Scriptural site of Christ's baptism
Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Bēthania peran tou Iordanou).—In the text of St. John's Gospel, i, 28, the author locates the event of Our Lord's baptism by St. John the Baptist at Bethany across the Jordan and there is herein a celebrated variant. The greatest number of the ancient codices, and those of greatest authority, have Bēthania, " Bethany". This reading is approved by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, and others. The uncial codices, C2, K, T, U, A, II, many minuscule codices, the Sinaitic Syriac, and Cureton's Syriac text have Bēthabara, "Bethabara". This reading was approved by Origen, Jerome, Eusebius, and Chrysostom. Origen, in his commentary on this place of St. John's Gospel, declares as follows: "We are not ignorant that in nearly all codices Bethany is the reading. But we were persuaded that not Bethany, but Bethabara should be read, when we came to the places that we might observe the footprints of the Lord, of His disciples, and of the prophets. For, as the Evangelist relates, Bethany the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, is distant from Jerusalem fifteen furlongs, while the Jordan is distant one hundred and eighty furlongs. Neither is there a place along the Jordan which has anything in common with the name Bethany. But some say that among the mounds by the Jordan Bethabara is pointed out, where history relates that John baptized".
Archaeological research has failed to identify either Bethany or Bethabara beyond the Jordan; the conjectures range from the ruins on the bank of the Jordan opposite Mahadet Hadschle, less than two miles north of the mouth of the Jordan, even to Mahadet `Abara, a ford of the Jordan near Bethshean. All things considered, the most probable opinion is that there was a Bethany fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem, and another across the Jordan.
The name of this latter may have been a transliteration of BYT ANYT, "the place of the ship". Bethany across the Jordan has shared the fate of many other Biblical sites which have disappeared from the earth. The reading "Bethabara" came into the codices on the authority of Origen.
A. E. BREEN