In Old Testament times, the land east of the Jordan River include the Ammonite, Moabite and Edomite kingdoms. In the new Testament, the region included most of the cities of the Decapolis. The Greeks called it Perea, which meant the "territory beyond." This is where Jesus taught multitudes, performed miracles and cast our demons, as he traveled back and forth between east and west, proclaiming his message.
'I baptize with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’ This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The Gospel of John 1:26-28
Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, the Wilderness of John east of the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized, is like no other place on earth. According to Scripture, the heavens opened twice here – first as Elijah was taken up to heaven on a chariot of fire, and second at the baptism of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon him, and His Heavenly Father proclaimed His beloved Son. This is the same wilderness area of “The Crossing,” where Joshua and his people crossed the Jordan after their long Exodus journey, so it is no coincidence that Jesus came to this very place before crossing from east to west to begin his public ministry.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan welcomes pilgrims from around the world. Located just north of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, visitors can walk the pilgrim trails of this protected park, just as the first pilgrims did during the early days of Christianity. Here, the remains of early churches that were built to commemorate the very place of baptism are easily accessible. In addition, new churches and guest houses of varied traditions offer places of worship and rest for individuals and groups alike. For an online tour of the many archaeological sites within the park – offered by the very guide who has led popes, priests, world leaders and other dignitaries – please click here.
As the birthplace of Christianity, Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan is of profound importance to believers. However, it is just one of the many Old and New Testament locations in Jordan easily accessible to pilgrims who make the journey.