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Recently while reading John 5 with my wife's family, we had a discussion about whether the pool of Bethesda really had healing powers. Some said the story is written as if the pool really could heal:

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (John 5:4)

Others said that perhaps John was just telling a story and the supposed healing powers of the pool made for great juxtaposition.

I have a hard time believing a spring could have healing powers, and especially only after an angel made some ripples. But I guess some people still believe in healing mineral springs.

Did the pool of Bethesda really have healing powers?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Mr. Bultitude, curiousdannii, fredsbend, JustinY, bruised reed Feb 27 '15 at 0:47

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Why is it harder to believe that a pool had healing powers after an angel stirred them? :S – RCIX Sep 5 '11 at 16:50
Good point. I believe in angels, but I think it just makes the story that more exotic. Are there any other indications in the Bible that angels can heal? – user23 Sep 5 '11 at 16:54
Apparently so -- there's a whole angel dedicated just to healing. :) – RCIX Sep 5 '11 at 17:03
@RCIX Just one? Out of legions upon legions? No wonder my back still hurts. – fredsbend Feb 26 '15 at 18:16
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I don't believe there is such a thing as a "perfect" translation of scripture, but there is an interesting thing to note about the verse you mention. One of the English translations I personally trust the most is the ESV. If you try to look this verse up in an ESV Bible you will find that it skips from verse 3 to 5.

Wait, what!?!

According to their footnote and the Study Bible commentary there is a significant problem with the manuscripts for this passage in that the phrase in question is not found in the earliest known manuscripts. The translators made the following judgement call:

The statement in the ESV footnote about an angel of the Lord stirring the water and the first person who stepped in being healed is found in some early manuscripts, but not the earliest. Therefore the omitted verse 4 should not be considered part of Scripture, although v.7 (which is in all manuscripts) shows that people believed something like what this statement reports.

I do not know much about this particular passage of scripture, but I think it's reasonable to interpret the whole business with the pool to be a folk tradition rather than a valid source of magic healing. I do not know of any recorded evidence of specific/significant/verifiable miracles stemming from the pool, although I don't know that we can rule out the possibility just on principle.

I believe it is important to note that in all cases of healing, the healing stems from God and the focus of our attention should always be on Him rather than whaver medium He chose to use to reveal that healing. One example of this can be seen here:

Matthew 9:20-22 (ESV)
20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly1 the woman was made well.

I think the important thing to note about this passage is that it was not Jesus garment that provided healing, but Jesus power to heal that He chose to bestow upon the woman on account of her faith in Him (not in His garment).

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+1 for exegetics. I'd still like to eventually see more in-depth analysis (but maybe that's Biblical Hermeneutics.SE). – dancek Aug 27 '11 at 17:51
The reasons why those verses are omitted in most modern translations has more to do with the critical decisions of Westcott/Hort in their Greek compilation. This text is found in manuscripts as early as the third century (not textus receptus manuscript), and I think they are necessary to give verse John 5:7 any sense. – dleyva3 Aug 28 '11 at 8:54

The Bible is ever clear in the scripture of John 5:1-9 vs 4 says that an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water .That whosoever stepped in was made whole.God is God and he can send whom he will or wish to carry out his mission for him .But it is God the has the Power to manifest into whom he desires.So yes God can use angels to heal.It was the woman's FAITH .that she knew If she could have just touched the helm of Jesus' garment she would be heald.It was the healing power in Jesus that made her whole along with her faith

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The pool(or pools as there were in fact two) were Roman Pagan pools one dedicated to Fortuna the goddess of fortune and the other to Asclepius god of healing. The text suggests that the Miracle Jesus performed was in the face of this cult idea of these pagan pools being divine. The healing He brings is instant and needed no personal endeavor.

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Do you have a reference for this? – Bruce Alderman Jan 2 '15 at 17:53
Yes, we need some references about the pools and who they were dedicated to. The rest is fine. – fredsbend Jan 2 '15 at 18:42
Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Please see What this site is about and How this site is different to help you learn how the site works. Also see the help center and take the tour to learn the site functions. I hope to see you post again soon. – fredsbend Jan 2 '15 at 18:43

There is another example in Scripture of someone who was healed by just dipping into water. It is the story of Naaman the leper, in the Old Testament. 2 Kings 5:14 - describes how Naaman immerses himself as per Elisha's instructions in the Jordan River and was made whole. The point of the story is not so much the river, but God's love for a foreigner and faith in the message of the prophet Elisha. I have heard another interpretation of the Bethesda healing. In Jungian psychology water represents the unconscious. The story of the man healed by entering the water can be seen as an invitation about letting God heal our inner selves, that part of ourselves that we don't know, don't like, that is wounded and broken.

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Welcome to the site. We are happy to have you here. This is a decent answer for the question, but these days we have much stricter rules on answers and questions. This question would be "put on hold" if it were posted today. Please see the tour and help center pages and also Newcomers: Be patient. You will get there if you follow our direction. Keep trying and the posts linked there. I hope to see you more. – fredsbend Aug 14 '13 at 18:48

Did the pool of Bethesda have healing powers?

John 5:4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

There is often confusion about cause and effect. For example, the Jews were supposed to have faith in their God and follow the law. Instead many (in particular the Pharisees) came to think that they were saved because they kept the law.

In regard to healing we find that Jesus often declares that it was faith that caused the healing.

Matthew 9:21-22 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.

It is natural for people to see the garment, pool, or some object as the cause of their healing.

Acts 5:15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.

The timing of the healing people received may have been related to when the waters were stirred, but the healing itself would have been from God through faith.

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Actually, there could be a scientific explanation to this. When there is elemental magnesium present, which there normally is in a natural spring, when the water is stirred, the magnesium reacts with the water molecules and is able to split them up to create diatomic hydrogen, or molecular hydrogen, which is essentially 2 hydrogen atoms bonded together. This molecule is extremely therapeutic and in large amounts like it would be right after it was stirred could have a miraculous healing effect.

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Welcome to the site. Generally, we don't consider ourselves scientists and when we see scientific claims on the site, we greatly encourage scientific sourcing. So We recommend that you edit in a source or two that can back up your claim. Other than that, we're happy to have you here. I hope to see you post again soon. – fredsbend Feb 26 '15 at 18:07