Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Biblical Pool of Siloam Is Uncovered in Jerusalem

Pool of Siloam reconstruction from the 5th century.

John’s gospel describes how Jesus cured a man blind from birth at the Pool of Siloam. I did not realize, however, that there was more than one Pool of Siloam. One is a reconstruction (above) from A.D. 400 and 460 by the empress Eudocia of Byzantium, who oversaw the rebuilding of several Biblical sites. Another is the original, the location of which had been long forgotten, and its very existence called into question. The accuracy of John’s description was also called into question, especially since John has the highest Christology than any of the other Gospels it was assumed the theologically-minded author did not care about the accuracy of historical or geographic details. I don't think it was a priority for him, but there is no reason to assume that he would make up entire locations.

Workers repairing a sewage pipe in the old city of Jerusalem have discovered the Pool of Siloam as described by John, less than 200 yards away from the reconstruction. The pool is a freshwater reservoir that was a major gathering place for ancient Jews making religious pilgrimages to the city.

New Testament scholar James H. Charlesworth of the Princeton Theological Seminary stated, "Now we have found the Pool of Siloam ... exactly where John said it was.''

The discovery puts a new spotlight on what is called the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a trip that religious law required ancient Jews to make at least once a year.

Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archeology Review, reported that the pool was fed by the now famous Hezekiah's Tunnel and is ``a much grander affair'' than archeologists previously believed, with three tiers of stone stairs allowing easy access to the water.
Illustration of Hezekiah's Tunnel, as it would have been in the time of Hezekiah.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Hezekiah's Tunnel with water flowing through it.

Archaeologists discovered the tunnel in the 19th century. The tunnel, which was hand carved out of the rock beneath Jerusalem, is Biblically significant, because it is attributed to the leadership of Hezekiah.

It winds underground from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. It is a third of a mile long, mostly less than three feet wide, and, in a few places, less than five feet in height. It has an elevation drop of only 2 feet. The account of the construction of Hezekiah's water tunnel under Jerusalem by King Hezekiah shortly before the city was besieged by Sennacherib in about 701 BC is described in 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:2-4, 30.