Ritual Bath from the Time of Jesus Discovered at Gethsemane

Second Temple-era ritual bath that was discovered during construction work on a modern tunnel under the 1920 Catholic Church of All Nations. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

A Second Temple-era ritual bath that was recently uncovered on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives at the site believed to be the New Testament’s Gethsemane is being touted as the first evidence that links the pilgrimage site to the period in which Jesus lived.

According to all four Gospels, it is at Gethsemane — which idiomatically means “olive press” in Hebrew — that Jesus spent a night of agony following the Last Supper, accepted his eventual betrayal and execution, and was arrested by the Temple guards of the Sanhedrin.

“For the first time, we have archaeological evidence that something was here in the Second Temple period, in the days of Jesus,” said Israel Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem district head Amit Re’em on Monday.

While the find does not lend any physical credence to the Gospels, it does point to the possibility of there having been an oil press at the site, which would appear to align with the New Testament name of the site where Jesus spent his final night before the crucifixion.

Second Temple-era ritual baths are not particularly unusual for archaeologists to uncover: there are dozens of similar baths dotting the Land of Israel — if not hundreds, Re’em told The Times of Israel. But this ritual bath, also known as a mikveh, represents the first time there is any physical archaeological evidence at the traditional site of Gethsemane, where Christians have made pilgrimages for centuries, to connect it to the New Testament era.

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SOURCE: The Times of Israel, Amanda Borschel-Dan