The idea is mentioned in the writings of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, and others. It was common in many areas of Europe and Asia, and among the native peoples of the New World when it was discovered in the 16th century of our own era. It was at that time that the legend became particularly prominent in the quest of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, who sought the fountain of life or youth in Florida in 1513.
Many other individuals have tirelessly hunted for such a fountain over the centuries –some spending fortunes and lifetimes searching – but the fountain has remained as elusive as it is legendary. Today we may view the stories as quaint relics of bygone ages, but they are also sad testaments to the fact that human beings so often search for their deepest desires in all the wrong directions.
Unlike the many disenchanted explorers who admitted defeat in looking for the elusive fountain, David, king of ancient Israel, felt that he had found it. Speaking of the God of Israel, David wrote: “For with you is the fountain of life” (Psalm 36:9). His son, the wise king Solomon – who spent much of his reign searching for what brought happiness and life – speaks repeatedly of the fountain of life in his proverbs, showing different aspects or ways in which it is experienced:
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27).
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life …” (Proverbs 10:11).
“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life…” (Proverbs 13:14).
“Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent …” (Proverbs 16:22).
Other biblical verses equate the flowing water of life with wisdom, knowledge, and truth, and these verses all show that the fountain of life can at least be approached by walking in the way of God. But these aspects are all, admittedly, a reflection (or perhaps more accurately a “trickle-down”) of the true fountain of life itself. In his teaching, Jesus showed how that fountain can actually be gained: “… whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14 NKJV).
That fountain which flows from God Himself will not disappear like a myth in the mists of time. The Book of Revelation shows it will be there beyond this age in the new heaven and earth: “.. the Lamb who is in the midst … will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters...” (Revelation 7:17 NKJV). That is the true fountain of life that exists and lasts far beyond humanity’s wildest dreams or hopes.
It is sad indeed that, over the centuries, many have spent great fortunes and much of their lives looking for this world’s imaginary living fountain. But it’s worth asking ourselves – what are we, who have found the only true fountain of life, spending of our time, energy, and resources to hold on to it and to lead others to it?