Remains Found at Gethsemane

Ritual bath found from 2,000 years ago, when Jesus would have visited, as well as church from the Byzantine period.

Gethsemane Ritual Bath

Gethsemane Ritual Bath. Photo: Yaniv Berman, IAA

Near the modern Gethsemane Church, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, excavations have revealed the remains of a Second Temple period mikveh (ritual bath). This is one of the first archaeological confirmations of what was present at Gethsemane during the time when Jesus is said to have visited and prayed there. The bath, found with no buildings nearby, supports the idea that this was an agricultural area at the time of Jesus, maybe producing wine or oil.

As Jerome Murphy-O’Connor explains in “What Really Happened at Gethsemane?” (Bible Review, April 1998), “Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is one of the most soul-wrenching episodes in the Gospels: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet, not as I will but as you (will)” (Matthew 26:39).” Jesus time at Gethsemane appears in the three Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; and Luke 22:39–46).

Byzantine Church at Gethsemane

Byzantine Church at Gethsemane. Photo: Shai Halevi, IAA

Additionally, Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, announced that they have excavated an impressive church from the Byzantine period, about 1,500 years ago, at the foot of the Church of Gethsemane. The excavations were conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority with scholars from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. The announcement was made in late December, 2020.


A version of this post originally appeared in Bible History Daily in December, 2020.

Read more in Bible History Daily

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