Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christ's Baptismal Site

Later that day, we headed to the Jordan River, where Christ was baptized by St. John the Baptist. Above is a shot of the river as it is today. The river is a source of life and rich green vegetation in the midst of arid desert. At the time of Christ, it was 1 km wide. In the last 50 years, due to Israeli water diversion, the river has shrunk to just 3 meters at point.

Due to water diversion, the river has shifted 300 meters to the west of its location at the time of Christ. Since the river marks the border between Israel (or Israeli-occupied Palestine) and Jordan, that means that the actual site where Christ was baptized is now 300 meters inside the Jordanian border. No serious scholars dispute that the site in the photo below is where Christ was baptized, as evidenced by the churches and baptisteries built on that spot from the earliest centuries. Above is a mosaic reconstruction of the site from around the 4th century. Below, you can see that the steps lead into a cruciform-shaped baptistery (originally in the Jordan River), where Christians could be baptized on the same spot Christ was, where the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and where the voice of God declared him to be His Son.

Next to the site, this sign indicates that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem intends to build a church dedicated to St. Mary of Egypt on this spot. The icon on the sign depicts St. Mary of Egypt receiving communion from St. Zosimus on the banks of the Jordan.

The Jordanian flag next to a fenced section along the Israeli-Jordanian border.

Right on the river, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has a newly built church dedicated to the Theophany.

Here is my dad at the Jordan River, 300 meters due west from the original baptismal site. As you can see, the river is now quite small. On the opposite side, you see Christian pilgrims over in Israel preparing for some kind of baptismal ritual. As you can see, there is a walled/fenced enclosure into the water where the Christians can perform their baptism. In stark contrast to the Jordanian side, the Israeli side is quite built up. The Jordan side, on the other hand, has some rickety wooden benches and wooden overhang for protection from the sun. Pilgrims are free to do whatever they like at the water, without the permits necessary on the Israeli side.

A shot of the Jordan River, with an Orthodox church sticking up in the distance.

There are currently no active Orthodox monasteries in Jordan, but this one, just a few hundred meters from the river and dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is now being constructed.

For more photos, click here.

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