Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bethany Beyond the Jordan

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is the site of Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan.  When we arrived in Jordan, we didn't even know that the site was located on the Jordanian side of the river.  But as soon as we heard about the baptism site, we immediately changed our plans to make a visit.  We are very glad that we did.  It is an incredible, spiritual place.

The Jordan River looking across to the West Bank

The baptism site at Bethany Beyond the Jordan is supported by strong historical and archeological evidence.  The Bible describes Jesus as having been baptized "beyond the Jordan," meaning on the other side of the Jordan River from Israel.  Until 1994 when Jordan and Israel reached their peace agreement, no archeological excavations could proceed in the military border area.  Historians had reviewed very old accounts of foreign travelers to the Holy Land and had determined that the baptism site likely lay about five miles up the Jordan River from its mouth at the Dead Sea, but they were unable to excavate.

After the peace between Jordan and Israel, archeologists finally were able to conduct excavations along the river.  At Bethany, also called Bethabara, the archeologists found the remains of five churches that were built one on top of the other along the former channel of the river.  The churches were elaborate but far from any ancient population centers.  They had found the baptism site.  The Biblical, historical, and archeological evidence all pointed to the same place -- Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

Over the last 2,000 years the river has changed course and shrunk dramatically in size, so the baptism site is no longer on the edge of the river.  Instead, the actual baptism site is at the foot of a stairway from the ancient churches down the former river bank.  Actually standing where Jesus and John the Baptist stood was a really special experience.

The site of Jesus' baptism along the former path of the Jordan River

After seeing the baptism site, we walked down to the edge of the Jordan River.  We enjoyed sitting along the edge of the river, looking across to the West Bank, and reflecting on the events of 2,000 years ago.

Sara at the edge of the River Jordan

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