Tag Archives: Bethesda

Healing the Paralytic at Bethesda, Consent, Victim Blaming, and a Missing Verse

So someone ate John 5:4 in the ESV… alas, we can find it in the KJV.

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

The story of this is that the later manuscripts which were used by the KJV translators have this verse, where in it is absent in much older manuscripts. Without this verse, one might reason that some form of water therapy took place. That there were a limited number of sessions per day , and the paralytic having no help, got hung out to dry, as others who could walk, got in ahead of hum.

But the reasoning to get the above doesn’t really jibe with angels or the first come first only served healing thing in the KJV… Perhaps it made sense to the scribe to fill in the blanks so as to limit how much one might read into said text? Alas its later addition is interesting.

Speaking of reading into the text, one can have a field day with John 5:6  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

So why did Jesus ask this?

On first pass reading of this, it seems Jesus upholds the humanity of the paralytic man, and asked for consent. Certainly after being paralyzed for 38 years, and after coming to the healing pool at Bethesda, one can infer with high certainty the man desires healing… and still Jesus asks him. I tend to think this is more for our education, as to how critical consent is, than it was for the time and place of the event itself.

And yet, the question does open the door to the victim blamer types. To the “you are not healed because you have some unrepentant in in your life”. To the “You are not healed, as you don’t really want to be healed. You enjoy lying by the pool as part of your daily routine, you don’t want to change…. as if you prayed enough, God would have healed you long ago”.

And yet, there is no mention of sin, no mention of repentance, or even faith on the part of the man. Even more interestingly, as Jesus heals him, he tells also him to sin, at least sin as defined by the culture of the day.

This may well be yet another key teaching of Jesus… to be wary of cultural definitions of sin, consider the teachings of some groups that Christian’s don’t drink alcohol, dance, or go to movies. Can you imagine how it might fly with the temperance folks if Jesus told the guy to get up, and go grab a beer?

And yet later on in John 5:15, Jesus meets up with the guy, and tells him to sin no more… it makes me wonder if the dude had tempted God in his youth, jumped off a cliff, and crashed and broke his neck or something which brought about his paralysis. Certainly, the dude could have kicked the bucket the first time out… giving it another go would be pretty unwise.