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Pools of Bethesda

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Pools of Bethesda

Birket Israel, 19th century.jpg

Basic Information

Location 31°46′53″N 35°14′09″E
Country Israel
City Jerusalem

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility no
Website http://www.goisrael.com/Tourism_Eng/Tourist%20Information/Christian%20Themes/Details/Pages/Pool%20of%20Bethesda%20%20%20chr.aspx
Geographical Coordinates 31.78139,35.23583


The Pool of Bethesda is a pool of water in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, on the path of the Beth Zeta Valley. The Gospel of John describes such a pool in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. It is associated with healing. Until the 19th century, there was no evidence outside of John’s Gospel for the existence of this pool; therefore, scholars argued that the gospel was written later, probably by someone without first-hand knowledge of the city of Jerusalem, and that the ‘pool’ had only a metaphorical, rather than historical, significance. In the 19th century, archaeologists discovered the remains of a pool fitting the description in John’s Gospel.


The name of the pool is said to be derived from the Hebrew language and/or Aramaic language. Beth Hesda (בית חסד/חסדא), meaning either house of mercy or house of grace. In both Hebrew and Aramaic the word could also mean 'shame, disgrace'. This dual meaning may have been thought appropriate since the location was seen as a place of disgrace due to the presence of invalids, and a place of grace, due to the granting of healing. Alternative renderings of the name, appearing in manuscripts of the Gospel of John, include Beth-zatha and Bethsaida (not to be confused with Bethsaida, a town in the Galilee), although the latter is considered to be a metathetical corruption by Biblical scholars. Delitzsch (“Talmudische Studien, X. Bethesda,” Zeitschrift für die gesamte lutherische Theologie und Kirche,1856) suggested that the name comes from a mishnaic Hebrew loanword from Greek, estiv/estava, that appropriately referred to στοά.

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