Al Maghtas has been a place of Christian memory since the Byzantine period. Markers in the earth suggest that the fire-breathing prophet, "Elijah-John," came here to announce news of God's Messianic Movement. He followed that proclamation with a call for action. Many came to him to be dipped (or baptized) in the water of the Jordan River.
While tradition often refers to this Elijah-John as "John the Baptist," a case could be made for calling him "John the Witness" (fm the Gk martureo or memartureka). The fourth gospel repeatedly connects this act of witnessing to John (see this text as an example). Elijah-John offered testimony that God's Messianic Movement was coming and that Jesus of Nazareth was its key figure.
The modern structure pictured above is a witness to that memory. The Greek Orthodox Church of John the Baptist is a new construction erected at Al Maghtas. It helps us remember how Jesus was baptized by John.
Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. Onboard lectures will focus on Paul's fourth missionary journey. See the link here for details.