The Bethesda Pool, Site of One of Jesus’ Miracles

Where Jesus Heals the Paralytic

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, Site of One of Jesus’ Miracles

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.
 


 
Learn the stories behind Biblical archaeology finds like the Pool of Siloam in Israel, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored sight to a blind man, in the free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries.
 

 
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

The Siloam Pool: Where Jesus Healed the Blind Man

Mikveh Discovery Highlights Ritual Bathing in Second Temple Period Jerusalem

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

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11 Responses

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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!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Ancient Technology in the Bible: Hezekiah’s Tunnel « creationscience4kids linked to this post on September 7, 2012

    [...] this tunnel ended at the Pool of Siloam that was only rediscovered with its original location and size  in [...]

  2. Looking for Jesus in Israel linked to this post on March 29, 2013

    [...] Church where Virgin Mary’s parents lived, saw grotto where Mary was born. Also saw The Pool of Bethesda, N.T. (John 5:2). Saw Mary’s tomb and The Grotto of Gethsemane - where Jesus would gather [...]

  3. links to the land | preachersmith linked to this post on November 20, 2013

    [...] Bethesda: The Bethesda Pool [...]

  4. SANDS OF TIME: POOL OF BETHESDA | Frontiers*nova linked to this post on January 21, 2014

    [...] http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/jerusalem/the-bethesda-pool-site-of-o… Share this:TwitterEmailStumbleUponTumblrFacebookLike this:Like Loading… [...]

  5. Jesus Healing the Lame Man linked to this post on February 20, 2014

    [...] Cana and went back to Jerusalem for a feast. While there, Jesus went near the pool of Bethesda. Legend had it that if the waters were stirred up, then the first person into the pool would be healed. Therefore, many people with different [...]

  6. Pool of Bethesda | Touchpoint Israel linked to this post on April 11, 2014

    […] The description of the Pool as having five sides, an unheard-of design, led scholars to believe that the story was fiction. However, when archaeologists unearthed this site in the late 19th century, they discovered a Jewish ritual bath, a mikveh, that did indeed have five sides! The Pool of Bethesda today is an elaborate complex marked by Byzantine and Crusader churches. Read more about this archaeological discovery here. […]


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