Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bethany beyond the Jordan and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

The Christian Century reports that King Abdullah of Jordan has given a 2 and a half acre site at the traditional location of Bethany beyond the Jordan to the Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Jerusalem. A church and a retreat center are to be built there. The Baptismal Site (Bethany beyond the Jordan) is already a proposed World Heritage Site.

Here are some pictures.

The hill at the heart of Bethany was already revered in antiquity as a holy site marking the spot from which Elijah ascended to heaven (2 Kings 2:5-14); perhaps that is why John the Baptist lived and baptized there, for the personalities, lifestyles, and missions of John and Elijah are frequently associated in the New Testament. The Byzantine writers Jerome and Eusebius mentioned 'Bethabara beyond the Jordan' in the 4th Century as a pilgrimage destination where people went to be baptized in the same waters that John the Baptist used for his mission. Pilgrims' accounts as early as the 4th and 6th Century' AD mention the hill at Bethany east of the river where Elijah ascended to heaven. In the late 3rd or early 4th Century' AD, according to much later sources from the I1th and 14th Centuries. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, is said to have crossed the Jordan River and visited Elijah's Hill and the cave where John the Baptist lived, and built a church there to commemorate John the Baptist.

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