Israeli archaeologists have recently uncovered a ritual bath believed to date back to the Second Temple period during Jesus’ earthly ministry.
According to CBN News, the discovery came during the construction of a visitors’ center and tunnel linking Kidron Valley to The Church of All Nations (also called The Basilica of the Agony) across the street, which is located next to the Garden of Gethsemane.
“Suddenly in the middle of this underground passage the mountain collapsed and revealed [an] ancient and amazing find – the Jewish ritual bath known by the name, mikveh,” Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist Amit Re’em explained.
Re’em added that the mikveh share a connection to the olives that grow on the trees in Gethsemane (the name Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew gat shemanim meaning oil press in English).
“According to the Jewish law, when you are [making] wine or olive oil you need to be purified,” he noted. “For the first time, we have archaeological evidence that something was here in the Second Temple period, the days of Jesus.”
Father Eugenio Alliata, professor at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, expressed his joy over the discovery.
“We hope to preserve the element and we are excited to be able here in Gethsemane to find something that belonged to the time of Jesus,” Alliata said.
The garden of Gethsemane is best known for being the place where Jesus prayed on the night he was betrayed by Judas prior to his crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46).
The findings are expected to be added to the new visitors’ center.
Additionally, the remains of a 1,500-years-old church in the Kidron Valley were also discovered by archeologists.
“It is interesting to see that the church was being used, and may even have been founded, at the time when Jerusalem was under Muslim rule, showing that Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem continued during this period as well,” IAA archaeologist David Yeger said.
Later in history, a large hospice or monastery was built where the church stood, but it was likely destroyed during Ayyubid Sultan Salah-a-Din’s Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 12th century.