Early Christians identified Mt. Nebo with the Moses tradition
Where was Moses buried? We don’t know exactly. Nor did the biblical writers: “Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:5–6).
This uncertainty, however, did not discourage early Christians, who determined that Moses died and was buried on Mt. Nebo, in what is today central Jordan. Known locally by its Arabic name, Siyagha, Mt. Nebo began attracting Christian worshipers in the early fourth century, when Christianity was acknowledged in the Roman Empire as a lawful religion. Its connection to Moses and the Exodus narrative brought in Christian monks, who wanted to live and pray near where Moses was buried, as well as pilgrims, who wished to commemorate the prophet and contemplate God’s promises to his people.
In her article “Moses and the Monks of Nebo,” published in the Summer 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Debra Foran outlines the early history of Christian pilgrimage to and around Mt. Nebo and describes some of the central monuments in the region. “A network of monastic communities extended from [Mt. Nebo] to the east as far as the desert fringes and to the south until the Wadi Mujib (the biblical Arnon River). This development was likely connected to the growing monastic movement across the southern Levant during the Byzantine period, exemplified by the Judean Desert monasteries near Jerusalem.”
Assistant Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Foran also delves into related questions of how the monks of Mt. Nebo interacted with the local population. “Interwoven into this monastic landscape was an active and prosperous lay population that catered to its ascetic neighbors. The rural population also served the many pilgrims traveling through the region.”
One of the earliest Western pilgrims to the Holy Land was a noble woman named Egeria (or Etheria), who in the 380s visited the alleged place where Moses was buried. In her Latin itinerary, she wrote:
So we arrived at the summit of that mountain, where there is now a church of no great size on the very top of Mount Nabau. Inside the church, in the place where the pulpit is, I saw a place a little raised, containing about as much space as tombs usually do. I asked those holy men [i.e., monks] what this was, and they answered: “Here was holy Moses laid by the angels, for, as it is written, no one knows his burial place, and because it is certain that he was buried by the angels. His tomb, indeed, where he was laid, is not shown to this day; but as it was shown to us by our ancestors who dwelt here, so do we show it to you, and our ancestors said that this tradition was handed down to them by their own ancestors (XII, 1–2).
The small church that Egeria visited was rebuilt and expanded in the fifth century to include several side chapels and a baptistery (see photo), all of which were decorated with intricate mosaics or paved with marble tiles arranged in geometric patterns. This Byzantine basilica was recently excavated, and a new church (termed the Memorial Church of Moses) was built over it to protect the archaeological remains and provide visitors with the visual experience of the sixth-century church. During the restorations in 2013, an empty tomb was discovered in the center of the nave of the basilica. Foran writes:
Located at the highest point of the mountain, this tomb initially may have been part of an earlier shrine dedicated to Moses that was later incorporated into the basilica and sealed under its floor. The monastic community of Mt. Nebo possibly regarded this tomb as a burial monument dedicated to Moses, and it could have been the one that Egeria and her fellow pilgrims saw in the fourth century.
Several other monastic sites around the alleged burial site of Moses at Mt. Nebo flourished during the Byzantine period (fourth–seventh centuries). Among them were ‘Uyun Musa (the Springs of Moses)—a perennial spring in the valley to the northeast of Mt. Nebo that also offered caves for Christian hermits (see photo). There is also Khirbat al-Mukhayyat, which is a hill about 2 miles southeast of Mt. Nebo that has at least three churches dating from the sixth and seventh centuries. This site is the focus of current explorations within the Town of Nebo Archaeological Project, directed by Foran.
To further explore the Christian monuments of Mt. Nebo, read Debra Foran’s article “Moses and the Monks of Nebo,” published in the Summer 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
Spirituality in the Desert: Judean Wilderness Monasteries
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This article first appeared in BHD on July 20, 2022
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I am a Christian and believe what God speaks is truth ! Like the Garden of Eden ..we are not going to know anything unless God wants it known .
That’s my opinion as a Christian . God bless
So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.—Deuteronomy 34:5-6.
Garden of Eden was in the mountainline of Ararat, it is line of mountains that is why the Highest peak is not the olace where Ark was ended up. Eden was in there too cause the 4 rivers started from Eden and they flowed out from there. It is same case cause that awful mess that ground braking made globally it is buried under. Bible said that waters rushed up from the ground violently, so it is there but can not be seen cause it nost be digged up like https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Gobekli-Tepes-six-structures-known-so-far-enclosures-A-B-C-D-E-and-F-including_fig5_317433676 Göpelikli Tepe was buried in that massive flood and like Atlantis might have too.
Supposedly Moses viewed the “Promised Land” from opposite Jericho, but Jericho is to the Northwest, not opposite Mt. Nebo. Also the straight line distance between the two is about 17 miles (27 kilometers). So how much of the “Promised Land” or Jericho could Moses see?
This article is described as “Having been written” implying the summer issue had already been published. In which case. when can I expect my summer issue to arrive?
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Fact: We do not know where Moses was buried. That is all that needs to be said.
To push antiquated here-say and promote mistruth tradition based, regardless of one person’s non-biblical testimony to a tourist visit wastes academic time. Until some archeology unearths an artifact or a document that reliably locates his burial place, the discussion is time wasted. Suffice to rely upon what scripture says. If God had intended us to know where his servant Moses was buried, He would have told us. Anyway, who cares where he was buried. He is an archtype of Adam. That is all you have to know.
And if God said “You shall have no other gods than Me.” Finding Moses burial place could have lead people to worship the creation rather than the Creator.
Where God buried Moses is God’s business