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- This entry incorporates text from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia with some modernisation.
Bethabara (// beth-AB-ər-ə; בית עברה; bēth‛ăbhārāh; Βηθαβαρά; Bēthabará; "house of the ford, place of crossing") is the name used by some versions of the New Testament for the site where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. The name Bethabara also appears on the 6th-century Madaba Map and in the Talmud.
Traditions based on interpretations of the scriptural texts connect the site with two other miracles: the crossing of the River Jordan, whose waters were divinely restrained, by the Israelites under the command of Joshua (Joshua 3); and Prophet Elijah being taken to heaven by chariots of fire (2 Kings 2:9, 11).
Attempts at identifying Bethabara
Readings: Bethabara vs. Bethany
Different ancient manuscripts containing the Gospel of John are using two different names, either Bethabara or Bethany, for the place where John was baptising "with water" and where he named Jesus "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."(John 1:28-29)
According to the King James Version (following Textus Receptus of the New Testament), "Bethabara" is the place where John the Baptist baptized those who came to him (John 1:28). However, for the same verse the Revised Version reads "Bethany". It is distinguished in both text versions from the Bethany of Lazarus and his sisters as being "beyond the Jordan".
The reading Bethabara became current owing to the advocacy of both Origen (3rd century) and John Chrysostom (4th century), and that same Bethabara is attested in both the 6th-century Madaba Map and in the Jewish Talmud.
Various suggestions have been made to explain the readings. G. A. Smith suggests in his "Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land" (HGHL; 1915) that Bethany (house of the ship) and Bethabara (house of the ford) are names for the same place.
Beth-barah and Beth-arabhah
It is interesting to note that the Greek Septuagint Codex Vaticanus (LXXB) reads, Baithabara for Hebrew Masoretic Text Bēth-‛ărābhāh, one of the cities of Benjamin (Joshua 18:22). If this is correct, the site is in Judea.
Another solution is sought in the idea of a corruption of the original name into Bethany and Bethabara, the name having the consonants n, b and r after Beth. In Joshua 13:27 (Septuagint, Codex Vaticanus) we find, Baithanabra for Bethnimrah (Massoretic Text), and Sir George Grove in Dictionary of the Bible (arts. "Bethabara" and "Beth-nimrah") identifies Bethabara and Beth-nimrah. The site of the latter was a few miles above Jericho (see Beth-nimrah), immediately accessible to Jerusalem and all Judea (compare Matthew 3:5; Mark 1:5). This view has much in its favor.
Distance from Cana; Abarah near Beisan
Then, again, as George Frederick Wright observes: "The traditional site is at the ford east of Jericho; but as according to John 1:29, John 1:35, John 1:43 it was only one day's journey from Cana of Galilee, while according to John 10:40; John 11:3, John 11:6, and John 11:17, it was two or three days from Bethany, it must have been well up the river toward Galilee. Conder discovered a well-known ford near Beisan called Abarah, near the mouth of the valley of Jezreel. This is 20 miles from Cana and 60 miles from Bethany, and all the conditions of the place fit in with the history." However, none of the references in John's gospel actually specifies how long it took anyone to get from any of the places mentioned to any of the other places mentioned, leaving it a matter of speculation.
Al-Maghtas; archaeological discoveries support identification
These discussions began to take on a different shape in the late 1990s, when mine clearing operations east of the Jordan enabled archaeological digs to unearth an ancient church marking baptism on a site where the Jordan River flowed in the first century, matching the place marked on the Madaba map. The local Arabic name of the site is Al-Maghtas, "the immersion/baptism". This rapidly led to a growing consensus among archaeologists, scholars and church leaders that this site, just east of the Jordan River and slightly north of the place where it empties into the Dead Sea, is most likely to be the place where John the Baptist was baptizing.
- Al Maghtas
- Baptism of Jesus
- Chronology of Jesus
- Ministry of Jesus
- New Testament places associated with Jesus
- Qasr el Yahud
- Which follows the New York and Moscow uncials, corrected forms of Ephraemi and Athos, along with uncial fragments from St Petersburg, Paris, minuscule 1, and family 13, backed up by Eusebius, Cyril, some Byzantine texts and lectionaries, and the Curetonian Old Syriac, Aramaic Peshitta, Armenian, and Georgian manuscripts, among others cited in The Greek New Testament, 4th ed. (1983).
- S. F. Hunter (1939). James Orr, John Nuelsen, Edgar Mullins, Morris Evans, Melvin Grove Kyle, ed. "Bethabara". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE). Retrieved 20 March 2015.
(British and American) (with Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek following Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Ephraemi)
- Bethany Beyond the Jordan - Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Bruce Metzger, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (1994), 171 and n. 5.
- Harper's Bible Dictionary (1985), 105
- Raymond Brown, Gospel According to John I-XII, Anchor Bible (1968), 44-45.
Media related to Bethabara at Wikimedia Commons
- The Baptism of Christ - Uncovering Bethany beyond the Jordan - 47 min Documentary
- The Baptism of Jesus Christ: Uncovering Bethany beyond the Jordan. Full film (Authorized by content owners.)