a festival of the Jews: Although John does not specify which festival is referred to, there are good reasons to conclude that it is the Passover of 31 C.E. John’s account was generally in chronological order. The context places this festival shortly after Jesus said that there were “yet four months before the harvest.” (Joh 4:35) The harvest season, particularly the barley harvest, got under way about Passover time (Nisan 14). So it seems that Jesus’ statement was made about four months before that, about the month of Chislev (November/December). Two other festivals, the festivals of Dedication and of Purim, fell during the time period from Chislev to Nisan. However, these festivals did not require an Israelite to go up to Jerusalem. So in this context, the Passover seems to be the most likely “festival of the Jews” that required Jesus to attend in Jerusalem according to God’s Law to Israel. (De 16:16) It is true that John records only a few events before the next mention of the Passover (Joh 6:4), but a consideration of the chart in App. A7 shows that John’s account of Jesus’ early ministry was abbreviated, and many events already covered by the other three Gospel writers were not mentioned. In fact, the great amount of activity of Jesus recorded in the other three Gospels lends weight to the conclusion that an annual Passover did indeed come between the events recorded at Joh 2:13 and those at Joh 6:4.—See App. A7 and study note on Joh 2:13.
Hebrew: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, inspired Bible writers used the term “Hebrew” in designating the language spoken by the Jews (Joh 19:13, 17, 20; Ac 21:40; 22:2; Re 9:11; 16:16), as well as the language in which the resurrected and glorified Jesus addressed Saul of Tarsus (Ac 26:14, 15). At Ac 6:1, “Hebrew-speaking Jews” are distinguished from “Greek-speaking Jews.” While some scholars hold that the term “Hebrew” in these references should instead be rendered “Aramaic,” there is good reason to believe that the term actually applies to the Hebrew language. When the physician Luke says that Paul spoke to the people of Jerusalem “in the Hebrew language,” Paul was addressing those whose life revolved around studying the Law of Moses in Hebrew. Also, of the great number of fragments and manuscripts comprising the Dead Sea Scrolls, the majority of Biblical and non-Biblical texts are written in Hebrew, showing that the language was in daily use. The smaller number of Aramaic fragments found shows that both languages were used. So it seems highly unlikely that when Bible writers used the word “Hebrew,” they actually meant the Aramaic or Syrian language. (Ac 21:40; 22:2; compare Ac 26:14.) The Hebrew Scriptures earlier distinguished between “Aramaic” and “the language of the Jews” (2Ki 18:26), and first-century Jewish historian Josephus, considering this passage of the Bible, speaks of “Aramaic” and “Hebrew” as distinct tongues. (Jewish Antiquities, X, 8 [i, 2]) It is true that there are some terms that are quite similar in both Aramaic and Hebrew and possibly other terms that were adopted into Hebrew from Aramaic. However, there seems to be no reason for the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures to have said Hebrew if they meant Aramaic.
Bethzatha: The Hebrew name means “House of the Olive [or, of Olives].” According to some manuscripts, the pool is called “Bethesda,” possibly meaning “House of Mercy.” Other manuscripts read “Bethsaida,” meaning “House of the Hunter [or, Fisherman].” Many scholars today prefer the name Bethzatha.
the sick . . . were lying down: It was commonly believed that people could be healed by getting into the pool when the water was stirred up. (Joh 5:7) As a result, those seeking a cure congregated at the site. However, the Bible does not say that an angel of God performed miracles at the pool of Bethzatha. (See study note on Joh 5:4.) What it does say is that Jesus performed a miracle at the pool. It is worth noting that the man did not enter the water; yet, he was instantly cured.
Some manuscripts add, in whole or in part, the following text, beginning at the end of verse 3 and continuing as verse 4: “waiting for the movement of the water. 4 For an angel of the Lord [or, “of Jehovah”] would come down into the pool from season to season and disturb the water; the first one then to step in after the disturbance of the water would become sound in health from whatever disease it was by which he was afflicted.” These words, however, do not appear in the earliest authoritative manuscripts and most likely are not part of the original text of John. (See App. A3.) Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew, referred to as J9, 22, 23 in App. C4, read “an angel of Jehovah” instead of “an angel of the Lord.”
mat: Or “bed.” In Bible lands, a bed was often a simple mat made of straw or rushes, perhaps with quilting or a mattress of some sort added for comfort. When not in use, these beds were rolled up and stored away. In this context, the Greek word kraʹbat·tos evidently refers to a poor man’s bed. In the account at Mr 2:4-12, the same Greek word refers to some kind of “stretcher” on which the paralytic man was carried.
the Jews: As used in the Gospel of John, this term conveys somewhat different meanings depending on the context. It can refer to Jewish people in general, to those living in Judea, or to those living in or near Jerusalem. The term may also refer to Jews who zealously adhered to human traditions connected with the Mosaic Law and who were hostile to Jesus. In this context, “the Jews” may refer to the Jewish authorities or religious leaders, but the term may also have been used broadly to include other Jews who were zealous for the traditions.
Do not sin anymore: Jesus’ words here do not mean that this man’s sickness was due to some sin he had committed. Rather, the man whom Jesus cured had been sick for 38 years because of inherited imperfection. (Joh 5:5-9; compare Joh 9:1-3.) Now that the man had been shown mercy and was healed, Jesus urged him to follow the way of salvation and avoid willful sin that could result in something worse than sickness, that is, everlasting destruction.—Heb 10:26, 27.
were persecuting: The imperfect form of the Greek verb used here indicates that the Jews—perhaps referring to the Jewish leaders or to Jews who zealously adhered to human traditions connected with the Mosaic Law—began to persecute Jesus and continued doing so.
making himself equal to God: While properly referring to God as his Father, Jesus never claimed equality with God. (Joh 5:17) Rather, it was the Jews who accused Jesus of attempting to make himself God’s equal by claiming God as his Father. Just as the Jews were wrong in stating that Jesus was a Sabbath breaker, they were wrong in making this accusation. Jesus makes this evident by what he says as recorded in verses 19 through 24—he could do nothing of his own initiative. Clearly, he was not claiming to be equal to God.—Joh 14:28.
of his own initiative: Or “on his own,” that is, independently. Lit., “from himself.” As God’s Chief Representative, Jesus always listens to Jehovah’s voice and speaks what Jehovah directs.
the Father has affection for the Son: Jesus here describes the warm bond of unity and friendship that has existed between him and the Father from the dawn of creation. (Pr 8:30) When John recorded Jesus’ statement describing this relationship, he used a form of the Greek verb phi·leʹo (“to have affection”). This verb often describes a very close bond, the kind that exists between genuine friends. For example, it is used to describe the bond of friendship that existed between Jesus and Lazarus. (Joh 11:3, 36) It is also used to describe the family relationship between parents and children. (Mt 10:37) The same verb, phi·leʹo, is used to show the strong, warm, personal attachment Jehovah has for his Son’s followers and the warm feelings the disciples had for God’s Son.—Joh 16:27.
judgment: The Greek term kriʹsis, here rendered “judgment,” may convey several shades of meaning. The context determines what is meant. For example, this term can denote the act of judging (Joh 5:22), the quality of justice (Mt 23:23; Lu 11:42), or a court of law (Mt 5:21). It can also refer to a judgment that is either favorable or unfavorable, but most of the occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures convey the idea of a condemnatory judgment. In this verse, “judgment” is used in parallel with death and set in contrast with life and everlasting life; therefore, it refers to a judgment that results in loss of life.—2Pe 2:9; 3:7; see study note on Joh 5:29.
has passed over from death to life: Jesus is apparently speaking about those who were once spiritually dead but who upon hearing his words put faith in him and discontinue walking in their sinful course. (Eph 2:1, 2, 4-6) They pass over “from death to life” in that the condemnation of death is lifted from them, and they are given the hope of everlasting life because of their faith in God. In a similar way, Jesus apparently referred to spiritually dead ones when he said to the Jewish son who wanted to go home to bury his father: “Let the dead bury their dead.”—Lu 9:60; see study notes on Lu 9:60; Joh 5:25.
the dead: Jesus said that the hour, or time, for the dead to “hear [his] voice” is now, so he could only mean living humans who inherited sin from Adam and were therefore condemned to death. (Ro 5:12) From God’s standpoint, mankind in general has no right to life because “the wages” that sin pays to them is death. (Ro 6:23) By hearing and heeding Jesus’ “word,” individuals could figuratively ‘pass over from death to life.’ (See study note on Joh 5:24.) The terms “hear” and “listen” are frequently used in the Bible with the meaning of “pay heed to” or “obey.”
has life in himself: Or “has in himself the gift of life.” Jesus has “life in himself” because his Father granted him powers that originally only Jehovah had. These powers no doubt include the authority to give humans the opportunity to have a fine standing before God and thus gain life. They would also include the ability to impart life by resurrecting the dead. About a year after Jesus made the statement recorded here, he indicated that his followers could have life in themselves.—For the meaning of the expression “life in yourselves” as it applies to Jesus’ followers, see study note on Joh 6:53.
Son of man: See study note on Mt 8:20.
the memorial tombs: This term renders the Greek word mne·meiʹon, which comes from the verb mi·mneʹsko·mai, “to remember; to remind (oneself),” and refers to a tomb or a grave. Thus, the term carries the implication of preserving the memory of the deceased person. In this context, it suggests that the person who died is remembered by God. This connotation gives added meaning to the term used by Luke in recording the plea of the criminal executed alongside Jesus: “Remember [form of the verb mi·mneʹsko·mai] me when you get into your Kingdom.”—Lu 23:42.
resurrection: See study note on Mt 22:23.
of life . . . of judgment: Here and at Joh 5:24, “judgment” is set in contrast with “life” and “everlasting life,” implying a judgment that results in death. (2Pe 2:9; 3:7; see study note on Joh 5:24.) Most occurrences of the Greek word rendered “judgment” (kriʹsis) in the Christian Greek Scriptures carry the force of condemnatory judgment. As indicated by the context and by other scriptures, the judgment Jesus speaks of is not based on what a person did before he died but on his actions after he is resurrected. Ro 6:7 states that a person “who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” Each person who is resurrected will show by his course of action whether he is obedient, with eternal “life” as a reward, or disobedient, resulting in the “judgment” of death.
of my own initiative: Or “on my own,” that is, independently. Lit., “from myself.” As God’s Chief Representative, Jesus always listens to Jehovah’s voice and speaks what Jehovah directs.
Just as I hear: That is, from the Father as the Supreme Judge.
the Scriptures: This expression is often used to refer to the inspired Hebrew writings as a whole. The Jews who were carefully searching the Scriptures could easily have discerned that Jesus was the Messiah by comparing his life and teachings with what the Scriptures foretold. But these Jews refused to make a sincere examination of the abundant Scriptural evidence that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Although they thought that they could have everlasting life by means of the Scriptures, they refused to accept Jesus as the one whom the Scriptures pointed to as the true means to gain life.—De 18:15; Lu 11:52; Joh 7:47, 48.
these: That is, the Scriptures mentioned in the first part of the verse. These Scriptures contained Messianic prophecies that pointed to Jesus as the one through whom his listeners could gain “everlasting life.”
the only God: Some early manuscripts do not include the word “God” and could be rendered “the only One.” But the main text reading has strong support in other early authoritative manuscripts.