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BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN

Bethany Beyond the Jordan or place of Jesus' baptism: what to see, how to get there and more information.

Undoubtedly, one of the most significant sites for Christian religious tourism in Jordan is Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Its extraordinary symbolism draws thousands of pilgrims annually, as well as tourists with an interest in history and culture. On this page, we provide you with information about the exact location of the site of Christ’s baptism, what to see in the area, and how to get to this unique place.

Table of Contents

Where is the place of Jesus' baptism?

The place of Jesus’ baptism is located on the Jordan River, in its final stretch, about 20 kilometers before its waters flow into the Dead Sea. This proximity makes it convenient for many travelers to visit as a day trip from their resorts. However, it is also close to Amman, just 50 km away, so it can be easily reached from the capital as well.

It is situated in the middle of the countryside, in an area where the Jordan River does not pass through any city or town, but serves as a border between Jordan and Israel (Palestinian Territories of the West Bank).

Although not part of the same geographical area, Bethany Beyond the Jordan is often included in a religious circuit along with Madaba and Mount Nebo, as they are relatively close to each other: Madaba is 40 km away and Mount Nebo is 30 km away.

A little bit of history

John the Baptist, or Saint John the Baptist, was a Jewish preacher who promoted the sacrament of baptism as a method of purification. In Christianity, he is considered a saint and in some branches of this religion, he is also regarded as a prophet, as he anticipated and announced the arrival of Jesus. He probably performed his baptisms in the nearby Wadi Al Kharrar.

However, the baptism of Jesus would have taken place in the same location, in the waters of the Jordan River, at the request of Jesus himself. This episode is narrated in the Books of the New Gospel, with differing details, although it is commonly accepted that at the moment of baptism, the dove of the Holy Spirit descended from the heavens to emphasize the presence of God, who would have said the words: “You are my dear son, my beloved” (Matthew 3:17 and John 1:32).

Afterwards, Jesus would have spent 40 days in the desert, tempted by Satan to sin, but protected by angels so that he would not do so. After that, he met again with John the Baptist, who was with several followers (including Peter) and pronounced, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Since then, the popularity of Jesus grew enormously in Bethany, as well as in other towns in the area, such as Amman or Madaba.

The place of Jesus’ baptism, after these biblical episodes, maintained its sacred character in later centuries, even in times when Christianity was a persecuted religion. After becoming the religion of the Roman Empire, and especially during the Byzantine domination, pilgrimages to this place are attested in the 4th-6th centuries, and this tradition probably continued until the 14th century. But then, this tradition slowed down, and the place came under the control of local tribes.

In the late 19th century, with the discovery of the Madaba mosaic map (dated to the 6th century), interest in the place of Jesus’ baptism regained strength. In the early 20th century, thanks to the open attitude of the local Bedouin leader Shaykh Salih Yacoub, pilgrims resumed their visits to the site, but once again this tradition was halted due to security issues, following the first conflicts between Arabs and Palestinians.

1994 marks a new milestone in the history of Bethany Beyond the Jordan: the signing of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, which led to the demilitarization and dismantling of mines in the area. In addition, the border between the two states was fixed precisely here, on the Jordan River.

As a result, archaeological work was expedited, and visits to the site of Jesus’ baptism were promoted as a point of pilgrimage and visit for religious tourists. This was largely contributed to by the official visits of Popes, such as John Paul II and Francis I, as well as leaders of other branches of Catholicism.

bautismo betania Bethany Beyond the Jordan

What to see at the site of the Baptism of Christ

The site of the Baptism of Jesus is a spacious area with different points of interest, the most important being the exact spot where John baptized Christ. Some spaces are archaeological sites with solid evidence of the events that took place there, while in other cases, there are modern constructions that provide greater context and significance to the site. Here is a list of the main places to see:

  • Site of the Baptism of Jesus: This is an archaeological site where you can see stone stairs that lead to the Jordan River, where Jesus was most likely baptized. In the surrounding area, there are remains of several Byzantine churches built in the 5th and 6th centuries to commemorate this event, which were later destroyed by natural disasters, so only the original mosaics are preserved.
  • Spring of John the Baptist: Accessed by a trail, this is the place where it is believed that this biblical figure carried out most of his baptisms.
  • Mount of Elijah: It is believed to be the place from which Elijah ascended to the heavens in the 9th century BC.
  • Ancient Pool: These are the remains of a small pool from the Byzantine period, built for baptisms.
  • House of Mary of Egypt: These are the remains of the house where this repentant saint lived as an ascetic, who, after praying to the Virgin in Jerusalem, heard a voice that instructed her to come to this place to find rest.
  • Cave Cells: Located in the cliffs of the surrounding area, these would have been used by hermits to lead a secluded life of contemplation in the early centuries of Christianity.
  • Modern Churches: These churches hold masses and other religious services, following Orthodox rite and artistic decoration focused on the figure of St. John the Baptist and the episode of the baptism of Christ.

How to get to the Baptism Site of Jesus

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is a remote location, surrounded by nature, where the Jordan River flows, now with a lower level but without any urban pressure. This also means that public transportation connections are practically non-existent: if any traveler wants to get here, they have to plan their route using private transportation.

The only possible option for independent travelers who want to use public transportation is the tourist route offered by JETT bus company, with departures from Amman and combining Bethany Beyond the Jordan with two other places of great religious significance: Madaba and Mount Nebo. However, it does not offer daily departures, so it is advisable to inquire well before opting for this solution.

In any case, the most convenient way is to use a private vehicle with a driver or a taxi from nearby towns, such as Swemeh. Some hotels and resorts organize bus tours from their own facilities.

And if you plan to come here from other distant places, here is a list of approximate distances:

  • Swemeh (Dead Sea): 15 km, 20 minutes
  • Amman: 50 km, 1 hour Israel-Palestinian
  • Territories Border (King Hussein Bridge): 15 km, 20 minutes (there may be delays at the border checkpoints)
  • Jerash: 75 km, 1.5 hours
  • Madaba: 40 km, 50 minutes
  • Wadi Musa (Petra): 250 km, 3.5 hours
  • Aqaba: 300 km, 4 hours
  • Wadi Musa: 330 km, 4 hours and 15 minutes

At the ticket counters of this site, information about the Baptism Site of Jesus and other areas is provided, including maps and brochures, although it cannot be considered a tourist information office as such.

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