Pools of Bethesda & St. Anne Church
Places of Interest
Pools of Bethesda & St. Anne Church
1. The Pools of Bethesda are located on the property of the Church of St. Anne.
2. The Church of St. Anne is located just inside the Lions’ Gate at the eastern entrance of the Old City.
3. The Church of St. Anne is known for its extraordinary acoustics, and visitors singing hymns of praise to God can often be heard there.
4. The ruins of the Jewish, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader eras are still well preserved at the Pool of Bethesda.
1. The Pool of Bethesda marks the place where a sick man was healed.
2. Bethesda means “House of Mercy” and has been associated with a place of healing for many years. According to the Gospel of John, Bethesda was a bathing pool with five porticoes or porches. Remains of part of these porticoes can still be seen today.
3. It should be noted that the pool that can be seen today is the corner of the southern pool. You will also note that it is significantly below the level of the city today. That is because Jerusalem is really a large tel. A tel is something that develops and grows in height as one civilization builds upon another. Therefore, since the time of Christ, the city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. That is why the pool is below the surface of the city today.
4. In around 700 BC, during the time of King Hezekiah, there was a large water storage pool built here to capture water from the area for the use of purification and animal preparations of the temple.
5. Later, in around 200 BC, another pool was built beside the first one. The first pool would become known as the Southern Pool and the second as the Northern Pool.
6. Both these pools had water flowing in and out. This means they had what is known as "Living Water" in them.
7. These pools, also used as mikvahs, were close to the Temple Mount, and there was a gate close by known as the sheep gate that led up to the Temple Mount.
8. In the first century BC, prior to the birth of Christ, there were healing baths built here dedicated to the Greek false god, Asclepius.
9. When the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, rebuilt Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina in 135 AD, he built a large temple to Asclepius and Serapis, the Greek false gods of healing and believed deity.
10. After Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, the temple Hadrian had erected was torn down and a large Byzantine basilica was built over its ruins in around 450 AD.
11. Close to the Byzantine Basilica was a grotto dedicated to the believed place where Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim lived, and where Mary, the mother of Jesus, was born.
12. In 614 AD, the Byzantine Basilica was destroyed by the Persians. Later, in 1138 AD, the Basilica of St. Anne was erected over the site of the grotto believed by the Crusaders to be the birthplace of Mary, mother of Jesus. The church is dedicated to Anna and Joachim, who, according to tradition, lived here, and the site where their daughter, Mary, was born in a cave which is located under the basilica. It is one of the most preserved Crusader churches in Israel.
13. The New Testament says nothing about the birthplace of Mary. However, an ancient tradition found recorded in the apocryphal Gospel of James, which dates from around AD 150, places the house of Anne and Joachim, close to the temple area.
14. Three episodes from the life of Mary are depicted at the front of the high altar in the Church of St Anne: (1) the Annunciation on the right; (2) the Descent of Jesus from the Cross in the center; and (3) the Nativity of Jesus on the left. On the left-hand side of the altar is an illustration of the education of Mary by St Anne. On the right-hand side is a portrayal of the Presentation of Mary at the temple. A flight of stone steps descends from the south aisle to the crypt. This cave is the supposed remains of the house of Anne and Joachim, and the birthplace of Mary. Here, in a tiny chapel with a domed ceiling, an altar is dedicated to the birth of Mary.
15. In 1192 AD, after the fall of the Crusader Kingdom, Saladin turned the church into a theological school for the study of the Quran, which is commemorated in an inscription above the entrance to the church.
16. In the 19th century, the compound was given to the French Catholic Order of the White Fathers. France did extensive restoration work on the church, returning it as closely as possible to the original basilica. A second restoration was necessary after the church was damaged during the Six-Day War in 1967.
Places of Interest
1. Pools of Bethesda (also used as water storage and as mikvahs)
They contained "Living Water"
5 Covered Walkways (also translated as porticoes or colonnades) around and in between the pools
Ruins of the Roman Temple of Asclepius (god of healing)
Pagan medicinal baths
Ruins of a Byzantine Basilica
Ruins of a Crusader chapel
2. Sheep Gate (located where the Lions’ Gate is today)
3. Antonia Fortress
4. Temple Mount
5. Church of St. Anne
Altar at the front of the church depicting three events: (1) the Annunciation on the right (2) the descent of Jesus from the Cross in the center, and (3) the birth of Jesus on the left.
On the left-hand side of the altar is an illustration of the education of Mary by St Anne.
On the right-hand side is a portrayal of the Presentation of Mary at the temple.
Crypt dedicated to Mary’s birth
Pool of Bethesda in the Bible
1. It was a place where many came to be healed during the time of Jesus.
John 5:1–4: After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.
2. A sick man had been going to this pool for healing for 38 long years.
John 5:5: A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
3. Jesus healed the sick man.
John 5:6–9: When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
4. Christ revealed to the man why he had been sick for so long.
John 5:9–14: Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” 11 But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14 Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”
5. Jesus makes Himself equal with God.
John 5:15–18: 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 on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason, therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
Faith Lesson from the Pool of Bethesda
1. The sick man had faith in God as he was in a place where miracles happened. Do we have faith that God can help us with our problems?
2. The sick man was patient and went to the Pool of Bethesda regularly for 38 long years. Are we patient and remain faithful even if we don’t understand sickness or problems we might have?
3. The sick man was alone as no one would help him get into the pool to be healed. Do we need others to help us with our problems because we are alone?
4. It appears some sinful activity caused his disability because Jesus told him to stop sinning, or something worse might happen. Is it possible our sicknesses could be caused by disobedience and sin in our lives?
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