(Bethʹan·y) [perhaps, house of Ananiah, or, house of afflicted ones].
1. A village “about two miles” away from Jerusalem, the measurement used by the Gospel writer at that time being the Roman stade, with the “fifteen stades” mentioned by him equaling about 1.8 miles (2.8 kilometers). (John 11:18, NW, 1950 ed., ftn.) It lay on the E slope of the Mount of Olives on an ancient approach to Jerusalem from Jericho and the Jordan. (Mark 10:46; 11:1; Luke 19:29) Today the site is marked by the small village of el-ʽAzariyeh, an Arabic name meaning “the place of Lazarus.” Though the village is poor, olive, fig and almond trees add a measure of pleasantness to the surroundings.
If Capernaum was Jesus’ home in Galilee (Mark 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. (Luke 10:38) Here Jesus later performed the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection (John 11:1, 38-44), and a tomb with a round stone to close it, similar to that indicated in the Bible account, is to be found at Bethany. (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, p. 67) Six days before Jesus’ final Passover (or on Nisan 8, of 33 C.E.), he came up from Jericho to Bethany, the news of his presence bringing a crowd of Jews out to the village to see him and the resurrected Lazarus. (John 12:1, 9) From then till the final day of his earthly life, Jesus spent the days 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 Mount of Olives, doubtless at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.—Mark 11:11; Matt. 21:17; Luke 21:37.
Evidently Jesus’ triumphal ride into Jerusalem (Nisan 9) was over the Mount of Olives along the path from Bethany. (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 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). (Mark 11:12-14, 19, 20) Back in Bethany, the night of Nisan 12, Jesus 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. Apparently, from Bethany Judas headed out to arrange Jesus’ betrayal.—Matt. 26:6-16; Mark 14:1-10; John 12:2-8.
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.—Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12.
It is generally believed that the Benjamite city of Ananiah (Neh. 11:32) was the ancient site corresponding to the village of Bethany in Jesus’ day.
2. Bethany across the Jordan is mentioned but once (John 1:28) as the place where John was baptizing and, apparently, the place where John identified Jesus to his disciples as the “Lamb of God.” (John 1:35, 36) In the third century Origen substituted the name Bethabara for Bethany and the Authorized Version follows this rendering; however, the most reliable manuscripts read Bethany. The site of this Bethany beyond or E of the Jordan is uncertain. 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 no more than a day’s journey from Cana of 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.
[Picture on page 218]
Bethany, as seen in modern times