A Jesus "miracle" explored

A Healing at Siloam?

Negating Jewish magic

Jesus Never Existed – Christianity's Fabrication Factory

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Kenneth Humphreys



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Shalem's Sacred water

The Ophel Ridge (or Eastern Hill) running south from Temple Mount.

The ridge was first occupied during the Bronze Age. The attraction was the Gihon Spring – the only water source within a radius of five miles. The earliest settlement was named for the Syrian sun-god Shalem.

Jebusites (Canaanites) dug the first subterranean tunnel from the spring, making use of a natural sink hole in the hill above.

It is this so-called "Warren's Shaft" that defenders of the faith argue was used by the warriors of King David to take the city by stealth.

Fat chance.


The pools of Siloam remained outside of "David's" city.






Tunnel vision

Hezekiah's tunnel – meanders for 1500 feet to terminate at the pool of Siloam. If Hezekiah ever built a pool himself it remains unknown.

Overflowing water fed a secondary pool (Birket el-Hamra, "the Red Pool").







Siloam: recycled "sacred space"

The Siloam water courses terminated in a "sacred" pool where the Emperor Hadrian built a temple, the Byzantines a church and the Muslims a mosque.

Unwittingly, in the year 333, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux described this Hadrianic nymphaeum:

"Also as you come out of Jerusalem to go up Mount Sion, on the left hand, below in the valley, beside the wall, is a pool which is called Siloe and has four porticoes; and there is another large pool outside it. This spring runs for six days and nights, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, it does not run at all, either by day or by night."






In the 5th century, the Empress Eudocia replaced the Hadrianic shrine with a Christian basilica. By then the notion that "Jesus had performed a miracle here" was well established.

In the 9th century the Christian church was itself replaced by a mosque.

Siloam pool today





The "other large pool" described by the Pilgrim of Bordeaux was lost until recently. Less than 200 yards from the first, it was rediscovered in 2004. With poor maintenance, the pool had silted up during the Christian era and had eventually been buried.

The new pool was much larger than the first, about 225 feet long and perhaps as wide (much remains under a garden). Four sets of stone steps led into the water, allowing bathers to enter at its varying levels.

Siloam pool II

Compare and contrast

Hadrianic nymphaeum at Sagalassos, south-central Turkey.

Without embarrassment, today's apologists are quite happy to reassign the Jesus wizardry to this new (and much more impressive!) pool – which is either the largest Jewish ritual bath ever found – or a standard Roman nymphaeum!



Nymphaeum were common to Roman cities, particularly in the eastern provinces.

The impressive nymphaeum at Jerash.




In a later age, when their faith enjoyed the benevolent support and advocacy of the Roman state, the Christians were able to retro-fit a sacred landscape within the Palestinian littoral. It would of course match the pious dreamscape pre-figured in the gospel fable. A Jesus trail, a perambulations between sanctified venues, would, by the 6th century, give concrete form to a sacrificial journey already established in the Christian mind as both profane and holy.

As it was, in the less favoured circumstances of the 2nd century, the evangelists of divine message and miracle prepared the ground with fancies of their own. Where Jesus venues were not entirely unstated – a vagueness which left plenty of scope for imaginative "placement"  – they were shrewdly calculated to scupper the competition and expropriate the magic of earlier gods.

The first target of the Christians was the parent faith that had given rise to their heresy – Judaism.


The pre-history of a "Jesus miracle at the pool of Siloam"

"The Valley of the Cheesemongers ... extended as far as Siloam; for that is the name of a fountain which hath sweet water in it, and this in great plenty also." – Josephus, War 5.4.1.

"And Jesus said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing." – John 9.7.


The Gihon spring rises within a cave at the foot of the Ophel hill. The spring's habit of gushing intermittently – the effect of a natural siphon – probably added to the awe and sacredness of a water source which could determine life or death in terrain at the edge of a desert. The gently flowing Gihon even gave its name to one of the four rivers of Eden, dreamed up by the author of Genesis.

The runoff from the stream flowed down the Kidron valley and pooled at a low point where the Kidron met with the Tyropoeon and Hinnom valleys. It was this pooling of water at the convergence of three valleys which encouraged Canaanite settlement of the hill above. The spot would in time be known as Siloam (aka Siloah), perhaps derived from the Hebrew shalah meaning "sent" (that is, by God). Both the spring and the pool must have been revered as "holy" from the earliest times.


Hezekiah digs a tunnel

If the Book of Kings is to be believed, in the early 7th century BC Hezekiah ordered the construction of a tunnel through the Ophel hill to protect the township's water supply (2 Kings 20.20). Apparently the Assyrians were threatening the city. The ancient Jebusite water channel – external to the original town – and a tunnel from the 7th century BC are real enough.

Biblical enthusiasts trumpet the tunnelling achievement as if it proved some special attribute of the Jews. Though the tunnelling is impressive the technique of crews digging from either end was well-known in the ancient world. Hezekiah's diggers made many false turns and actually dug a tunnel 1500 feet long to cover a distance of 1000 feet. They tunnelled under 150 feet of rock at an average width of two feet.

There is a similar, and more impressive, water tunnel on the Greek island of Samos, the Tunnel of Eupalinos. It passes under the 900 feet high Mount Castro and is 3400 feet in length.


Rain Dance

At some point in Judaean pre-history a rain festival developed which associated the natural valley reservoir with a sanctuary on the hill above and sacrifices to the god Baal. Later, Israelite settlers adopted the ritual and they made it their own – the Feast of Tabernacles. Tellingly, when the author of 1 Kings describes the sanctification of the first temple, he refers not to the Hebrew month of Sukkot but to the Canaanite Ethanim:

"And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month."
– I Kings 8.2.

When the biblical fable was fully developed the thanksgiving was retrospectively attached to the supposed Exodus from Egypt and a commemorative of God's bounty during "forty years in the wilderness". The "tabernacles" refer to temporary shelters made from branches beneath which the wandering Israelites were said to have eaten (for forty years!) "manna from heaven".

In the Feast of Tabernacles priests carried water from the pool of Siloam to the temple precinct, where they sprinkled it on the altar of the burnt offering, paraded about with palm fronds and made an appeal to God for rain in the coming year.

Siloam and Tabernacles stood at the heart of Judaism – and the author of John is determined that his hero will displace that creed entire. Among other things Jesus is the real "manna from heaven":

"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you NOT that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." – John 6.32,33.

In the hands of gospeller John "Jesus" would replace the whole nine yards of ritual and religion with nothing less than – and nothing more than! – himself.


Negating Jewish magic

The Jesus "miracle at the pool of Siloam" appears only in the gospel of John, although restoring a blind man's sight was a stock item on the miracle menu.

At Bethesda a word from the godman was all that it required to affect a cure. But in the Siloam yarn the recipe for healing is far more elaborate. JC first rolls mud patties with his own spit (that's quite some spittle!) and places them on the blind man's eyes.

Untypically, Jesus approaches the man, not vice versa.

"When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay." – John 9.6.

Why the peculiar ritual?
The miracle has already been set up in John 7. The Lord's feast (Leviticus 23) has become "the Jew's feast" – it is of course the Feast of Tabernacles – and the writer of John invents a spurious "scripture" about a belly and "living water":

"Now the Jew's Feast of Tabernacles was at hand ... then went he also up unto the feast ... Jesus answered ... I am from him, and he hath sent me ... In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water " – John 7.2,38.

The punch line is given in chapter 9. The mud pies are to be washed off in the sacred pool of the Jews.

"And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing." – John 9.7.

There is no historical truth in any of this:
it is an overly contrived scenario with a theological purpose. For the gospeller, Judaism has been superceded by faith in Christ. The healed man is a symbolic Jew, blind since birth, not a sinner, but a necessary mission for Jesus.

"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." – John 9.3,5.

By obeying Jesus (washing in the pool) the Jew both "sees the light" (receives his sight) and imbibes the "living water" of Christ. The Feast of Tabernacles and the whole paraphernalia of Judaism are at an end. The entire chapter 9 of John is taken up with this single story.

It one sense, the "miracle" is a substitute for the trial of Jesus by the Jews found in the synoptic gospels. The unbelieving Jews question the miracle and the Pharisees are divided about it (it is, after all a sabbath day!) The parents of the erstwhile blind man "fear the Jews" (John 9.22) but know the truth. By gospel standards, there follows a lengthy debate between the healed man himself and the recalcitrant Jews.

"I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? ... If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out." – John 9.27;34.

With the symbolic Jew "cast out", Jesus accepts the new believer and passes judgment on the willful Pharisees.

The whole tale is pure theology, encapsulating the entire Christian revolution. The Siloam miracle story is a proxy for the 2nd century conflict between Jewish orthodoxy and the new Christian heresy.


Having Eyes to See

Interestingly, blindness – a punishment from God – features in the disconcerting tale of David's capture of the fort of Jebu. The blind are "hated of David's soul". Nice.

"And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind that are hated of David's soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house. So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David." – 2 Samuel 5.8,9.

In the Jesus tale, all are blind who fail to accept the new Lord and "Light of the world"!


"Good Shepherd Jesus" is also the "Door of the Sheep Pen"!

Gospeller John continues with his theme of Jesus supplanting the whole of Judaism, with his yarn moving on to the Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah) and with Jesus now both a "door" (to salvation) and a shepherd to the sheep.

Accordingly, he locates his hero in Solomon's Porch, the towering entrance to the Temple described by Josephus (see below). Alarmingly, John has Jesus declare that all previous prophets and patriarchs have been "thieves and robbers":

"All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." – John 10.8,9.

As Jesus now declares he is God ("I and my Father are one" – John 10.30) the enraged Jews attempt to stone him. JC however deftly avoids capture and makes good his escape. As if.

Again, the flimsy topographical marker (the Temple porch) is not an historical reference but merely an anchor for another swipe at an obsolete Judaism. Jesus is the whole deal, in one convenient package. Acts uses the same device, having the Jews who witnessed Peter's healing miracle "run together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering" (Acts 3:11).


Where DID they get their ideas from?

Solomon's Porch

One of the few features of Herodian Jerusalem referred to by the author of John's gospel is Solomon's Porch:

"And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." – John 10.23,4.

A touch of authenticity? Don't you believe it. Our old friend Josephus provided "John" with all the information he needed:

"Solomon began to build the temple in the fourth year of his reign ... the king laid the foundations of the temple very deep in the ground, and the materials were strong stones, and such as would resist the force of time ... As to the porch, they built it before the temple; its length was twenty cubits, and it was so ordered that it might agree with the breadth of the house; and it had twelve cubits in latitude, and its height was raised as high as a hundred and twenty cubits." – Josephus, Antiquities 8.3.

Here, as in all other instances where "detail" is cited, the gospel writer says nothing not found in the works of the Jewish historian or another contemporary source.

The evangelists always say less and but never more than their unacknowledged sources.



Robert Gordon, Holy Land, Holy City (Paternoster, 2004)
H. J. Richards, Pilgrim to the Holy Land (McCrimmons,1985)
S. Gibson, J. Taylor, Beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Palestine Exploration Fund, 1994)
Joan Taylor, Christians and Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins (Clarendon, 1993)
Martin Biddle, The Tomb of Christ (Sutton, 1999)
Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, The Holy Land (Oxford, 1986)
Karen Armstrong, A History of Jerusalem (HarperCollins, 1997)





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