Biblical Archaeology Review 37:5, September/October 2011

The Puzzling Pool of Bethesda

Where Jesus cured the crippled man

By Urban C. von Wahlde

The Gospel of John recounts two healing miracles Jesus performed in Jerusalem. In one, Jesus cured a man who had been blind from birth. Jesus mixed his saliva with mud, applied the mixture to the blind man’s eyes and told him to bathe in the Pool of Siloam. When the man did so, he was healed (John 9:6–7).

In the other, Jesus cured a crippled man lying on a mat who had been unable to walk for 38 years. This occurred at another Jerusalem pool, the Pool of Bethesda (or Bethzatha or Bethsaida, according to various manuscripts), where invalids—blind, lame and paralyzed—would gather in the porticoes. According to some ancient manuscripts,1 an angel would stir up the waters of the pool and whoever would enter the water first would be cured. The canonical text goes on to say that by the time the crippled man got to the pool, as he recounts to Jesus, “Someone else steps down ahead of me.” So the crippled man cannot get to the curative waters in time. But Jesus simply declares to the man, “Stand up, take up your mat, and walk.” The text goes on: “And at once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk” (John 5:2–9).

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