In these lay a great multitude of weak folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)In these lay a great multitude.—The word “great” before multitude, and the latter clause of the verse “waiting for the moving of the water,” and the whole of John 5:4, is omitted by most of the oldest MSS., including the Sinaitic and the Vatican, and is judged to be no part of the original text by a consensus of modern editors, including Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, and Westcott and Hort. It is interesting to note how a gloss like this has found its way into the narrative, and, for ninety-nine out of every hundred readers, is now regarded as an integral part of St. John’s Gospel. We meet with it very early. It is found in the Alexandrian MS., and in the Latin and early Syrian versions. Tertullian refers to it. This points to a wide acceptance from the second century downwards, and points doubtless to the popular interpretation of that day. It explains the man’s own view in John 5:7, and the fact of the multitude assembled round the pool (John 5:3). The bubbling water moving as it were with life, and in its healing power seeming to convey new energy to blind and halt and lame, was to them as the presence of a living messenger of God. They knew not its constituent elements, and could not trace the law of its action, but they knew the Source of all good, who gave intellect to man and healing influence to matter, effect to the remedy and skill to the physician, and they accepted the gift as direct from Him. Scientists of the present century will smile at these Christians of the second century. The Biblical critic is glad that he can remove these words from the record, and cannot be called upon to explain them. But it may be fairly asked, which is most truly scientific—to grasp the Ultimate Cause of all, even without the knowledge of intermediate links; or to trace these links, and express them in so-called laws, and make these abstract laws lifeless representatives of the living God? There is a via media which, here as elsewhere, wisdom will seek rather than either extreme. All true theology must be, in the best sense, scientific; and all true science must be, in the best sense, religious.
Halt - Lame.
Withered - Those who were afflicted with one form of the palsy that withered or dried up the part affected. See the notes at Matthew 4:24.
Moving of the water - It appears that this pool had medicinal properties only when it was "agitated" or "stirred." It is probable that at regular times or intervals the fountain put forth an unusual quantity of water, or water of special properties, and that "about" these times the people assembled in multitudes who were to be healed.
of blind; these also may represent men a state of nature, who are ignorant of, and blind to everything that is spiritual; as to the true knowledge of God in Christ, the way of salvation by him, the plague of their own hearts, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin; to the Spirit of God, and his work upon the soul; and to the truths of the Gospel, in the power of them:
halt, or "lame"; this word sometimes is used of persons in suspense about religious things, hesitating concerning them, halting between two opinions; and sometimes designs the infirmities of the saints, and their faulterings in religious exercises; and here maybe expressive in a figurative way, of the incapacity natural men, to go or walk of themselves; as to come to Christ for grace and life, which no man can do, except the Father draw him; or to walk by faith in him: it is added,
withered; one limb or another of them dried up: their arms or legs were withered, and their sinews shrunk, and were without radical moisture, or the free use of the animal spirits; and may point out carnal persons, such as are sensual, not having the Spirit, destitute of the grace of God, without faith, hope, love, knowledge, and the fear of God; without God, Christ, and the Spirit; and in a lifeless, helpless, hopeless, and perishing condition:
waiting for the moving of the water; hereafter mentioned: and so it is in providence, and a wonderful thing it is, that the hearts of so many unregenerate persons should be inclined to attend upon the outward means of grace, and should be waiting at Wisdom's gates, and watching at the posts of her door.In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 5:3. ἐκδεχομένων … νοσήματι. See critical note.3. lay a great multitude] Better, were lying a multitude.
blind, halt, withered] These are the special kinds of ‘impotent folk.’
waiting for the moving of the water] These words and the whole of John 5:4 are almost certainly an interpolation, though a very ancient one. They are omitted by the best MSS. Other important MSS. omit John 5:4 or mark it as suspicious. Moreover, those MSS. which contain the passage vary very much. The passage is one more likely to be inserted without authority than to be omitted if genuine; and very probably it represents the popular belief with regard to the intermittent bubbling of the healing water, first added as a gloss, and then inserted into the text. The water was probably mineral in its elements, and the people may or may not have been right in supposing that it was most efficacious when the spring was most violent.John 5:3. Κατέκειτο, lay) Therefore many were there during the whole time: such at least was the case with this impotent man whom the Lord healed; for he had no one [to put him in], John 5:7.—ΚΊΝΗΣΙΝ, the moving) by which the mud was stirred up.
 Of their infirmity.—E. and T.Verses 3, 4. - In these (porches) lay a multitude of sick folk, blind, lame, withered, [waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel went down season by season into the pool, and troubled the waters: he then that first stepped in after the troubling of the water became whole of whatsoever disease he had]. The interesting gloss discussed below conveys the idea of magical cure, without moral significance, and attributes such cure to angelic ministry. This is the natural and popular explanation of the Bethesda healings, and would easily occur to a copyist who has not taken pains to use New Testament diction. Wunsche quotes from 'Chullin,' fol. 105, b, a testimony that "deadly qualities of water were attributed to demons, and healing ones to the angels." The crowds which gather in all countries round medicinal and intermittent springs are still unable to explain their curative quality by scientific analogies; and there is nothing more likely to have suggested itself to the mind of a copyist than the intervention of an angel. The absence from Scripture elsewhere of non-moral miracles is powerful internal reason for the lack of authenticity for the poetic gloss. The text. when deprived of this dubious gloss, loses all character that is inconsistent with the authenticity of the narrative. The close of ver. 3, "waiting for the moving of the waters," is far better attested than ver. 4, and, moreover, is consistent with John's manner, and with well ascertained matters of fact; and the clause would give authentic ground for the gloss that fellows. Hoffmann and Hengstenberg defend the passage, and believe that the angel at "the waters" in the Apocalypse betrays the same hand. But there can be no fair comparison between an historical fact and a symbolical figure.
The best texts omit great.
Rev., sick. Yet the A.V. gives the literal meaning, people without strength. Wyc., languishing.
Literally, dry. So Wyc. The following words, to the end of John 5:4, are omitted by the best texts.
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