A ritual bath found near the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is believed to date to the time of Christ.
Amit Re’em, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem district, told the Times of Israel last month, “For the first time, we have archaeological evidence that something was here in the Second Temple period, in the days of Jesus.”
In a Dec. 21 Facebook post, the Israel Antiquities Authority explained that the ritual bath, known as a mikveh, was uncovered while workers were digging a tunnel for the new visitors center for The Church of Gethsemane (also known as the Church of the Agony or the Church of All Nations).
Advertisement - story continues below
Workers were surprised to discover an open cavity in the earth as they dug to build the tunnel between the visitors center and the church, which was constructed between 1919 and 1924.
“The modern church was built on the spot where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was betrayed. In the New Testament, it is recorded that Jesus used to pray on Mount of Olives (Lk. 22:39) and that he prayed here on the night before the crucifixion (Matt. 26:36),” the Facebook post reads.
A 2,000-year-old mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath, near the famous modern church, together with the remains of a church from …
According to the account in Luke 22, Jesus prayed for the bitter cup of going to the cross to pay for the sins of mankind to pass from him.
“Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done,” Jesus said.
It also was at this location that Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, betrayed him by leading Jewish religious leaders to him so they could capture the “heretical” teacher of new doctrines.
The Bible recounts the infamous moment: “[Judas] drew near to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?'”
Second Temple period remains unearthed at Jerusalem’s Gethsemane – The First Remains from the era that Jesus visited the site according to Christian belief https://t.co/5d9IwuHxZo
— Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority (@FriendsofIAA) December 29, 2020
The find of the 2,000-year-old ritual bath unattached to any buildings is unusual and suggests agricultural activity took place in the area.
“The Jewish laws of purification obliged workers involved in oil and wine production to purify themselves [before work],” according to the IAA Facebook post.
“The discovery of the ritual bath may therefore hint at the origin of the place’s ancient name, Gethsemane (Gat Shemanim, ‘oil press’), a place where ritually pure oil was produced near the city.”
The excavation also unearthed a Byzantine church from circa the 6th century A.D.
“Greek inscriptions found incorporated in the church floor and deciphered by Dr. Leah Di Segni from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Dr. Rosario Pierri of the Franciscan Institute read, ‘for the memory and repose of the lovers of Christ (cross) God who have received the sacrifice of Abraham, accept the offering of your servants and give them remission of sins. (cross) Amen.'”
Re’em called the excavation at Gethsemane “a prime example of Jerusalem’s archaeology at its best.”
“The recently discovered archaeological remains will be incorporated in the visitors’ center being built at the site and will be exhibited to tourists and pilgrims, who we hope will soon be returning to visit Jerusalem.”
It certainly is inspiring to see sites listed in the Bible continue to be unearthed by archaeologists.
How amazing to be able to visit Jerusalem and know you’re walking where Jesus walked.
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.