The real place where Jesus was baptized

The real place where Jesus was baptized April 4, 2017

When Saint Mary of Egypt entered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the mid-400s, she heard the voice of the Virgin Mary tell her to travel beyond the River Jordan and that there she would find peace.  We know she crossed the river and was baptized at the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist.  Where is this place?  Does it still exist?  No, it no longer exists, but the site is known.  And it was rediscovered recently.

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Brand New Greek Orthodox Church of Saint John the Baptist in Bethany Beyond the Jordan in the country of Jordan

For centuries, a significant pilgrimage site existed on the eastern bank of the Jordan River (in present day Jordan) where Christians venerated the baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist.  The site is known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan.  Monasteries, chapels, and baptismal pools where built there on a stream that emptied out into the Jordan River.  Pilgrims would visit this holy site from the 4th to the 6th centuries as they traveled to Mount Nebo.  The site was abandoned in the 7th century after the Muslim conquest due to safety concerns, and it wasn’t until 1996 that archaeologists began to excavate the area where they found significant traces of ancient pilgrimage sites.

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Depiction of the 6th century pilgrimage site in Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Pilgrims walked down a marble staircase towards the exact spot where Jesus was baptized by John.

A sign at Bethany Beyond the Jordan reads: “The chapels built on the eastern side of the river during the Byzantine period (5th to 6th centuries AD) include three churches built over each other and decorated with colored mosaic and marble flooring.  A marble staircase links the three churches with the ‘John the Baptist Spring’ at the spot where it flows into the River Jordan.  A stone footing hosting a marble column with a metal cross on top is thought to be the actual baptism site of Jesus Christ according to different historians and travelers.  A small chapel and remnants of a stone arch near the river were built over the spot where Jesus Christ supposedly unrobed before entering the water to be baptized by John.”

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The Jordanian government under the direction of King Hussain Bin Talal has overseen the restoration of this site and opened it for pilgrims.  It is beautiful and peaceful.  While visiting one cannot imagine that from 1967 to 1994 this was a heavily mined military zone.  Only in 2011 did it open to the public.  The Jordanian government has granted land to the major Christian Churches to build new chapels for pilgrimage.  Below you can see from a distance the various churches that are being built.  Only the Greek Orthodox Church which is along the River Jordan is complete.

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The path at Bethany Beyond the Jordan leads to you the Jordan River from where one can see the country of Israel.  The Jordan is a very narrow river that divides the two countries.  While standing there, I saw a seminary classmate standing across the river on the Israeli side!  We were able to have a chat across the international border conscious of the fully armed soldiers standing close by.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan holds the strongest historical argument to be the actual site where Jesus was baptized.  The historical record shows that this is the first recognized site in antiquity as the place where the event happened.  Any sites on the western bank (in the country of Israel) do not have the historical backing this one does.

A visit to Bethany Beyond the Jordan makes the border crossing into Jordan well worth it.  Combine it with a visit to Mount Nebo and perhaps the ancient city of Petra, and the trip will have been worthwhile.

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With my mother at the Jordan River on the Jordanian side (the east bank)

 

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My friend’s pilgrimage group standing in Israel while I stand in Jordan taking the picture. Note how narrow the Jordan River is.

All pictures are mine, all rights reserved.  Jordan, 2015.

 

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