B is for Bethany Beyond the Jordan

a-to-z-letters-bBethany Beyond the Jordan is notable for many biblical events. Two of the more memorable episodes occurred when the Prophet Elijah was taken up in the fiery chariot, and when John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

Since 1996, archaeologists have uncovered more than 20 churches, caves, and baptismal pools that date back to the Roman and Byzantine periods. Archaeology, and historical accounts from the likes of the Pilgrim of Bordeaux (333 CE), Theodosius (5th century CE), and Arculf (7th century CE), make it fairly certain that this is the very spot where Jesus was baptized.

There are a great many biblical references, including:


Orthodox Church of John the Baptist


Map of the Baptism Site


What’s left of the Jordan River


Path through the “Jordan Jungle”

Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” … Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. … As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. (2 Kings 2:6-12)

Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:25-28)

Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus. (John 10:40-42)

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” … People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. (Luke 3:1, 5-6)

And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. … At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert… (Mark 1:4-5, 9-12)

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 lighting 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)

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. (Luke 3:21-23).


Orthodox Church of John the Baptist


My cousin, Marsha Gail, being baptized in Jordan River


10 thoughts on “B is for Bethany Beyond the Jordan

    • Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Dani! I think my cousin loved this place more than any other I took her too in Jordan. Two years later, she’s still talking about being “baptized where Jesus was”. Come on over and see us sometime!

    • Thanks, Annette! I don’t think I’ve ever seen Marsha happier in all our lives as she was the moment she came up out of that water! I really like the way the site has been preserved. Very rustic, the way you’d expect it to have been in those days. Not all spit and polish with lots of sleek architecture like it is on the Israeli side.

  1. Great stuff. Loved the pictures and information. Always great to read about Biblical places. It really makes me wonder, with all of this history, that people don’t really consider the life of Christ and what he means to all of humanity.

  2. Hey Jim! So glad to see you in the AtoZ! Great B post and pictures! When I was baptized, I think they just sprinkled some water on my head. Not quite as thrilling as being baptized in Jordan.

  3. I love this entry Jim, this is an enchanted place and you are a wonderful guide for us ~ so happy you are in this challenge, bless you my friend 😉

    • Thank you for those kind words, Honoré. It’s a real joy to share all the beautiful and historic sites in my adopted home. Hope to see you around throughout the month; I’ll be watching out for your posts!

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