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Where Christ was baptized: Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan

By Catholic Online
February 22nd, 2011
Catholic Online (

The Baptism Site on the Jordan side of the Jordan River is one of the most important recent discoveries in biblical archaeology. Excavations only began here in 1996. In the brief time since then, more than 20 churches, caves and baptismal pools have been uncovered dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The area known as Wadi Kharrar is long to have been believed to be the biblical Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, where John the Baptist lived and Jesus was baptized. This area is also associated with the ascension of the Prophet Elijah into heaven.

Crucial bits of scripture identifying the area are found in various books. "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.

"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)

Since the excavations of the late 1990s, the site has been extensively developed by the Jordan Tourism Authority, However -- visitor numbers are controlled and the Visitors' Centre has been located at some distance from the site in an effort to preserve its sanctity. Other facilities include a restaurant, shops, and even a plush VIP Lounge.

The ticket office is at the Visitors' Center, which has with ample parking. All private cars are prohibited within the archaeological zone itself, so an electric minibus brings visitors to their choice of three different sites: Tell Mar Elias, the Baptism Pools and/or John the Baptist's Church.

Alternatively, you can walk from the Visitor Center to Tell Mar Elias, then along the south bank of the Wadi Kharrar to John the Baptist's Church and the Jordan River.

Would-be walkers should note that the Baptism Site is located in a desolate and difficult climate. It is nearly the lowest point on earth. The ground is dry and chalky and vegetation is sparse except on the banks of the river. The air is thick and hot, with temperatures soaring to 100 degrees anytime but the winter.

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