Anyone who ever read Bible must be familiar with the name of Jordan River. Yes, this old river which still flows until now, has been mentioned several times in Bible, both in Old Testament and New Testament. But one thing that makes Jordan River famous was Jesus baptized there by John the Baptist.
According to Bible record, John the Baptist appeared in the city of Bethany (Bayt ‘Anya) on the far side of the Jordan River (John 1:28 & John 10:40). He preached his repent message and began to baptize people in Jordan River and the surrounding springs. His baptism was the symbol of repentance and belief in God. The Bible mentions that people from from Jerusalem, Judea and the surrounding regions of the Jordan came to John to be baptized, and Jesus was one of them.
Three years after baptizing Jesus, Herod beheaded John. After his death, many of his students stayed in the Jordan area, and slowly the place became “Christian” area. There were churches, monks who lived in the caves around that area and many pilgrims visit the site of baptism. This tradition continued until 14th century, until the power of Crusaders vanquished, and Byzantine weakening, and so the site neglected and returned under the control of the local tribes. Since then, pilgrimage to the site became lesser and lesser until virtually stopped.
Five centuries passed and in the 1897, a scholar from Jerusalem discovered the Madaba Map which showed Middle East area in 6th century. This discovery made people interest in finding the exact location of the Baptism Site rekindle. Soon pilgrims began to return to east of River Jordan, hoping to find clues of the site location.
But only in 1994, the site was really safe for public, following the peace treaty of Jordan and Israel. Before that, the site has been under many different authorities and became part of war zone. The archeological digging around the site found pottery, mosaics, caves and marbles. Further digging revealed there were three large pools from Roman period, a vast water system, and remains of a large monastery from 5th century in that area.
Now this area is considered as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage List and becomes a popular pilgrimage destination for Christians who continue to do baptism ritual in that site.