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John 5:2


Now there is 1  in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate 2  a pool called Bethzatha 3  in Aramaic, 4  which has five covered walkways. 5 


Ne 3:1; Ne 12:39; Isa 22:9,11

NET © Notes

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.

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.

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.

tn Grk “in Hebrew.”

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.

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