1. A village “about two miles” away from Jerusalem, the measurement used by the Gospel writer at that time being the Roman stadium, with the “fifteen stadia” mentioned by him equaling about 2.8 km (1.7 mi). (Joh 11:18, ftn) It lay on the E slope of the Mount of Olives on an ancient approach to Jerusalem from Jericho and the Jordan. (Mr 10:46; 11:1; Lu 19:29) Today the site is marked by the small village of el-ʽAzariyeh (El ʽEizariya), an Arabic name meaning “the Place of Lazarus,” located 2.5 km (1.5 mi) ESE of the Temple Mount.—PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 950.
Just as Capernaum was Jesus’ home in Galilee (Mr 2:1), Bethany might be called his home in Judea. It was the “certain village” that Jesus visited during his later Judean ministry (approximately October to December, 32 C.E.), the location of the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, who became beloved friends of Jesus. (Lu 10:38) Here Jesus later performed the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection.—Joh 11:1, 38-44.
Six days before Jesus’ final Passover (as the weekly Sabbath began, on Nisan 8, 33 C.E.), Jesus arrived at Bethany. (Joh 12:1) Following the Sabbath (that is, at the beginning of Nisan 9) he enjoyed an evening meal in the home of Simon the leper, with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus participating. This was the scene of Mary’s anointing him with costly oil, provoking Judas’ hypocritical objections and the rebuke administered to him by Jesus. (Mt 26:6-13; Mr 14:3-9; Joh 12:2-8) By this time, too, news had reached Jerusalem that Jesus was in the vicinity, and now that the Sabbath had ended, a great crowd of the Jews flocked out to see him and the resurrected Lazarus. (Joh 12:9) The next day (still on Nisan 9) Jesus made his triumphal ride into Jerusalem, evidently over the Mount of Olives along the path from Bethany. (Mt 21:1-11; Mr 11:1-11; Lu 19:29-38) It was on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem on Nisan 10 that Jesus cursed the barren fig tree, which had completely withered by the time he and his disciples passed it the following day (Nisan 11).—Mr 11:12-14, 19, 20.
During the last few days of his earthly life, Jesus spent the daytime in activity at Jerusalem, but at night he and his disciples would leave the big city to lodge in the unpretentious village of Bethany on the E slope of the Mount of Olives, doubtless at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.—Mr 11:11; Mt 21:17; Lu 21:37.
Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, when the time came for him to part from his disciples, he led them, not to the temple that was now abandoned by God but, rather, “out as far as Bethany” on the Mount of Olives, where his ascension began.—Lu 24:50-53; Ac 1:9-12.
It is generally believed that the Benjamite city of Ananiah (Ne 11:32) was the ancient site corresponding to the village of Bethany in Jesus’ day.
2. Bethany across the Jordan is mentioned but once (Joh 1:28) as the place where John was baptizing and, apparently, where he identified Jesus to his disciples as “the Lamb of God.” (Joh 1:35, 36) In the third century Origen substituted the name Bethabara for Bethany, and the King James Version follows this rendering; however, the most reliable manuscripts read Bethany. The site of this Bethany beyond or E of the Jordan is unknown. Some, favoring the traditional location for Jesus’ baptism, would place it across the Jordan opposite Jericho. However, the record at John 1:29, 35, 43; 2:1 seems to indicate a place closer to Galilee; while that of John 10:40 and 11:3, 6, 17 may suggest that it lay about two days’ journey from the Bethany that was the home of Lazarus. Thus, a site somewhat S of the Sea of Galilee seems the most likely, but no positive identification is possible.