|A painting of the baptism of Jesus in St. Peter's monastery in Jaffa.|
The Madaba Mosaic Map is a floor mosaic from the Byzantine church of St. George in Madaba, Jordan. It is the earliest known map of the Holy Land. It was created between 542 and 570 A.D. (because the Nea Church in Jerusalem is shown which was dedicated in 542 and buildings in Jerusalem built after 570 are not included). The original church was destroyed by an earthquake in 746 and the map was rediscovered in 1884 when a new church was being built on the site of the old church. The map has been used to help locate and verify biblical sites, including the site of the baptism of Jesus. On the map, a lion chases a gazelle in Moab. Only the tail and back legs of the lion are clear as the tiles were scrambled during the iconoclastic controversy. The Dead Sea is to the right and a fish in the Jordan River has turned the opposite direction from the Dead Sea. East of the Jordan River (above it) an English translation of the Greek reads "Ainon where now is Sapsaphas." Ainon means "springs" in Aramaic and "sapsas" means willow in Arabic. So it means "willow springs." To the west, below the Jordan River, an English translation of the Greek reads "Bethabara the place of Saint John's baptising." Bethabara means "place of the crossing." Below it is the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner.
The location of the baptism site of Jesus is based on the archaeological findings of a series churches built in the area from the 5th to the 6th centuries and writings from pilgrims at that time which correspond to the archaeological findings. A small spring known as "John the Baptist Spring," or "Ainon (on the Madaba Map) reached the Jordan River near the John the Baptist Church. There is still a little bit of stagnant water today, although I'm not sure it is from that spring, which I believe has been diverted. A small chapel nearby with remnants of a stone arch is believed to be the spot where Jesus un-robed before entering the water. A marble staircase led up to a site where three churches were built in succession over each other. They had mosaic and marble flooring, some of which still remains today.
|The lion chasing the gazelle is upper left.|
I love the location of the baptism site being so close to the spot where Elijah was taken into heaven by the whirlwind because John the Baptist is associated with the spirit and power of Elijah by an angel talking to his father Zacharias, the high priest of the temple (Luke 1:13-17).
The River Jordan has changed course over the centuries and no longer runs where it presumably did at the time of Jesus. It now has much less flow because much of the water is sucked up by both Israel and Jordan before reaching this point. The River Jordan now runs to the west of the baptism site quite some distance.
|The Jordan River as it looks today (up river from the current baptismal site).|
|A spot on the current Jordan River where pilgrims today can be baptized. This is the Jordan side looking over the the Israel side.|
|A mosaic representation of what the site may have looked like when the church, marble steps and arch were in good repair.|
|Remnants of mosaic flooring in the church.|
|Another view of the cross shaped baptismal pool and the exit for water to flow to the Jordan River.|
|Another view gives a better sense of the cross shaped pool.|
|A modern Orthodox church near the baptism site. It was locked and we were unable to enter.|