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John 5:1-2

Context
Healing a Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda

5:1 After this 1  there was a Jewish feast, 2  and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 3  5:2 Now there is 4  in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate 5  a pool called Bethzatha 6  in Aramaic, 7  which has five covered walkways. 8 

1 sn The temporal indicator After this is not specific, so it is uncertain how long after the incidents at Cana this occurred.

2 tc The textual variants ἑορτή or ἡ ἑορτή (Jeorth or Jh Jeorth, “a feast” or “the feast”) may not appear significant at first, but to read ἑορτή with the article would almost certainly demand a reference to the Jewish Passover. The article is found in א C L Δ Ψ Ë1 33 892 1424 pm, but is lacking in {Ì66,75 A B D T Ws Θ Ë13 565 579 700 1241 pm}. Overall, the shorter reading has somewhat better support. Internally, the known proclivity of scribes to make the text more explicit argues compellingly for the shorter reading. Thus, the verse refers to a feast other than the Passover. The incidental note in 5:3, that the sick were lying outside in the porticoes of the pool, makes Passover an unlikely time because it fell toward the end of winter and the weather would not have been warm. L. Morris (John [NICNT], 299, n. 6) thinks it impossible to identify the feast with certainty.

sn A Jewish feast. Jews were obligated to go up to Jerusalem for 3 major annual feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. If the first is probably ruled out because of the time of year, the last is not as likely because it forms the central setting for chap. 7 (where there are many indications in the context that Tabernacles is the feast in view.) This leaves the feast of Pentecost, which at some point prior to this time in Jewish tradition (as reflected in Jewish intertestamental literature and later post-Christian rabbinic writings) became identified with the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Such an association might explain Jesus’ reference to Moses in 5:45-46. This is uncertain, however. The only really important fact for the author is that the healing was done on a Sabbath. This is what provoked the controversy with the Jewish authorities recorded in 5:16-47.

3 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

4 tn Regarding the use of the present tense ἐστιν (estin) and its implications for the dating of the Gospel of John, see the article by D. B. Wallace, “John 5,2 and the Date of the Fourth Gospel,” Bib 71 (1990): 177-205.

5 tn The site of the miracle is also something of a problem: προβατικῇ (probatikh) is usually taken as a reference to the Sheep Gate near the temple. Some (R. E. Brown and others) would place the word κολυμβήθρα (kolumbhqra) with προβατικῇ to read “in Jerusalem, by the Sheep Pool, there is (another pool) with the Hebrew name.” This would imply that there is reference to two pools in the context rather than only one. This does not seem necessary (although it is a grammatical possibility). The gender of the words does not help since both are feminine (as is the participle ἐπιλεγομένη [epilegomenh]). Note however that Brown’s suggestion would require a feminine word to be supplied (for the participle ἐπιλεγομένη to modify). The traditional understanding of the phrase as a reference to the Sheep Gate near the temple appears more probably correct.

6 tc Some mss (א [L] 33 it) read Bethzatha, while others read Bethsaida (Ì[66],75 B T Ws [Ψ] pc vg); codex D has Belzetha. A lot of controversy has surrounded the name of the pool itself: The reading of the Byzantine (or majority) text (A C Θ 078 Ë1,13 Ï), Bethesda, has been virtually discarded by scholars in favor of what is thought to be the more primitive Bethzatha, even though many recent translations continue to employ Bethesda, the traditional reading. The latter is attested by Josephus as the name of a quarter of the city near the northeast corner of the temple area. He reports that the Syrian Legate Cestius burned this suburb in his attack on Jerusalem in October a.d. 68 (J. W. 2.19.4 [2.530]). However, there is some new archaeological evidence for this problem. 3Q15 (Copper Scroll) from Qumran seems to indicate that in the general area of the temple, on the eastern hill of Jerusalem, a treasure was buried in Bet áEsdatayin, in the pool at the entrance to the smaller basin. The name of the region or pool itself seems then to have been Bet ᾿Esda, “house of the flowing.” It appears with the dual ending in the scroll because there were two basins. Bethesda seems to be an accurate Greek rendition of the name, while J. T. Milik suggests Bethzatha is a rendition of the Aramaic intensive plural Bet áEsdata (DJDJ 3, 271). As for the text of John 5:2, the fundamental problems with the Bethesda reading are that it looks motivated (with an edifying Semitic etymology, meaning “House of Mercy” [TCGNT 178]), and is minimally attested. Apart from the Copper Scroll, the evidence for Bethesda is almost entirely shut up to the Byzantine text (C being the most notable exception, but it often has Byzantine encroachments). On the one hand, this argues the Byzantine reading here had ancient, semitic roots; on the other hand, since both readings are attested as historically accurate, a decision has to be based on the better witnesses. The fact that there are multiple readings here suggests that the original was not well understood. Which reading best explains the rise of the others? It seems that Bethzatha is the best choice.

sn On the location of the pool called Bethzatha, the double-pool of St. Anne is the probable site, and has been excavated; the pools were trapezoidal in shape, 165 ft (49.5 m) wide at one end, 220 ft (66 m) wide at the other, and 315 ft (94.5 m) long, divided by a central partition. There were colonnades (rows of columns) on all 4 sides and on the partition, thus forming the five covered walkways mentioned in John 5:2. Stairways at the corners permitted descent to the pool.

7 tn Grk “in Hebrew.”

8 tn Or “porticoes,” or “colonnades”; Grk “stoas.”

sn The pool had five porticoes. These were covered walkways formed by rows of columns supporting a roof and open on the side facing the pool. People could stand, sit, or walk on these colonnaded porches, protected from the weather and the heat of the sun.



TIP #08: Use the Strong Number links to learn about the original Hebrew and Greek text. [ALL]
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