Hebrew Voices #124 – PART 4/4 Does John 6:4 Belong in the New Testament

In this episode of Hebrew Voices, Does John 6:4 Belong in the New Testament - PART 4 of 4, we examine the controversy about the Gospel of John which has raged for nearly 2,000 years, as we conclude our 4-part series to solve a textual conundrum using technology John could not have imagined and draw on resources unavailable even a few years ago. Ana wrote: “I'm always impressed with Nehemia's research. Always.” Be sure to first watch Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!

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Hebrew Voices #124 – PART 4/4 Does John 6:4 Belong in the New Testament

You are listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Nehemia: I’m searching for the truth. And look, when I sat down to do this topic, I said to John, “I’m not here to prove that Michael’s right. That’s not my job. I want to find out if he’s right or not, and if he’s wrong, I’ll go to him and I’ll tell him, ‘Michael, this is wrong.’”

Nehemia: We already saw the Church Fathers from the 2nd century, 3rd century, even in the 4th century, who had a version of John that matched what we found in these manuscripts. And so that tells you, even though the only surviving manuscript that we currently know of is from the 11th century, this reading already existed in the 2nd century, and this has been acknowledged for hundreds of years in the church. We had Vossius in 1643, we had Pearce in 1777, Henry Brown in 1844, and many, many others. We just brought a few of them. So, this has been acknowledged for hundreds of years that the Church Fathers, when they read John 6:4, they didn’t see that verse, or certainly didn’t see the word “Passover” in it.

And look, in archeology – I did my undergrad in Archaeology and Biblical Studies, I did a double major at Hebrew University – and one of the things we learned is that what you find in archeology is to some extent random. You go and you dig in a site, and you’re not digging the entire site. You’re digging a five-by-five-meter section of that site. If you have a really big excavation, you do 5 or 10 of those squares. But there’s a whole part of the site you’re not digging, and so what you find is somewhat haphazard, and we can actually see that in the Dead Sea Scrolls. You know, in the Dead Sea Scrolls we have a lot of copies of the Book of Isaiah, a lot of copies of Deuteronomy, that tells you those books were important to them. We don’t have a single copy of the Book of Esther. Why is that? It’s just random, what you find, right?

Now, if you find a lot of something, maybe that was important to them. Okay, but why didn’t we find one copy of Esther? Well, the copy of Nehemia we found is maybe this big, right? It’s a few verses, it’s very small. You know, there’s an old Hebrew saying, “Lo matzinu eino ra’aya”, the fact that you haven’t found something is not a proof, right? So, all we have is the evidence of what we did find. And what we did find is that there’s evidence in the 2nd century, 3rd century, 4th century, and others - we didn’t bring everything - that they were reading John without 6:4. And then, we find the manuscripts 11th to 15th century, and then 16th century and on, we find scholars telling us this explicitly. So we have a pretty much… other than this one period, around the 5th to 10th century, you’re right, we don’t have a lot of evidence from there. But we do have before and we have after.

Now, I want to bring an analogy here to something from the Tanakh. And here’s a key point - the age of a manuscript does not necessarily tell you it’s importance. In other words, just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s correct. And we saw before, Acts 21:25 in Codex Bezae. What if we didn’t have Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus? We would look at Bezae and we might say, “This is the oldest version.” Maybe Acts 21:25 in the oldest version is telling us not to keep the Torah. Thankfully, we do have the other ones, right? But what if we didn’t have it?

Look, we have this manuscript in the Tanakh, and this is I call a twofer, because it’s also the name. This is a manuscript that has the full vowels “Yehovah”. It’s in Lamentations 3:55. It’s Cambridge Oriental 1753, and it’s a very late manuscript - it’s from the 16th century. However, in Tanakh studies, this is considered to be a direct copy of the Aleppo Codex. The Aleppo Codex was completed around the year 930, and most of the section on the writings, the Ketuvim, is missing. And so when scholars want to know what the Aleppo Codex has in the Ketuvim, they look at Cambridge Oriental 1753. Even though it’s from the 16th century, it’s considered a direct or possibly second-generation copy of the Aleppo Codex, and hence has as much reliability, or is considered to have as much reliability, as the Aleppo Codex itself.

And here, we can see in Lamentations 3:55 it says, “karati shimkha Yehovah,” “I called upon Your name, Yehovah,” Yehovah with the full vowels. Beautiful. Can I get an Amen out there?

Michael: Amen.

Congregation: Amen.

Nehemia: And the important thing here is just because a manuscript is late doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t have value. It could have been copied from a much earlier manuscript that we don’t have. In the case of Cambridge Oriental 1753 we do have it, we just don’t have that section for the whole thing.

I want to bring you a New Testament manuscript that John shared with me, an amazing example. I love this. John, tell the people what we have here.

John: Well, you guys may have heard of the story back in 2005 when this particular papyri was dated. This is the earliest fragment from Revelation. This is the earliest fragment, and it’s the passage talking about the number of the beast…

Nehemia: Wait, wait. I’ve got to stop you. There are whole books and libraries you’re going to destroy right now. [laughter] Please, we need our end times. Don’t do this to us.

John: This particular passage has the number of the beast as 616. [laugher]

Nehemia: And you could see it right there in the Greek. It’s Chi Iota Stigma, 600, 10 and 6.

John: If this is correct, in American history, the largest bonfire in the history of our nation [laughter] will be Christian literature commenting on the Book of Revelation, and the Chronological Gospels may wind up in the fire.

Because this is the earliest, if you take the position that the earliest manuscript is always the most accurate, this has consequences. Sometimes, the earliest manuscript is not the most accurate. And the earliest manuscripts are the manuscripts that we don’t have. Irenaeus, which is one of the Church Fathers that we had discussed… and I’ll read the slide to you. Irenaeus comments on this. He says, “The number being found in the most approved and most ancient copies, and those men who saw John face-to-face.” Keep in mind, Irenaeus is the disciple of Polycarp, who’s the disciple of John. So, he knows people who knew John. And he says, “The most approved and most ancient copies, those men who saw John face-to-face, bearing their testimony, amount to 666. I do not know how it is that some have erred and have spoiled the middle number and the name, deducting the amount of 50 from it, so that instead of 6 decades, they will have…” and my slide is…

Nehemia: “They will have it there that there is but one.” In other words, in the time of Irenaeus, about 100 years before that Papyrus 115, which was discovered in Egypt, you have Irenaeus saying, “Yeah, we know about the 616. But the most reliable copies of John…” which we don’t have anymore, “they have 666.” And he says, “Not only is that in the most reliable copies, it’s also the people who knew John himself; we asked them and they told us, 616 is an error. It’s 666.”

So here’s the significant thing here. We have the oldest surviving manuscript of Revelation telling us 616, but Irenaeus tells us, “No, the ancient copies,” which don’t exist anymore, “and those men who saw John with their own eyes, they tell us that it’s 666.”

So this is really important. Just because you have an ancient manuscript doesn’t mean that that always preserves the perfect version. You’ve got to compare all of the evidence, and Irenaeus’ explicit statement tells us that 666 is the correct number, not 616. And so what we end up having with the number of the beast is, we have to rely on the Church Fathers, just like with John 6:4.

We have late manuscripts that support that John 6:4 is added, but what we don’t have is the early manuscript, but we do have the Church Fathers, just like in the case of this verse from Revelation and the number of the beast.


Now, before we get to our next topic, I want to ask this question of some people that might be in the audience, and I want to address it. I want to take it head on. Some people might be hearing this and saying, “Wait a minute; 616 and 666, and John 6:4, it’s there, it’s marked as doubtful and adulterous, and all this. What is going on here? Should we just throw out our Bible?”

And my answer is the exact opposite; that this work has been done for centuries, and it’s an ongoing project of people who are sifting through and discerning, and trying to determine what is the original wording. And we’re looking at ancient sources, Church Fathers and manuscripts, and people are collating, and going through, and looking and comparing. And this New Testament that you have in the Greek, and not just in the Greek, also in other languages – meaning, they also look at the Syriac and the Latin, and in the Hebrew now, and other sources – what we’re witnessing is a process of sifting and going through and establishing this as maybe one of the most reliable texts in the history of mankind.

Michael: Amen. Amen.


Nehemia: Anything you want to add?

John: This issue of textual variances, it is unsettling, because as Christians, this is the word of God. And in some cases we have a multiple-choice question on what is the word of God? And we shouldn’t let this bother us, because these are witnesses to the original text. We don’t have the original text, but these are witnesses to the original text. If we had a car accident outside and there was only one person there to see it, there would be no variants in the account. It would only be one account. Right or wrong, there would be no variants. If two people witness it, the account might slightly differ on some minor details, and now you have these variants in the witnesses. The reason we have so many variants is because we have 5,800 manuscripts that are Greek witnesses to the original text. The textual variants that we have in the Bible are so many because we have so many witnesses. And it’s because we have so many witnesses to the original text that we can be so certain about the events that our Bible documents. There’s no event in human history that we’re more certain took place than the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua, and there’s, for the most part, no textual variant that affects any major doctrine.

The most serious variant I’ve ever seen in the Bible is the variant we saw today in Acts 21:25, and if you’re reading more than a couple of pages in your Bible, you don’t need that one line to figure it out. You’d have to have your head in the sand to not figure it out, reading the rest of your Bible.


Michael: Yeah, yeah. As we saw in the countering the evidence of Moses controversy, even all the skeptics, they could give their opinions but they do not have one single manuscript that says that Moses didn’t write the Torah…

Nehemia: That’s right.

Michael: …of the thousands. And all over the world, you’ve inspected manuscripts that were written in China…

Nehemia: That’s right.

Michael: …and yet, they’re still telling the same story.

Nehemia: Yeah, there are seven Torah scrolls that have survived from China from the Jews of China, and I got to examine two of them, and they say the same thing as every other Torah in the world.

John: When we were at the Museum of the Bible, we found the Tetragrammaton with full vowels; it was on display.

Nehemia: Right, in a Bible from China. They weren’t Torah scrolls, it was a book form, and it had “Yehovah” with the full vowels in four places on display at the Museum of the Bible from a Chinese Bible. That message got throughout the world. And look, this is what I do with the Tanakh. When I’m telling you, “Hey, there are all these thousands of manuscripts that don’t have the full vowels, but now we have 1,776 that do have the full vowels,” I’m comparing the differences and trying to find out what the original had. That’s what it’s about, for me. I’m searching for the truth.

And look, when I sat down to do this topic, I said to John, “I’m not here to prove that Michael’s right. That’s not my job. I want to find out if he’s right or not, and if he’s wrong, I’ll go to him and I’ll tell him, ‘Michael, this is wrong.’” And what I’ve found is there’s evidence to support his position. And ultimately you, you believers, you need to decide. I always say this, “Work it out for yourself in fear and trembling, with prayer and study before the Creator of the Universe.” Can I get an amen?

Congregation: Amen. [applause]

Michael: Amen.

John: Amen.

Michael: And with Nehemia’s background in not only biblical studies and in manuscripts but also in archaeology, there was also something that came up in the Gospel of John.

Nehemia: And this is one more textual variant before we’re done, in the Gospel of John. But to give the background, we’re going to start in John chapter 5 verse 1. “After this, there was a feast of the Jews…” that’s the unnamed feast that we’ve talked about many times today, “and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. Now, there is, at Jerusalem by the sheep market, a pool which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda, having five porches.” And Bethesda, by most scholars and archaeologists today, they identify it as a place in the western part of the Old City in what today is the Muslim Quarter, called the Church of St. Anne. There’s an ancient pool there, and they say that is the Church of Bethesda. In Hebrew, or Aramaic, it was probably something like “Beit Khisda”, “the House of Righteousness,” although there is a textual variant in the Greek where it might be “Beit Zeita”, “the House of Olives.”

So, it’s unclear exactly where this pool is, but if you read it in the New Testament text it’s quite clear that this is the pool of Siloam. We actually hear of a replica of the Pool of Siloam, or Shiloah, which is the pool in Jerusalem where the water would flow out from the major spring of Jerusalem, the Gihon Spring. It would flow through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, through an S-shaped tunnel, that King Hezekiah had dug during the time of the Assyrian invasion, and the water was diverted to the Pool of Siloam, or in Hebrew, the Pool of Shiloah. Shiloah means “the sent one”. And it was called “Brikhat haShiloah”, “the Pool of the Sent One,” because the waters were sent forth from the Gihon spring through this tunnel into the city, where the water source could be more readily defended.

Why do I say it’s the Pool of Siloam? So we read on in John 5:3, “In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered.” And then, the next part is in brackets. I put it in brackets; in the King James it’s not in brackets. The next part does not appear in many manuscripts. So, they were waiting for the moving of the water, “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. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity, 30 and 8 years.” Now, you read this passage here and you read about something that we don’t find anywhere else in the New Testament, and certainly not in the Tanakh. And I like the way you put it, John.

John: Well, if this text is accurate, it teaches a message that’s foreign to the rest of the Bible, and that is, whoever gets up the fastest knocks everybody else down, and gets to the water, receives salvation.

Nehemia: Well, I’ve got this image of George Costanza and there’s a fire. [laughter] And he’s knocking down the old lady, “Get out of my way. Get out of my way.” The first one to get there gets saved. Now, many manuscripts don’t have this, I think for another reason as well. It’s describing something which is really an alien concept; that there’s some angel that comes down and messes with the water, and that causes people to be healed? It’s a bizarre concept.

So, if you look in most translations, for example, NRSV, there is no John 5 verse 4. It doesn’t exist. And the second half of verse 3 isn’t there either, in your NRSV, in, I believe this is the NIV, it’s missing, as well, as one of the translations. And what’s interesting is, we look in the manuscripts and what do we find? We find our good friend, the obelisk. John 5 is not John 6 anymore. It’s John 5, the second half of verse 3, 3b and verse 4 in majuscule 41 St. Petersburg Russian National Library, Greek 34, from the 9th century has the obelisk in the margin telling you, “I don’t trust this verse. This ain’t supposed to be there.” There, you see the obelisk marking all of John, the second half of verse 3 and all of verse 4.

And John found a whole bunch of these manuscripts. I only brought up two of them, because we’re way out of time. [laughing] Miniscule 348 is a much later one. This one’s from the year 1022. This is roughly the same time as many of the manuscripts we looked at, from Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, John 5:4 is marked with obelisks in the margin. You can see them up there in the upper-right. Those are obelisks saying, “Hey, this is a doubtful verse.”

And why is it a doubtful verse? Because… and some manuscripts don’t have it at all, but I’m bringing you the ones with obelisks to show you this isn’t just John 6:4 that’s unique with the obelisks, this is something that scribes in the Middle Ages would see certain verses and say, “That’s not supposed to be there. We’re going to obelize that verse.”

John 5:6 through 8 continues, “When Yeshua saw him lying there…” this is the man who for 38 years had been a paralytic, “and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the water, into the pool, when the water is stirred.’” So, nothing here about an angel, but there is something about the waters being stirred. And I immediately know a body of water that is in Jerusalem, based on this statement. It can only be the Pool of Siloam, the Pool of the Sent One.

And why do I say that? So the Pool of Siloam… let’s finish it. “While I’m trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” It doesn’t imply that the first one down gets healed though, right? He never gets down. “Then Yeshua said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your mat and walk.’ At once, the man was cured. He picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Shabbat. And so, the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Shabbat. It a Shabbat, the law forbids you to carry your mat.’” Now, we’re going to get to why they… Does everybody else hear that sound? [laughter] Okay, I thought I’d been up here too long, okay.

Michael: There’s an angel stirring your computer.

Nehemia: [laughing] All right. Now, before we get to what this whole thing of the mat on Shabbat is, let’s talk about the Pool of Siloam. So, the Pool of Siloam, or the Pool of the Sent One, was this pool in Jerusalem, and it was fed by the Gihon Spring. And the Gihon Spring is a special type of spring. It’s what’s called a rhythmic spring, and a rhythmic spring is a type of spring that in a cycle will gush out water from deep in the aquifer.

Let’s back up. What is a spring in the first place? So, a well is where you dig down to the aquifer. A spring is where there’s a fissure in the earth and the water, under pressure, pushes out from an underground lake called the aquifer. So Israel is a land that is dependent upon natural springs. We have some wells, but primarily, especially in the mountains, if there’s no spring there, there’s no settlement, right? Go to anywhere where there was an ancient town, somewhere around there is a spring. The spring water oozes out from the aquifer, but in a rhythmic spring it oozes out in a cycle. And the reason it does this, they believe, is that there’s some sort of underground cave, and the cave fills with water, and when it reaches a certain height the water pours over and then it’s pushed out through the rhythmic spring.

There’s a wonderful rhythmic spring just outside Jerusalem, which I absolutely love, partly because my sister lives there, and so I’ve been there many, many times. It’s called “Ein Mabua”, meaning the “bubbling spring”, and you go there and you’re standing in this pool of water, and it’s completely dry. It’s an empty pool of water. You see that the bottom is a little bit wet, right? But the water doesn’t even cover your ankles. And you stand there for 40 minutes, and you’re under water. And it’s a cycle of about every 40 minutes, the water fills up, stays up for a while, and then slowly drains out, fills up and drains out. And when it comes up, it comes up fast. It could come up within less than five minutes and you’re covered in water. That’s fast when you’re standing there, thinking. If you’ve had a nap there, you’re in trouble, right?

So this is called a rhythmic spring, also called a “siphon spring”, because the phenomenon that happens is called a siphon. So there are four rhythmic springs in Israel. In the whole world, there are approximately 100 of these, and four of them are in Israel. One of them is in northern Israel and it’s called Ein Elgin, which is the Arabic name and it means “the Spring of the gin”, that’s like the word “genie”. So, the spring of the demon or the angel, sound familiar? So, there were superstitions around these springs, because they didn’t know why the water would gush out every 40 minutes, or in the case of the Gihon, three times a day the water would come gushing out. They didn’t know why it would come out suddenly, and the rest of the time it was just slowly coming out. So the belief of the common folk at the time was that there was a spirit that lived in the spring, and the spirit would rouse up the water. It would stir and trouble up the water.

So, how did it happen that this superstition found its way into the Gospel of John? Well, people were copying this over the generations. Someone must have been copying it in Jerusalem and said, “Oh, I know why the waters are troubled, because an angel comes and stirs them.” And he probably first wrote that in the margin. The next guy who copied it, it wasn’t in the margin anymore. It makes its way into the body of the text. This is how these things happen. Thankfully, some scribes realized this and marked it with the obelisk, just like John 6:4. Other scribes left it out altogether, because they didn’t have it in their source, just like John 6:4.

So, this verse-and-a-half was added by superstitious people. But there’s no question whatsoever in my mind, at least, that this is talking about the Gihon Spring, which then feeds the Pool of Siloam. And the pool with the five porticos that the man was standing in front of… or I guess he wasn’t standing, because he was a paralytic. The one that he was lying on his mat in front of; that was the Pool of Siloam, based on the geography. And based on what it says not in verses 3 and 4, because that was added, but based on what it explicitly says in verse 7 that he says, “When the water is stirred,” because of the cycle of the rhythmic spring, it was three times a day in Jerusalem.

I’m not the first one to discover this. This is the site that everyone believed was the site of the healing of the paralytic before the 20th century. If you would have asked anybody 200 years ago, “When you went to Jerusalem, where did this happen?” They’d point you to the Gihon Spring. And it’s only later that they shifted it, in 1905, to the Church of St. Anne.

I want to talk for a minute before I get back to the significance. This is so significant. This is what my friend Keith calls the moneyball. In the entire story, the central message here is surrounding the geography. You know, some people call the geography of Israel the Fifth Gospel. I think Michael and I call it the “Sixth” because he calls Revelation the Fifth Gospel. But when you understand the geography of Israel, all these things jump off the page. And the geography here of Jerusalem is key to understanding what’s happening in John 5.

Before we get to that, though, I want to talk about why this was controversial that the man picked up his mat and walked away. What was the controversy? The controversy had to do with the Rabbinical Pharisee definition of “work”. The rabbis define “work” in a very technical, I would even call it legalistic way. And ironically, one of the things not included in work when it comes to Shabbat is actual labor. And I’m not trying to be funny. One of the things forbidden is carrying outside of your house on the Sabbath, more specifically, carrying from domain to domain. I don’t have time to get into that. But carrying is forbidden on the Sabbath. My father, of blessed memory, who was a rabbi, when he would leave the house on the Sabbath, he would not carry a key in his pocket, because that was considered work. “However,” I was told, “you could put a couch on your back, carry it up and down the stairs of your house all day, as long as you don’t leave the house with a couch, or even a key.” In fact, you can’t even wear a handkerchief in your lapel, or in your pocket, on Shabbat, according to the Orthodox Jews and the ancient Pharisees.

So, when the man stood up after being healed, according to the Gospel of John, by Yeshua, and he picked up and walked with that mat, he was violating the Sabbath, according to the Pharisees. That was a violation of Shabbat in and of itself. And the rabbis describe this in the Mishnah Chagigah 1:8, they say, “The laws of Shabbat are like mountains hanging from a strand of hair - little scripture and many laws.” And what they mean by this is, there’s a single word in Exodus 31:13 where it says, “But you will keep My Sabbaths,” and that word “but”, which can also be translated as “surely”, but for the Rabbinical interpretation it’s translated as “but”, that word “but” is the source of thousands of Rabbinical laws, because they say the context there is the building of the Tabernacle, and so everything involved in building the Tabernacle is now the definition of work on Shabbat.

So when they made the Tabernacle, they had to sew. So sewing is forbidden. When you sew, you tear, apparently - I don’t sew - but I’m told when you sew, you tear. And so one of the forms of labor forbidden by the rabbis on Shabbat is tearing. And I’m not trying to be funny here, but you’re not even allowed to tear toilet paper on the Sabbath. It’s not a joke. In Israel, you go to the supermarket and you buy kosher toilet paper. It’s pre-torn before the Sabbath. This is not a joke, this is literally a violation of Shabbat, punishable by death, according to the rabbis, if you tear toilet paper.

Okay, so now you understand what Yeshua was up against, and what the man was up against when he picked up his mat and walked. He was violating the Shabbat and was worthy of death, according to the Pharisees. Now, why is it significant that this took place at the Pool of Shiloah? And the answer has to do with the central celebration that took place every year in Jerusalem, which began at the Pool of Siloam. It was the most important and largest… I shouldn’t say most important, because I don’t consider it important. But to the rabbis of the 1st century this was the most important, and it was definitely the largest annual celebration. It was called Simkhat Beit Hasheova, literally, the “rejoicing of the House of Water Drawing”. It was part of a broader ceremony that took place on Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, and the purpose of the ceremony was to draw water from the Pool of Siloam, from the Shiloah, it says. They would draw the water out of the Pool of Siloam which flowed out of the Gihon Spring, and they would bring it up in this massive celebration and this massive ceremony, up to the Temple, where the High Priest would take the jug of water and he would pour the water that was drawn from the Shiloah on the altar.

Now, where in the Torah does it command us to perform a water libation? This is the water libation. Anybody know?

Woman: John 7.

Nehemia: John 7 is the Torah? [laughter] No, okay. Where in the Torah are we commanded to pour the water libation and to draw the water from the Gihon spring, from the Shiloah Pool? Nowhere in the Torah. Now, this ceremony is described in the Mishna, I want to read to you what it says. It’s significant here. It says, “How was the water libation performed? The High Priest would fill a golden flask holding three log,” that’s a measurement, “with water from the Siloam. He would pour out one log as the water libation all eight days,” meaning the seven days of Sukkot. And on the eighth day, what people refer to sometimes as the last great day, they didn’t do the water drawing ceremony all eight days, but they did the pouring of the water all eight days. “And to the one who pours out the water libation they say, ‘Lift up your hand,’ for one time, a priest poured out the water on his feet.”

Now this is amazing, because this incident of pouring the water on the feet appears both in the Mishna and in Josephus. Josephus gives us more details of why he poured it on his feet. But if you’re reading the Mishna and you’re a Pharisee, you already know why he poured it on his feet. The High Priests were often Sadducees. The Sadducees only believed in the written Scripture, not in the Oral Law. The water libation ceremony is pure Oral Law. It does not have a basis in the Torah. The rabbis themselves discussed the origin of the water libation, and there’s a debate of where it comes from. One rabbi says, “It’s halacha le Moshe mi Sinai,” “A law of Moses from Sinai,” but that’s a special category that means this is pure Oral Law, that it has no basis in written Scripture.

Other rabbis say, “No, this goes back to the six days of creation,” which is a very profound statement. What the rabbis really mean when they say it goes back to the six days of creation, is they’re acknowledging that this ceremony predates the time of Moses. And if it predates the time of Moses, that always worries me. Where does this actually come from?

Now, let me tell you a little bit about the water libation ceremony. When they would go to draw the water from the Shiloah pool, the rabbis would dance in front of this jug of water, this flask of water, juggling torches. And fire was a central message, a central part. It says that the fire filled up Jerusalem so much that there wasn’t a courtyard in Jerusalem that was not illuminated. So they’re dancing in front of this water with torches, and it describes how the rabbis, the really great rabbis, would throw the torches up in the air and they would bow down in full prostration in the direction of the Temple, jump up and catch the torches. That’s a pretty neat trick.

So they’re dancing with fire, they’re dancing with music, and they’re bringing the water up, and what’s the purpose of the water? What function does it serve? What is the purpose of the water libation? The rabbis give two different explanations. Number one is that pouring the water on the altar… and you have to remember, Sukkot is just before the beginning of the rainy season in Israel. The rainy season begins a few weeks after Sukkot, usually around a month, or it could be more, depending on the year, but it’s before the beginning of the rainy season, and the rabbi explains the purpose of pouring out the water on the altar, which isn’t commanded in the Torah, is to bring rain upon Israel throughout the following year. So, remember the rabbis dancing with the music and the juggling? That’s a rain dance. [laughter] So it does predate the Torah. Somebody say, “Uh oh.”

Michael: Uh oh.

Congregation: Oh-oh.

Nehemia: The other purpose of the water drawing ceremony and the dancing, it says in the Rabbinical literature, is to cause the Holy Spirit to pour out on Israel. So they said there’s literal water that will come in the form of rain, but there’s also the Holy Spirit being poured out, and they connected that with a verse in the Book of Isaiah. And one of the statements by the way, in the Mishna, is that they say, “Whoever has not seen the celebration of the house of water drawing,” that’s the dancing, the rain dance leading up to the Temple Mount, “has not seen a true celebration in his lifetime.” This was considered the ultimate event, the ultimate dancing and ceremony of bringing in celebration to Jerusalem, bringing up the water to the Temple Mount to pour out the Holy Spirit and to bring rain upon Israel.

You know, in the study of religion, they called this a “sympathetic magic”. What is sympathetic magic? I want someone to hurt, so I stick a doll of them with a pin, right? I want water to pour out on Israel in the form of rain, so I pour out a jug of water that I drew from this magical spring where there’s a demon living there, or a spirit, right? This is how people thought. This is not something commanded in the Torah. This is why the High Priest poured the water on his feet. He said, “I don’t want to do this ceremony. The Pharisees are making me,” and so, he poured it on his feet rather than desecrate the altar with a false offering.

Now, what is the source that the rabbis give for this water drawing ceremony? They connect it to Isaiah chapter 12 verses 2, 3 and 4. And I’ll read this, this is actually part of the Havdalah that ends Shabbat in the traditional ceremony. “Hinei El yeshuati evetch velo efkhad, ki ozi vezimrat Yehovah, vayehili liyeshua. Usha’avetem mayim besason mimayanei hayeshua.” It says, “Behold, the God of my yeshua, the God of my salvation, I will trust, I will not fear. For Yah, Yehovah is my strength, my song, and He has become for me yeshua, He has become for me salvation. You will draw the waters in rejoicing from the springs of salvation.” And the Rabbis said, “When we go down with ceremony, and celebration, and dancing, and music to draw the water from the Pool of Siloam, we are drawing the waters from the Pool of the Sent One. We’re drawing out the waters of salvation.”

And it goes on, “You will say on that day, ‘Give thanks to Yehovah, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the nation. Mention Him, for His name is exalted.” And the Rabbis said, “We can do this. We can go down to the Pool of Siloam and we can invoke the Holy Spirit.” They didn’t use the word “invoke”, but it’s really what they meant. “We can bring the Holy Spirit upon Israel by drawing water from a spring where water gushes out three times a day.” This is what they believed.

And I think this is key to the context of understanding what happened with Yeshua standing there, seeing this man for 38 years, and he says, “I can’t be healed, I can’t get saved from this illness, because I can’t get down to the waters when they get stirred.” And Yeshua says, “You want to walk? Do you want to walk? Do you want to be healed? You don’t need the magical water. You don’t need water from the springs of salvation, which is a pool with flowing H2O. If you want to get yeshua, salvation, it can be given to you. It can be given to you not from a pool. It can be given to you from another way.”

And the proof that this is what John 5 is saying… I think the proof is John 7:37. I’m going to ask Michael to read it. At the end of Sukkot, at the end of this eight days of pouring out water, seven days of celebration, seven days of dancing and bringing up the water from the Pool of Shiloah, at the end of this, Yeshua stands in the Temple, and what does He do?

Michael: “If any man thirsts, let them come unto Me and drink! And out of his belly will flow rivers of living water!”


Nehemia: Now, that’s John 7:37. At the end of Sukkot, and the end of the seven days of dancing and the eight days of pouring out the water, the end of the Simkhat Beit Hashoeva, and the water libation, Yeshua says, “You want water poured out? You want the Holy Spirit poured out? It’s not coming out from a jug of water that comes from a spring, that comes from a pool. Salvation can come to you, the kind promised in Isaiah, from a different way.” And I think that is what He is saying in John 5 when He says to the man, “You want to be healed? Take up your mat and walk. You don’t need the waters of salvation that flow from H2O. The waters of salvation, they come in a different way - they come from the Messiah.” I think that’s actually the contextual message of John chapter 5.

And guys, this is important. If you read in modern Christian studies about John chapter 5, they’ll tell you the whole story there was created as an answer to the worship of the Greek God Asclepius. The Greek God Asclepius was this Pagan deity who people would go to his temple, take a nap - literally, they would sleep in the temple - and believe that it would bring them healing.

And so, the answer of modern Christian scholars is, “Oh, yes. John chapter 5, that is a response to Asclepius, to show that Christ has more power than Asclepius.” Guys, no! In the Jewish context of the 1st century, this is a response to the water-drawing ceremony where the Jews believed they could bring their own salvation! They could do it themselves by filling up the jug of water and pouring it, contrary to the Torah, on the altar, and He says, “That’s not how it happens. Here’s how you get salvation from the Messiah, who God sent…”

Audience: Hallelujah! [applause]

Nehemia: “...according to the Gospel of John.” Remember, the spring is called the “Shiloah, the “Sent One”, and I believe the message of the Gospel of John, I’m just telling you what it is. I’m just a Karaite Jew, telling what it is, in its context. [laughter]

The message of John is that that spring and that pool is not the Sent One, that the Messiah is the sent one that gives you salvation. [applause] There it is. That’s all it is.

Michael: It was 20 years ago that Nehemia was saying, “All these people are coming up to me, and they’re beating on me about why I don’t believe in Yeshua.” And I said, “Nehemia, if you became a believer right now, it would screw up everything.” [laughter] Is that not what I said?

Nehemia: He did say it, yeah. [laughing]

Michael: Because you are telling these Christians who don’t obey Yeshua what Yeshua’s saying. You’re teaching them what He says. You’re actually doing it because you believe that what He’s saying is correct. And yet, they say they believe in Him and they’re not doing it. So, this is perfect! An outsider telling them what Yeshua says. You’re reading the Hebrew Matthew, you’re reading the Greek, you’re giving us the archaeological background, and this is perfect!

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  • Ted Craven says:

    Very good presentation of the case against John 6:4! But I was bothered by the repeated putdowns of KJV adherents like me.

    There are many, many problems with the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus codices, but let me just point out that both omit the last 12 verses of Mark (16:9-20). They end with the women visiting the tomb, finding it empty, and being really scared. Now no one who believes in the Resurrection is going to believe for one minute that Mark would leave it out of his Gospel! A “gospel” with no Resurrection would be like a version of Exodus that omits any mention of the Red Sea passage.

    However the vast majority of atheistic acadaemonians and tomb dwellers in today’s theological cemeteries love the missing verses because they concord with their basic unbelief in the deity of Christ and give them the opportunity to sow doubt by asking “Yea, hath Matthew/Mark/Luke/John/Christ said …?”

    Irenaeus in the 2nd century quotes Mark 16:19 in “Against Heresies” and also mentions that certain Gnostics of his time were prone to mutilate the Gospels by removing passages that didn’t conform to their particular heresies. And Michael Rood includes Mark 16:9-20 in his Chronological Gospels, so it seems that he doesn’t credit Vaticanus/Sinaiticus either. Sadly the NIV and most of the newer NT translations rely heavily on them.

  • BILL BLACK says:

    man oh man I gotta tell ya about 20 min in the Ruach ha Kodesh was dancing IN my soul and we had fun!
    I believe Nehemiah is born from above and doesn’t know it yet!

  • daniel says:

    Love it! A classic finale to a brilliant teaching.

  • Sarah says:

    38:47 are you saying you believe Yeshuah is the messiah, sent one of YHVH?

  • Christopher J whitaker says:

    Over 10 years ago I first learned from Michael Rood’s that Christ’s ministry was only 70 weeks but could not make it fit with any of the chronological date I had discovered although his arguments were pretty sound. The main problem was the starting and ending date could not be associated with known festivals given in the Bible. First the year of the Crucifixion is 27AD not 28. Passover 27AD is exactly 46 years after Herod decreed he would rebuild the Temple and the first Passover Pilate would have been in Jerusalem, also the 14th on Nisan fell on a Friday. Here is a synopsis of what I have discovered.

    In 27AD, Nisan 14, the Passover was on Friday April 11th , the Crucifixion on Wednesday the 16th and the entombment on the 17th. The day of Preparation for the Wave Offering. The High Sabbath beginning at sunset on April 18th to the 19th and resurrection sometime after sunset. If the Crucifixion was indeed on April 16 then the ascension 40 days later was on May 26th. May 26 27AD was the Julian day 1731065.

    In 26AD the first crescent Moon appeared on the evening of the 9th March making Sunday the 10th, the first day of the week and the first day of the year. Nissan 10 the day the Passover Lamb is brought into the Temple was Tuesday March 19th and this Julian day was 1730632 exactly 434 days (62 x 7) inclusive until May 26th 27AD.

    As can be seen using the 62 weeks as the length of Christs Ministry fits nicely within the framework of the Jewish festivals and eliminates the necessity to remove the word Passover from John 6:4 as there is only one Passover that it could refer to. There is a great deal more to this interpretation than I could possible include here but I will willingly send it to you through other channels.

    • Neville Newman says:

      @Christopher J Whitaker, can you please explain here what you mean by:

      “As can be seen using the 62 weeks as the length of Christs Ministry fits nicely within the framework of the Jewish festivals and eliminates the necessity to remove the word Passover from John 6:4 as there is only one Passover that it could refer to.”

      Thank you.

  • Nunya Biz says:

    Corrected my hard copy KJV, cuz maybe 2000yrs from now it’ll miraculously survive n someone may need it.

  • James says:

    Waited patiently for this episode. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you

  • Neville Newman says:

    Thank you so much, Nehemia, John, and Michael. I am not exaggerating or making anything up when I say that I had shivers running through my body as I listened to the last 3 minutes of this presentation.

  • Dorothy Adams says:

    Best 1 of the 4! Loved this!!! I just have a question. If that pool was not stirred by an angel and it was just water what happened to the people who did go in it? If they didn’t get healed wouldn’t that be obvious and word get around that it didn’t work?

    • daniel says:

      Dorothy, some healings were apparently happening – either because of their faith or despite their superstition (like the Placebo Effect), and either belief would only be reinforced.