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John5(1)

January 31st, 2018
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The historical setting of the story at the pool of Bethesda (House of Mercy) has been verified.

Until the discovery of the pool with five-roofed colonnades near the Sheep Gate (although everyone was looking for a pentagon shaped pool at first), many did not consider the Gospel of John to be historically reliable.

However, both pools mentioned in the Gospel of John have been identified – the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:2 and the Pool of Siloam in John 9:7.

The pool mentioned in this chapter turned out to have five colonnades (as described in the Gospel), but it was not structured as a pentagon. There were four colonnades separated in the middle by another one, thus forming the five colonnades just as the Gospel described.

John 5:1-3

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.

Jesus is in Jerusalem again. We don’t know which festival. He makes a point to go to a pool where people with diseases and disabilities are waiting for healing.

It is possible that the pool of Bethesda was a Jewish religious ceremonial water cleansing facility, mikvah, associated with the Jerusalem Temple. But there are other interpretive options as well.

One other view is that this structure situated walking distance from the back then walls of the city of Jerusalem was a healing center dedicated to Greco-Roman god of well-being and health – Asclepius.

Devotion to Asclepius was well spread through the lands dominated by Roman Empire. There were more than 400 asclepeions (Asclepius-related facilities throughout empire), functioning as healing centers and dispensers of the god’s grace and mercy towards those in need).

Asclepius was the god of medicine and health in ancient Greek religion. The god’s mythical daughters, for example, included the goddesses Hygeia and Panacea. We can hear in their Greek names our modern words for “hygiene” and “panacea” – key concepts associated today with medicine and health. Snakes were a key attribute of Asclepius’s cult of health and healing. Even today, one of the key symbols of modern medicine is a stick with a snake around it.

If this is correct, it could change our understanding of what is happening here. You see it is possible that the blind, lame, and paralyzed were not waiting for Israel’s God to heal them; but rather for the merciful healing act of Asclepius.

Second century Christian apologist Justin Martyr mentions popular obsession with Asclepius among his contemporaries saying:

When the Devil brings forward Asclepius as the raiser of the dead and healer of all diseases, may I not say that in this matter likewise he has imitated the prophecies about Christ? (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, 69).

In a statement attributed to the second century Jewish Sage Rabbi Akiva we read:

Once Akiva was asked to explain why persons afflicted with disease sometimes returned cured from a pilgrimage to the shrine of an idol, though it was surely powerless. (Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 55a).

Asclepius was also known not only for his healing and life-giving powers, but for this attitude of goodness for the people, which made him one of the most popular divinities in the Greco-Roman world.

Jerusalem was the centre for religious Jews in Jesus’ days, but it was also a headquarters for Hellenized ideals in Judea which was under strict Roman control with the Antonia Fortress dominating the northwestern end of the Temple Mount.

Pool of Bethesda/Asclepion (Jerusalem branch) could have been a part of Hellenization of Jerusalem along with several other important projects such as Roman theatre, Roman sports complex, Roman baths.

It is probably referring to such Hellenization of Jerusalem that Qumranites devotees, authoring their commentary on Prophet Nahum wrote: “Where is the lion’s den, the cave of the young lions? (Nah.2:12b) The interpretation of this concerns Jerusalem, which had become a dwelling for the wicked ones of the Gentiles… (4QpNah).”

In that case, the pool of Bethesda (house of mercy in Hebrew) does not have to be a Jewish site at all, but rather a Greek Asclepion-affiliated facility.

It is interesting to notice that in this particular healing Jesus does not command the one he healed to wash himself in the pool (pool of Bethesda), while he does issue a direct command to go and wash at the pool of Siloam when it comes to the healing of the blind man (John 9:6-7).

This may be due to the pool of Bethesda being a pagan place (Asclepion), while the pool of Siloam was connected with Jerusalem Temple.

In  NIV, ESV, NASB there is no waiting for the waters to be stirred by an angel of the Lord.

But it’s there in the old Authorized King James version.

4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.

Why is it missing? The answer is that it’s not there in the oldest and best manuscripts.

There are thousands of Greek manuscripts or fragments of Greek manuscripts and the way we arrive at our amazingly reliable Greek and Hebrew and English versions is that these texts are compared with each other in painstaking and complex ways so that when some manuscripts have different wording, we can tell almost all the time which is original.

And in the few places where we can’t, there is no significant historical or doctrinal issue at stake.

Here it seems that somewhere along the way, a copyist drew a marginal note of explanation into the actual text. Verse 7 begs for an explanation. It says, “The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.’”

It seems like only a few were healed (or maybe only one), when the water was “stirred up,” and if you were too slow, you missed out.

So verse 4 was an attempt to make sense out of verse 7 where the man says he can’t get to the pool in time.

Since it’s missing from the earliest manuscripts and has other marks of being added later, the more recent versions omit it so that we have a version that is as close to the original as possible. How the pool worked is not essential to the story.

The fact that Jesus worked is essential to the story.

John5:5-14

5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Read more…

Message for the Day

Introduction to John5

January 30th, 2018
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A new series on John Chapter 5.

In Chapter 4 Jesus was in Jerusalem, then Samaria and returned to Galilee.

In Chapter 5

In first section: Jesus is in Jerusalem again, and he makes a point to go to the pool of Bethesda: where people with diseases and disabilities wait for the troubling of the waters, because it is believed that healings happen in this pool. Jesus walks in among this crowd of people.

Next Section: Jesus gives his first major public teaching, a keynote address (5:19-30), which is followed by a series of confirming witnesses (5:31-40) to him. His relationship to his Father is at the centre of this.

The chapter concludes with Jesus’ condemning accusation against his opponents (5:41-47).

The conflict that starts at that point will continue throughout John as the light continues to shine in the darkness and the darkness fails to grasp it.

So it is a pivotal chapter – a turning point.

Some questions to reflect on in John5:

Why did Jesus ask “Do you want to get well or be healed?’

Why would Jesus do this unnecessary healing on the Sabbath day, thus provoking the Jewish temple leadership?

Why did Jesus say stop sinning?

What is the meaning of the Father and Son working on the Sabbath?

Who does Jesus claim he is?

What is important about understanding ‘‘I do not accept glory from human beings” in having true belief in Jesus?

These are some of the issues that come up in John 5 which we will explore over time.

Message for the Day

A good Bible resource

January 16th, 2018
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A very helpful free resource is found at the Bible Project.Their statement says:

The Bible Project creates videos that show the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus. The Bible is literary genius and has divine wisdom for the modern world.

To view their introduction and to see their video list click on https://www.youtube.com/user/jointhebibleproject

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