Ritual bath found from 2,000 years ago, when Jesus would have visited, as well as church from the Byzantine period.
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).
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.
Jesus Before Pilate The Gospels offer a surprisingly excusatory depiction of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea directly responsible for Jesus’ death. While the contemporary sources do not mention Pilate’s fatal involvement with the itinerant rabbi from Galilee, they reveal a governor determined to promote Roman religion in Judea and to ruthlessly suppress any form of dissent.
A Tomb in Jerusalem Reveals the History of Crucifixion and Roman Crucifixion Methods In the history of crucifixion, the death of Jesus of Nazareth stands out as the best-known example by far. Crucifixion in antiquity was actually a fairly common punishment, but there were no known physical remains from a crucifixion. Then, in 1968, archaeologist Vassilios Tzaferis excavated a Jerusalem tomb that contained the bones of a crucified man named Yehohanan. As Tzaferis reported in BAR, the discovery demonstrated the brutal reality of Roman crucifixion methods in a way that written accounts never had before.
Tour Showcases Remains of Herod’s Jerusalem Palace—Possible Site of the Trial of Jesus Visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City can explore remains of King Herod’s palace, which may be where Roman governor Pontius Pilate tried and condemned Jesus of Nazareth to death.
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