John 5:4


"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 whole verse is retained in all the early English versions as well as the Spanish, French, Italian, and German Bibles (which the translators of the KJV had before them). However, it has been omitted in modern versions by either bracketing the verse or confining it to a footnote. The passage is explanatory and sets forth the reason as to why there were those waiting near the healing waters of Bethesda.

Dr. Donald A. Carson addresses this text and offers his reason for rejecting the authenticity of the passage. ". . . when I turn to John 5:3b-4 and discover it is missing from the earliest witnesses, which constitute a wide geographical distribution indeed, I conclude it was not in the original." (D. A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979], 70). Kurt and Barbara Aland resort to the "Brevior lectio potior" (i.e. the shorter reading is the more likely reading) and claim that the passage was inserted later by way of a legendary account.

"But in John 5:3b-4 we meet another category: expansions of the original text by various later legendary supplements developed from the account itself. From the attestation for the "shorter text" it should be clear that the expansion of the ending of verse 3 and the whole of verse 4 represents a later insertion." (The Text of The New Testament, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 303.)

The verse is omitted in P66 (second or early third century) and P75 (third century). These Egyptian papyrus manuscripts are extremely old and therefore carry considerable weight among textual critics. However, these papyrus are not strictly Alexandrian and often reflect independent readings, sometimes even supporting the Traditional Text. Therefore, age is not the final consideration. Concerning these manuscripts we should also consider where they have been discovered, and why they were preserved. After all, manuscripts which were greatly used would not be expected to last as long as those which were seldomly used. Further, we can expect those which were greatly used to be represented in greater number as they were copied and recopied thoughout the centuries.

Additional textual support against the verse is in Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Codex C, D (which does contain 3b), and W (although added in the text later by a different scribe). There are also about three other Greek manuscripts which do not contain the verse as well as a few Latin manuscripts, including the Vulgate, and some other translations.

If we were to take Dr. Carson's statement at face value and consider the authenticity of a verse or passage because of the amount of witnesses and the various locations of these witnesses, as well as the age of these witnesses, we would be forced to attest to the authenticity of the passage because all of these factors support the reading as found in the Traditional Text and the Authorized Version of 1611.

The passage is found in uncials A, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, DELTA, THETA, PSI and the third corrector of C. Thus the uncial evidence throughout the old world dating from the fourth to the ninth century support the verse. The Greek minuscules overwhelming support the verse as it is found in 28, 565, 700, 892, 1009, 1010, 1071, 1195, 1216, 1230, 1241, 1242, 1253, 1344, 1365, 1546, 1646, and 2148. It is also contained in the majority of Old Latin manuscripts and early translations throughout the old world.

The verse is found in the Old Coptic Version as edited from the Coptic manuscript Huntington 17 and is translated into English as follows: "There was an angel (who) came down every hour in the pool, and moved the water. And any one (who) shall come down first after the moving of the water shall be healed of every sickness which (may) be his." (The Coptic Version Of The New Testament: In The Northern Dialect, vol. II [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898], 377-379.)

The same is true of the Old Syriac. James Murdock translated the passage from the Peshitto as follows: "For an angel, from time to time, descended into the baptistery, and moved the waters; and he who first went in, after the moving of the waters, was cured of whatever disease he had." (The Syriac New Testament from the Peshitto Version, [Boston: H. L. Hastings, 1896], 172).

Nor is the passage without Patristic citations. The Orthodox Study Bible informs us that:

"This passage, explaining the presence of the sick around the pool, is often omitted from modern English translations because it appears in none of the oldest extant Greek manuscripts. Tertullian (c. A.D. 200) is the first Latin writer, and St. John Chrysostom (c. A.D. 400) the first Greek writer, to refer to it." (The Orthodox Study Bible, 224).

Therefore we have witnesses which date to the time of P66 and P75, such as Tertullian and the Peshitto Syriac Version, as well as wide geographical and translational support, which favor the passage. Further, we see that this is the reading which is used by Bible believing Christians throughout the history of the Church.

Spanish:

"Porque un angel descendia a cierto tiempo al estanque, y revolvia el agua; y el que primero descendia en el setanque despues del movimiento del aqua, era sano de cualquier enfermedad que tuviese."

French:

"car un ange descendait de temps en temps dans la piscine, et agitait l'eau; et celui qui y descendait le premier apres que l'eau avait ete agitee etait gueri, quelle que fut sa maladie."

Italian:

"Perciocche di temo in tempo un angelo scendeva nella pescina, ed intorbidava l'acqua; e il primo che vi entrava, dopo l'intorbidamento dell' acqua, era santo, di qualunque malattia egli fosse tenuto."

German:

"Denn ein Engel suhr herab zu seiner Zeit in den Ziech, und bewegte das Wasser. Welcher nun der erste, nachdem das Wasser beweget war, hineinstieg, der ward gesund, mit welcherlei Leuche er behastet war."

English (Geneva Bible):

"For an Angel went downe at a certeine season into the poole, and troubled the water, whosoever then first, after the stirring of the water, stepped in, was made whole of what soever disease he had."

 

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