Questions From Readers
▪ Did sick and crippled individuals actually get healed in the disturbed waters of Bethzatha, as John 5:2-7 suggests? And if so, by what power did those miracles occur?
Actually, the account at John 5:2-9 does not establish whether a number of miraculous healings occurred at a pool in ancient Jerusalem. The only miracle that we can be sure took place there was the one performed by Jesus Christ when he healed a man who for 38 years had been sick. We can accept this miracle, for the report of it is in the inspired Scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:16) But many in Jerusalem back then believed that other miracles had occurred at that spot, even as many today believe that miraculous cures occur at shrines.
Note what the Bible does say, and what it really does not say: “Now in Jerusalem at the sheepgate there is a pool designated in Hebrew Bethzatha, with five colonnades. In these a multitude of the sick, blind, lame and those with withered members, was lying down. ——— But a certain man was there who had been in his sickness for thirty-eight years. Seeing this man lying down, and being aware that he had already been sick a long time, Jesus said to him: ‘Do you want to become sound in health?’ The sick man answered him: ‘Sir, I do not have a man to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; but while I am coming another steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him: ‘Get up, pick up your cot and walk.’ With that the man immediately became sound in health, and he picked up his cot and began to walk.”—John 5:2-9.
The pool referred to was near the “sheepgate,” which evidently was in northeastern Jerusalem close to the temple mount. (Nehemiah 3:1; 12:39) Recent excavations have uncovered evidence of two ancient pools, with fragments of columns and bases that indicate that a building having colonnades existed there in Herodian times, as John 5:2 says. But what did people back then think might occur here?
Observe the dash in the above quotation of John 5:2-9. Some Bibles include an extra passage that is numbered John 5:4. That addition says something like: “For an angel of the Lord 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.”
However, a number of modern Bibles, including the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, omit this passage. Why? Because in all probability it was not in John’s Gospel. A footnote in The Jerusalem Bible observes that the “best witnesses” omit this passage. The “best witnesses” meant are ancient Greek manuscripts, such as the Codex Sinaiticus and the Vatican 1209 (both of the 4th century C.E.), and early versions in Syriac and Latin. After mentioning ‘the absence of verse 4 from the best manuscript texts,’ The Expositor’s Bible Commentary adds: “It is generally regarded as a gloss that was introduced to explain the intermittent agitation of the water, which the populace considered to be a potential source of healing.”
So the Bible does not really say that an angel from God performed miracles at the pool of Bethzatha. Well, did miraculous healings occur when the water was disturbed? No one today can say for sure. Maybe a tradition somehow developed that ill or crippled persons had been healed there. Once stories of supposed healings spread, desperate persons hoping to be cured may have begun congregating there. We know that this has occurred at various locations in our time, even when there is no documented proof of divine healings.
We should not, though, be skeptical about the healing that the Son of God performed at the pool of Bethzatha. Why, without even entering the water, the man was instantly cured by the Great Physician. His documented ability to do this should give us reason to look forward to the healings that he will perform during the approaching Millennium. He will heal and help faithful humans back to perfection.—Revelation 21:4, 5; 22:1, 2.
[Picture Credit Line on page 31]
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.