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Bethany

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( Bethania ).

A village of Palestine, fifteen furlongs, or one mile and three-quarters, east of Jerusalem, at the base of the southwestern slope of the Mount of Olives. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament ; in the New Testament it comes into prominence as the Village of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and as the scene of the great miracle of the raising of Lazarus to life by Jesus. Here Jesus often received hospitality in the house of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus ; and near this village Jesus ascended into Heaven. The most accepted etymology of the name is Beit-æAniaæ, "House of Misery". The Talmud derives the name from Beit-Hine, or Betæuni, "House of Dates". The modern name of the village is el-æAzariye, so called from the memory of Lazarus. The initial letter of the name Lazarus is elided in Arabic after the l of the article.

Some believe that the present village of Bethany does not occupy the site of the ancient village; but that it grew up around the traditional cave which they suppose to have been at some distance from the house of Martha and Mary in the village; Zanecchia (La Palestine d'aujourd'hui, 1899, I, 445f.) places the site of the ancient village of Bethany higher up on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives, not far from the accepted site of Bethphage, and near that of the Ascension. It is quite certain that the present village formed about the traditional tomb of Lazarus, which is in a cave in the village. The identification of this cave as the tomb of Lazarus is merely possible; it has no strong intrinsic or extrinsic authority. The site of the ancient village may not precisely coincide with the present one, but there is every reason to believe that it was in this general location. St. Jerome testifies: "Bethany is a village at the second milestone from Aelia [ Jerusalem ], on the slope of the Mount of Olives, where the Savior raised Lazarus to life, to which event the church now built there bears witness " (Onom. ed. Lagarde 1008, 3).


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In the early ages this church was called the "Lazarium" and held in great veneration. Towards the close of the fourth century St. Silvia declares that on the Saturday before Palm Sunday the clergy of Jerusalem and the people go out to the Lazarium at Bethany, so that not only the place itself but the fields round about are full of people. In memory of this ancient custom the Franciscan Fathers of the Holy Land and the pilgrims go out and worship at the tomb of Lazarus on Friday of Passion Week. There is no Catholic chapel at Bethany. The Schismatic Greeks have a monastery and chapel there. The land about Bethany is largely a desert of stone, and from the elevated ground north of the village, the eye sweeps over an undulating desert even to the valley of the Jordan. The present village is made up of about forty wretched Moslem houses; there is not a Christian in the village. The only notable ruin at Bethany is that of a tower, a few paces southeast of the tomb of Lazarus. The massive stones yet remaining in portions of the walls indicate that it is older than the Crusades ; it may date from the fourth or fifth century. In 1138 Melisenda, wife of King Fulke I, of Jerusalem, founded a cloister of nuns at Bethany but the ruins of this cloister have not been identified. The sites of the house of Martha and Mary, and of that of Simon the leper are shown at Bethany; but it is evident that these localizations are purely imaginary.

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