Richard Nowitz

The Bethsaida Pool. John 5:2 describes a pool in Jerusalem with five porticoes to which the sick came to be healed. No other ancient writer mentions such a pool and no five-sided building—which would seem to be required to meet John’s description of five porticoes—is known from the ancient world. John’s reliability regarding Jerusalem was as a result suspect.

But a pool matching John’s description was discovered in the late 19th century adjacent to the medieval church of St. Anne’s. The roughly rectangular structure has porticoes on all four sides, plus one transecting it (making the structure really two pools). Shrines dedicated to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, found at the site strengthen the pool’s association with healing in ancient times. The author of the Gospel of John evidently was quite familiar with Jerusalem after all.