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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Pool of Siloam located
It doesn't prove Jesus actually cured the blind there, but . . . .

From the Herald Sun comes an article entitled "Miracle Pool Identified" which reports that the Pool of Siloam has been identified.

Archeologists in Jerusalem have identified the remains of the biblical Siloam Pool, where the Bible says Jesus miraculously cured a man's blindness.

The archeologists are slowly digging out the pool, where water still runs, tucked away in what is now the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan. It was used by Jews for ritual immersions for about 120 years until the year 70, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple.

* * *

In the past four months, archeologists have revealed the pool's 50-metre length and a channel that brought water from the Silwan spring to the pool.

The miracle of Jesus that takes place at the Pool of Siloam is described in John 9:1-11.

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?"

Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."

When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, "Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?" Others were saying, "This is he," still others were saying, "No, but he is like him." He kept saying, "I am the one."

So they were saying to him, "How then were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went away and washed, and I received sight." (Emphasis added)

It should be noted that the discovery of the Pool is not new--the Jerusalem Post ran a story about it in June 2004 which can be found here. I never will understand how these older stories can suddenly make the rounds after sitting without any real recognition for months. Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

As Christians, we need to be careful about how we describe the importance of this finding. There is, of course, no way to undeniably prove that Jesus actually performed a miracle using the Pool of Siloam. Like so many of Jesus' miracles, there would be no archaelogical evidence left behind of the healing because it is not the type of thing that would leave evidence. One time, I was challenged to provide indisputable archaeological proof of the miracles of Jesus. I responded: "What do you want? Left over bread crumbs from the feeding of the 5,000? Plaster cast footprints from Jesus walking on water?" You see, there is probably never going to be direct archaeological proof of any of Jesus' miracles. Rather, the evidence will always be indirect pointing to the fact that the Gospel writers knew what they were talking about.

In this case, the fact that the Pool of Siloam is specifically referenced tells us, once again, that John knew the area. This is much like the discovery that the pool known as Bethesda did, in fact, have five covered colonnades, just as John described in John 5:2. While this find will not have the same impact because there will be no details discovered about the pool that can affirm or disaffirm John's knowledge of the pool (since he gives almost no detail about the pool), and since I don't believe anyone actually has doubted the pool's existence, it still adds to the general credibility of John.

Consider the following from "The Gospel of John" from one of the Introduction to the New Testament courses on the Atlantic Baptist University website:

1.2.1. The author is familiar with the geographical features of Palestine

  • A. He is familiar with Galilee, Samaria and Judea (see 1:28 [11:1]; 2:1, 12; 3:23; 4:20; 11:54; 12:21).
  • B. He is also familiar with the city of Jerusalem (see 5:2; 9:7; 11:18; 18:1, 28; 19:17) and the Temple (2:14, 20; 8:2, 20; 10:23).

  • What does this familiarity with the geographical features of Palestine imply about the author?

    The fact that the author possessed such detailed geographical knowledge about Palestine implies he was a resident of Palestine, who had frequented these places.

    1.2.2. The author is acquainted with the social and religious conditions of Palestine (see 4:9; 7:35; 11:49; 18:13, 28, 31, 39). Likewise, he is also familiar with Jewish and Samaritan religious beliefs (see 1:41, 46; 4:9, 25; 6:15), and he is well acquainted with how Jewish festivals were celebrated at the Temple and with purification rites: Passover (2:13, 23; 6:4; 13:1; 18:28); Tabernacles (7:2, 37); Dedication (10:22); Purification rites (3:25; 11:55; 18:28; 19:31). What does the fact that the author has such knowledge imply about him?

    To have such detailed knowledge of the social and religious conditions of Palestine and Jewish and Samaritan religious beliefs implies that the author had first-hand experience of Jews and Samaritans, which suggests that he is from Palestine. His good knowledge of the Temple and Jewish festivals implies that he was a participant in the various Jewish festivals, which suggests that he was a Palestinians Jew. His knowledge of Jewish purification rites is consistent with first-hand experience.

    So, it seems as if every time archaeology confirms the existence of a particular place (in this case, one which would have already been destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.) that is mentioned by the author of the Gospel, it adds credibility to the idea that he was a person who was familiar with the area and circumstances around Palestine in the First Century. Moreover, if this were written more than 50 years after the destruction of the Pool, one would expect that the author of the Gospel to believe it necessary to explain more about the Pool (what it was, and what purpose it served in Jewish ritual) to hammer home the point of the miracle. But the author doesn't do that, and it suggests (when combined with all of the other evidence for an earlier dating) that the author was not writing well after the fact without any first hand knowledge.

    So, let's not go overboard about this discovery, but let's not dismiss it as irrelevant, either. It is just another piece of archaeological evidence that can be used to support the authorship of the Gospel by the Apostle John or someone else who lived in or was very familiar with Palestine in the First Century and knew the teachings of the Apostle John.

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