Garo Nalbandian

The sixth-century A.D. mosaic map found in a church in Madaba, Jordan, perpetuates one of the rival traditions concerning the location of the Biblical “Bethany beyond the Jordan.” (On the map, north is at left, the Dead Sea is at upper right and the Jordan runs north from the sea; the large oval at lower center is Jerusalem.) The map locates Bethany on the west side of the Jordan River (highlighted in red). However, it identifies it not as Bethany but as “Bethabara, the place of the baptism of St. John,” following the church father Origen, who could not locate the Bethany described by the New Testament and arbitrarily suggested that the text really meant Beth Abara (House of Crossing), referring to a ford across the river.