Let’s take a moment to investigate behind the text.
Bethesda is the name of a series of pools in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, on the path of the Beth Zeta Valley. Since the 4th century it has also been called the Sheep Pool, but this is now thought to be a translation error. It was associated with healing. In Ancient Greek Biblical Manuscripts its name is often mistaken for the name of the town of Bethsaida. Its name is said to derive from the Aramaic beth hesda (בית חסדא), meaning either house of mercy or house of grace. In the Syriac branch of this ancient language, the cognate term hesdo has two opposite meanings – grace and disgrace; this dual meaning may have been thought appropriate since the location was seen as a place of disgrace due to the presence of invalids, and a place of grace, due to the granting of healing.
John describes the pool’s location using the Greek term [probatike], which literally means pertaining to sheep. Eusebius, the early 4th century Christian defender of the faith, interpreted this as the sheep-pool, and later church fathers copied his suggestion, but it is now thought that the term probatike actually refers to Bethesda being located near to the Sheep-gate (a gate in the former city wall, somewhat near to the Lion Gate in the current city wall); modern biblical translations, such as the RSV and the NIV follow the latter interpretation.
In archaeological digs conducted in the 19th Century, Schick discovered a large tank situated about 100 feet north-west of St. Anne’s Church, which he contended was the Pool of Bethesda. Further archaeological excavation in the area, in 1964, discovered the remains of the Byzantine and Crusader churches, Hadrian’s Temple of Asclepius and Serapis, the small healing pools of the Asclepieion, the other of the two large pools, and the dam between them. This pool is a rock-cut, rain-filled cistern, 55 ft. long X 12 ft. broad, and is approached by a steep and winding flight of steps. The floor of the rediscovered early Christian church roofs over the pool, being supported upon five arches in commemoration of the five porches. At the western end of the church, where probably the font was situated, there was a fresco, now much defaced and fast fading, representing the angel troubling the waters.
Some wisdom from archaeology:
Ancient Egyptians slept on pillows made of stone. That’s actually what caused many of their deaths…pillow fights.Ian Vail
He was told by his basketball coach he was uncoordinated and was thrown off the school team.Michael Jordan
Oh there is so much more I want to add to this Gem now; it was written on 22/10/09. Almost 10 years I have so much more to share because my understanding has grown. But I told myself I would not add to the Gem I wrote back then. I am smiling to myself with each Gem that I left out so much good stuff. But then it is impossible to include everything. As John said, the world would be filled with the books. No one can write about everything they know at the time, much less include all the extra they have learned in 10 years.
Are you still learning or have you plateau’ed?Ian Vail