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The house of Jesus at Jerusalem

“Bethany is clearly to be identified with the modern Palestinian village of el-Azariyeh since it is situaed about 3 kilometers to the southest of Jesrualem – which roughly fits the distance of 15 stadia mentioned in John – or a forty-minute ride on horseback.

The modern name el-Azariyeh is a corruption of the Greek Lazarion (“the place of Lazarus”), but in the Old Testament times Bethany may have been known as (Beth) Ananiah … At the time of Jesus the houses of ancient Bethany would have been sturdy and well built, with good air circolation and large external courtyards, with mangers for beasts of burden in the lower rooms, and with upper living rooms, some of which had simple geometric designs on the interior walls.

Numerous archaeological remains have been uncovered in the area of the present-day village of Bethany and around the area of the traditional rock-hewn Tomb of Lazarus … A christian church was erected there in Byzantine period and there are also substantial remains at the spot dating from Crusaders times …

There can be no doubt that Bethany was a flourishing rural village at the time of Jesus, and numerous agricultural installations, ritual bathing pools (mikaw’ot), and cisterns from the first century CE have been uncovered in excavations. In later centuries many Christian pilgrims visited the village seeking out the house of Martha and Mary – where Jesus was reputed to have stayed during Passion week – and the Tomb of Lazarus.

In one of the ritual bathing pools uncovered by archaeologists at Bethany there were red-painted drawings of crosses, and incised graffiti of various kinds and inscriptions on walls, evidently made by Byzantine-period pilgrims visiting the village …

The village of Bethany apparently served as headquarters for Jesus and his disceples during their visits to Jerusalem … Jesus’s deep friendship with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha was probably the main reason he lodged at their house in Bethany rather than anywhere else. Indeed, Jesus’s daily movements in and out of the city would more likely have alerted the authorities – since he would have had to pass frequently through the guarded gates of the city – than had he remained in permanent lodgings in the city for the duration of the holiday.” (Shimon Gibson, The final days of Jesus, Lion, Oxford 2009, pp. 19-21)

Simone Venturini

Scrittore

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