After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
Bethesda, (house of mercy, or the flowing water), the Hebrew name of a reservoir or tank, with five “porches,” close upon the sheep-gate or “market” in Jerusalem. (John 5:2) The largest reservoir - Birket Israil - 360 feet long, 120 feet wide and 80 feet deep, within the walls of the city, close by St. Stephen’s Gate, and under the northeast wall of the Haram area, is generally considered to be the modern representative of Bethesda. Robinson, however, suggests that the ancient Bethesda is identical with what is now called the Pool of the Virgin, an intermittent pool, south of Birket Israil and north of the pool of Siloam.
“Bethesda,” A Dictionary of the Bible, paragraph 1163.
The discovery, a few years ago, of the long-lost Piscina in the neighborhood of the “Church of Anne,” which was without doubt the Pool of Bethesda of the 5th century AD, has caused this identification to be abandoned.
“Jerusalem,” ISBE, paragraph 30895.
Tradition has varied concerning the site. In the 4th century, and probably down to the Crusades, a pool was pointed out as the true site, a little to the N.W. of the present Stephen’s Gate; it was part of a twin pool and over it were erected at two successive periods two Christian churches. Later on this site was entirely lost and from the 13th century the great Birket Israel, just N. of the Temple area, was pointed out as the site.
After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 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. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
John 5:1–16 KJV
Within the last quarter of a century, however, the older traditional site, now close to the Church of Anne, has been rediscovered, excavated and popularly accepted. This pool is a rock-cut, rain-filled cistern, 55 ft. long X 12 ft. broad, and is approached by a steep and winding flight of steps. The floor of the rediscovered early Christian church roofs over the pool, being supported upon five arches in commemoration of the five porches. At the western end of the church, where probably the font was situated, there was a fresco, now much defaced and fast fading, representing the angel troubling the waters.
A MORE PROBABLE SITE
Although public opinion supports this site, there is much to be said for the proposal, promulgated by Robinson and supported by Conder and other good authorities, that the pool was at the “Virgin’s Fount” (see GIHON), which is today an intermittent spring whose “troubled” waters are still visited by Jews for purposes of cure. As the only source of “living water” near Jerusalem, it is a likely spot for there to have been a “sheep pool” or “sheep place” for the vast flocks of sheep coming to Jerusalem in connection with the temple ritual. See BW, XXV, 80 ff.
“Bethesda,” ISBE, paragraph 8589, 8591.