Is the Angel at the Pool of Bethesda Scriptural?

Do you remember the story in John 5:3-4 of the angel who moves the waters at the pool of Bethesda and the first to enter would be healed of their infirmity? This story appears in the KJV and many modern translations remove it.

Here again we draw on the work of Will Kinney to show that a thorough and reasonable answer can easily be found to support the inclusion of the story and also diminish the strength of the position which demands the story be taken out.

Perhaps one of the more interesting observations made by Kinney is the fact that NIV publishers excluded the story in the English NIV, included the whole story in the Spanish NIV, and only included verse 4 in the NIV published Spanish speakers of Spain. Sometimes you can only shake your head.

The following is a portion of an article written by Will Kinney all of which can be found here.


Likewise, and not surprisingly, James White also criticizes these verses as found in the King James Bible. In his book, The King James Only Controversy, Mr. White says on page 156: “This verse provides a classic example of how a marginal note explaining something in the text can end up as part of the text somewhere down the line. John’s reference to the pool of Bethesda and the sick lying about it would be confusing to some. A marginal note explaining the traditional belief of the Jews regarding the angel stirring the waters COULD HAVE easily been accidentally inserted into the text by a later copyist, thinking that it was actually a part of the text that had been accidentally left out and placed in the margin.”

Well, it’s nice of Mr. White to give us his conjectures and personal theories, but we may well turn the tables on his view and suggest that some few scribes may have had a problem with what the verses clearly say and simply removed them.

Not only are the verses found in the Majority of all Greek texts, including at least 22 uncial copies, but, as Dean Burgon and Jack Moormon note, so also in the Old Latin copies of a, aur, b, c, e, ff2, g1, j, r1, Latin Vulgate, the Vulgate Clementine, the Syriac Peshitta, Harclean, Palestinian, some Coptic Boharic copies, the Armenian and the Ethiopian ancient versions.

Jack Moorman significantly points out that by omitting the last part of verse three and all of verse four, we then have no explanation as to why all those people were gathered at the pool, and verse 7 makes no sense at all. Verse seven states: “The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.”

Both Burgon and Moorman also confirm that the verses in question are quoted by many early church Fathers including Tertullian 200 A.D; Tatian 175 A.D., Gregory of Nazianzus 390 A.D.; Ambrose, Chrysostom 390 A.D. and Didymus 379 A.D, Ammonius, Hilary, Ephraem the Syrian, Nilus, Jerome, Cyril of Alexandria, Augustine, and Theodorus Studita. (See Burgon, The Traditional Text, Volume 1 pages 82-84).

Many early church writers testified to the legitimacy of these verses -“And there was in Jerusalem a place prepared for bathing, which was called in Hebrew the House of Mercy, having five porches. And there were laid in them much people of the sick, and blind, and lame, and paralysed, WAITING FOR THE MOVING OF THE WATER. AND THE ANGEL FROM TIME TO TIME WENT DOWN INTO THE PLACE OF BATHING, AND MOVED THE WATER; AND THE FIRST THAT WENT DOWN AFTER THE MOVING OF THE WATER, EVERY PAIN THAT HE HAD WAS HEALED.” Tatian (140 AD), Diatessaron

Tertullian (160-221 A.D.) in one sermon On Baptism makes it clear that the passage was in the early manuscript that he was using for he says, “If it seems a novelty for an angel to be present in waters, an example of what was to come to pass has forerun. An angel, by his intervention, was want to stir the pool at Bethsaida. They who were complaining of ill-health used to watch for him; for whoever had been the first to descend into them, after his washing ceased to complain.” (On Baptism I: 1:5)


“And all benediction has its origin from His operation, AS WAS SIGNIFIED IN THE MOVING OF THE WATER AT BETHESDA.” Ambrose (339 – 397 AD), On The Holy Spirit, 1.7


“Now there is at Jerusalem a sheep pool, called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of halt, blind, withered, WAITING FOR THE MOVING OF THE WATER.” Chrysostom (347 – 407), John, Homily 36

“Around this pool lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, WAITING FOR THE MOVING OF THE WATER; but then infirmity was a hindrance to him who desired to be healed, now each hath power to approach, FOR NOW IT IS NOT AN ANGEL THAT TROUBLETH, IT IS THE LORD OF ANGELS WHO WORKETH ALL.” Chrysostom (347 – 407), John, Homily 36


“And when did the sick man descend into the pool? WHEN THE ANGEL GAVE THE SIGN BY THE MOVING OF THE WATER.” Augustine (354 – 430 AD), Sermon 75

“Bethesda, the pool in Judea, could not cure the limbs of those who suffered from bodily weakness WITHOUT THE ADVENT OF AN ANGEL.” Jerome (347 – 420 AD), Against the Luciferians

“And in the same way in the case of the man who had been lying for thirty-eight years near the edge of the pool, AND HOPING FOR A CURE FROM THE MOVING OF THE WATER.” John Cassian (365-433 AD), Conferences 13.16

In his book, The Revision Revised, Dean John William Burgon adamantly defends the authenticity of these verses. He says on page 283 regarding the troubling of the pool of Bethesda that this passage “is not even allowed a bracketed place in Dr. Hort’s Text. How the accomplished Critic would have set about persuading the Ante-Nicene Fathers that they were in error for holding it to be genuine Scripture, is hard to imagine.”

The so called “oldest and best” manuscripts, upon which many modern versions rely, omit not only these verses in John 5, but anywhere from 11 to 45 entire verses from the New Testament. They frequently don’t even agree among themselves. Instead of the traditional reading of BETHESDA, Vaticanus reads Bethsaida, D has Belzetha, while Sinaiticus has Bethzatha.

Before going on with what some other scholars of equal or greater learning than those behind the modern version bibles have said regarding John 5:3-4, I would like at this time to mention the long list of Bibles that continue to include all the words found in John 5:3-4.

The Anglo Saxon Gospels 990 A.D.

The oldest Bible translation online that I was able to find is the Anglo Saxon Gospels, of 990 A.D. There is also a copy of the Saxon Gospels from 1175 A.D.  Both copies contain all the words in both verses 3 and 4.  It is almost impossible to read, but you can clearly see that this very old pre-English translation contained all the words found in

John 5:3-4 This is what it looks like – “John 5:3 on þam porticum læg mycel menygeo ge-adlugra blindra. & healtra ænð forscruncenra & ge-anbidedon þæs wæteres steriunge.  John 5:4 “Drihtnes engel com to hys time on þonne mere. & þæt wæter wæs astyred. and se þe raðest com on þonne mere æfter þas wæteres steriunge wærd ge-hæld fram swa hwilcere utrumnysse  swa he on wæs.”  

Bible translations that include the two verses in full are Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible of 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1560-1599, the Beza N.T. 1599, Mace N.T. 1729,  Wesley’s New Testament 1755, Worsley Version 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, the Thomson Bible 1808, The Revised Translation 1815, the Living Oracles 1835, Pickering N.T. 1840, Morgan N.T. 1848, the Boothroyd Bbile 1853, The Revised English Bible 1877, Darby 1890, Youngs 1898, J. B. Phillips translation 1962, New Life Version 1969, Living Bible 1971, The New Berkeley Version in Modern English 1969, the NKJV 1982, Amplified Bible 1987, KJV 21st Century 1994, Third Millennium Bible 1998, The New Testament 1999 by Jonathan Mitchell, Green’s Modern KJV 2000, Tomson N.T. 2002, The Resurrection Life N.T. 2005, the Concordant Version 2006, the Holman Standard Bible 2009,  the Jubilee Bible 2010, the Orthodox Jewish Bible of 2011 and The Legacy New Testament 2021.

Other English Bibles that contain all these words are The Word of Yah 1993, Interlinear Greek N.T. 1997 (Larry Pierce), Lawrie Translation 1998, The Koster Scriptures 1998, God’s First Truth 1999, Last Days Bible 1999, The World English Bible 2000, the Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001, The Evidence Bible 2003, the Pickering N.T. 2005, the Faithful New Testament 2009, Bond Slave Version 2009, English Majority Text Version 2009 (Paul Esposito), Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, The New European Version 2010, the Online Interlinear 2010 (André de Mol), Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, The Aramaic N.T. 2011, Far Above All Translation 2011, The Work of God’s Children Illustrated Bible 2011, Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011, Interlinear Hebrew-Greek Scriptures 2012 (Mebust), Modern English Bible 2012, the Natural Israelite Bible 2012, the International Standard Version 2014, Hebrew Names Version 2014, The Modern Literal New Testament 2014, the Modern English Version 2014, the International Children’s Bible 2015 and The New Matthew’s Bible 2016.

Now there are several new bible versions recently put out that are based primarily on the Westcott-Hort revised Greek texts which generally omit some 3000 words form the New Testament, and yet they have included all these words in their versions.  

These include the Living Bible 1971, the Amplified bible 1987, New Century Version 2005, the Holman Standard of 2009, the 2014 International Standard Version, the Expanded Bible 2011 and The Voice of 2012. All these versions have gone back to including all the words in these two verses. The new versionists are nothing but consistently inconsistent.

Foreign Language Bibles that contain ALL of John 5:3-4

In addition to all these English Bible that contain the ending of verse three and all of verse four, the following foreign language Bibles also contain all these words: The Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, the Spanish Reina Valera 1602, 1909, 1960 and  1995, La Biblia de las Américas 1997 and La Nueva Biblia Latinoamericana de Hoy 2005, the Italian Diodati 1649 and the New Diodati of 1991, the Riveduta 1927, La Parola e Vita 1997, the Afrikaans 1953, Arabic Smith & Van Dyke, and Arabic Easy to Read Version 2009, Basque Navaro-Labourdin, Bulgarian Protestant Bible 2000, Chinese Union Version Traditional, Croatian, Czech, the Danish BPH 2006, Dutch Staten Vertaling, Danish, Finnish, the French Martin 1744,  Louis Segond 1910, French Ostervald 1996, the French Louis Segond 21 of 2007, the German Luther 1545 and the 2000 German Schlachter Bible, Icelandic Bible, Hungarian Karoli, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maori Bible, the Netherlands Het Boek 2000, Norwegian En Leavened Bok 1988, the Polish Updated Gdansk Bible 2013, the Romanian Cornilescu Bible and Romanian Fidela Bible 2014, the Portuguese Almeida Corregida 2009 and O Livro 2000,  , Russian Synodal Version and the Victor Zhoromsky translation, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Ukranian, Vietnamese

the Modern Greek Bible 

3. Εν ταυταις κατεκειτο πληθος πολυ των ασθενουντων, τυφλων, χωλων, ξηρων, οιτινες περιεμενον την κινησιν του υδατος. 

4. Διοτι αγγελος κατεβαινε κατα καιρον εις την κολυμβηθραν και εταραττε το υδωρ· οστις λοιπον εισηρχετο πρωτος μετα την ταραχην του υδατος, εγινετο υγιης απο οποιανδηποτε νοσον επασχεν.

and the Modern Hebrew Bible – “שמה שכבו חולים ועורים ופסחים ויבשי כח לרב והמה מיחלים לתנועת המים׃  כי מלאך ירד במועדו אל הברכה וירעש את מימיה והיה הירד ראשון אל תוכה אחרי התגעשו המים הוא נרפא מכל מחלה אשר דבקה בו׃”

The NIVs in other languages

Even though the English version of the NIV omits all these words in John 5:3-4, yet the NIV Portuguese bible of 2000 called Nova Versao Internacional, has them all in the text!

It reads: João 5:3 “Ali costumava ficar grande número de pessoas doentes e inválidas: cegos, mancos e paralíticos. Eles esperavam um movimento nas águas. 

João 5:4. De vez em quando descia um anjo do Senhor e agitava as águas. O primeiro que entrasse no tanque, depois de agitadas as águas, era curado de qualquer doença que tivesse.” 

And among the NIVs in Spanish, the NIV sold in Mexico and South America, called Nueva Versión Internacional, OMITS  “waiting for the moving of the waters” from verse 3 and ALL of verse 4. It looks like this – 

Juan 5:3 – “En esos pórticos se hallaban tendidos muchos enfermos, ciegos, cojos y paralíticos…………………………

Juan 5:4 …………………………………………………

But the NIV sold in Spain, called Nueva Versión Internacional (Castilian) 2005, OMITS “waiting for the moving of the waters” from verse 3  (even though the Portuguese NIV DOES include them) BUT it adds ALL of verse 4.  It looks like this –

Juan 5:3-4 –  3. En esos pórticos se hallaban tendidos muchos enfermos, ciegos, cojos y paralíticos…………

 4. De cuando en cuando un ángel del Señor bajaba al estanque y agitaba el agua. El primero que entraba en el estanque después de cada agitacíon del agua quedaba sano de cualquier enfermedad que tuviera.

So, the NIV English version omits all these words but the NIV Portuguese version includes them and the NIV Castilian Version adds all of verse 4.  Folks, these are the type of “serious bible scholars” we are dealing with here.

Other Bible Scholars and Commentators –

John Calvin included these verses of John 5:3-4 in his translation without any note of doubt as to their authenticity and expounded upon them in great detail. He says: “At intervals – God might have at once, in a single moment, cured them all:, but, as his miracles have their design, so they ought also to have their limit; as Christ also reminds them that, though there were so many that died in the time of Elisha, not more than one child was raised from the dead, (2 Kings 4:32-33) and that, though so many widows were famished during the time of drought, there was but one whose poverty was relieved by Elijah, (1 Kings 17:9; Luke 4:25). Thus the Lord reckoned it enough to give a demonstration of his presence in the case of a few diseased persons. But the manner of curing, which is here described, shows plainly enough that nothing is more unreasonable than that men should subject the works of God to their own judgment; for pray, what assistance or relief could be expected from troubled water? But in this manner, by depriving us of our own senses, the Lord accustoms us to the obedience of faith. We too eagerly follow what pleases our reason, though contrary to the word of God; and, therefore, in order to render us more obedient to him, he often presents to us those things which contradict our reason. Then only do we show our submissive obedience, when we shut our eyes, and follow the plain word, though our own opinion be that what we are doing will be of no avail. We have an instance of this kind in Naaman a Syrian, whom the prophet sends to Jordan, that he may be cured of his leprosy, (2 Kings 5:10) At first, no doubt, he despises it as a piece of mockery, but afterwards he comes actually to perceive that, while God acts contrary to human reason, he never mocks or disappoints us.”

Adam Clarke comments: “Waiting for the moving of the water.” This clause, with the whole of the fourth verse, is wanting in some MSS. and versions; but I think there is NO SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE AGAINST THEIR AUTHENTICITY.” (Caps are mine)

Barne’s Notes on the New Testament says: “In regard to this passage, it should be remarked that the account of the angel in the 4th verse is wanting in many manuscripts, and has been by many supposed to be spurious. There is not conclusive evidence, however, that it is not a part of the genuine text, and THE BEST CRITICS SUPPOSE THAT IT SHOULD NOT BE REJECTED.” (Caps are mine.)

David Guzik’s commentaries does not question the truth of these verses at all, and he comments: “A pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda: This pool has been excavated in the area just north of the temple mount, and found to have five porches, just as John says. There are many unusual occasions healing in the Bible,The purified pot of stew (2 Kings 4:38-41); The healing of Naaman by washing in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10-14); The healing of the man who touched the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:20-21); Healing of those who have the shadow of Peter upon them (Acts 5:14-16); The healing of those who have Paul’s handkerchiefs upon them (Acts 19:11-12).”

Even Jamieson, Fausset and Brown support the verses saying: “The want of John 5:4 and part of John 5:3 in some good manuscripts, and the use of some unusual words in the passage, are more easily accounted for than the evidence in their favor if they were not originally in the text. Indeed John 5:7 is unintelligible without John 5:4.”  

In summary, these words found in John 5:3-4 are part of God’s precious, inspired and infallible words. Any bible that omits them is to varying degrees a corrupt and incomplete Bible.  The only ones that omit these words are the inconsistent witness of the Catholic Church and the new Vatican Version “interconfessional” text United Bible Society versions like the English NIV, [NASBs], ESV, NET, Jehovah Witness New World Translation and some of the modern Catholic versions.

The King James Bible is God’s Book of the Lord and the Standard of absolute written truth. Accept no substitutes.

All of grace, believing the Book, 

Will Kinney

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