John 5:2
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
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(2) Now there is at Jerusalem.—We have no certain knowledge of the time referred to in the last, nor of the place referred to in this, verse. For “sheep-market,” we should read with the margin, sheep-gate (Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39). This gate was known well enough to fix the locality of the pool, but is itself now unknown. St. Stephen’s Gate, which has been the traditional identification, did not exist until the time of Agrippa. There is something tempting in the interpretation of the Vulgate adopted by some modern travellers and commentators, which supplies the substantive from the immediate context, and reads “sheep-pool.” But the fact that the Greek adjective for “sheep,” is used here only in the New Testament, and in the Old Testament only in the passages of Nehemiah referred to above, seems to fix the meaning beyond doubt.

Bethesda means “house of mercy.” The “Hebrew tongue” is the then current Hebrew, what we ordinarily call Aramaic, or Syro-Chaldaic. The spot is pointed out traditionally as Birket Israil, near the fort of Antonia, but since Dr. Robinson’s rejection of this, it has been generally abandoned. He himself adopted the “Fountain of the Virgin,” which is intermittent. He saw the water rise to the height of a foot in five minutes, and was told that this occurs sometimes two or three times a day. The fountain is connected with the pool of Siloam, and probably with the fountain under the Grand Mosque. The seventh edition of Alford’s Commentary contains, an interesting letter, pointing out that Siloam itself was probably the pool of Bethesda, and that the remains of four columns in the east wall of the pool, with four others in the centre, show that there was a structure half covering it, which resting upon four columns would give five spaces or porches. The fact that this pool is called Siloam in John 9:7 does not oppose this view. The word “called” here, is more exactly surnamed, and “House of Mercy” may well have been given to the structure, and thus extended to the pool in addition to its own name. But to pass from the uncertain, it is established beyond doubt, (1) that there are, and then were, on the east of Jerusalem mineral springs; (2) that these are, and then were, intermittent; and (3) that such springs are resorted to in the East just as they are in Europe.

John 5:2-4. Now there is at Jerusalem — The Syriac seems to have read, ην, there was, as it is rendered in that version in the past time. Cyril, Chrysostom, and Theophylact favour this reading, as also does Nonnus. “If tolerably supported,” says Dr. Campbell, “it would be accounted preferable, as this gospel was written after the destruction of Jerusalem.” But if Jerusalem was destroyed, as it probably was, when St. John wrote this, it does not follow that the pool and its porticoes were destroyed also. The pool, or what is said to be it, is shown to travellers at the present time. By the sheep-market a pool — Or, by the sheep-gate, as Dr. Campbell renders επι τη προβατικη, observing, however, that there is nothing in the Greek which answers to either gate or market; but the word used being an adjective, requires some such addition to complete the sense: and we have good evidence that one of the gates of Jerusalem was called the sheep-gate. See Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39. But we have no evidence that any place there was called the sheep-market. The word κολυμβηθρα, here rendered a pool, signifies a place to swim in. Doddridge, Macknight, Campbell, and many other learned men, understand by it, a bath, like those near Jericho, where Aristobulus was drowned by Herod’s order, as he was swimming. Called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda — That is, the house of mercy; having five porticoes — Piazzas, or covered walks, being a most agreeable and salutary building in those warm climates, where excessive heat was not only troublesome, but prejudicial to health. Probably the basin had five sides. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk — The water being highly esteemed on account of some medicinal virtues which attended it, and the benefit many had received by bathing in it: waiting for the moving of the water — For an extraordinary commotion to be caused in it. For an angel went down at a certain season — Or, as some understand κατα καιρον, at that season, the season of the feast, mentioned John 5:1, confining the miracle of the pool to this particular feast. For, since the evangelist does not say that the waters of this pool had their healing quality at any other feast, we are at liberty to make what supposition seems to us most probable. Perhaps the silence of Philo and Josephus upon this miracle may induce some to think that it happened only at one passover. For though many infirm people lay in these porticoes, if the angel, as is probable, descended frequently during that solemnity, the miracle would be no sooner known than multitudes would come and wait at the pool, to be cured by the moving waters. However, if the number of the sick, collected together on this occasion, and the phrase κατα καιρον, rendered, at a certain season, shall incline any to believe that these waters had a healing quality at other passovers also, the silence of the writers before mentioned needs not to be much regarded, it being well known that they have omitted much greater transactions, which they had as good an opportunity to know; namely, that multitude and variety of miracles which our Lord performed in the course of his ministry. See Macknight. As the word rendered angel means also messenger, and is frequently used of any messenger whatever, Dr. Hammond conjectures, that not an angel of God, but an officer, sent by the priests and rulers at a certain time to stir up the waters of this pool, is here intended; and that the warm entrails of animals, which he supposed were cast into it to be washed, communicated this healing virtue to it. But surely all the circumstances of this history, as Dr. Whitby justly observes, render this hypothesis highly improbable. For how is it likely, 1st, That this should be a natural means of curing all sorts of diseased persons, without exception, the blind, the halt, and the withered?

2d, That it should only cure the person that stepped in first, though he might be followed by others the same instant; for how should the natural virtue of this pool, impregnated with the warm entrails of so many sacrifices, extend itself only to one ?Man 1:3 d, That it should do this only at one time of the year, namely, at the feast of passover; for this was done, not at several times, but only at a certain time, or season, or at that time, or season. And, lastly, the very foundation of this conjecture is taken away by that observation of Dr. Lightfoot, that there was a laver in the temple for the washing of those entrails, and so they were not likely to be washed in this pool. It is further to be observed, that these waters of Siloam were a type of the kingdom of David, according to Isaiah 8:6; and of Christ, according to John 12:3 of the same prophet; whence Siloam is interpreted sent, by this evangelist, John 9:7. To this type of the Messiah, God might therefore give this virtue about that time, to prepare the Jews to receive his advent, who was sent to them; and, at the same time, when a fountain was to be opened for sin and for uncleanness, (Zechariah 13:1,) he might communicate this virtue to this pool, as a prefiguration of it: whence, as Tertullian observes, “the virtue of this pool then ceased, when they, persisting in their infidelity, rejected our Saviour.” And this might be one reason why the Jewish writers are so silent as to its virtue, because, by its signification, it related to Christ, and by this miracle confirmed his doctrine. “That the waters of Bethesda,” says Dr. Macknight, “should at this time have obtained a miraculous healing quality, was, without doubt, in honour of the personal appearance of the Son of God on earth. Perhaps it was intended to show that Ezekiel’s vision of waters, (Ezekiel 47:1; Ezekiel 47:7,) issuing out of the sanctuary, was about to be fulfilled; of which waters it is said, (John 5:9,) They shall be healed, and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.5:1-9 We are all by nature impotent folk in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but full provision is made for our cure, if we attend to it. An angel went down, and troubled the water; and what disease soever it was, this water cured it, but only he that first stepped in had benefit. This teaches us to be careful, that we let not a season slip which may never return. The man had lost the use of his limbs thirty-eight years. Shall we, who perhaps for many years have scarcely known what it has been to be a day sick, complain of one wearisome night, when many others, better than we, have scarcely known what it has been to be a day well? Christ singled this one out from the rest. Those long in affliction, may comfort themselves that God keeps account how long. Observe, this man speaks of the unkindness of those about him, without any peevish reflections. As we should be thankful, so we should be patient. Our Lord Jesus cures him, though he neither asked nor thought of it. Arise, and walk. God's command, Turn and live; Make ye a new heart; no more supposes power in us without the grace of God, his distinguishing grace, than this command supposed such power in the impotent man: it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory. What a joyful surprise to the poor cripple, to find himself of a sudden so easy, so strong, so able to help himself! The proof of spiritual cure, is our rising and walking. Has Christ healed our spiritual diseases, let us go wherever he sends us, and take up whatever he lays upon us; and walk before him.The sheep-market - This might have been rendered the "sheep-gate," or the gate through which the sheep were taken into the city for sacrifice. The marginal rendering is "gate," and the word "market" is not in the original, nor is a "sheep-market" mentioned in the Scriptures or in any of the Jewish writings. A "sheep-gate" is repeatedly mentioned by Nehemiah Neh 3:1, Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39, being that by which sheep and oxen were brought into the city. As these were brought mainly for sacrifice, the gate was doubtless near the temple, and near the present place which is shown as the pool of Bethesda.

A pool - This word may either mean a small lake or pond in which one can swim, or a place for fish, or any waters collected for bathing or washing.

Hebrew tongue - Hebrew language. The language then spoken, which did not differ essentially from the ancient Hebrew.

Bethesda - The house of mercy. It was so called on account of its strong healing properties - the property of restoring health to the sick and infirm.

Five porches - The word "porch" commonly means a covered place surrounding a building, in which people can walk or sit in hot or wet weather. Here it probably means that there were five covered places, or apartments, in which the sick could remain, from each one of which they could have access to the water. This "pool" is thus described by Professor Hackett ("Illustrations of Scripture," pp. 291, 292): "Just to the east of the Turkish garrison, and under the northern wall of the mosque, is a deep excavation, supposed by many to be the ancient pool of Bethesda, into which the sick descended after the troubling of the water, and were healed, John 5:1 ff. It is 360 feet long, 130 feet wide, and 75 deep. The evangelist says that this pool was near the sheep-gate, as the Greek probably signifies, rather than sheep-market, as rendered in the English version. That gate, according to Nehemiah 3:1 ff, was on the north side of the temple, and hence, the situation of this reservoir would agree with that of Bethesda. The present name, Birket Israil, Pool of Israil, indicates the opinion of the native inhabitants in regard to the object of the excavation. The general opinion of the most accurate travelers is that the so-called pool was originally part of a trench or fosse which protected the temple on the north.

Though it contains no water at present except a little which trickles through the stones at the west end, it has evidently been used at some period as a reservoir. It is lined with cement, and adapted in other respects to hold water." Dr. Robinson established by personal inspection the fact of the subterranean connection of the pool of "Siloam" with the "Fountain of the Virgin," and made it probable that the fountain under the mosque of Omar is connected with them. This spring is, as he himself witnessed, an "intermittent" one, and there "may" have been some artificially constructed basin in connection with this spring to which was given the name of "Bethesda." He supposes, however, that there is not the slightest evidence that the place or reservoir now pointed out as "Bethesda" was the Bethesda of the New Testament (Bib. Res., i. 501, 506, 509). In the time of Sandys (1611) the spring was found running, but in small quantities; in the time of Maundrell (1697) the stream did not run. Probably in his time, as now, the water which had formerly filtered through the rocks was dammed up by the rubbish.

2, 3. sheep market—The supplement should be (as in Margin) "sheep [gate]," mentioned in Ne 3:1, 32.

Bethesda—that is, "house (place) of mercy," from the cures wrought there.

five porches—for shelter to the patients.

We read in Scripture of the sheep gate in Jerusalem, Nehemiah 3:1. There was also a market for sheep and other cattle, Deu 14:26. Some therefore add market, others add gate, to the word in the Greek signifying sheep. Near to this gate or market there was

a pool, kolumbhyra: some translate it, a fish pool; others, (more properly), a place to wash or to swim in (the word derives from a verb that signifies, to swim). They say there were two such pools within the compass of the mount on which the temple stood; the one eastward, called

the upper pool, 2 Kings 18:17; the other westward, near to the sheep gate. The one was called

Bethesda; the other,

the pool of Siloah, by the king’s garden, Nehemiah 3:15, mentioned also by our evangelist, John 9:7. They say the waters of these pools were supplied from a fountain called Siloam, which was not always full of water, but the water bubbled up in it at certain times with a great noise, coming (as was thought) through hollow places of the earth, and quarries of hard stones. These waters of Shiloah are mentioned, Isaiah 8:6, and said to go softly; from which place these waters are concluded a type of the kingdom of David and of Christ. This being admitted, it is not to be wondered that they had that healing virtue given unto them (as some judge) just about the coming of Christ; for it should appear by John 9:7, that the pool of Siloam, as well as that of Bethesda, had so; for in former times it is thought to have been of use chiefly to wash garments in, and sacrifices when they were slain. Some will have them to have derived their healing virtue from thence; but that is vain, their healing virtue was doubtless derived from the Lord that healeth us. This pool in the Hebrew was called Bethesda, which some interpret, The house of pouring out, because, as some fancy, the blood of the sacrifices was there poured out; (but that is a great mistake, for that was to be poured out at the altar); or because rain water (as some think) was poured into it; or (which is more probable) because waters were poured into it out of the conduit mentioned 2 Kings 20:20. But others interpret it, The house of grace, mercy, &c., because of God’s great goodness showed the people, in giving this healing virtue to these waters. The

five porches belonging to this pool seem to have been five apartments for impotent men to walk in, or rest themselves in, when they came to wash themselves in the pool. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market,.... The word "market" is not in the text, and of such a market, no account is given in the Scripture, nor in the Jewish writings; and besides, in our Lord's time, sheep and oxen were sold in the temple; rather therefore this signifies, the sheep gate, of which mention is made, in Nehemiah 3:1, through which the sheep were brought into the city, to the temple.

A pool. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read, "there is at Jerusalem a sheep pool"; and so it is interpreted in the Arabic version, and Jerom calls it the "cattle pool" (f). The Targumist on Jeremiah 31:39 speaks of a pool called , "the calf", or "heifer pool", as Dr. Lightfoot renders it; though the translations of it, both in the London Polyglott, and in the king of Spain's Bible, interpret it "the round pool". This pool of Bethesda, is thought by some, to be the same which the Jews call the great pool in Jerusalem; they say (g),

"between Hebron and Jerusalem, is the fountain Etham, from whence the waters come by way of pipes, unto the great pool, which is in Jerusalem.''

And R. Benjamin (h) speaks of a pool, which is to be seen to this day, where the ancients slew their sacrifices, and all the Jews write their names on the wall: and some think it was so called, because the sheep that were offered in sacrifice, were there washed; which must be either before, or after they were slain; not before, for it was not required that what was to be slain for sacrifice should be washed first; and afterwards, only the entrails of a beast were washed; and for this there was a particular place in the temple, called "the washing room"; where, they say (i), they washed the inwards of the holy sacrifices. This pool here, therefore, seems rather, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, to have been a bath for unclean persons; and having this miraculous virtue hereafter spoken of, diseased persons only, at certain times, had recourse to it. The Syriac and Persic versions call it, "a place of a baptistery"; and both leave out the clause, "by the sheep market", or "gate": it is not easy to say where and what it was:

which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda; which signifies, according to the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, "an house of mercy", or "grace", or "goodness"; because many miserable objects here received mercy, and a cure. Hegesippus (k) speaks of a Bethesda, which Cestius the Roman general entered into, and burnt; and which, according to him, seems to be without Jerusalem, and so not the place here spoken of; and besides, this is called a pool, though the buildings about it doubtless went by the same name. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read Bethsaida, very wrongly; and it is called by Tertullian (l) the pool of Bethsaida. The Hebrew tongue here mentioned is , "the language of those beyond the river" (m), i.e. the river Euphrates; which is the Chaldee language, as distinct from the Assyrian language, which is called the holy and blessed language; the former is what the Cuthites, or Samaritans used; the latter, that in which the book of the law was written (n).

Having five porches; or cloistered walks, which were very convenient for the diseased, which lay here for a cure, so Nonnus: Athanasius (o) speaks of the pool itself, as in being, though the buildings round about lay in ruins in his time; and (p) Daviler observes, there are still remaining five arches of the "portico", and part of the basin. Now this place may be an emblem of the means of grace, the ministry of the word, and ordinances: the house of God, where the Gospel is preached, may be called a Bethesda, an house of mercy; since here the free, sovereign, rich, and abundant grace and mercy of God, through Christ, is proclaimed, as the ground and foundation of a sinner's hope; the mercy of God, as it is displayed in the covenant of grace, in the mission of Christ, and redemption by him, in regeneration, and in the forgiveness of sin, and indeed, in the whole of salvation, from first to last, is here held forth for the relief of distressed minds: and this Bethesda being a pool, some of the ancients have thought, it was an emblem of, and prefigured the ordinance of baptism; and that the miraculous virtue in it, was put into it, to give honour and credit to that ordinance, shortly to be administered: but as that is not the means of regeneration and conversion, or of a cure or cleansing, but pre-requires them; rather it might be a symbol of the fountain of Christ's blood, opened for polluted sinners to wash in, and which cleanses from all sin, and cures all diseases; and this is opened in the house of mercy, and by the ministry of the word: or rather, best of all, the Gospel itself, and the ministration of it, mass be signified; which is sometimes compared to waters, and a fountain of them; see Isaiah 4:1 Joel 3:18; and whereas this pool was in Jerusalem, and that so often designs the church of Christ under the Gospel dispensation, it may fitly represent the ministry of the word there: and it being near the sheep-market, or gate, or a sheep-pool, may not be without its significancy; and may lead us to observe, that near where Christ's sheep are, which the Father has given him, and he has died for, and must bring in, he fixes his word and ordinances, in order to gather them in: and inasmuch as there were five porches, or cloistered walks, leading unto, or adjoining to this place, it has been thought by some of the ancients, that the law, as lying in the five books of Moses, may be intended by them; for under the law, and under a work of it, men are, before they come into the light and liberty, and comfort of the Gospel; and as the people which lay in these porches, received no cure there, so there are no relief, peace, joy, life, and salvation, by the law of works.

(f) De Locis Hebraicis, p. 89. L. Tom. III.((g) Cippi Hebraici, p. 10. (h) Itinerar. p. 43. (i) Misn. Middot, c. 5. sect. 2. Maimon. Beth Habbechira, c. 5. sect. 17. (k) De Excidio, l. 2. c. 15. (l) Adv. Judaeos, c. 13. (m) De Semente, p. 345. Tom. I.((n) In Chambers' Dictionary, in the word "Piscina". (o) Vid. Gloss. in T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 115. 1. Megilla, fol. 18. 2. & Sanhedrin, fol. 21. 2.((p) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Yadaim, c. 4. sect. 5. Vid. Gloss. in T. Bab. Megillia, fol. 8. 2.

{1} Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a {a} pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue {b} Bethesda, having five porches.

(1) There is no disease so old which Christ cannot heal.

(a) Of which cattle drank, and used to be plunged in, since there was a great abundance of water at Jerusalem.

(b) That is to say, the house of pouring out, because a great abundance of water was poured out into that place.

John 5:2-3. Ἔστι] is all the less opposed to the composition of the Gospel after the destruction of Jerusalem, as what is mentioned is a bath, whose surroundings might very naturally be represented as still existing. According to Ewald, the charitable uses for which the building served might have saved it from destruction. Comp. Tobler, Denkblätt. p. 53 ff., who says that the porches were still pointed out in the fifth century.

ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ] is usually explained by πύλῃ supplied: hard by the sheep-gate; see on John 4:6. Concerning the שַׁעַר הַצֹּאן, Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39, so called perhaps because sheep for sacrifice were sold there, or brought in there at the Passover, nothing further is known. It lay north-east of the city, and near the temple. Still the word supplied, “gate,” cannot he shown to have been in use; nor could it have been self-evident, especially to Gentile Christian readers, not minutely acquainted with the localities. I prefer, therefore, following Theodore of Mopsuestia, Ammonius, Nonnus, to join κολυμβ. with προβατικῇ, and, with Elz. 1633 and Wetstein, to read κολυμβῆθρᾳ, as a dative (comp. already Castalio): “Now there is in Jerusalem, at the sheep-pool, [a place called] Bethesda, so called in the Hebrew tongue.” According to Ammonius, the sheep used for sacrifice were washed in the sheep-pool.

ἐπιλεγ.] “this additional name being given to it.” On ἐπιλέγειν, elsewhere usually in the sense of selecting, see Plat. Legg. iii. p. 700 B. The pool was called Bethesda, a characteristic surname which had supplanted some other original name.

Βηθεσδά] בֵּית חֶסְדָּא, locus benignitatis, variously written in Codd. (Tisch., following א. 33, Βεθζαθά), not occurring elsewhere, not even in Josephus; not “house of pillars,” as Delitzsch supposes. It is impossible to decide with certainty which of the present pools may have been that of Bethesda.[204] See Robinson, II 136 f., 158 f. To derive the healing virtue of the (according to Eusebius) red-coloured water, which perhaps was mineral, as Eusebius does, from the blood of the sacrifices flowing down from the temple, and the name from אַשָׁדָא, effusio (Calvin, Aretius, Bochart, Michaelis), is unwarranted, and contrary to John 5:7. The five porches served as a shelter for the sick, who are specially described as τυφλῶν, etc., and those afflicted with diseases of the nerves and muscles. On ξηρῶν, “persons with withered and emaciated limbs,” comp. Matthew 12:10; Mark 3:1; Luke 6:6; Luke 6:8. Whether the sick man of John 5:5 was one of them or of the χωλοῖς is not stated.

[204] Probably it was the present ebbing and flowing “Fountain of the Virgin Mary,” an intermittent spring called by the inhabitants “Mother of Steps.” See Robinson, II. 148 f. According to Wieseler, Synopse, p. 260, it may have been the pool Ἀμύγδαλον mentioned in Josephus, Antt. v. 11. 4, as was already supposed by Lampe and several others, against which, however, the difference of name is a difficulty; it has no claim to be received on the ground of etymology, but only of similarity of sound. Ritter, Erdk. XVI. pp. 329, 443 ff., describes the pool as now choked up, while Krafft, in his Topogr. p. 176, thinks it was the Struthion of Josephus. It certainly was not the ditch, now pointed out by tradition as Bethesda, at the north of the temple wall. See also Tobler as before, who doubts the possibility of discovering the pool. As to the meaning of the name (House of Mercy), it is possible that the arrangement for the purposes of a bath together with the porches was intended as a charitable foundation (Olshausen, Ewald), or that the divine favour, whose effects were here manifested, gave rise to the name. This latter is the more probable, and perhaps gave occasion to the legend of the Angel in the Received Text.John 5:2. ἔστι δὲ ἐν τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις. From the use of the present tense Bengel concludes that this was written before the destruction of Jerusalem [“Scripsit Johannes ante vastationem urbis”]. But quite probably John considered the pool one of the permanent features of the city. Its position is more precisely defined in the words ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ, rendered in A.V[53] “by the sheep market” and in R.V[54] “by the sheep gate”. Others read κολυμβήθρᾳ, and render “by the sheep-pool a pool”; Weiss, adopting this reading, supplies οἰκία or some such word: “there is by the sheep-pool a building”. But this does some violence to the sentence; and as the “sheep gate” is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39, the reading, construction, and rendering of R.V[55] are to be preferred.—ἡ ἐπιλεγομένη Ἑβραϊστὶ Βηθεσδά. The pool has recently been identified. M. Clermont Ganneau pointed out that its site should not be far from the church of St. Anne, and in 1888 Herr Shick found in that locality two sister pools, one fifty-five and the other sixty feet long. The former was arched in by five arches, while five corresponding porches ran alongside the pool. By the crusaders a church had been built over this pool, with a crypt framed in imitation of the five porches and with an opening in the floor to get down to the water. That they regarded this pool as that mentioned here is shown by their having represented on the wall of the crypt the angel troubling the water. [Herr Shick’s papers are contained in the Palestine Quarterly, 1888, pp. 115–134, and 1890, p. 19. See also St. Clair’s Buried Cities, Henderson’s Palestine, p. 180.] The pool had five porches. Bovet describes the bath of Ibrahim near Tiberias: “The hall in which the spring is found is surrounded by several porticoes in which we see a multitude of people crowded one upon another, laid on couches or rolled in blankets, with lamentable expressions of misery and suffering”. Here lay πλῆθος τῶν ἀσθενούντων, and these were of three kinds, τυφλῶν, χωλῶν, ξηρῶν.

[53] Authorised Version.

[54] Revised Version.

[55] Revised Version.2. there is at Jerusalem] This is no evidence whatever that the Gospel was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. The pool would still exist, even if the building was destroyed; and such a building, as being of the nature of a hospital, would be likely to be spared. Even if all were destroyed the present tense would be natural here. See on John 11:18.

by the sheep market] There is no ‘market’ in the Greek, and no reason for supposing that it ought to be supplied. The margin is probably right: sheep-gate. We know from Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39 that there was a sheep-gate; so called probably from sheep for sacrifice being sold there. It was near the Temple. The adjective for ‘sheep-’ occurs nowhere else in N.T. but here, and nowhere in O.T. but in the passages in Nehemiah. But so little is known of this gate, and the ellipsis of ‘gate’ is so unparalleled that we cannot regard this explanation as certain. Another translation is possible, with a change of case in the word for pool; Now there is in Jerusalem, by the sheep-pool, a place called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda.

in the Hebrew tongue] ‘Hebrew’ means Aramaic, the language spoken at the time, not the old Hebrew of the Scriptures. See on John 20:16.

Bethesda] ‘House of mercy,’ or possibly ‘House of the Portico,’ or again ‘of the Olive.’ The name Bethesda does not occur elsewhere. The traditional identification with Birket Israil is not commonly advocated now. The ‘Fountain of the Virgin’ is an attractive identification, as the water is intermittent to this day. This fountain is connected with the pool of Siloam, and some think that Siloam is Bethesda. That S. John speaks of Bethesda here and Siloam in John 9:7, is not conclusive against this: for Bethesda might be the name of the building and Siloam of the pool; and the Greek for ‘called’ here is strictly ‘called in addition’ or ‘surnamed,’ as if the place had some other name.

five porches] Or, colonnades. These would be to shelter the sick. The place seems to have been a kind of charitable institution.John 5:2. Ἔστι, there is) John wrote before the destruction of the city. There is, saith he, not there was, a pool. Even then there was remaining with His hearers a recollection of the treasury, a place in the temple: ch. John 8:20, “These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as He taught in the temple.” In agreement with this are those of the ancients, who set down this book as edited 30, 31, or 32 years after the ascension of our Lord.—ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ) Many understand πύλῃ: and indeed ἡ πύλη ἡ προβατική occurs, Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39. But though frequent mention is made in the books of the Old Testament of the gates of Jerusalem, and in Roman history of the gates of Rome, yet nowhere or seldom is the noun πύλη, gate, omitted. Nonnus has ἐν ἐνύδρῳ προβατικῇ, with the penultima lengthened, is equivalent to a substantive. Camerarius understands χώρᾳ, or some such word. So Chrysostom, in B. ii. concerning the Priesthood, ch. iv., § 120, uses τὴν ποιμαντικήν, which we express by Das Pastorat Germ., [the Pastorate]. It is credible, that near the sheep-gate was the pool, equally by itself called from the sheep; for often sheep bathe in a pool: Song of Solomon 4:2, “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep—shorn, which came up from the washing.” Thus κολυμβήθρα ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ, which the Greek Text has [97][98][99][100]. But many MSS. of the Vulgate have probatica piscina, in nomin. and without super; so Æthiop. Version, Euseb. Athanas. Chrysost. also προβατική], the order of the words being elegantly varied, is equivalent to ΚΟΛΥΜΒΉΘΡΑ ΠΡΟΒΑΤΙΚΉ, as the Versions and Fathers explain it. In our language the former would be ein Teich bey der Schaefferey [a pond near a sheep-fold]; the latter, ein Schaf-Teich [a sheep-pond].—κολυμβήθρα, a pool) About baths there is frequently the Θεῖον, something of divine help vouchsafed.—ἙΒΡΑΪΣΤΊ, in the Hebrew tongue) This book, therefore, was not written in Hebrew; otherwise this adverb would be redundant. They were therefore Hellenists,[101] for whose sake John wrote in Greek, and perhaps sent this book from Jerusalem to Asia [Minor]. Comp. ch. John 1:38; John 1:41-42, ch. John 9:7 [in which four passages Greek explanations are given of Hebr. words].—ΣΤΟΆς, porches) built by [i.e. by direction of] the impotent, or on their account, near the pool.

[97] the Alexandrine MS.: in Brit. Museum: fifth century: publ. by Woide, 1786–1819: O. and N. Test. defective.

[98] the Vatican MS., 1209: in Vat. Iibr., Rome: fourth cent.: O. and N. Test. def.

[99] Ephræmi Rescriptus: Royal libr., Paris: fifth or sixth cent.: publ. by Tisch. 1843: O. and N. T. def.

[100] Bezæ, or Cantabrig.: Univ. libr., Cambridge: fifth cent.: publ. by Kipling, 1793: Gospels, Acts, and some Epp. def.

[101] Greek-speaking Jews, who clothed Hebraistic idioms with Greek words.—E. and T.Verse 2. - Now there is in Jerusalem. A phrase denoting intimate acquaintance with the topography of the city, and the present tense suggests either a hint of a ruin yet existing after the fall of Jerusalem, or it may betray the fact that the evangelist wrote down at the very time some details of the incident which formed the occasion of the following discourse, and never, in his later editing of the document, omitted or altered the form of his sentence. At the sheep (market) or (gate) a pool, surnamed in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes or porches. The adjective προβατικῇ requires some substantive to be introduced, and since there is no reference to any sheep market in the Old Testament, little justification can be found for the gloss contained in the Authorized Version. There was a "sheep gate" mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1, 32 and Nehemiah 12:39. There is no reason against this method of supplying the sense, except this, that there is no other instance of the word πύλη, or "gate," being omitted after this fashion. The "sheep gate" stood next. in Nehemiah's recital, to the "fish gate," and it was built by the priests. The old "sheep gate" is now known by the name of St. Stephen's Gate, to the north of the Haram es-Sherif, or temple area from which the path leads down into the valley of the Kedron, and if "gate" be the proper term to add to προβατικη and we have its site fixed by the modern St. Stephen's Gate, then we must look for the pool surnamed Bethesda in that vicinity. Eusebius and Jerome speak of a piscina probatica as visible in their day, but do not determine its site. Robinson ('Bib. Researches,' 1, p. 489) did not accept the identification of the sheep gate with St. Stephen's Gate, and places the former more to the south, and nearer to what is now called the Fountain of the Virgin. This fountain, on Robinson's visit, displayed some curious phenomena of periodical and intermittent ebullition, receiving a supply of water from another source. It was found by Robinson to be connected by a tunnel with the fountain of Siloam, and the relations of these wells have been quite recently submitted to fresh examination ('Palestine Expl. Soc. Rep.,' Oct. 1883). Robinson identified this pool with "Solomon's Pool" of Josephus and "King's Pool" of Nehemiah, and thought it might be the original pool of Bethesda. Neander and Tholuck incline to agree with him. The observations of Robinson have been confirmed by Tobler, and at least show that what certainly happens now in some of these fountains may have been phenomena constantly expected at some other fountain bearing the name now before us, on the northeastern side of the Haram area. Within the (sheep gate) St. Stephen's Gate the traditional site of Bethesda is pointed out. The modern name is Birket lsrael, and this tank, from the accumulation of rubbish, does not now show its original extent; neither does it now hold water, but receives the drainage of neighbouring houses (Colonel Wilson in 'Plot. Palestine,' vol. 1, pp. 66, 106-109). A church, near that of St. Anne, was built by the Crusaders over a well, in this immediate vicinity - a spot which was supposed to be the site of the angelic disturbance. Colonel Wilson prefers this traditional site to that fixed upon by Robinson. So also Sir G. Grove, in Smith's 'Bible Dict.' The five porches, or porticoes, may have been a columnar structure of pentagonal form, which sheltered the sick and the impotent folk. At present no indubitable relic of this building has been discovered. Alford (7th edit.) quotes a letter which makes it probable that Siloam was Bethesda, and the remains of four columns in the east wall of that pool, with four others in the centre, show that a structure with five openings or porches might easily have been erected there. Bethesda, which is said to be the Hebrew (that is, Aramaic) surname of the pool, is very doubtful. Probably this is the correct form of the text, though there are many variants, such as Bethzatha, in א, 33, Tischendorf (8th edit.); Bethsaida, in some versions and Tertullian. It seems generally allowed that its significance (בֵּית חֶסְדָּא) is "house of grace or mercy," and that it derived its reference from the dispensation there of God's providential gifts. The healing virtue of waters charged with iron and carbonic acid and other gas is too well known to need reference, and the remarkable cures derived from their use may account forevery part of the statement which was here written by John. Eusebius speaks of these waters as "reddened," so he thought, with the blood of sacrifices, but tar more probably by chatybeate earth. Sheep-market (τῇ προβατικῇ)

The word is an adjective pertaining to sheep, which requires to be completed with another word, not with ἀγορᾷ, market, but with πύλῆ, gate. This gate was near the temple on the east of the city. See Nehemiah 3:1, Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39. Some editors join the adjective with the following κολυμβήθρα, pool, making the latter word κολυμβήθρᾳ (the dative case), and reading the sheep-pool. Wyc., a standing water of beasts.

Pool (κολυμβήθρα)

In the New Testament only in this chapter and John 9:7, John 9:11. Properly, a pool for swimming, from κολυμβάω, to dive. In Ecclesiastes 2:6 (Sept.) it is used of a reservoir in a garden. The Hebrew word is from the verb to kneel down, and means, therefore, a kneeling-place for cattle or men when drinking. In ecclesiastical language, the baptismal font, and the baptistery itself.

Called (ἐπιλεγομένη)

Strictly, surnamed, the name having perhaps supplanted some earlier name.

Bethesda (βηθεσδὰ)

Commonly interpreted House of Mercy; others House of the Portico. The readings also vary. Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort give βηθζαθά, Bethzatha, House of the Olive. The site cannot be identified with any certainty. Dr. Robinson thinks it may be the Fountain of the Virgin, the upper fountain of Siloam. See Thomson's "Land and Book," "Southern Palestine and Jerusalem," pp. 458-461.

Porches (στοὰς)

Cloisters, covered porticoes.

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