On the Gospel of John, Part 14: True Signs and Wonders

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On the Gospel of John, Part 14: True Signs and Wonders

In the first two presentations on our commentary on John chapter 4, we had spoken at length about the Samaritan woman, who was certainly a daughter of a remnant of the children of Israel which had escaped destruction or captivity at the hands of the Assyrians, and which had remained in Samaria throughout the seven centuries up to the time of Christ. It is quite possible that her and her kinfolk ultimately became Christians and could have remained in and around Samaria even until after the time that the Muslim hordes invaded and destroyed the Byzantine Christian culture of Palestine in the 7th century AD. However Shechem, and ostensibly, Sychar along with it, was destroyed by the Romans during the Judaean rebellion of 65-70 AD, and in 72 AD Vespasian founded a new city at the site, called after himself, Flavia Neapolis.

We hope to have illustrated how the encounter of Christ with this woman was a sort of parable representative of the ultimate reconciliation of the so-called “lost sheep” of the Northern Kingdom with Yahweh their God, which is indeed the very purpose and need for a Messiah in the first place. We then made several comparisons of aspects of this encounter with that of the later encounter which Christ had with the Canaanite woman, and by that we hope to have illustrated an example of the racial covenant aspect of the New Testament, where one woman had sought and received an earthly blessing but she was nevertheless excluded from communion, while the other woman being an Israelite had sought no blessing yet it was shown that she was fit for eternal life – in spite of the fact that she was apparently even a sinner.

After the discussion between Yahshua Christ and Nicodemus, there was the testimony of John the Baptist as Yahshua was with His disciples when they were baptizing people by the river in Judaea. Thereafter they departed for Galilee, a journey of well over 70 miles, and had stopped at Sychar to rest as they traveled through Samaria on foot. Ostensibly, Sychar would not be their only stop, but it would be the only one which John mentions as he proceeds with his account of these events.

It is difficult to attempt to correlate any of these events with the synoptic gospels. In both Matthew and Luke, after the temptation in the wilderness, Christ is depicted as returning to Galilee where He called the disciples to Himself. Here in John chapter 1 we have learned that He already knew those disciples, and had already spent considerable time with them, as they knew with some degree of certainty that He was the Messiah. The famous Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew and Luke had probably not yet occurred by this time. This is because here we see Christ healing the child of an officer of the king, and John explicitly states that this is the second miracle which Christ had performed in Galilee. Yet after the Sermon on the Mount, which was also in Galilee, Christ healed the servant of a centurion, an act which must have happened at a later time since we must accept the fact that John’s words here are true. Now if this is correct, there is a significant amount of time between the temptation in the wilderness recorded in Luke chapter 4 and Matthew chapter 4, and the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Luke chapter 5 and Matthew chapter 5.

Out of curiosity, I had checked A Harmony of the Gospels, by A. T. Robertson, regarding this particular incident which John is about to describe. There he places this event in order after Matthew chapter 9, which is impossible since John said of this event of which we are about to read that “This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.” But there have been troubles with any and all attempts to harmonize the gospels ever since Tatian first tried, in his 2nd-century AD Diatessaron, a work which we know only through relatively late copies.

The commentator Matthew Henry more accurately places this account here at the end of John chapter 4 with the words in the gospel of Matthew in chapter 4 where it says “23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” That view is much more accurate, but it is still not a perfect correlation.

With that, we shall proceed with John chapter 4, at the point where Yahshua Christ had departed from Sychar in Samaria:

45 Therefore when [א and D have “when”] He came into Galilaia, the Galilaians all welcomed Him, who had seen how many things [א, D and the MT have “who had seen the things which”; the text follows P66, P75, A, B, C and 086] He had done in Jerusalem at the feast, for they also had come to the feast.

The feast mentioned here is the Passover which was mentioned by John at the end of chapter 2 of his gospel, for which reason Christ had gone to Jerusalem in the first place. The next feast which is mentioned shall be in the opening verse of John chapter 5, where Christ returns again to Jerusalem, and again in John 6:4 we see that another Passover is mentioned, and then a Feast of Tabernacles at the beginning of John chapter 7.

Here is what makes it difficult to harmonize the gospel accounts: each of them are very incomplete, and none of them were ever really meant to be a synchronistically and perfectly ordered record of every event in the ministry of Christ. For example, the law commands that every Israelite attend the temple in Jerusalem three times each year, and Christ evidently kept the law, but few of those occasions are recorded in any of the gospel accounts, although John had recorded more of them than any of the others. This law is found in both Exodus chapter 23 and in Deuteronomy chapter 16 where it says “16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty.”

In the Book of Acts, shortly after the Resurrection and Ascension, the disciples of Christ are gathered for Pentecost, which is the “feast of weeks”, in Jerusalem with other Judaeans from all over the Roman world. Later, Paul is portrayed as going to Jerusalem for Pentecost on one occasion, and it is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians. So we see that they kept that law. But Pentecost is never explicitly mentioned in the Gospels, and the feast of tabernacles is only mentioned once in John chapter 7. Relating to the ministry of Christ, the synoptic gospels mention only one Passover, the final one before the Crucifixion, while John, in his gospel, mentions at least three. We see that they kept that law, as the apostles are recorded as having asked Christ of that one Passover, where it was that they would keep the Passover.

We must also understand that since Christ was obliged to keep every point of the law during His earthly lifetime, that He must have kept the law of Deuteronomy 16:16, and therefore He must have attended the temple in Jerusalem for every one of the three feasts each year. So the fact that so many feasts, and ostensibly, so many journeys to Jerusalem were not mentioned, reminds us of how incomplete the Gospel accounts are, and how each of them really only contains a record of certain significant events which happened during the life and ministry of Christ.

46 Then He [A and the MT have “Yahshua”; the text follows P66, P75, א, B, C, D and 086] went again to Kana of Galilaia, where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain officer of the king whose son in Kapharnaoum was sick.

In the King James Version, the word βασιλικός (Strong’s # 937) is nobleman, where we have officer of the king. The word is an adjective meaning kingly or royal, but here it is a Substantive, acting as a noun, and for such instances Liddell & Scott define it in part to mean “of or belonging to a king” and offer an example for the plural: “οἱ βασιλικοὶ, the king's friends or officers”. Rather than βασιλικός, the Codex Bezae (D) has the diminutive βασιλίσκος, which is a little king, a princelet or chieftain, according to Liddell & Scott, where we would imagine that to be a scribal error. The word in the Latin Vulgate here is regulus, or royal official, but it would not describe a member of the local Roman government, since that would be a subordinate of the procurator or prefect of the province, who in this case was Pontius Pilate.

Just who this official had been employed by is difficult to say. This event occurs around 29 or 30 AD, at a time when Judaea itself had no king. The first Herod was the last king, and he died shortly after the birth of Christ, probably in 2BC. After he died, and because of the problems with his son and successor Herod Archelaus, the province was divided into tetrarchies and several of his other sons were appointed to govern each of them under the supervision of a Roman official. The next king was Herod Agrippa I, who was nominated for the title by the emperor Claudius in 41 AD, and he ruled as king over all the lands held by the first Herod until he died in 44 AD, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 12. His son, Herod Agrippa II, also held the title, and he is the Agrippa mentioned in the later chapters of Acts. But the family of Herod – regardless of the fact that they were Edomites – was nevertheless considered to be a royal family by the people of Judaea, so perhaps this individual was a friend, but more likely a servant or officer of Herod Antipas, who is also called Herod the Tetrarch, who ruled Galilee under the Romans from shortly after the death of the first Herod until his own death in 39 AD. Herod Antipas and his brother Philip, who was Tetrarch of Batanaea until his own death in 34 AD, were brothers by the same mother, and Herod Agrippa I was their half-brother by a different mother, and all three were sons of the first Herod. So we are persuaded that this official was most likely an officer subordinate to Herod Antipas, who was the Herod who appears in the accounts of the trials and crucifixion of Christ.

47 He hearing that Yahshua had come from Judaea into Galilaia had gone after Him [P75 wants “after Him”; א has “therefore came to Him”; C “came to Him”] and requested [A and the MT insert αὐτόν, where we would read “asked Him”; the text follows P66, P75, א, B, C, D and 086] that He would come down and heal his son, for he was about to die.

While it is only mere conjecture, perhaps this man, if he were indeed an officer of Herod Antipas, knew that Yahshua was in Cana because they were already keeping a watch on His activities. But in spite of the fact that he was employed as an official of the local government, this man must have somehow been persuaded that Yahshua was a man of God, and that He could indeed help his son. Judaea had suffered many insurrections in the first century, and several of them were described by Flavius Josephus, so it is plausible to imagine that the government was concerned every time a teacher or leader began to amass disciples. One major insurrection just a few decades earlier was led by another Galilean named Judas, who began as a tax protester.

The capital seat of Galilee under Antipas was Tiberias, a city which he had built on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and Cana was in the hill country not quite 12 miles to the west. But if the man came from Capernaum, which is even more likely according to the narrative in the text, that is on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee and just a little over 16 miles from Cana. Christ had already spent some time in Capernaum, as it is described in John chapter 2, and this man may have learned of Him then. There is no record of Christ ever having preached in Tiberias, although later, in chapter 6, it is evident that Christ may have passed through that city in order to sail to Capernaum.

Now He responds to this official:

48 Therefore Yahshua said to him: “Unless you could see signs and wonders, you would not believe!”

Here I have recently corrected the mood of verb in the final clause of this verse, which was not rendered properly in the original translation.

The verbs for see and believe here are both in the 2nd person plural, and therefore Yahshua seems to be speaking generally to the people of Galilee, and not specifically to this one man. This also seems to be a reproach, rather than a fulfillment of any specific prophecy. For instance, in Matthew chapter 24, Christ had warned “24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

Later in His ministry, as it is recorded in Mark chapter 8, certain of the Pharisees sought a sign from Him that they could believe: “11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign?” So signs and wonders by themselves are not a reason to believe, and they are not necessary component to the Faith. But the people looking for proof that they should believe in something, seek to see signs and wonders, by which they may indeed be deceived.

On the other hand, the ancient children of Israel who were brought out of Egypt in the Exodus saw signs and wonders from Yahweh, but they still did not believe, as we read from Jeremiah chapter 32, where in a prayer the prophet says that Yahweh had: “21 … brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror; 22 And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23 And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them”. If they had truly believed in the signs and wonders which they had seen, then they should also have obeyed the God who showed them those things.

Yet each of these examples serve to show us that signs and wonders by themselves are nothing. So from Isaiah chapter 8 we may see what signs and wonders matter most: “16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion. 19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

So here we may see that in a Messianic context, that Christ Himself and the children who were faithful to Him were for signs and wonders; that those who keep the Word of God and speak according to His Word, they are for signs and wonders; that the children of Israel who demonstrated their faith in God when they believed Christ, they are indeed the only signs and wonders which we should need as validation for our faith. Actually acting in accordance with one’s faith is more important than any empty profession. Thus we see here:

49 The officer of the king says to Him: “Master, You must come down, before my child dies!” 50 Yahshua says to him: “You go [or ‘You must go’, as the verb is imperative], your son lives!” The man [A. C and the MT have “And the man”; the text follows P66, P75, א, B, and D] trusted in [or “believed in”, πιστεύω, Strong’s # 4100] the word which Yahshua spoke to him [P75 wants “to him”] and he went.

Once again, the Codex Bezae (D) here has the diminutive βασιλίσκος rather than βασιλικός, which is consistent with the reading of that manuscript at verse 46.

Here John himself observed that not only did the man know through faith that Christ could heal his child, but as soon as Christ had told him that his child was healed he also believed through faith that the child had in fact been healed. The man acted according to that belief by leaving without further question. So for that he had been rewarded, although he remained curious. In the verses which follow, that curiosity is demonstrated, and John writes this account as if he had witnessed it, but he could not have been present to do so as he would had to have traveled back to Capernaum along with the man. Therefore he must have had contact with the man again at a point later in time, in order to learn of this event. So he wrote of the man’s return home:

51 And already going down his servants [א and D have “the servants”; the text follows P66, P75, A, B, C and the MT] met with him saying [in place of "saying", א has “and reported that”; D “and reported to him that”; P66, A, C and the MT “and announced saying that”; the text follows P75 and B] that his child [D has “your son”; the MT “your child”; the text follows P66, P75, א, A, B and C] lives.

The phrase “going down” refers to the travel of the man from Cana to Capernaum. While Capernaum was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Cana was in the hill country to the west. The Greeks often used phrases such as “going up” or “going down” to describe travel from or to the sea, but especially in reference to the Mediterranean Sea.

52 Therefore he inquired about the [P75 and B have “that”; the text follows P66, א, A, C, D, and the MT which varies in word order] hour from them, in which he had gotten better. So [P66 and T want “so”; א, A, D and the MT have “and”; the text follows P75, B and C] they said to him that “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever had left him”.

The seventh hour would have been around 2 PM, and so we see that the man could not get home to Capernaum that same day on which he had approached Yahshua, the journey being at least 16 miles. So he saw his servants the next day, who came out to meet him before he could see his son, and they told him that the child had been healed the day before, while the man was still in Cana with Yahshua. The man wanted to verify that the son was healed at the time when Yahshua told him he was healed, and here we see that he did indeed get that verification:

53 Then the [P66, C and T have “his”] father knew, because it was at that hour in which Yahshua [א has “He”] said to him “Your son lives!” And he himself believed, and his whole household.

The children of Israel were expecting a Messiah, and understood that the Messiah would be a healer. This we may read in Isaiah chapter 57: “15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. 16 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. 17 For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. 18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. 19 I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.” This very passage was cited by Paul of Tarsus in his epistle to the Ephesians, in reference to Christ where he wrote: “16 … that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” Paul was contrasting scattered Israelites with those Israelites under the law in Judaea.

Likewise we read in Jeremiah chapter 17: “13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters. 14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise. 15 Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.”

Of course John has already informed us that Yahshua Christ is that Word made flesh. But the healing miracles which Christ had performed were not the full objective of these prophecies. Rather, the healing miracles were only a sign of assurance, that these prophecies would have their ultimate fulfillment in Him. For this, the people which were given to Him, meaning those of the true children of Israel who remained and who were faithful, were for signs and wonders, and that is why those who need healing were healed.

So we read in Jeremiah chapter 30 of come healing within that broader scope: “11 For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished. 12 For thus saith the LORD, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous. 13 There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines. 14 All thy lovers [the false gods of the other nations] have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased. 15 Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee. 16 Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. 17 For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.” Of course, no man sought after Israel in captivity, as that is also the promise and purpose of the Messiah, Yahshua Christ: that He would gather His sheep for Himself, which He would commence to do by His Gospel.

Now John informs us with a conclusion in reference to the healing of the officer’s child:

54 Now [א, A, D, 078 and the MT want “now”; the text follows P66, P75, B, C and T] this again is the second sign Yahshua made having come from Judaea into Galilaia.

This is not necessarily the second sign which Yahshua made, but the second sign which He made in Galilee, after coming from Judaea.

John uses language that merely attributes the signs to Yahshua, where he wrote of a “sign Yahshua made”, but the making of a sign does not suggest that Yahshua had actually performed anything. Rather, He only spoke the phrase “You go, your son lives!” The words alone were enough to make the sign, to announce that the request would be granted. Today in denominational churches we see so-called healers who employ all sorts of theatrics in accompaniment with their supposed miracles. Actors like Benny Hinn wave their arms in the air or point in an exaggerated, over-animated manner, and their intended subjects faint or suddenly fall to the ground. There is none of that in the miracles of Christ which are described in the Gospel.

When He made His first sign in Galilee, in John chapter 2, He did even less than that, where turning the water to wine He only said to the servants “7 ... fill the urns with water”, then once they did that He said “8 … Now draw and bring it to the table-master.” The servants did as He had asked, and by the time they brought the urns to the master of the feast, the water was somehow changed into wine. The miracles of Christ were not performed with pomp, ceremony, or theatrical performance.

This may be compared to one of the few mistakes which were made by Moses, the great leader of the Exodus, which was also theatrical in nature. Yahweh did not really punish Moses when he had come down from Sinai, saw the idolatry of the golden calf, and smashed the tablets of the law in anger, and Yahweh even made new tablets (Exodus 32, 34). But for his theatrics at the rock in the desert of Zin, Yahweh did punish him. In Numbers chapter 20 we read: “7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.”

Earlier, at the rock of Horeb as it is recorded in Exodus chapter 17, Moses was told to smite the rock and water would come out. Here, Moses was evidently being tested. He was told to take his rod, but he was not told to smite the rock. So we read a little further on in Numbers chapter 20: “10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.” Then, after Moses improvised in this manner, taking the credit for himself, we read: “12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” In that instance, evidently Moses did not believe Yahweh, because he did not do exactly as he was told. He smote the rock twice, when he was not told to smite it, and for his theatrics he was barred the final glory of bringing the children of Israel into the promised land. Yahweh was not sanctified by the action of Moses, perhaps because when Moses smote the rock twice, he appeared to be making the water come forth, taking the glory for himself rather than allowing the people to realize that it came from God.

So the contrary example is that Yahshua Christ, by merely speaking a word, makes it evident that the glory belongs to Yahweh the Father, the author of the deed. When men add theatrics, flailing arms and pointing hands, thrashing and screaming, they pretend to glorify themselves. Of course, most of the so-called healers in the modern churches are pretenders, but the faithful would not be deceived by signs and wonders if only they abode by the Word of God. It is the acts of faith by the children of God by their obedience to the word of God which are the true signs and wonders in this evil age.

For this same purpose, we read in the opening verses of Hosea chapter 6: “1 Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. 3 Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” That same rain is also a promise of Christ, which is evident in Joel chapter 2, and as the apostle James wrote in chapter 5 of his epistle: “7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”

Now we shall commence with John chapter 5:

V 1 After these things there was a feast [א and D have “the feast”] of the Judaeans, and Yahshua went up to Jerusalem.

This feast was certainly one of the three where it was required that all men appear at the temple (4:45), and therefore it may have been a Passover, which would have been the second Passover of Yahshua’s ministry, but not necessarily – it may also have been Pentecost or Tabernacles. John explicitly mentions three different Passovers in his gospel, at 2:13, 6:4 and 11:55, the last being the Passover of the Crucifixion. It is apparent that the ministry of Christ lasted for three-and-a-half years, according to the prophecy in Daniel chapter 9 and the allegory in the parable of the fig tree in Luke chapter 13. Ostensibly, with Christ being baptized at the beginning of his 30th year, according to Luke chapter 3, the Passover upon which He was crucified would be the fourth Passover of His ministry. Since a three-and-a-half year ministry for Christ would necessarily include four Passovers, then if this was not a Passover, John mentioned only three of the four, while the synoptic gospels only explicitly mention the final one. We have discussed the chronology at length in the appropriate portions of our commentary on the Gospel of Luke.

2 And there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep’s Gate a pool called by name in Hebrew “Bethzatha”, having five porches.

Here the King James Version reads “2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.”

Neither the word gate nor market are in the text, so, admittedly, either one is a guess, however I believe that gate is a much better guess.

The building of the walls of Jerusalem in the 5th century before Christ was described by Nehemiah, and the building of the Sheep’s Gate is found in the opening verses of chapter 3, and it is mentioned again in Nehemiah chapter 12. There we see the words ᾠκοδόμησαν τὴν πύλην τὴν προβατικήν, or “they built the sheep gate”. Here we have only the phrase ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ, which is a preposition, and the Dative Case form of the feminine adjective ἡ προβατική. The masculine form of the adjective is προβατικός and it means of or pertaining to sheep.

While the word gate is not in the original text, we would rather believe that sheep’s gate is implied, after the description of the gates in Nehemiah, rather than the inference which is found in the King James Version where it has “sheep market”. In Nehemiah, besides the sheep gate are also mentioned the gate of the valley, the fountain gate, the fish gate, the old gate, the dung gate, the water gate, the horse gate, the east gate, the gate of Miphkad, the prison gate, and the gate of Ephraim, if I have not missed any others.

As for the pool, rather than Bethzatha, the 3rd century papyrus P66 has Bedsaidan. The 3rd century papyrus P75, the 4th century Codex Vaticanus (B) and 5th century Codex Borgianus (T 029) all have Bethsaida, which was a town in Galilee mentioned at John 1:44 and elsewhere. The 5th century Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Ephraemi Syri (C), the codex 078 and the Majority Text, and therefore the King James Version, all have Bethesda. Our text follows the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus (א). Bethzatha apparently means “house of olives” in Hebrew, for which see Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary #’s 1004 and 2132, while Bethesda means house of mercy.

Throughout all of my translations I endeavored to present what I believed was the most reliable reading from the various manuscripts, I am certain that the result is not perfect. I also strive to check other sources which may corroborate any particular reading, but while Flavius Josephus mentions several pools in Jerusalem, and one of them is also found in 1 Maccabees, none of those mentioned were called by any of the names which appear in the various manuscripts here.

For those looking for symbolism in the names, perhaps Bethesda is more fitting, according to its meaning, house of mercy, but the word Bethzatha being house of olives and the olive branch representing peace, that is just as fitting an allegory, the pool being by the gate of the sheep. The peace of Yahweh as well as the mercy of Yahweh result in healing for the lost sheep of Israel.

Now where John is describing the porches of this pool:

3 Upon these laid a [A, 078 and the MT have “a great”; the text follows P66, P75, א, B, C, D and T] multitude of the sick, blind, lame, gaunt [or literally, “withered”, ξηρός].

We may expect a conjunction before that last word, but there is none in the text. We have declined to include the text which appears at the end of verse 3 where the King James Version has the words “waiting for the moving of the water”, after the reading of the Majority Text and codex 078, and where the Codex Bezae (D) has “paralyzed, expecting the movement of the water.” Rather, in this verse our text follows the papyri P66 and P75, and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C), and Borgianus (T 029).

We have also neglected to include the entire text which appears in verse 4 of the King James Version, which says “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.” This passage is found in the Majority Text, and with slight variations in the 5th century Codex Alexandrinus (A) and the 6th century codex 078. The interpolation certainly seems to explain what is suggested in the text here and in the verses which follow, but the pericope is not found in the 3rd century papyri P66 or P75, or in the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C), Bezae (D) or Borgianus (T 029), which are all from the 4th and 5th centuries. Therefore we must reject the passage as a marginal note and a later interpolation in the Codex Alexandrinus, upon which the Majority Text is based to a great degree, and which may seem to be acceptable, but which is not necessarily correct. We must certainly reject it as not belonging to the original text of John’s gospel, based on the fact that it does not appear in a significant majority of the earlier manuscripts.

Now, speaking of the pool of Bethzatha:

5 And there was a certain [D wants “certain”] man there [א wants “there”] having his sickness for thirty-eight [א, A, C, D, T and 078 have “thirty and eight”; the text follows B, and P66 and P75 which have the symbols for “thirty-eight”, rather than spelling out the words] years.

Sarcastically speaking, this may as well be the amount of time that a sick man can wait for certain medical procedures in many of the nationalized health care systems of today. If that is not quite true yet, it certainly appears as if it may be true in the near future. In that manner we may perceive that this event is a prophetic allegory of modern so-called health care systems.

6 Yahshua seeing him laying down and having known that he has much time there already [P66 and א want “already”], says to him: “Do you wish to be made healthy?” 7 The sick man replied [D has “says”] to Him: “Master, I have no man, that when the water is agitated he would cast me into the pool. But by the time [“by the time”, or literally, “in that which”] I come, another descends before me!”

Lacking any other explanation, the one provided by that interpolation between verses 3 and 5 is the only one available, however it should only have the status of an early marginal note, and it is not a part of the canon. Notice that this man evidently has no knowledge of Yahshua, and he makes no profession of faith except in the belief that if he could be first into the pool when the water is agitated, then he would be healed. But nevertheless:

8 Yahshua says to him “Arise, take your cot, and walk!” 9 And immediately [א wants “and immediately”; D wants “immediately”] the man became healthy and took his cot and walked.

And it was a Sabbath on that day [D wants “on that day”], 10 therefore the Judaeans said to the healed man [or “to him that was healed”, the phrase being a Substantive formed from a Participle]: “It is a Sabbath, and it is not allowed for you to carry your [A, B and the MT have “the”; the text follows P66, P75, א, C and D] cot.”

Reading the Gospel accounts and thinking about life today compared to the way things were only a hundred years ago, or even only fifty, we can understand the very source of and reasons for all of the burdensome regulations which we live under today. The ancient Judahites were punished for accepting the persons of the wicked, and the wicked came to rule over them as a result. When we ourselves accepted the persons of the Jews as peers and citizens in our society, from the early 20th century in America they rose to dominance of our own political and economic systems, but even sooner in the nations of Europe, and we have been oppressed by this same burdensome system of regulations ever since. Yahshua Christ would often condemn them for being hypocrites, and for binding men under burdens which they themselves did not bear. But this was apparently a routine part of life for the man, and he answered the Judaeans innocently:

11 And he replied to them: “He who made me healthy said to me ‘Take your cot and walk!’” 12 They asked him [P75 has “Therefore they asked”; C and the MT have “Therefore they asked Him”; the text follows P66, א, B and D]: “Who is the man having said to you ‘Take it [D and the MT have “take the cot”; the text follows P66, P75, א, B and C, where the word “it” is only inferred] and walk’?”

The Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Washingtonensis (W) both want verse 12 in its entirety, which the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece in the 27th edition suggests is an accidental scribal omission, probably made because vv. 11 and 12 both end in the same Greek word for walk.

13 But the cured man did not know who He is, for Yahshua swam out of [א and D have “swam from”] the crowd which is in that place.

That last metaphor certainly shows that the apostle John had a sense of humor. The translation of the final verb, where it says that “Yahshua swam out of the crowd”, is a perfectly literal translation of the verb ἐκνέω. It is quite felicitous that John had used this particular verb to describe Yahshua’s departure from a very crowded place which was located near a pool, since according to the Intermediate Liddell & Scott Lexicon it means “to swim out, swim to land, escape by swimming… [and then] generally, to escape”. The translation found in the King James Version, which reads “for Jesus had conveyed himself away”, loses the wordplay which is contained in the metaphor.

The phrase “the cured man” here is from a Substantive, ὁ ἰαθεὶς. The Codex Bezae (D) has another Substantive instead, ὁ ἀσθενῶν, which is the same phrase that is rendered as “the sick man” in verse 7, as the man had been sick at that time. In verse 10, the phrase “the healed man” is from a Perfect Tense Dative Case Substantive τῷ τεθεραπευμένῳ. The root words of the substantives referring to the cured or healed man, ἰάομαι and θεραπεύω, are synonyms in the sense that they appear here.

Ultimately, the Judaeans do learn who it was that had healed this man:

14 After these things Yahshua finds him in the temple and said to him: “Look, you have become healthy! Sin no longer, lest something worse should happen to you.”

Not all human illness is the product of individual sin, as we shall see when we present John chapter 9, but evidently that seemed to be the case with this man, so Yahshua exhorts him in that manner. Ostensibly, there may have been a lengthier exchange between them, but the style of writing in the gospels is very terse. So the account of the man concludes:

15 [A and W insert “and”, using different words; D inserts “then”] The man departed and reported [א and C have “said”; D has “announced”; the text follows P66, P75, A, B, W and the MT] to the Judaeans that Yahshua is He having made him healthy.

When we return with the next portion of this commentary, we shall commence with the result of this news, as the Judaeans persecuted Christ for healing a man on the Sabbath. But the poor man who had been healed by Yahshua was not an informant, in the nefarious sense of the term. Rather, he must have been full of joy at his healing, and he must have imagined that the officials of the Judaeans would have been full of joy and excitement to find the man who could perform such a miracle. But instead, the officials were full of envy, and wanted to kill Him, something which the man himself could not have foreseen.


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