UNESCO Makes Jordanian River Bank Where Jesus Was Baptized a World Heritage Site to the Dismay of Israel

Russian Orthodox Christians bathe in the River Jordan, which divides Israel and Jordan, entering from the Israeli side.
Russian Orthodox Christians bathe in the River Jordan, which divides Israel and Jordan, entering from the Israeli side.

For years, Christian pilgrims have waded into the River Jordan from both its eastern and western banks to meet at the site of one of the religion’s most important events – the baptism of Jesus.

With followers entering the water from both Israel in the west and Jordan in the east, the two nations have shared the tradition – and the vital income from tourism.

But now UNESCO have weighed in, ruling that Jordan’s claim is more accurate and making its riverbank a World Heritage Site.

The UN cultural agency declared this month that the east riverbank ‘is believed to be’ where Jesus was baptised, but the decision has raised eyebrows among some scholars.

Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, said it ‘has nothing to do with archaeological reality’.

‘We don’t have any sites with evidence or archaeological remains that were continuously venerated from the first century on,’ she added.

Experts who reviewed the Jordanian application for UNESCO admitted there was no solid evidence confirming that ‘Bethany Beyond the Jordan,’ also known as al-Maghtas, Arabic for baptism, is the authentic site.

However, the Jordanian site is of ‘immense religious significance to the majority of denominations of Christian faith, who have accepted this site as the location’ of Jesus’ baptism, the academics said.

In the New Testament of the Bible, John 1:28 hints that the baptism took place on the eastern bank, saying: ‘These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.’

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SOURCE: DailyMail
Ollie Gillman

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