Jordan welcomes throngs of tourists at site where believers say Jesus was baptized

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A dozen churches are being built near the site where believers claim Jesus was baptized, on land donated by the Jordanian government. Religion News Service photo by Dale Hanson Bourke

A dozen churches are being built near the site where believers claim Jesus was baptized, on land donated by the Jordanian government. Religion News Service photo by Dale Hanson Bourke

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AMMAN, Jordan (RNS) While Israel has long claimed that Jesus was baptized on the Israeli side of the river, increasingly, scholars are lining up to support archaeological research showing the baptism site is actually in Jordan.


  • Eugene Pagano

    Another factor, which I noted in a letter in the May/June 2005 issue of Biblical Archaeological Review, is that both the New Testament and the Jewish historian Josephus state that Herod Antipas arrested and executed John the Baptist. He would hardly have arrested John if he had been on the west bank of the Jordan, The west bank, in the Roman province of Judea, was under Pilate’s control, not Herod’s. The fact that Herod Antipas seized and executed John indicates that John was baptizing on the east bank, in Herod’s own jurisdiction.

  • Daniel Chase

    There is an egregious error in your article. You write of Jerusalem “where is is believed to be buried”.

    To be Biblically accurate, you should use the past tense and include the claim of his resurrection. They way it is written suggests Jesus remains in the tomb

  • Diogenes

    Not important, it neither adds to or subtracts from our spiritual condition.

  • Daniel Chase

    I resolutely disagree. The resurrection is the fulcrum of the Christian faith. If Jesus is still in the tomb, those of who who believe him are wasting our lives. Beyond this it is a matter of respect for a great faith. Even if one disagrees with it, it is appropriate to say something to the effect of ‘Christian believe. ..’. A comparison is the role of Mohammed in Islam. While I don’t accept his status as a prophet, it is appropriate to show respect by referring to him as “the Prophet of Islam” or similar

  • Jon

    No. Ideas don’t automatically get respect, not matter how upset people might get. Saying “Mohammad” without saying PBUH is not a crime. Saying “believed to be” or other accurate statements is not a crime, regardless of whether or not someone is “offended”. Individual people do deserve respect, but ideas are not people any more than corporations are people, and a society is free only when ideas can be openly spoken of and discussed.

  • Any claim that the baptism took place on the Israel side simply ignores what John was doing.

    John went out into the ‘desert’— that is, where Israel was poised *before* it entered the Promised Land, and ‘all Jerusalem and Judea went out to him’.

    He was proclaiming a baptism of repentance— that is, of recommitment, of covenant renewal, a new beginning— ‘in view of’ (that is the meaning of ‘unto’ in the gospel texts) ‘the remission of sins’ that would be granted when the messiah came and God’s regime was established at last.

    As a sign of this, people confessed their sins and then re-enacted the original crossing of the Jordan by Joshua and the Israelites by crossing the Jordan, again entering the Promised Land from the desert, just as in ancient times.

    John was leading an ‘Israel-renewal movement’. The symbolism simply wouldn’t have worked if people had just gone down to the river, gotten wet, and come out where they went in.

    And besides, everyone knows that you enter a mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) on one side and exit on the other.

    Sorry, Israeli State. Not *all* tourist dollars are yours!

  • Larry

    Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel. More likely than not, both countries will probably work out details on how to organize cross-national tours to work pilgrims on both sides of the Jordan.

    Maybe if one is lucky, the Palestinian Authority could get a sensible notion in their head and find a way to work in the Church of the Nativity in there. Assuming their leadership actually bothers to consider the economic well-being of their people.