NT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 12: John 5-6

Some short commentary on John 5 with pictures, today.

Jesus goes to Jerusalem for a festival. The Torah had three festivals which required the presence of Jews in the temple, Passover (Pesach), the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost/Shavuot), and the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths (Sukkot). This is probably one of the latter two, and Jesus dutifully goes south to Jerusalem. Notably, in John, Jesus spends nearly all his time in Galilee. We could speculate on many reasons for this, but at least today, Galilee is lush, green, and pleasant; Jerusalem is hot and dusty. It’s an easy choice, in terms of environment.

Jesus heals a man on the sabbath again, not in a synagogue or house, but at a public pool called (depending on the Greek manuscript) either Bethsaida (House of the Fishermen in Aramaic), Bethesda (House of Mercy), or Bethzatha (House of olive).  This pool had “five porches” or porticoes, surrounding the pool. Indeed, it was quite large, and John says “many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed” were there.  This pool has been recovered by archaeologists and is found near St. Anne’s Church just inside Stephen’s Gate in Jerusalem today, and was actually a complex of two trapezoidal pools (not easy to see in the pics.)

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St. Anne’s church, and the dig around the pool.

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Zoomed in, below the area in the picture above.

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Looking down

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From near St. Anne’s, looking south. the other pictures are taken from the walkway to the right of this pic.

Now, if you pick up a modern translation of the Bible and compare it to the KJV, you’ll see that modern translations omit entirely the end of v. 3 and all of v. 4, which say “3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

The KJV was translated from very late (and poor) Greek manuscripts, but most modern translations have access to much much older Greek mss., which omit this verse.  The additions explain the common belief of the sick people hanging out at this pool. Certainly the folk belief was real, but at some point, a copyist added it in order to explain v. 7.

The man’s problem in getting into the pool in time (5:7) was explained by the addition of v. 4 in early manuscripts. Typically, Jesus does not deal with that problem at all…- Harper’s Bible Commentary.

Now, I’ve been doing a lot of work on something called Accommodation, which entails, among other things, that God rarely corrects our misguided cultural, scientific, or other mistakes. Jesus doesn’t sigh, and sit him down to talk about what angels do and don’t do, or what really makes the water move; he just heals the guy and walks away without even saying who he is. His actions speak louder than words, and his healing declares his identity. The man promptly picks up his mat and walks (as commanded), after 38 years of waiting there.
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