The Bethesda Pool, Site of One of Jesus’ Miracles

Where Jesus heals the paralytic

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in June 2013. It has been updated.—Ed.

Among the most famous of Jesus’ miracles is recounted in the Gospel of John, where Jesus heals the paralytic at the Bethesda Pool (John 5:2-9). It is not the only one of Jesus’ miracles of healing to take place at a pool in Jerusalem, however. In addition to the Bethesda Pool, the Gospel of John also says that Jesus healed the blind man at the Siloam Pool. The Siloam Pool was discovered in 2005 and was quickly identified with the pool mentioned in John. The Bethesda Pool, on the other hand, was excavated in the late 19th century, but it has taken more than 100 years for archaeologists to accurately identify and interpret the site. The Siloam Pool has been identified as a mikveh. Is it possible that the Bethesda Pool was also a mikveh, meaning that both of Jesus’ miracles were performed at Jewish ritual baths? This is what author Urban C. von Wahlde proposes in “The Puzzling Pool of Bethesda.”


The Bethesda Pool, where Jesus heals the paralytic man in the Gospel of John, is a complex site. It appears to have been a mikveh, or ritual bath. As the spot of one of Jesus’ miracles, the Bethesda Pool was built over in subsequent periods with chapels and churches that are still visible today.

When Jesus heals the paralytic in the Gospel of John, the Bethesda Pool is described as having five porticoes—a puzzling feature suggesting an unusual five-sided pool, which most scholars dismissed as an unhistorical literary creation. Yet when this site was excavated, it revealed a rectangular pool with two basins separated by a wall—thus a five-sided pool—and each side had a portico.

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The Jesus miracle story also tells how many people sought the Bethesda Pool’s healing powers. The first person to enter the pool when the waters were stirred up would supposedly be cured of his or her ailment. But, the paralytic tells Jesus, he can never get into the water quickly enough. So Jesus immediately cures him, and he is able to get up and walk.

This story about Jesus’ miracle suggests a long history of healing at the site. Roman medicinal baths constructed at the Bethesda Pool only a century or two later reflect this continued tradition. When Christians controlled Jerusalem in the Byzantine and Crusader periods, they liked to mark the sites of Jesus’ miracles and other important events in his life, so they added a chapel and churches that now cover the Bethesda Pool complex.

So why a pool with two basins? The archaeological evidence shows that the southern basin had broad steps with landings, indicating that it was indeed a mikveh. The northern basin provided a reservoir, or otzer, to continually replenish and repurify the mikveh with fresh water flowing south through the dam between them. Jerusalem’s pilgrims would flock to the Bethesda Pool and Siloam Pool to purify themselves in these public mikva’ot and, at times, to seek healing.



Read more about the site of one of Jesus’ miracles in Urban C. von Wahlde’s “The Puzzling Pool of Bethesda,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2011.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible: Lawrence Mykytiuk’s full article from the January/February 2015 issue of BAR with voluminous endnotes

How December 25 Became Christmas: Andrew McGowan’s full article from the December 2002 issue of Bible Review

Where Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine?

Mikveh Discovery Highlights Ritual Bathing in Second Temple Period Jerusalem

Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?

Who Was Jesus’ Biological Father?

Where Was Jesus Born?


Posted in Jerusalem, Jesus/Historical Jesus, New Testament.

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  1. alan says

    god is good

  2. C.Frazier says

    As I was preparing the Lesson for the Sunday School Class (this week the story of the Paralytic) It came to mind I had never studied the place of the Pool of Bethesda. Reading commentaries on this subject has given me new insight to share with my class. Thank you for the information provided on the inter-net, the pictures, etc. I read an interesting theory about Angels entering the Pool, they did so only at the time God instructed them to do so. Only one person, the FIRST person to inter the Pool during the time the water was disturbed by the Angels would be healed. It was a surprise when the Angels disturbed the waters, and people would wait long periods of time for a chance to be healed. The man, the Paralytic who was healed in John 5:2 is not shown to be a man of Faith, yet Jesus healed this man. An interesting lesson to teach this Sunday. C.F.

  3. David says

    “which most scholars dismissed as an unhistorical literary creation.” I suppose someone could make a career out of writing about the pronouncements of “Bible Scholars”, who don’t believe the Bible, and how they have been proven wrong again and again. I like to keep copies of articles like this to remind my friends about the reliability of the Bible over that of ‘scholars.’. Thanks for the help!

  4. Beverly says

    Why hasn’t it been rebuilt to its original design and used by the people again? It seems to me that id rebuilt, the Lord would use its waters for healing as in days of old. Remember, we serve a God of Miracles, they don’t just stop!

  5. alice says

    Thank you for all this wonderful info, and pictures

  6. alice says

    Thank you for all the great info and photos.

  7. Nicodemus says

    I am an ailing individual who has visited many Medical Doctors regarding what I presume to be chronical diseases that eats some parts of my flesh,especially the buttocks. Normally it starts as boils which ultimately grow into ulcers. I have of recent started praying asking God to bless my bath tabs and give me miracle healing as it has happened to those who has deepen themselves in the pool of Bethesda in the Christ Jesus era. This through the faith that I have, usually give me hope that one day my prayers will be answered.

  8. Nicodemus says

    It is quite interesting that indeed the site does exist.

  9. W says

    The pagan (gods) medicinal baths were stired not by an angle but by by Romans when they opened the gate to let more water in. They manipulated it to “heal” whomever they wanted aka fake faith healing.
    Jesus stood in direct defiance of these pagan ways when He healed the invalid. And the word “invalid” can be applied either as sickly or unauthorized, for the Romans wouldn’t, couldn’t heal him.

  10. tapani says

    Beth esda means “The gate of grace”. Some one places it near the sheep market gate. Baths in common mikveh was then means to get ritual purity. It gave justice to go to the temple. Sickness was obstacle to do so. Going to pool was competition – same like as in our time. Jesus moved allthing. He is the health pool and the temple himself. Grace does not demand speed from sick ones, but it works with the word of Jesus. This cured Jew became a witness of Jesus.

  11. Mary says

    This tradition is carried on in Lourdes where pilgrims immerse themselves in a cold bath in the hopes of being healed.


    We were in Israel a few months ago and when we came to Bethesda I recognized it from my readings in BAR but also found the real thing much easier to understand. It is a complicated site and for once the church building associated with it (St. Anne’s) was worth the visit too. It had the finest acoustics I have ever heard. It turned our tour group into a world- class choir! Also you need to appreciate how you are right outside the north walls of the Temple Mount. They told us this is where the sheep were washed which then went through the sheep gate to the temple.

  13. jay says

    thanks for sharing Jeremih, there’s a lot of cool stuff in there, that can help us cling to our faith and hold on tight during the storms in our lives….jane

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