The Gospel of John describes such a pool in Jerusalem, while the actual location and pool is argued among scholars, the Bethesda Pool was discovered in the 19th century fitting the description in John’s Gospel, and also recently the Pool of Siloam was discovered in 2005. This second pool is also mentioned in the Gospel of John, and is where Jesus healed the blind man. The Siloam Pool has been accurately identified as a mikveh, or ritual pool, and it appears by most scholars that the Bethesda Pool was also a mikveh.
The name of the pool in Hebrew language, beth hesda, means either house of mercy or house of grace however the word could also mean ‘shame, disgrace’ due to a double meaning in the Hebrew language. This dual meaning may have been given intentionally since the location was seen both as a place of disgrace due to invalids and sick being in the site, and a place of grace, because of miracles and healing. The Pool of Bethesda has been an area of controversy, and according to the Gospel of John, Bethesda was a swimming bath with five porticos, which many believed was only a literary creation, however the archaeological discovery proved beyond doubt that the description of the Gospel was not a creation, and instead an accurate description of the location near the Sheep Gate, and details of the five porticos pool, with rushing water. All the details uncovered of the pool were corroborated through literary and archaeological evidence affirming the historical accuracy of the Gospel of John.
John the Apostle describes the porticos as a place that large groups of infirm people came for cures. The biblical Gospel continues by describing a Shabbat visit to the pool by Jesus, this is when he heals a bedridden man who could not make it into the pool in time while the water stirred up, so Jesus instead cures him immediately, and he is able to get up and walk. Jesus demonstrates that it is not the pool or the stirring water that heals, instead in is Jesus himself who heals.
The Gospel story of Jesus in Bethesda also describes how many people made pilgrimages to the healing pools. It was believed that the first person whom entered the waters when the water stirred would be healed, and the man whom Jesus healed would never make it in to the waters in time. This is when Jesus immediately heals the man. The story also gives in insight that the pools had a long history of healing, including after with Roman medicinal baths constructed centuries after the miracle of Jesus. After when Christians governed Jerusalem during the Byzantine era, St. Anne Church was constructed to commemorate the site of the miracle, which now covers the Bethsda Pool complex.
The site of Bethsda Pool is also believed to be the location of the grotto where Saint Mary mother of Jesus was born. You’ll visit this special place on day 7 of our Holy Land Christian tour in Jerusalem.