ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE-
THE POOL OF BETHESDA
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. – John 5:1–9
The Apostle John wrote about the existence of a pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–9) and said that it was located in the region of Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, surrounded by five colonnades. For many years, some have argued that no such place exists outside of John’s gospel. This might support an argument that John’s gospel was written late in history by someone who was unfamiliar with the features of the city. In 1888, however, archaeologists began excavating the area near St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem and discovered the remains of the pool, complete with steps leading down from one side and five shallow porticoes on another side. In addition, the twentieth-century discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls also provided us with ancient confirmation of the pool’s existence. The COPPER SCROLL (written between AD 25 and AD 68) described a list of locations in Jerusalem that included a pool called “Beth Eshdathayin” located near a porch. The claims of a first-century gospel writer are corroborated by archaeology!