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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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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? –  JustinY Sep 5 '11 at 16:54
    
Apparently so -- there's a whole angel dedicated just to healing. :) –  RCIX Sep 5 '11 at 17:03

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 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
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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

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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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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