According to John 5:1-47

5  After this there was a festival+ of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate+ is a pool called in Hebrew Beth·zaʹtha, with five colonnades.  Within these a multitude of the sick, blind, lame, and those with withered* limbs were lying down.  ——  But one man was there who had been sick for 38 years.  Seeing this man lying there and being aware that he had already been sick for a long time, Jesus said to him: “Do you want to get well?”+  The sick man answered him: “Sir, I do not have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am on my way, another steps down ahead of me.”  Jesus said to him: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”+  And the man immediately got well, and he picked up his mat and began to walk. That day was the Sabbath.+ 10  So the Jews began to say to the cured man: “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry the mat.”+ 11  But he answered them: “The same one who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” 12  They asked him: “Who is the man who told you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?” 13  But the healed man did not know who he was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14  After this Jesus found him in the temple and said to him: “See, you have become well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse does not happen to you.” 15  The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16  For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things during the Sabbath.+ 17  But he answered them: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.”+ 18  This is why the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.+ 19  Therefore, in response Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, the Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing.+ For whatever things that One does, these things the Son does also in like manner. 20  For the Father has affection for the Son+ and shows him all the things he himself does, and he will show him works greater than these, so that you may marvel.+ 21  For just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive,+ so the Son also makes alive whomever he wants to.+ 22  For the Father judges no one at all, but he has entrusted all the judging to the Son,+ 23  so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.+ 24  Most truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes the One who sent me has everlasting life,+ and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.+ 25  “Most truly I say to you, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who have paid attention will live. 26  For just as the Father has life in himself,+ so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself.+ 27  And he has given him authority to do judging,+ because he is the Son of man.+ 28  Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice+ 29  and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.+ 30  I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous+ because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.+ 31  “If I alone bear witness about myself, my witness is not true.+ 32  There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the witness he bears about me is true.+ 33  You have sent men to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.+ 34  However, I do not accept the witness from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35  That man was a burning and shining lamp, and for a short time you were willing to rejoice greatly in his light.+ 36  But I have the witness greater than that of John, for the very works that my Father assigned me to accomplish, these works that I am doing, bear witness that the Father sent me.+ 37  And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.+ You have neither heard his voice at any time nor seen his form,+ 38  and you do not have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the very one whom he sent. 39  “You are searching the Scriptures+ because you think that you will have everlasting life by means of them; and these are the very ones that bear witness about me.+ 40  And yet you do not want to come to me+ so that you may have life. 41  I do not accept glory from men,* 42  but I well know that you do not have the love of God in you. 43  I have come in the name of my Father, but you do not receive me. If someone else came in his own name, you would receive that one. 44  How can you believe, when you are accepting glory from one another+ and you are not seeking the glory that is from the only God?+ 45  Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you, Moses,+ in whom you have put your hope. 46  In fact, if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.+ 47  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe what I say?”+


Or “paralyzed.” Lit., “dried-up.”
Or “people; humans.”

Study Notes

a festival of the Jews: Although John does not specify which festival is referred to, there are good reasons to conclude that it is the Passover of 31 C.E. John’s account was generally in chronological order. The context places this festival shortly after Jesus said that there were “yet four months before the harvest.” (Joh 4:35) The harvest season, particularly the barley harvest, got under way about Passover time (Nisan 14). So it seems that Jesus’ statement was made about four months before that, about the month of Chislev (November/December). Two other festivals, the festivals of Dedication and of Purim, fell during the time period from Chislev to Nisan. However, these festivals did not require an Israelite to go up to Jerusalem. So in this context, the Passover seems to be the most likely “festival of the Jews” that required Jesus to attend in Jerusalem according to God’s Law to Israel. (De 16:16; Lu 22:1) It is true that John records only a few events before the next mention of the Passover (Joh 6:4), but a consideration of the chart in App. A7 shows that John’s account of Jesus’ early ministry was abbreviated, and many events already covered by the other three Gospel writers were not mentioned. In fact, the great amount of activity of Jesus recorded in the other three Gospels lends weight to the conclusion that an annual Passover did indeed come between the events recorded at Joh 2:13 and those at Joh 6:4.​—See App. A7 and study note on Joh 2:13.

Hebrew: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, inspired Bible writers used the term “Hebrew” in designating the language spoken by the Jews (Joh 19:13, 17, 20; Ac 21:40; 22:2; Re 9:11; 16:16), as well as the language in which the resurrected and glorified Jesus addressed Saul of Tarsus (Ac 26:14, 15). At Ac 6:1, “Hebrew-speaking Jews” are distinguished from “Greek-speaking Jews.” While some scholars hold that the term “Hebrew” in these references should instead be rendered “Aramaic,” there is good reason to believe that the term actually applies to the Hebrew language. When the physician Luke says that Paul spoke to the people of Jerusalem “in the Hebrew language,” Paul was addressing those whose life revolved around studying the Law of Moses in Hebrew. Also, of the great number of fragments and manuscripts comprising the Dead Sea Scrolls, the majority of Biblical and non-Biblical texts are written in Hebrew, showing that the language was in daily use. The smaller number of Aramaic fragments found shows that both languages were used. So it seems highly unlikely that when Bible writers used the word “Hebrew,” they actually meant the Aramaic or Syrian language. (Ac 21:40; 22:2; compare Ac 26:14.) The Hebrew Scriptures earlier distinguished between “Aramaic” and “the language of the Jews” (2Ki 18:26), and first-century Jewish historian Josephus, considering this passage of the Bible, speaks of “Aramaic” and “Hebrew” as distinct tongues. (Jewish Antiquities, X, 8 [i, 2]) It is true that there are some terms that are quite similar in both Aramaic and Hebrew and possibly other terms that were adopted into Hebrew from Aramaic. However, there seems to be no reason for the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures to have said Hebrew if they meant Aramaic.

Bethzatha: The Hebrew name means “House of the Olive [or, of Olives].” According to some manuscripts, the pool is called “Bethesda,” possibly meaning “House of Mercy.” Other manuscripts read “Bethsaida,” meaning “House of the Hunter [or, Fisherman].” Many scholars today prefer the name Bethzatha.

the sick . . . were lying down: It was commonly believed that people could be healed by getting into the pool when the water was stirred up. (Joh 5:7) As a result, those seeking a cure congregated at the site. However, the Bible does not say that an angel of God performed miracles at the pool of Bethzatha. (See study note on Joh 5:4.) What it does say is that Jesus performed a miracle at the pool. It is worth noting that the man did not enter the water; yet, he was instantly cured.

Some manuscripts add, in whole or in part, the following text, beginning at the end of verse 3 and continuing as verse 4: “waiting for the movement of the water. 4 For an angel of the Lord [or, “of Jehovah”] would come down into the pool from season to season and disturb the water; the first one then to step in after the disturbance of the water would become sound in health from whatever disease it was by which he was afflicted.” These words, however, do not appear in the earliest authoritative manuscripts and most likely are not part of the original text of John. (See App. A3.) Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew, referred to as J9, 22, 23 in App. C4, read “an angel of Jehovah” instead of “an angel of the Lord.”

mat: Or “bed.” In Bible lands, a bed was often a simple mat made of straw or rushes, perhaps with quilting or a mattress of some sort added for comfort. When not in use, these beds were rolled up and stored away. In this context, the Greek word kraʹbat·tos evidently refers to a poor man’s bed. In the account at Mr 2:4-12, the same Greek word refers to some kind of “stretcher” on which the paralytic man was carried.

the Jews: As used in the Gospel of John, this term conveys somewhat different meanings depending on the context. It can refer to Jewish people in general, to those living in Judea, or to those living in or near Jerusalem. The term may also refer to Jews who zealously adhered to human traditions connected with the Mosaic Law and who were hostile to Jesus. In this context, “the Jews” may refer to the Jewish authorities or religious leaders, but the term may also have been used broadly to include other Jews who were zealous for the traditions.

Do not sin anymore: Jesus’ words here do not mean that this man’s sickness was due to some sin he had committed. Rather, the man whom Jesus cured had been sick for 38 years because of inherited imperfection. (Joh 5:5-9; compare Joh 9:1-3.) Now that the man had been shown mercy and was healed, Jesus urged him to follow the way of salvation and avoid willful sin that could result in something worse than sickness, that is, everlasting destruction.​—Heb 10:26, 27.

were persecuting: The imperfect form of the Greek verb used here indicates that the Jews​—perhaps referring to the Jewish leaders or to Jews who zealously adhered to human traditions connected with the Mosaic Law​—began to persecute Jesus and continued doing so.

making himself equal to God: While properly referring to God as his Father, Jesus never claimed equality with God. (Joh 5:17) Rather, it was the Jews who accused Jesus of attempting to make himself God’s equal by claiming God as his Father. Just as the Jews were wrong in stating that Jesus was a Sabbath breaker, they were wrong in making this accusation. Jesus makes this evident by what he says as recorded in verses 19 through 24​—he could do nothing of his own initiative. Clearly, he was not claiming to be equal to God.​—Joh 14:28.

of his own initiative: Or “on his own,” that is, independently. Lit., “from himself.” As God’s Chief Representative, Jesus always listens to Jehovah’s voice and speaks what Jehovah directs.

the Father has affection for the Son: Jesus here describes the warm bond of unity and friendship that has existed between him and the Father from the dawn of creation. (Pr 8:30) When John recorded Jesus’ statement describing this relationship, he used a form of the Greek verb phi·leʹo (“to have affection”). This verb often describes a very close bond, the kind that exists between genuine friends. For example, it is used to describe the bond of friendship that existed between Jesus and Lazarus. (Joh 11:3, 36) It is also used to describe the family relationship between parents and children. (Mt 10:37) The same verb, phi·leʹo, is used to show the strong, warm, personal attachment Jehovah has for his Son’s followers and the warm feelings the disciples had for God’s Son.​—Joh 16:27.

judgment: The Greek term kriʹsis, here rendered “judgment,” may convey several shades of meaning. The context determines what is meant. For example, this term can denote the act or process of judgment or evaluation (Joh 5:22, 27, 29 and study note), the quality of justice (Mt 23:23; Lu 11:42), or a court of law (Mt 5:21). It can also refer to a judgment that is either favorable or unfavorable, but most of the occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures convey the idea of a condemnatory judgment. In this verse, “judgment” is used in parallel with death and set in contrast with life and everlasting life; therefore, it refers to a judgment that results in loss of life.​—2Pe 2:9; 3:7.

has passed over from death to life: Jesus is apparently speaking about those who were once spiritually dead but who upon hearing his words put faith in him and discontinue walking in their sinful course. (Eph 2:1, 2, 4-6) They pass over “from death to life” in that the condemnation of death is lifted from them, and they are given the hope of everlasting life because of their faith in God. In a similar way, Jesus apparently referred to spiritually dead ones when he said to the Jewish son who wanted to go home to bury his father: “Let the dead bury their dead.”​—Lu 9:60; see study notes on Lu 9:60; Joh 5:25.

the dead: Jesus said that the hour, or time, for the dead to “hear [his] voice” is now, so he could only mean living humans who inherited sin from Adam and were therefore condemned to death. (Ro 5:12) From God’s standpoint, mankind in general has no right to life because “the wages” that sin pays to them is death. (Ro 6:23) By hearing and heeding Jesus’ “word,” individuals could figuratively ‘pass over from death to life.’ (See study note on Joh 5:24.) The terms “hear” and “listen” are frequently used in the Bible with the meaning of “pay heed to” or “obey.”

has life in himself: Or “has in himself the gift of life.” Jesus has “life in himself” because his Father granted him powers that originally only Jehovah had. These powers no doubt include the authority to give humans the opportunity to have a fine standing before God and thus gain life. They would also include the ability to impart life by resurrecting the dead. About a year after Jesus made the statement recorded here, he indicated that his followers could have life in themselves.​—For the meaning of the expression “life in yourselves” as it applies to Jesus’ followers, see study note on Joh 6:53.

Son of man: See study note on Mt 8:20.

the memorial tombs: This term renders the Greek word mne·meiʹon, which comes from the verb mi·mneʹsko·mai, “to remember; to remind (oneself),” and refers to a tomb or a grave. Thus, the term carries the implication of preserving the memory of the deceased person. In this context, it suggests that the person who died is remembered by God. This connotation gives added meaning to the term used by Luke in recording the plea of the criminal executed alongside Jesus: “Remember [form of the verb mi·mneʹsko·mai] me when you get into your Kingdom.”​—Lu 23:42.

a resurrection: See study note on Mt 22:23.

a resurrection of life: Those who will receive “a resurrection of life” are the ones who “did good things” before they died. Even before their resurrection, God’s purpose for faithful ones is so certain that they are spoken of as “living to him,” their names already being in “the scroll [or “book”] of life” kept from “the founding of the world.” (Lu 20:38 and study note; Re 17:8; see also Php 4:3 and study note.) They are apparently the same as “the righteous” who will be resurrected, as mentioned at Ac 24:15. According to Ro 6:7, a person “who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” The sins committed by these righteous ones were canceled at death, but their record of faithfulness remains. (Heb 6:10) Of course, these resurrected righteous ones will need to stay faithful in order for their names to remain in “the scroll [or “book”] of life” and ultimately to attain to “everlasting life.”​—Re 20:12; Joh 3:36.

a resurrection of judgment: “Those who practiced vile things” before they died will receive “a resurrection of judgment.” The Greek term here rendered “judgment” (kriʹsis) may have several shades of meaning, depending on the context. (See study note on Joh 5:24.) In this verse, it seems that the term “judgment” is used in the sense of a process of evaluation and probation or, as one Greek lexicon says, a “scrutiny of conduct.” Those who will receive “a resurrection of judgment” are apparently the same as “the unrighteous” mentioned at Ac 24:15. These unrighteous ones will be judged based on their conduct under the Kingdom rule of Christ and his fellow judges. (Lu 22:30; Ro 6:7) During that time of scrutiny, the unrighteous will be “judged individually according to their deeds.” (Re 20:12, 13) Only those who reject their former unrighteous course of life will have their names entered into “the book of life” and attain “everlasting life.”​—Re 20:15; Joh 3:36.

of my own initiative: Or “on my own,” that is, independently. Lit., “from myself.” As God’s Chief Representative, Jesus always listens to Jehovah’s voice and speaks what Jehovah directs.

Just as I hear: That is, from the Father as the Supreme Judge.

another: No doubt referring to the Father.​—Joh 5:34, 37.

the Scriptures: This expression is often used to refer to the inspired Hebrew writings as a whole. The Jews who were carefully searching the Scriptures could easily have discerned that Jesus was the Messiah by comparing his life and teachings with what the Scriptures foretold. But these Jews refused to make a sincere examination of the abundant Scriptural evidence that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Although they thought that they could have everlasting life by means of the Scriptures, they refused to accept Jesus as the one whom the Scriptures pointed to as the true means to gain life.​—De 18:15; Lu 11:52; Joh 7:47, 48.

these: That is, the Scriptures mentioned in the first part of the verse. These Scriptures contained Messianic prophecies that pointed to Jesus as the one through whom his listeners could gain “everlasting life.”

the only God: Some early manuscripts do not include the word “God” and could be rendered “the only One.” But the main text reading has strong support in other early authoritative manuscripts.


Pool of Bethzatha
Pool of Bethzatha

Only the Gospel of John mentions a pool called Bethzatha, located “in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate.” (Joh 5:2) This gate is likely the Sheep Gate that was mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. That gate was located in the NE corner of the city. (Ne 3:1, 32; 12:39) Or “the Sheep Gate” mentioned by John may have been built at a later date than the one mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. North of the temple mount, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a large pool that seems to match the description given by John. Excavations reveal a pool consisting of two basins and embracing an overall area of about 46 by 92 m (150 by 300 ft). The Gospel account says that the pool had “five colonnades” and could accommodate “a multitude” of sick and disabled people. (Joh 5:2, 3) The wall separating the northern and southern basins likely included one of these five colonnades, and the other four likely lined the outer perimeter of the pool area.

1. Bethzatha

2. Temple Mount