of Israel in their heartless profession,  Matthew 23:16-26; and the judicial blindness on Israel.  John 12:40 . In  Romans 11:7,25;  2 Corinthians 3:14;  Ephesians 4:18 , it is rather 'obdurateness or hardness,' from πωρόω,'to harden.'

King James Dictionary [11]

BLINDNESS, n. Want of bodily sight want of intellectual discernment ignorance.

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(n.) State or condition of being blind, literally or figuratively.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [13]

BLINDNESS . See Medicine.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

blı̄nd´ness ( עור , ‛āwar , and variants; τυφλός , tuphlós ): The word blind is used as a verb, as  John 12:40 , usually in the sense of obscuring spiritual perception. In reference to physical blindness it is used as a noun frequently or else as an adjective with the noun man . There are 54 references to this condition, and there is no reason to believe, as has been surmised, that blindness was any less rife in ancient times than it is now, when defective eyes and bleared, inflamed lids are among the commonest and most disgusting sights in a Palestine crowd. In the Papyrus Ebers (1500 bc) there are enumerated a number of diseases of the eye and a hundred prescriptions are given for their treatment. That the disease occurred in children and caused destruction and atrophy of the eyeball is testified to by the occurrence of a considerable number of mummy heads, in which there is marked diminution in size of one orbit. The commonest disease is a purulent ophthalmia, a highly infectious condition propagated largely by the flies which can be seen infesting the crusts of dried secretion undisturbed even on the eyes of infants. (In Egypt there is a superstition that it is unlucky to disturb them.) This almost always leaves the eyes damaged with bleared lids, opacities of the cornea, and sometimes extensive internal injury as well. Like other plagues, this disease was thought to be a Divine infliction ( Exodus 4:11 ). Minor forms of the disease destroy the eyelashes and produce the unsightly tender-eyes (in   Genesis 29:17 the word rakh may mean simply "weak").

Blindness from birth is the result of a form of this disease known as ophthalmia neonatorum which sets in a few days after birth. I have seen cases of this disease in Palestine. Sometimes ophthalmia accompanies malarial fever (  Leviticus 26:16 ). All these diseases are aggravated by sand, and the sun glare, to which the unprotected inflamed eyes are exposed. Most of the extreme cases which one sees are beyond remedy - and hence, the giving of sight to the blind is generally put in the front of the mighty works of healing by our Lord. The methods used by Him in these miracles varied probably according to the degree of faith in the blind man; all were merely tokens, not intended as remedies. The case of the man in  Mark 8:22 whose healing seemed gradual is an instance of the phenomenon met with in cases where, by operation, sight has been given to one congenitally blind, where it takes some time before he can interpret his new sensations.

The blindness of old age, probably from senile cataract, is described in the cases of Eli at 98 years of age ( 1 Samuel 3:2;  1 Samuel 4:15 ), Ahijah ( 1 Kings 14:4 ), and Isaac ( Genesis 27:1 ). The smiting of Elymas ( Acts 13:11 ) and the Syrian soldiers ( 2 Kings 6:18 ) was either a miraculous intervention or more probably a temporary hypnotism; that of Paul ( Acts 9:8 ) was doubtless a temporary paralysis of the retinal cells from the bright light. The "scales" mentioned were not material but in the restoration of his sight it seemed as if scales had fallen from his eyes. It probably left behind a weakness of the eyes (see Thorn In The Flesh ). That blindness of Tobit (Tobit 2:10), from the irritation of sparrows' dung, may have been some form of conjunctivitis, and the cure by the gall of the fish is paralleled by the account given in Pliny (xxxii.24) where the gall of the fish Callionymus Lyra is recommended as an application in some cases of blindness. The hypothesis that the gall was used as a pigment to obscure the whiteness of an opaque cornea (for which Indian ink tattooing has been recommended, not as a cure but to remove the unsightliness of a white spot) has nothing in its favor for thereby the sight would not be restored. The only other reference to medicaments is the figurative mention of eyesalve in   Revelation 3:18 .

Blindness unfitted a man for the priesthood ( Leviticus 21:18 ); but care of the blind was specially enjoined in the Law ( Leviticus 19:14 ), and offenses against them are regarded as breaches of Law ( Deuteronomy 27:18 ).

Figuratively , blindness is used to represent want of mental perception, want of prevision, recklessness, and incapacity to perceive moral distinctions ( Isaiah 42:16 ,  Isaiah 42:18 ,  Isaiah 42:19;  Matthew 23:16;  John 9:39 ).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [15]

The frequent occurrence of blindness in the East has always excited the astonishment of travelers. Volney says that, out of a hundred persons in Cairo, he has met twenty quite blind, ten wanting one eye, and twenty others having their eyes red, purulent, or blemished. This is principally owing to the Egyptian ophthalmia, which is endemic in that country and on the coast of Syria. This disease is contagious; but it is not often communicated from one individual to another. It is not confined to the East, but appears here and there throughout Europe. The French and English suffered greatly from it while they were in Egypt, and subsequently.

Small pox is another great cause of blindness in the East.

In the New Testament, blind mendicants are frequently mentioned ( Matthew 9:27;  Matthew 12:22;  Matthew 20:30;  Matthew 21:14;  John 5:3). The blindness of Bar Jesus ( Acts 13:6-11) was miraculously produced, and of its nature we know nothing. Examples of blindness from old age occur in  Genesis 27:1;  1 Kings 14:4;  1 Samuel 4:15. The Syrian army that came to apprehend Elisha was suddenly smitten with blindness in a miraculous manner ( 2 Kings 6:18); and so also was St. Paul ( Acts 9:9). The Mosaic law has not neglected to inculcate humane feelings towards the blind ( Leviticus 19:14;  Deuteronomy 27:18). Blindness is sometimes threatened in the Old Testament as a punishment for disobedience ( Deuteronomy 28:28;  Leviticus 26:16;  Zephaniah 1:17).

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]

is a term often used in Scripture to denote ignorance or a want of discernment in divine things, as well as the being destitute of natural sight ( Isaiah 6:10;  Isaiah 42:18-19;  Matthew 15:14). " Blindness of heart" is the want of understanding arising from the influence of vicious passions, while " hardness of heart" is stubborness of will and absence of moral feeling ( Πώρωσις ,  Mark 3:5;  Romans 11:25;  Ephesians 4:18).