Archaeological Excavations at the Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” -- By: Mohammad Waheeb

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 14:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: Archaeological Excavations at the Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan”
Author: Mohammad Waheeb


Archaeological Excavations at the Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan”

Mohammad Waheeb

Recently excavated, newly opened to tourists as an archaeological site, and a stop on Pope John Paul II’s historic 2000 visit to the Holy Land, Tell el-Kharrar is being proposed by the excavator. Dr. Mohammad Waheeb, as the “true “ site of Jesus’ baptism. In this article, Dr. Waheeb presents his excavation results and reasons for connectiong the site to the New Testament event.—Ed.

Introduction

What can be known about events surrounding Jesus and John the Baptist? The Gospels give some details of the events in which they were involved, but what does it say about them?

According to the Gospels, John was baptizing in Bethany beyond the Jordan, which was undoubtedly on the east bank of the Jordan. Bethany is some times taken to mean Beth-aniah or Bet-anniyyah, which means “house of the boat” (Jn 1:28). The area is referred to again in John 10:40:

And he (Jesus) went again beyond the Jordan, into that place where John was first baptizing, and there he abode.

Bethany beyond the Jordan is not only a ford, but also represents a village or town located between Wadi Nimrin to the north and Wadi Gharaba to the south. Wadi el-Kharrar was the center and core of this area during the pre-Roman, Roman and Byzantine periods.

Area north of the Dead Sea including Wadi el-Kharrar where the author has found early Christian remains associated with John the Baptist.

In fact, the Madaba Map has correctly indicated the springs on the eastern side of the Jordan River with the inscription “Ainon where now is Sapsaphas” meaning the place was once called Ainon—place of a spring (Avi-Yonah 1954). According to the descriptions of the pilgrims and travelers, the spring was called “John the Baptist spring” and was located east of the Jordan River, less than 2 km (1.2 mi) from the river.

It is clear that John the Baptist came to this place (Wadi el-Kharrar) where Elijah had come before him and had been caught up to heaven. So John chose this place and began to act in the spirit and power of Elijah. Though it should be emphasized that John the Baptist was not Elijah (Jn 1:21), he was the voice of one “crying in the wilderness.” The Roman remains discovered during the excavations indicate a considerable settlement near Wadi el-Kharrar. The area was known to pilgrims and many people started visiting the area, reaching a high point during the Byzantine p...

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