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John 5 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on John 5 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

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.

(5:3-4) Troubled Waters
The earliest and best manuscripts lack the explanation for the "troubled waters" given in verses 3-4, which was later added by scribes.1 That's why these verses are omitted from the New Revised Standard Version.
(5:4) "Whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."
Whoever enters a pool after it is stirred up by angels will be cured of "whatsoever disease he had."
I'm always thrilled by the phrase “best and earliest manuscripts,” especially when Bart D. Ehrman is quoted as the source. And indeed, this entire verse is missing in our modern translations. But not always. Sometimes they put it back, and sometimes they remove it. But the explanation in this verse seems to fit quite well within the paragraph. We already have sources at the end of the second century which quote this verse such as Tatian in 175 AD. And the supposed “oldest” manuscripts are in complete disagreement among themselves.
But an author I've come to respect greatly, argues that at least verse four should indeed not be included:

The fact that people like the impotent man believed in such miracles is obviously the reason for the insertion of the explanatory gloss by some later scribe in verse 4 (and possibly verse 3b too). However, the fact that the wording of verse 4 states, not that the sick people believed that an angel came down, but that an angel actually came down, condemns verse 4 as a corruption of the NT text. Verse 3b is theologically unproblematic, has stronger external evidence and perhaps deserves to be retained, however it too could simply be an explanatory insertion.

Dean Burgon argued for inclusion:

Certain of the Church Fathers attached great importance to this reference to the angel's descent into the pool, attributing to it the highest theological significance. The pool they regarded as a type of baptism and the angel as the precursor of the Holy Spirit. Such was the interpretation which Tertullian (c. 200) gave to this passage. "Having been washed," he writes, “in the water by the angel, we are prepared for the Holy Spirit.” Similarly, Didymus (c 379) states that the pool was "confessedly an image of baptism" and the angel troubling the water “a forerunner of the Holy Spirit.” And the remarks of Chrysostom (c. 390) are to the same effect. These writers, at least, appear firmly convinced that John 5:3b-4 was a genuine portion of the New Testament text. And the fact that Tatian (c. 175) included this reading in his Diatessaron also strengthens the evidence for its genuineness by attesting its antiquity.

Given that God has preserved his word and that this text has been included in all scripture coming from trustworthy sources, these verses must be considered genuine.

5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

7 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.

8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?

13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

"Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
Jesus believes people are crippled by God as a punishment for sin. He tells a crippled man, after healing him, to "sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
No text in the Bible says that Jesus believes that all crippled people are crippled because of a particular sin. That it was true in this particular circumstance does not mean Jesus believed it was generally the case. This verse is actually the only verse in the Bible where Jesus makes a link between a particular sin and a particular handicap. And we have far more verses where Jesus says the opposite, that it wasn't a particular sin, see chapter 9:1-3 and Luke 13:1-5.

15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

(5:16, 18) "Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him."
John, with his usual anti-Semitism, says that the Jews persecuted Jesus and "sought to slay him."
(5:16-17) "Because he had done these things on the sabbath day."
Jesus didn't observe the sabbath, so I guess we don't have to either.
Is it necessary to keep the sabbath?
“John with his usual antisemitism” Yeah, let's check: did the Jews persecute Jesus? Check. Did they sought to slay him? Check. Did they slay him? Check. Was John a Jew? Check.
So John is on quite factual grounds here, if that is cause for a charge of antisemitism the word really has no meaning has it? But perhaps the author of the SAB objects to the word “the Jews”. Not all Jews sought to slay him, clearly John himself didn't, nor the other of the disciples. But it is not unusual to mention the whole for a part in the Bible, very usual in fact, see for example chapter 12:19.
On if it is necessary to keep the Sabbath: yes. Even God himself resteth on the seventh day, so a day of rest is set as example from the very beginning. And of course repeated in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8). And Jesus did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17-18).

17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

(5:22, 27) "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son."
Does Jesus judge people?
The author of the SAB asks if Jesus judges people and mentions two texts, chapter 8:15 and chapter 12:47, that say that Jesus does not judge. In this verse we learn that Jesus has been given the power to judge, but the application of it did not start when Jesus came to the earth, chapter 12:47. There is a difference between having been given the power and the time of wielding it. On his first coming Jesus came to save sinners, on his second coming he will come as a judge, no longer to save.
On chapter 8:15, it is clear from the context that does not say that Jesus does not just, just read the next verse (John 8:16) for example. See therefore chapter 8:15 for an explanation of that particular verse.
See also the response by LookingUntoJesus.

23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

"He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life."
What must you do to be saved?
Believing is not a work as accepting a gift has no merit in itself. But on the question itself: what you must do is set out clearly in this text.

25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

"The hour is coming, and now is."
Jesus says that "the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."
Dead in this context means:

by the "dead" are meant such who are dead in trespasses and sins; who are separated from God, alienated from the life of God, and in whom the image of God is defaced; who are dead in all the powers and faculties of their souls, to that which is spiritually good; and are without spiritual breath, sense, feeling, and motion. And by "the voice" of Christ is intended his Gospel, which is a voice of love, grace, and mercy, of life and liberty, of peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation by him; and which being attended with his power, is the means of quickening dead sinners; who may be said to hear it, when it comes not in word only, but in power, and works effectually in them; and is spirit and life, and the power of God unto salvation to them; when they receive it, understand, believe, and obey it: and such persons "shall live"; comfortably, pleasantly, and delightfully, a life of faith on Christ, a life of communion with him, and shall live eternally with him hereafter.

26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

(5:26-27) "The Father ... hath given him authority to execute jedgement."
Does Jesus judge people?

27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

(5:28-29) "All that are in the graves shall hear his voice."
Is death final?
The author of the SAB's link should have been to this. And as this verse clearly says, there will be a resurrection.

29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

"They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
How are people judged by God?
Is Salvation by faith alone?
What must you do to be saved?
Does Hell exist?
Does anyone ever do anything good?
BOM: Mosiah 16:11, Helaman 12:26
The author of the SAB asks how people will be judged. The answer is by their words and deeds. But there is a difference. Those who have believed in Jesus Christ will be judged according to Christ's words and deeds, because they have traded their sins for Christ's righteousness.
The author of the SAB also asks what the way of salvation is. Surely an important question! Salvation is attained by faith only, not by any works. As Paul writes (Heb. 11:6):

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

And where Jesus seems to say something else, for example Matthew 19:17, it is meant as an exhortation, to see that through works no one can be justified. Because even if we perfectly obeyed the law from now on, we are just “unprofitable servants”, Luke 17:10. So how can we pay for the sins we did before we perfectly obeyed the law?
And that brings us to the question what is meant by “they that have done good.” A good work is a work done by faith, flowing from being planted in Christ. As John Gill explains:

which none of Adam's posterity naturally do, or can do of themselves: such are designed here who believe in Christ, which to do is the work of God, and the greatest and best of worlds; and without which it is impossible to please God in any; and indeed, whatever is not of faith is sin, and cannot be a good work: a good work is that which is done according to the will of God, from love to him, in faith, and with a view to his glory; and those that do such works shall come forth

On what you must do to be saved, see verse 24.
Hell does exist as this verse and many others clearly explain.
The author of the SAB also asks if anyone has ever done any good. As has been explained, not by himself. Who can obey the law of God as it is meant to be obeyed, perfectly? But the good work in this verse are works done by those who believe in Christ and whose works are called good because of Christ.

30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

"If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true."
Did Jesus bears witness of himself?
As per Deut. 19:15, no one can be a witness for his own cause in court. That is what Jesus addresses here: before the judge, there must be other witnesses. He does not say, as the author of the SAB implies, that he did not bear witness of himself, he did (John 8:18). But that such was not permissible evidence in court, such evidence “is not true”, or in other words, not admissible. That is why Jesus in the next verse calls upon other witnesses. John the Baptist in verse 32, his own works in verse 36, and God the Father himself in verse 37.

32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

41 I receive not honour from men.

42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.

43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.

46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

"He [Moses] wrote of me."
Where? It's a shame he didn't give us chapter and verse.
The Jews didn't have chapters and verses. But Jesus also puts it this way, because Moses spoke about Jesus in many places. All the sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed forward to the fact that there must be a sacrifice for sin. But to give a specific verse where Moses speaks of Jesus, see Gen. 3:15.

47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?