John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 5:4, An Angel Troubled the Water

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.

//John chapter five tells of a lame man lying by the pool of Bethesda, where a great multitude of “impotent folk” lay waiting for the “moving of the water.” Today’s verse is a late addition to the Gospel of John, which clarifies the purpose for their gathering there.  Apparently when the water “moved,” it was believed to be at the prompting of an angel, and the moving water had healing powers. The original writing doesn’t contain this verse, presuming its readership’s familiarity with the pool, with no need to explain its healing powers. Many current translations of the Bible choose not to include this verse.

Excavations confirm the existence of a pool of Bethesda before Jerusalem’s destruction. The pool divided into two parts, north and south, with steps descending to multiple landings deep within the southern pool, facilitating bathing, regardless of water level. Tunneled sluice gates at the bottom enabled emptying and replenishing the pool, the resulting bubbling and frothing probably explaining the phenomenon of an “angel disturbing the water.”

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