During Biblical times, the Baptism site was called Bethany beyond the Jordan. Many significant associations with ancient biblical persons and prophets including Elijah, Elisha, Moses and Joshua, occurred in this region.
The natural hill at Tell el Kharrar has long been called Elijah’s Hill (or “Tell Mar Elias” in Arabic). It has been identified as the place from which Prophet Elijah ascended to heaven in a whirlwind on a chariot and horses of fire after parting the waters of the River Jordan and walking across it with his successor Prophet Elisha.
According to the Gospel of St John (1:28) John the Baptist lived, preached and carried out baptisms, including that of Jesus, at Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
Following extensive excavations in the 1990’s, more than 20 churches, baptismal pools and caves of monks have been discovered, all dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods.