Information

Bethany Beyond the Jordan


Bethany Beyond the Jordan (al-Maghtas) is considered one of the holiest of Christian sites, it being the officially recognised site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. It is also where Elijah is believed to have ascended to heaven and where Mary the Egyptian is believed to have lived as well as the place through which the Israelites are thought to have crossed into the Holy Land for the first time.

Archaeologists began to properly excavate Bethany Beyond the Jordan in 1994 after a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel. Through studies of locations mentioned in the Bible, medieval travellers’ descriptions, and local knowledge about the place of dipping, archaeologists unearthed this sacred spot.

The sites at Bethany Beyond the Jordan include many ancient baptism pools, churches, caves and wells, mostly dating to the fifth and sixth centuries AD and the remains of which can be toured today. Visitors can enter the baptism waters of the River Jordan, see Elijah’s Hill and explore the Visitor Centre.


Bethany Beyond the Jordan - History

Bible Cities : Bethany

Ancient Bethany - Kids Bible maps This map shows the location of Bethany in the land of Israel. The town of Bethany was located about two miles east of Jerusalem on the road toward the city of Jericho. Bethany is where the man named Lazarus lived, and he was friends with Jesus. When Lazarus was sick his sisters sent for Jesus to come and heal him, but Jesus had a different plan!

After several more days, Jesus and his disciples learned that Lazarus had died. At that time they packed up their things and traveled to Bethany. After Lazarus had been dead for four days, Jesus called to him from outside of the tomb saying, "Lazarus, come forth!" And Lazarus was alive again!

Simon the leper also lived in Bethany, and it was at Simon`s house that a woman came and poured expensive perfume on Jesus` head.

Ancient Bethany - Map of New Testament Israel BETH`A-NY (house of song, or affliction), A village of Israel, on the slope of Olivet, about four miles from Jerusalem, now called Lazarieh, "village of Lazarus," Mark 11:1 Luke 19:29.

Bethany in Easton's Bible Dictionary house of dates. (1.) The Revised Version in John 1:28 has this word instead of Bethabara, on the authority of the oldest manuscripts. It appears to have been the name of a place on the east of Jordan. (2.) A village on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1), about 2 miles east of Jerusalem, on the road to Jericho. It derived its name from the number of palm-trees which grew there. It was the residence of Lazarus and his sisters. It is frequently mentioned in connection with memorable incidents in the life of our Lord (Matt. 21:17 26:6 Mark 11:11, 12 14:3 Luke 24:50 John 11:1 12:1). It is now known by the name of el-Azariyeh, i.e., "place of Lazarus," or simply Lazariyeh. Seen from a distance, the village has been described as "remarkably beautiful, the perfection of retirement and repose, of seclusion and lovely peace." Now a mean village, containing about twenty families.

Bethany in Fausset's Bible Dictionary ("house of dates".) Bethabara, though dates have long disappeared from the locality, and only olives and figs remain (whence Olivet and Bethphage are named). (See BETHABARA.) Bethany is not mentioned until the New Testament time, which agrees with the Chaldee hinee being the word used for "dates" in the composition of the name, Beth-any. Associated with the closing days of the Lord Jesus, the home of the family whom He loved, Mary, Martha. and Lazarus where He raised Lazarus froth the dead from whence He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem His nightly abode each of the six nights preceding His betrayal where at the house of Simon the leper He was anointed by Mary (Mark 14:3) and where, most of all, we are introduced to the home circle of His private life. In John 11:1 His arrival at Bethany is recorded, namely, in the evening. The sending of the two disciples for the colt was evidently on the following morning, to allow time for the many events of the day of His triumphal entry and visiting the temple, after which it was "eventide" (Mark 11:11), which coincides with John's (John 12:12) direct assertion, "the next day" at the eventide of the day of triumphal entry He "went out unto Bethany with the twelve," His second day of lodging there. On the morrow, in coming from Bethany, He cursed the figtree (Mark 11:12-13), cast out the money- changers from the temple, and at "even" "went out of the city" (Mark 11:19), lodging at Bethany for the third time, according to Mark. "In the morning" they proceeded by the same route as before (as appears from their seeing the dried up fig tree), and therefore from Bethany to Jerusalem (Mark 11:27 Mark 12:41) and the temple, where He spoke parables and answered cavils, and then "went out of the temple" (Mark 13:1), to return again to Bethany, as appears from His speaking with Peter, James, Jehu, and Andrew privately "upon the mount of Olives" (Mark 13:3), on the S.E. slope of which Bethany lies, 15 stadia or less than two miles from Jerusalem (John 11:18), the fourth day, according to Mark, who adds, "after two days was the feast of the Passover" (Mark 14:1). Thus Mark completes the six days, coinciding (with that absence of design which establishes truth) exactly with John, "Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany" (John 12:1.) Though John does not directly say that Jesus went in the evenings to Bethany, yet he incidentally .

Bethany in Hitchcock's Bible Names the house of song the house of affliction

Bethany in Naves Topical Bible A village on the eastem slope of the Mount of Olives Joh 11:18 -Mary, Martha, and Lazarus dwell at Lu 10:38-41 -Lazarus dies and is raised to life at Joh 11 -Jesus attends a feast in Mt 26:6-13 Joh 12:1-9 -The colt of a donkey upon which Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, obtained at Mr 11:1-11 -Jesus sojourns at Mt 21:17 Mr 11:11,12,19

Bethany in Smiths Bible Dictionary (house of dates, or house of misery), a village which, scanty as are the notices of it contained in Scripture, is more intimately associated in our minds than perhaps any other place with the most familiar acts and scenes of the last days of the life of Christ. It was situated "at" the Mount of Olives, Mr 11:1 Lu 19:29 about fifteen stadia (furlongs, i.e. 1 1/2 or 2 miles) from Jerusalem Joh 11:18 on or near the usual road From Jericho to the city, Lu 19:29 comp. Mark 11:1 comp. Mark 10:46 and close by the west(?) of another village called Bethphage, the two being several times mentioned together. Bethany was the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, and is now known by a name derived from Lazarus--el-Azariyeh or Lazarieh. It lies on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, fully a mile beyond the summit, and not very far from the point at which the road to Jericho begins its more sudden descent towards the Jordan valley. El-'Azariyeh is a ruinous and wretched village, a wild mountain hamlet of some twenty families. Bethany has been commonly explained "house of dates," but it more probably signifies "house of misery." H. Dixon, "Holy Land," ii. 214, foll.

Bethany in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE beth'-a-ni (Bethania): (1) A village, 15 furlongs from Jerusalem (Jn 11:18), on the road to Jericho, at the Mount of Olives (Mk 11:1 Lk 19:29), where lived "Simon the leper" (Mk 14:3) and Mary, Martha and Lazarus (Jn 11:18 f). This village may justifiably be called the Judean home of Jesus, as He appears to have preferred to lodge there rather than in Jerusalem itself (Mt 21:17 Mk 11:11). Here occurred the incident of the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11) and the feast at the house of Simon (Mt 26:1-13 Mk 14:3-9 Lk 7:36-50 Jn 1:2:1-8). The Ascension as recorded in Lk 24:50-51 is thus described: "He led them out until they were over against Bethany: and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven." Bethany is today el `Azareyeh ("the place of Lazarus"--the L being displaced to form the article). It is a miserably untidy and tumble-down village facing East on the Southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, upon the carriage road to Jericho. A fair number of fig, almond and olive trees surround the houses. The traditional tomb of Lazarus is shown and there are some remains of medieval buildings, besides rock-cut tombs of much earlier date (PEF, III, 27, Sheet XVII). (2) "Bethany beyond the Jordan" (Jn 1:28 the King James Version Bethabara Bethabara, a reading against the majority of the manuscripts, supported by Origen on geographical grounds): No such place is known. Grove suggested that the place intended is BETH-NIMRAH (which see), the modern Tell nimrin, a singularly suitable place, but hard to fit in with Jn 1:28 compare 2:1. The traditional site is the ford East of Jericho.

Bethany Scripture - John 11:1 Now a certain [man] was sick, [named] Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

Bethany Scripture - John 11:18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:

Bethany Scripture - John 12:1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

Bethany Scripture - Luke 19:29 And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called [the mount] of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,

Bethany Scripture - Luke 24:50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.

Bethany Scripture - Mark 11:1 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,

Bethany Scripture - Mark 11:11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

Bethany Scripture - Mark 11:12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:

Bethany Scripture - Mark 14:3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious and she brake the box, and poured [it] on his head.

Bethany Scripture - Matthew 21:17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany and he lodged there.

Bethany Scripture - Matthew 26:6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,


How to Visit Jesus’s Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas)

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:13-17

My Visit to Bethany Beyond the Jordan

If I’d known what kind of shenanigans lay in store for me with Sultan behind the wheel, I might not have gotten in the taxi that morning. But this four hour trip to the Jordan River had only the smallest hint of what was to come the following day. Our first day together was pretty tame, save for the hour-long sales pitch to continue using his services.

Our drive from Amman to the site was pleasant. We pulled over for the King of Qatar’s motorcade. He told me about his feelings about the politics of the region. And he didn’t laugh when I turned down boiled eggs for breakfast and picked up a canister of Pringles and a Diet Pepsi. (Jordan is a country where it is remarkably difficult to find Diet Coke or even the lesser Coke Zero).

Standing in front of the Jordan River

We arrived at the site, and I bought a ticket for the mandatory tour. My guide drove us to the start of the tour, walked with me to the water, detailing the history of the place where Christian tradition believes that Jesus was baptized by Saint John the Baptist. I had as much time as I wanted at the actual river, where you can see groups of religious tourists baptizing themselves, praying, and swimming in the river. I dipped a toe in, more for my Catholic family back in the States than for my Atheist self.

After the walk back, I had time to peruse the gift shop (where I picked up some sweet, sweet magnets), before riding back to the starting point where Sultan was waiting for me. It was a pleasant morning of history and people watching.

Dipping my toes in the Jordan River

The Site

The Jordan River forms the border between the West Bank in Palestine and Jordan. Because it’s both the Palestinian border and the Israeli border, there’s a strong military presence on both sides. My first look at the river was during my tour of the West Bank the week before. The river is incredibly narrow, and the tours take you to the same exact point across the water from each other.

While both countries (all three countries?) have the river banks, only Jordan has the official baptism site, which is no longer on the actual river because the path has changed over the millennia.

Watching a family baptize themselves in the river

Situated on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, nine kilometres north of the Dead Sea, the archaeological site consists of two distinct areas: Tell Al-Kharrar, also known as Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill) and the area of the churches of Saint John the Baptist near the river. Situated in a pristine natural environment the site is believed to be the location where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptist. It features Roman and Byzantine remains including churches and chapels, a monastery, caves that have been used by hermits and pools in which baptisms were celebrated, testifying to the religious character of the place. The site is a Christian place of pilgrimage.

A modern Orthodox church built by the banks of the Jordan river

How to Get to Bethany Beyond the Jordan

The site is included on many tours, but it’s also an easy taxi ride from the Dead Sea or Madaba. It’s a longer ride from Amman.

Once you’re at the Visitor’s Center, you’ll escorted to the site via electric minivan.


Bethany Beyond the Jordan

Ancient sites associated with Jesus and John the Baptist receive a face-lift and await 21st-century tourists.

By Father Charles Miller, S.M.

Muhammad thumbs through his well-worn New Testament and reads aloud two passages from the Gospel of St. John.

“This happened in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing,” Muhammad declares. “[Jesus] went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.” “Here,” he adds, “was where John proclaimed Jesus the ‘Lamb of God,’ and where Jesus returned to find an enthusiastic reception after the hostility of Jerusalem.”

Muhammad also talks with ease about the Trinity, and points out that its only self-revelation, as such, took place at the baptism of Jesus, when the Father’s voice from heaven proclaimed the beloved Son, upon whom the Spirit descended in the form of a dove.

Archeologist Dr. Muhammad Waheeb is the excavator of the most recently investigated major site associated with the life of Jesus. The two Gospel passages state that John the Baptist was baptizing at Bethany beyond the Jordan River, i.e., on the east side of the river, as seen from Jerusalem. This Bethany should not be confused with the home village of Mary, Martha and Lazarus on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem.

For many centuries pilgrims have identified the location of the baptism of Jesus with a spot on the western bank of the Jordan River near Jericho. But over the past five years Dr. Waheeb has shown that for most Christians of the Byzantine period – the fourth through the seventh centuries – the activity of the Baptist was located at a site on the eastern bank known today in Arabic as Wadi el-Kharrar, about four and a half miles northeast of where the river empties into the Dead Sea.

The evidence of some pottery shards and other remains from the time of Jesus himself – what historians and archeologists call the Roman period in this region – is not yet sufficient to make an absolute identification of the site with the Gospel’s Bethany. And indeed it is difficult to “prove” archeologically the exact location of many, if not most, events of both the Old and New Testaments.

The earliest shrine-building efforts of newly free Christians, however, following the Romans’ issuing of an edict of religious tolerance in 311, as well as monastic settlements, bear witness to the attraction of particular sites to the faithful by at least the second quarter of the fourth century.

Dr. Waheeb, in his own words a “committed Muslim,” is Director of Cultural Resources Management for the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. As a believer in the one God, Muhammad sees his mission in life as bringing his science of archeology to bear on the sacred texts to locate, excavate and above all to preserve sacred places as the heritage of all believers in the God of Abraham. With his conservation engineer, Rustom Mkhjian, an Armenian Apostolic Christian, Waheeb designed and developed the 25-acre Baptism Archeological Park to commemorate not only the baptism of Jesus, but also the ascent of Elijah in the fiery chariot, just as did the ancient Byzantine monastery at the site.

In Byzantine times, as at so many other sites then associated with biblical events, an active monastic and devotional life thrived in the Wadi el-Kharrar. Fresh waters, perfect for baptizing, flow for about a mile down into the much dirtier Jordan River, almost at the end of its long course from the Sea of Galilee.

A monastery with four churches developed in the fourth through the sixth centuries on Tell Mar Elias (St. Elijah Hill), just above the springs. Three baptismal pools were supplied with additional water by ceramic pipe aqueducts.

A hostel between the monastery and the river provided lodging for pilgrims, and at the riverside itself four successive churches were built over a period of four centuries. One after another was washed away by winter floods or destroyed by earthquakes.

Hermits lived nearby in caves carved into the soft limestone. They gathered weekly for a common liturgy and provisioning of food and work materials. One of the caves may even have been that of St. Mary of Egypt, a reformed prostitute who lived in the region for 47 years until her death.

Numerous pilgrims have passed the site, some leaving written descriptions. These helped Waheeb and Mkhjian identify what they found and prepare appropriate conservation measures. Repairs of ancient structures, beautiful walkways and modern baptismal facilities now provide easy access for modern pilgrims just as did the monastic buildings and pools of 1,500 years ago.

But ease of access was not always characteristic of Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Although the Byzantines had followed a traditional route from Jerusalem to Jericho and across a ford to the baptismal site and beyond, by the eighth century pilgrims no longer ventured across the river. With the collapse of Byzantine rule and the shift of trade routes, the eastern side of the river turned dangerous pilgrims from Jerusalem tended to stop on the western bank where tradition eventually and conveniently moved the site of the commemoration of the baptism of Jesus. Even in modern times access was difficult, and from 1967 until 1994 the region was a military frontier, heavily mined on both sides.

The Jordan-Israel peace treaty of 1994 allowed Dr. Waheeb’s crew to conduct an archeological survey in 1997. When he realized that the surface evidence coincided strongly with Byzantine pilgrims’ accounts, Waheeb was able to convince his superiors in the Department of Antiquities and the Ministry of Tourism of Jordan of the unique importance of the site. With encouragement from the Jordanian royal family as well as church leaders, a plan was prepared for excavation, conservation and development of the facilities for today’s pilgrims.

Although the official opening of the Baptismal Archeological Park is slated for January 2002, roughly 5,000 to 10,000 tourists already make the pilgrimage each month. Indeed, the world’s best known pilgrim, Pope John Paul II, visited the park in March 2000 with an entourage of thousands. The event was televised around the world.

Given that Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem are on the western side of the Jordan River, most Christian pilgrims do not realize that the “East Bank” of the river, today the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, also played a significant role in biblical accounts of God’s history with his people.

Jesus did not just visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan: From his childhood, he probably traversed this eastern bank of the Jordan with his parents on their pilgrimages to and from Jerusalem from Galilee. We know from the Gospels that during his public life he moved through the regions then called Perea and the Decapolis, preaching, healing and exorcising.

Long before Jesus, however, other biblical figures were active in the eastern part of the Promised Land. According to the Book of Joshua, the Israelite tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh were allocated territories there by Moses. The biblical judge Gideon pursued the Midianites into the east, and Yair judged for 22 years in Gilead, just north of Wadi el-Kharrar. Gilead also produced the judge Jephtha, who defeated the Ammonites but sacrificed his own daughter to pay his vow to Yahweh.

The most famous ninth-century Gileadite was Elijah, born at Listib where another Byzantine monastery at a second Tell Mar Elias commemorated his birth. Both sites were designated holy places of pilgrimage for the Jubilee Year 2000. Although only ruins of later villages exist at Listib, a Jordanian expedition at Tell Mar Elias is currently excavating the Byzantine church, with its columns, mosaics and other ruins, in order to make it more accessible.

Closer to the eastern desert’s edge is Amman, the capital of the kingdom and a modern city of more than one million people. But its strongest biblical association was with the siege of Rabbath Ammon, as the Old Testament calls it, by the Israelite army under Joab. It was here that, on the orders of King David, Bathsheba’s husband Uriah was set up by Joab to be killed in battle. The ruins of that 10th-century Ammonite citadel still survive, looking down upon the modern city’s traffic jams around a Roman theater and nymphaeum in what was known in Jesus’ time as the Decapolis city of Philadelphia.

Southeast of the Wadi el-Kharrar, Moses himself looked out upon the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo and died there, just a few miles from the new baptism park. Today’s pilgrims can visit and pray in the Byzantine monastery, excavated by the Franciscans, that commemorates the biblical story and appreciate the beautiful mosaics that graced so many churches of that period in the area.

To the east and south of Mt. Nebo is the land of biblical Moab, birthplace and home of Ruth before she accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem.

Also south of Mt. Nebo, seated on a barren hilltop within signaling range of Masada and Herodion across the Dead Sea, Herod the Great built the Perean frontier fortress of Machaerus, another pilgrimage site of Jubilee 2000. Here his son Antipas beheaded John the Baptist to reward Salome’s dancing, according to accounts in the Gospels and in the writings of the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

Farther south, in the mountainous biblical kingdom of Edom, an ancient tradition has located Mt. Hor at Jebel Haroun, with its mountaintop memorial to Aaron. A small but highly visible Muslim shrine constructed from the ruins of a Byzantine or medieval chapel overlooks the ruins of Nabatean Petra to the northeast to the west lies the Wadi Arabah, part of the route of the Israelite Exodus. Just below Nebi Haroun on a small plateau was yet another Byzantine monastery, now under excavation by a Finnish expedition. Medieval travelers write of monks living there until the 15th century.

The story of Job takes place in the land of Uz, probably southeast of Edom. In short, “Transjordan,” as the entire country was once known, is a region rich in biblical associations and pilgrimage destinations of spectacular scenery and mosaics.

In a world in which religious conflict makes the headlines almost daily, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan stands out as an example of mutual respect, friendship and cooperation between its Muslim majority and Christian minority.

Muhammad Waheeb and Rustom Mkhjian are themselves models of Jordanian society: Working together, they maintain a profound commitment to their respective faiths, yet emphasize what they share in common far more than what separates.

A biblical archeologist, Father Charles Miller is Rector of the Ratisbonne Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem.


How to Get There

From Amman: Drive south along the Dead Sea highway towards the Dead Sea. About 20 minutes into the drive you will reach a fork in the road heading North at that fork will lead you directly to this breathtaking site.

From the Dead Sea: The drive from the Dead Sea hotel area to the Baptism Site is only about 15 minutes as Al-Maghtas is only about 20KM North of the hotel area.

From Aqaba: Along the scenic King’s Highway the drive North from Aqaba should only takeHow to get there about 3 hours and a half.


I. Introduction

One of my friends, who has a most noteworthy biography, is Bargil Pixner.1 He was born in the South Tyrol, and as a young German soldier opposed to Hitler’s National Socialism he almost paid with his life. After the War a political career was open to him in his native land, but he became a missionary and for many years he was, among other things, the leader of a leprosy station in the Philippines. Since 1968 he has lived in Israel and belongs to the Benedictine Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. He has two main concerns in his life: first, he strives to bring about unity among Christians, and hopes to achieve this preeminently through corporate prayer and the study of the Scriptures secondly, he has dedicated himself to the investigation of biblical topography and archaeology. In this area his most important contribution is probably the claim that in New Testament times the Essene Quarter was situated on Mt Zion, that is on the south- western hill of old Jerusalem.2

The stimulus for the following exposition I owe to Bargil Pixner. The interpretation of the Johannine topographical designation ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’ which I advocate here, was his own independent discovery. Later on, as a matter of fact,

TynBul 38:1 (1987) p. 30

TynBul 38:1 (1987) p. 31

we saw that already in 1877 a famous topographer of the Holy Land, Claude R. Conder, had advocated the same view. On the other hand Captain Conder does not seem to have known that there was an allusion to this interpretation as early as 1658 by another Englishman, John Lightfoot, in the Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae. Perhaps we can only make ‘new’ discoveries in New Testament exegesis because in the meantime we have forgotten the history of the investigation of the New Testament at least before the middle of the last century. Over against this particular scepticism I hope, however, to be able to formulate some fresh observations which may be helpful for understanding the characteristics of John’s Gospel.

My interest in the old topographical riddle ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’ was awakened in 1982 during an excursion with Bargil Pixner to Tel Salem, some 12 km south of Beth Shean, the old Scythopolis. The earliest tradit.


Pre-Jesus

God has granted to the land of Jordan many special places. The north of the country can boast of the homeland of the Prophet Elijah, and in the northern and central regions they take pride in the fact that Christ performed many miracles there and preached in their towns. The south is also very proud that John the Baptist was martyred in ‘Mekawer’ Castle, which is south of Madaba. In the Jordan River John baptized Jesus and there he met five of his disciples, including Peter. From here he set out preaching about the Kingdom of God, beginning the public part of his life.

Moses
Upon Mount Nebo, God revealed Himself to Moses, as He had previously revealed Himself at Sinai, and Moses stood and looked over the Promised Land stretched out in front of him. He saw the Jordan River before him, descending from the heights of Mount Hermon into the depths of the Jordan valley.

Joshua
After Moses passed away, Joshua, the son of Nun, crossed with the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Elijah and Elisha
But soon after their entrance into the Holy Land the people turned from the worship of God and took to worshipping strange gods. God sent to them many prophets to bring them back to true belief in His oneness and observance of His commandments. One of the most famous prophets was Elijah, who lived during the time of the rule of King Ahab in Israel. Ahab and his wife oppressed Elijah, and when Elijah grew old, God inspired him to leave and settle in what is today Jordan. So he left with his appointed successor, Elisha, who carried on his spirit and message. When they arrived at the River Jordan, Elijah struck it with his cloak and parted the waters of the river. He and Elisha crossed the dry land, and as they were speaking together upon the other side of the river, a fiery chariot came and carried Elijah into the heavens. (2nd Kings: 2)

John the Baptist
Again, hundreds of years passed and John the Baptist appeared at Bethany (Bayt ‘Anya) on the far side of the Jordan River (John 1:28 & John 10:40). He continued the path of faith and took the message from Moses “representative of the Holy Law” and from Elijah “representative of the prophets of the Old Testament” (Luke 1:17). John was the last prophet in the manner of the Old Testament prophets and the first prophet of the New Testament. He called the people to repent in preparation for the arrival of Christ, the Redeemer, and began to baptize in the Jordan River and the surrounding springs. The baptism he administered was a symbol of repentance and belief in God. Fleeing the authorities because of his sermons, he made for Bethany beyond the Jordan. He would sleep and rest in a cave close to the springs of “Saphsaphas” (what is today known as the Valley of Kharrar). The Bible states that here people from Jerusalem, Judea and the surrounding regions of the Jordan flocked to John for baptism. Jesus visited John here.

Then the Jews in Jerusalem sent some of the Scribes and Pharisees to question John, and John said to them, “I am not the Messiah, I am only a voice crying out in the wilderness saying, ‘Follow the path of God and make firm His path.’” (John 1:24)


Bethany Beyond the Jordan - History

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, the act that launched Jesus’ public ministry, most likely took place on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River, in a perennial riverbed called the Wadi Al-Kharrar.

Shelter over remains of a church at the Baptism Site (Alicia Bramlett)

Here the remains of more than 20 Christian sites have been discovered, including several churches, a prayer hall, baptismal pools and a sophisticated water reticulation system. These date back to the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Excavations at Bethany Beyond the Jordan began only in 1996. Before then the area had been a minefield on the front line between Jordan and Israel, whose border is the Jordan River.

The 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel prepared the way for access by archaeologists and church officials. Jordanian authorities have built a new road, a visitors’ centre and walkways. Several Christian denominations have built churches, the most prominent being the gold-domed Greek Orthodox Church of St John the Baptist.

The baptismal site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan (John 1:28) is near the southern end of the Jordan River, across from Jericho and 8 kilometres south of the King Hussein (or Allenby) Bridge. It is 40 minutes by car from the Jordanian capital of Amman.

It should not be confused with the Bethany on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Stream flows from oasis

At the head of the Wadi Kharrar, springs emerge from the barren landscape to create a small oasis of tamarisk and palm trees, reeds, grasses and shrubbery. From here the Wadi Kharrar stream flows eastward to the Jordan River, its 2-kilometre route flanked by thick vegetation and identified by the murmur of running water.

Lush vegetation beside the Jordan River (© Visitjordan.com)

The fresh water of the Wadi Kharrar stream would have been more suitable for baptisms than the murkier Jordan River, which in John the Baptist’s time was also subject to heavy seasonal flooding.

The area adjacent to the baptismal site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan (called Al-Maghtas in Arabic) has many other biblical associations.

Near here, it is believed, Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River to the Promised Land after the waters miraculously stopped flowing (Joshua 3:14-16).

Elijah — a prophet who is often associated with John the Baptist — also crossed the Jordan River on dry ground in this area, and was then taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:8-11).

In the New Testament, Jesus withdrew to Bethany Beyond the Jordan after being threatened with stoning in Jerusalem (John 10:31-40).

Early Christian pilgrims visited Bethany Beyond the Jordan on a route that went from Jerusalem to Jericho, across the Jordan River and then to Mount Nebo.

Precise spot is unknown

Pilgrims renew baptismal promises around a font of water from the Jordan River (Seetheholyland.net)

John the Baptist “went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). The Jordan River has changed course over the centuries and the precise spot where John baptised Jesus will probably never be positively identified.

All four Gospel writers mention Jesus’ baptism, but only John specifies the location as Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Documentary evidence favours identifying this location as Wadi Al-Kharrar or Al-Maghtas.

Not all scholars accept this identification. Some prefer a location north of the Sea of Galilee, by the Yarmouk River, where Elijah, hiding from the wrath of King Ahab, is believed to have been fed by a raven (1 Kings 17:2-6).

Identification was made more difficult by the Christian scholar Origen, who lived in Palestine in the 3rd century. Unaware of any Bethany on the east side of the Jordan River, he suggested the placename in John’s Gospel should be Bethabara (which was on the west of the river). Some New Testament translators followed his suggestion. It even appears in the King James Version of the Bible.

Jesus’ baptism is also commemorated on the western bank of the Jordan River, at a site in Israel called Qasr Al-Yahud (see below).

Church was built on arches

Pilgrims as far back as 333 described visits to the baptism site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan. An account in 530 said it was marked by a marble pillar on which an iron cross had been fastened.

The 6th-century pilgrim Theodosius described a church built there by the Byzantine emperor Anastasius I. He said this square-shaped church was built on high arches to allow flood waters to pass underneath. Archaeologists believe they have uncovered remains of the piers on which the church was built.

Later pilgrims referred to a small church said to have been built “on the place where the Lord’s clothes were placed”.

The Wadi Al-Kharrar was also the centre of an active monastic life. Hermits lived in caves carved into the soft limestone, gathering weekly for a common liturgy.

A monastery with four churches developed between the 4th and 6th centuries on Tell Mar Elias (St Elijah Hill), just above the springs that feed the stream. A hostel between the monastery and the river provided lodging for pilgrims, who would immerse themselves in the waters.

The baptismal site was particularly revered by Russian pilgrims prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. They would arrive carrying their shrouds which they would wear as they baptised each other in the river.

One church was built around a cave

In an area of several square kilometres, now called the Baptism Archaeological Park, the Jordanian Department of Antiquities has surveyed, excavated and conserved a series of ancient remains.

Mosaics from a church floor (© Visitjordan.com)

These include a walled monastery containing at least four churches and chapels, a prayer hall, a sophisticated water reticulation and storage system and three plastered pools. The wall was intended to prevent erosion, rather than protect against attack.

The discoveries include remains of foundations and walls, mosaic floors, fine coloured stone pavements, Corinthian capitals, column drums and bases, and hermits’ cells and caves.

One of the churches appears to have been built around a natural cave containing fresh spring water — possibly the cave that Byzantine pilgrims called “the cave of John the Baptist”.

The development of facilities for pilgrims has been encouraged by the Jordanian royal family. These facilities include a new road from the Dead Sea area, a visitors’ centre, and paths and walkways to the most important religious and archaeological sites.

In 2015 Bethany Beyond the Jordan was designated a World Heritage site.

Commemoration moved to western bank

Greek Orthodox Church of St John the Baptist at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Seetheholyland.net)

The religious sites in the Wadi Al-Kharrar area were gradually abandoned from the time of the Muslim conquest, in the middle of the 7th century. Pilgrims from Jerusalem no longer ventured across the Jordan River, so they commemorated the baptism of Jesus near Qasr Al-Yehud on the western bank.

This site is marked by the large medieval-era Greek Orthodox Monastery of St John the Baptist, built on Byzantine ruins and clearly visible from across the river.

Access to the area around Qasr Al-Yehud has also been difficult in modern times. From 1967 until 1994 it was also in a military zone and heavily mined. It was open only twice a year for pilgrims celebrating their feasts of the baptism of Christ, in January for the Orthodox and October for the Catholics. In 2011 it was opened to the public.

By the end of 2018, access to three of the seven monasteries in the area — Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian and Franciscan (Catholic) — had been cleared of mines.

While Qasr Al-Yehud was inaccessible, the long-established Kibbutz Kinneret began running a substitute site at Yardenit, near the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, with modern facilities and shady eucalyptus trees. It has been receiving more than half a million visitors a year, many receiving baptism or renewing their baptismal promises in the Jordan River.

In Scripture:

Elijah is taken up to heaven: 2 Kings 2:1-14

The preaching of John the Baptist: Luke 3:2-14

John baptises Jesus: Matthew 3:13-17 Mark 1:9-11 Luke 3:21-22 John 1:29-34

The witness of John the Baptist: John 1:19-28

Jesus retreats beyond the Jordan for safety: John 10:40

Administered by:

Department of Antiquities of Jordan Jordan Valley Authority Greek Orthodox Church

Tel.: 962-5-3590360

Open: Winter 8am-4pm (last entry 3pm) summer 8am-6pm (last entry 5pm)

Remains of Christian sites at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, with steps leading to Church of John the Baptist, under far shelter (Seetheholyland.net) New Catholic church under construction at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Seetheholyland.net) Piers for arches on which one of the churches at Bethany Beyond the Jordan was built (Seetheholyland.net)
St Mary of Egypt receiving Communion from St Zosimas, as depicted at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Seetheholyland.net) Icon in Church of St John the Baptist at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Seetheholyland.net) Pilgrims renew baptismal promises around a font of water from the Jordan River (Seetheholyland.net)
Bones of a 6th-century monk in the Church of John the Baptist (Seetheholyland.net) Access to the Jordan River from Jordanian (left) and Israeli sides (Seetheholyland.net) One of the new churches at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Seetheholyland.net)
Approach to the Jordan River from the Jordanian side (Seetheholyland.net) Greek Orthodox Church of St John the Baptist at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Seetheholyland.net) Inside the “Cave of John the Baptist” (© Baptismsite.com)
Hermit cells overlooking the Jordan River (© Baptismsite.com) Remains of the mosaic floor of the upper basilica (© Baptismsite.com) Shelters over the remains of churches built in memory of the Baptism of Christ (© Baptismsite.com)
Excavations at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (© Visitjordan.com) Mural of Elijah’s fiery ascent into heaven, in the Orthodox church (David Bjorgen) Mosaic pattern at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (© Visitjordan.com)
Dome of Orthodox church at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Bob McCaffrey) Mosaics from a church floor (© Visitjordan.com) Mural of Jesus approaching John the Baptist, in the Orthodox church (David Bjorgen)
Close-up of the Church of John Paul lI (© Visitjordan.com) Mural of Jesus’ Baptism, in the Orthodox church (David Bjorgen) Excavations at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (© Visitpalestine.ps)
Excavation of a pool at the Baptism Site in Jordan (© Visitjordan.com) Lush vegetation beside the Jordan River (© Visitjordan.com) Orthodox Church of St John the Baptist at the Baptism Site (David Bjorgen)
Arch of the Church of John Paul II, the pope who celebrated Mass here in 2000 (© Baptismsite.com) Sign at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Bob McCaffrey) Shelter over remains of a church at the Baptism Site (Alicia Bramlett)
Four piers show where Byzantine church is believed to have been built (Seetheholyland.net) Russian Orthodox church at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, with mosaic depicting President Vladimir Putin at its opening in 2012 (Seetheholyland.net) Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Ben Gray / ELCJHL)
Sign quoting King of Jordan at Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Seetheholyland.net)
Beitzel, Barry J.: Biblica, The Bible Atlas: A Social and Historical Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Global Book Publishing, 2007)
Fletcher, Elaine Ruth: “Searching for the site of Jesus’ Baptism”, Religion News Service, January 1, 2000
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Khouri, Rami: “Where John Baptized: Bethany Beyond the Jordan”, in Exploring Jordan: The Other Biblical Land (Biblical Archaeological Society, 2008)
Laney, J. Carl: “The Identification of Bethany Beyond the Jordan”, from Selective Geographical Problems in the Life of Christ, doctoral dissertation (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1977)
Lazaroff, Tovah: “Israel clears landmines from seven monasteries by Jesus’ Baptismal site”, Jerusalem Post, December 9, 2018
Miller, Charles: “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (CNEWA World, January 2002)
Pixner, Bargil: With Jesus Through Galilee According to the Fifth Gospel (Corazin Publishing, 1992)
Rainey, Anson F., and Notley, R. Steven: The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Carta, 2006)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Wooding, Dan: “Thousands visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan”, Assist News Service, January 15, 2007

External links

The Baptism Site of Jesus Christ (official site)
Baptism Site: Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan (Sacred Destinations)
Bethabara (Wikipedia)

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Bethany Beyond the Jordan - History

We have in these verses also a note of time. John now knows the Messiah, though others do not. This inquiry of the legates from Jerusalem was, therefore,, after the baptism of our Lord (John 1:31 John 1:33), and if so, after the Temptation also. (See Note on Matthew 4:1.)

Beyond Jordan - On the east side of the Jordan River.

The evangelist had before told us what was done, these words tell us where. Some ancient writers will have the place to have been Bethany but they seem not to have so well considered John 11:18 , where Bethany is said to have been but fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem, and consequently on this side Jordan whereas the evangelist saith, that this place was peran,

beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Reuben, in the country of Peraea, where John at this time was baptizing, and probably had been so for some time.

where also John was baptizing which brought a great concourse of people together: so that this witness was bore in a very public manner, and before a large number and it is to this that Christ refers, in John 1:33 for this was so well known, that there was no hiding or denying it: the place where this conversation passed, is in the Vulgate Latin, and all the eastern versions and in the Alexandrian copy, and many other copies, and so in Nonnus, called Bethany but as De Dieu observes, Bethany was not beyond Jordan, nor in the wilderness of Judea, but near to Jerusalem, about two miles distant from it nor was it situated by waters convenient for baptizing, unless they went to the brook Kidron, which indeed was not far from it but it is clear from the history, that John was not so near Jerusalem nor did that brook which might be forded over, continues the same learned author, seem fit and proper enough, `"mergendis baptizandorum corporibus", for plunging the bodies of those that were to be baptized' wherefore he rightly concludes, that either this reading is an error, or there was another Bethany near Jordan: Bethabara signifies "the house of passage", and is thought to be the place where the Israelites passed over Jordan, to go into the land of Canaan, Joshua 3:16. And which, as it must be a very convenient place for the administration of baptism by immersion, used by John, so it was very significant of the use of this ordinance which is, as it were, the passage, or entrance, into the Gospel church state for persons ought first to be baptized, and then be admitted into a Gospel church, according to the example of the primitive Christians, Acts 2:41 but whether there was a place of this name, where the Israelites went over Jordan, is not certain and if there was, it does not seem so likely to be the place here designed, since that was right over against Jericho whereas this seems to be rather further off, and over against Galilee: there were several passages of Jordan, Judges 12:5. There was a bridge over it, between the lake of Samochon and Gennesaret, now called Jacob's bridge, where Jacob is supposed to have wrestled with the angel, and to have met with his brother Esau and there was another over it at Chainmath, near Tiberias, and in other places: and it might be at one of these passages, by which they went over into Galilee, that John pitched upon to continue preaching and baptizing at partly because of the number of people that went over, to whom he had the opportunity of preaching and partly, for the sake of baptizing those who became proper subjects of that ordinance through his ministry. Some have thought, that this place is the same with Bethbarah, in Judges 7:24, which was either in the tribe of Ephraim or of Manasseh, and not far from the parts where this place must be, but was on this side Jordan and so Beza says the words should be rendered and those who came to John at Jordan, are not said to pass over that river: others are of opinion, that Bethabara is the same with Betharabah, Joshua 15:6, since this is called Bethabara by the Septuagint, in Joshua 18:22. However, be it what place soever, and wheresoever, it was no doubt very proper for John's purpose and therefore he chose it, and for a while continued at it: and here, says Jerom (a).

"to this day many of the brethren, that is, of the number of believers, desiring there to be born again, are baptized in the vital stream

such veneration had they for the place where John first baptized: Origen says (b), that in his time it was said, that Bethabara was showed by the banks of Jordan, where they report John baptized,

(a) De Locis Hebraicis, fol. 89. L. (b) Comment in Joannemo, Tom. 8. p. 131.

John 1:28. On account of the importance of His public appearance, a definite statement of its locality is again given.

A place so exactly described by John himself (John 11:18), according to its situation, as Bethany on the Mount of Olives , cannot be meant here there must also have been another Bethany situated in Peraea, probably only a village, of which nothing further is known from history. Origen, investigating both the locality and the text, did not find indeed any Bethany, but a Bethabara instead[114] (comp. Jdg 7:24?), which the legends of his day described as the place of baptism the legend, however, misled him. For Bethany in Peraea could not have been situated at all in the same latitude with Jericho, as the tradition represents, but must have lain much farther north for Jesus occupied about three days in travelling thence to the Judaean Bethany for the raising of Lazarus (see on John 11:17). Yet Paulus (following Bolten) understood the place to be Bethany on the Mount of Olives, and puts a period after ἐγένετο , in spite of the facts that τῇ ἐπαύριον (comp. John 1:35) must begin the new narration, and that ὅπου ἦν Ἰωάνν . βαπτ . must clearly refer to John 1:25 ff. Baur, however, makes the name, which according to Schenkel must be attributed to an error of a non-Jewish author, to have been invented , in order to represent Jesus (?) as beginning His public ministry at a Bethany , seeing that He came out of a Bethany at its close. Against the objection still taken to this name even by Weizsäcker (a name which a third person was certainly least of all likely to venture to insert, seeing that Bethany on the Mount of Olives was so well known), see Ewald, Jahrb . XII. p. 214 ff. As to the historic truth of the whole account in John 1:19-28, which, especially by the reality of the situation, by the idiosyncrasy of the questions and answers, and their appropriateness in relation to the characters and circumstances of the time, as well as by their connection with the reckoning of the day in the following verses, reveals the recollections and interest of an eye-witness, see Schweizer, p. 100 ff. Bleek, Beitr . p. 256.

ὍΠΟΥ ἮΝ ἸΩΆΝΝ . ΒΑΠΤ . ] where John was employed in baptizing.

[114] To suppose, with Possinus, Spicil. Evang . p. 32 (in the Catena in Marc. p. 382 f.), that both names have the same signification (בֵּית עֲבָרָה, domus transitus, ford-house בֵּית אֲנִיָה, domus navis, ferry-house),—a view to which even Lange inclines, L. J. II. 461,—is all the more untenable, seeing that this etymology is not at all appropriate to the position of Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Origen himself explains the name Bethabara with an evident intention to allegorize: οἷχος χατασχευῆς (ברא). The derivation of the name Bethany (Lightfoot: בֵּית הינֵי, house of dates Simon: בֵּית עֲנִיָּה, locus depressionis others: בֵּיח עֲנִיָה domus miseri) is doubtful.

Note .—(1.) Seeing that, according to John 1:26-27 (comp. especially ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε , which implies his own personal acquaintance), the Baptist already knows the Messiah, while according to John 1:31-33 he first learned to recognise Him at His baptism by means of a divine σημεῖον , it certainly follows that the occurrences related in John 1:19-28 took place after the baptism of Jesus and consequently this baptism could not have occurred on the same or the following day (Hengstenberg), nor in the time between John 1:31-32 (Ewald). Wieseler, Ebrard, Luthardt, Godet, and most expositors, as already Lücke, Tholuck, De Wette, following the older expositors, rightly regard the events of John 1:19 ff. as subsequent to the baptism. It is futile to appeal, as against this (Brückner), to the “ indefiniteness ” of the words ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε , for there is really no indefiniteness in them while to refer them to a merely preliminary knowledge, in opposition to the definite acquaintance which began at the baptism, is (against Hengstenberg) a mere subterfuge. That even after the baptism, which had already taken place, John could say, “Ye know Him not,” is sufficiently conceivable, if we adhere to the purely historical account of the baptism, as given in John 1:31-34. See on Matt. p. 111 ff. (2.) Although, according to Matthew 3:14, John already knows Jesus as the Messiah when He came to be baptized of him, there is in this only an apparent discrepancy between the two evangelists, see on John 1:31. (3.) Mark 1:7-8, and Luke 3:16 ff., are not at variance with John for those passages only speak of the Messiah as being in Himself near at hand, and do not already presuppose any personal acquaintance with Jesus as the Messiah. (4.) The testimonies borne by the Baptist, as recorded in the Synoptics, are, both as to time ( before the baptism) and occasion, very different from that recorded in John 1:19 ff., which was given before a deputation from the high court and therefore the historic truth of both accounts is to be retained side by side,[115] though in details John (against Weisse, who attributes the narrative in John to another hand so Baur and others) must be taken as the standard. (5.) To deny any reference in John 1:19 ff. to the baptism of Jesus (Baur), is quite irreconcilable with John 1:31 John 1:33 for the evangelist could not but take it for granted that the baptism of Jesus (which indeed Weisse, upon the whole, questions) was a well-known fact. (6.) Definite as is the reference to the baptism of Jesus, there is not to be found any allusion whatever in John’s account to the history of the temptation with its forty days, which can be brought in only before John 1:19, and even then involving a contradiction with the Synoptics. The total absence of any mention of this—important as it would have been in connection with the baptism, and with John’s design generally in view of his idea of the Logos (against B. Crusius)—does not certainly favour the reality of its historic truth as an actual and outward event. Comp. Schleiermacher, L. J. p. 154. If the baptism of Jesus be placed between tbe two testimonies of John 1:19 ff. and John 1:29 ff. (so Hilgenfeld and Brückner, following Olshausen, B. Crusius, and others), which would oblige us still to place it on the day of the first testimony (see Brückner), though Baumlein (in the Stud. u. Krit . 1846, p. 389) would leave this uncertain then the history of the temptation is as good as expressly excluded by John, because it must find its place (Mark 1:12 Matthew 4:1 Luke 4:1) immediately after the baptism. In opposition to this view, Hengstenberg puts it in the period after John 3:22, which is only an unavailing makeshift.

[115] Keim, Gesch. J . I. p. 522, sees in John’s account not so much an historical narrative , as rather (?) a “very significant literary introduction to the Baptist, who to a certain extent (?) is officially declaring himself. According to Scholten, the Baptist, during his ministry, did not at all recognise Jesus as Messiah, and Matthew 3:14-15 is said to be an addition to the text of Mark” while the fourth Gospel does not relate the baptism of Jesus, but only mentions the revelation from heaven then made, because to narrate the former would not be appropriate to the Gnosis of the Logos.

John 1:28. ταῦτα ἐν Βηθανίᾳ … βαπτίζων . The place is mentioned on account of the importance of the testimony thus borne to Jesus, and because the evangelist himself in all probability was present and it was natural to him to name it. But where was it? There is no doubt that the reading Βηθανίᾳ is to be preferred. The addition πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου confirms this reading as the existence of Bethany near Jerusalem rendered the distinguishing designation necessary. Bethany = בֵּת אֲנִיָּה meaning “boat-house,” and Bethabara having the same meaning [ עֲבָרָה a ferry boat] is it not possible that the same place may have been called by both names indifferently? Henderson ( Palestine , p. 154) suggests that possibly the explanation of the doubtful reading is that the place referred to is Bethabara which led over into Bethania, that is, Bashan. Similarly Conder ( Handbook , p. 320) says Bethania beyond Jordan is evidently the province of Batanea, and the ford Abârah now discovered leads into Batanea. At this place “John was, baptising,” rather than “John was baptizing”.

28 . Bethabara ] The true reading is Bethany , which was changed to Bethabara owing to the powerful influence of Origen, who could find no Bethany beyond Jordan known in his day. But in 200 years the very name of an obscure place might easily perish. Origen found ‘Bethany’ in almost all the MSS. The site of Bethabara or Bethany is lost now, but it must have been near Galilee: comp. John 1:29 with John 1:43 , and see on the ‘four days,’ John 11:17. It is possible to reconcile the two readings. Bethabara has been identified with ’Abârah, one of the main Jordan fords about 14 miles south of the sea of Galilee: and ‘Bethania beyond Jordan’ has been identified with Bashan Bethania or Batanea being the Aramaic form of the Hebrew Bashan, meaning ‘soft level ground.’ Thus Bethabara is the village or ford Bethania, the district on the east side of the ford. See Conder, Handbook of the Bible , pp. 315, 320. But see Appendix D.

John 1:28. Ἐν βηθαβαρᾶ , in Bethabara ) Therefore they had come a long way, John 1:19.— πέραν ) beyond , in relation to Jerusalem.— ὁποῦ , where ) Where he was wont to baptize. [ Βηθανίᾳ is the reading of the mass of authorities, [31][32][33]*[34][35][36]. Βηθαβαρᾶ was a conjecture of Orige[37]. The Bethany here was one beyond Jordan , which had ceased to exist before Orige[38]’s time.]

[31] the Alexandrine MS.: in Brit. Museum: fifth century: publ. by Woide, 1786–1819: O. and N. Test. defective.

[32] the Vatican MS., 1209: in Vat. Iibr., Rome: fourth cent.: O. and N. Test. def.

[33] Ephræmi Rescriptus: Royal libr., Paris: fifth or sixth cent.: publ. by Tisch. 1843: O. and N. T. def.

[34] Cod. Reg., Paris, of the Gospels: the text akin to that of B: edited by Tisch.

[35] Cod. Monacensis, fragments of the Gospels.

[36] San Gallensis: in the libr. of St. Gall: the Greek and Latin of the four Gospels. It and G. Boernerianus of Paul’s Epp. are severed parts of the same book.

[37] rigen (born about 186 A.D., died 253 A.D., a Greek father: two-thirds of the N. Test. are quoted in his writings). Ed. Vinc. Delarue, Paris. 1733, 1740, 1759.

[38] rigen (born about 186 A.D., died 253 A.D., a Greek father: two-thirds of the N. Test. are quoted in his writings). Ed. Vinc. Delarue, Paris. 1733, 1740, 1759.

The correct reading is βηθανία, Bethany. Not the Bethany of John 11:18, but an unknown village. It was not uncommon for two places to have the same name, as the two Bethsaidas, the one on the eastern shore of the Lake of Gennesaret (Mark 6:32, Mark 6:45), and the other on the western shore (John 1:44) the two Caesareas, on the Mediterranean (Acts 8:40), and in Gaulonitis, at the foot of Lebanon, Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).

The participle with the substantive verb indicating continued action was engaged in baptizing.


Bethany Beyond the Jordan is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Bethany beyond the Jordan, or Jordan’s Baptism Site is now on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, making it the fifth site in the Kingdom to be included in the list, joining Petra, Quseir Amra, Um Al Rassas and the desert of Wadi Rum.

With this addition, the site is now confirmed as the official place where Jesus Christ is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist.

The decision was made on Friday during a World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, where the panel met to examine proposals to inscribe 37 sites. Out of these candidates, The World Heritage Committee ap[proved three new cultural sites to the World Heritage List. These sites are the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale in Italy Baptism Site or Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Al-Maghtas) in Jordan and Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia.

Minister of Tourism Nayef Fayez gave a statement where he affirmed that Jordan managed to implement all requirements needed to add the Baptism Site on this list, adding that continuous care is required to maintain the site in this list in the future. He added that after the site had been recognized for its religious importance since the late 1990s, now it is recognized as a heritage site, which adds more to its significance.

In a statement posted on its website, UNESCO said the Baptism Site, 40km west of Amman, is classified among mixed natural and cultural sites.

A statement issued by The Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) takes utmost pride in the voting which resulted in having the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ added to the World Heritage sites. Fr. Rif’at Bader, director of CCSM said that he appreciated the efforts undertaken by His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, chairman of the board of trustees of the Baptism Site the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Jordan Tourism Board in order to have the site recognized for its historical, religious and cultural importance.

The statement notes that this is the right time to preserve this world heritage with the support of the global human family, which consequently necessitates concerted efforts aimed at protecting and promoting the Site.

The Baptism site was discovered by the Jordanian archaeologist, Dr. Mohammad Waheeb, who used the bible to dig around the approximate site. He was hampered by land mines that used to be planted in this area before the peace treaty with Israel. Nowadays, the Baptism Site is visited by thousands of visitors. Pope John Paul II visited the site in 2000, Pope Benedict in 2009 and Pope Francis in 2014.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is rightfully regarded as one of the holiest places in the world, since it is the place from where the Christian faith started its message of love and peace for all the human family, making Jordan a part of the holy land.


Watch the video: Bethany Beyond The Jordan (January 2022).