RELIGION & FAITH
Jordan is a modern country with an ancient culture, a land of which visitors
can walk through the valleys, hills and plains whose names have become part of
human history by virtue of the simple deeds and profound messages of prophets
who walked the land and crossed its rivers during their lives.
Many of the sites where they are said to have performed miracles or reached out
to ordinary people have been identified, excavated and protected, and are now
more easily accessible to visitors.
Jordan is an ideal destination for those seeking cultural knowledge and
spiritual enrichment. Jordan values its ethnically and religiously diverse
population, consequently providing for the cultural rights of all its citizens.
This spirit of tolerance and appreciation is one of the central elements
contributing to the stable and peaceful cultural climate flourishing within
Jordan. More than 92% of Jordanians are Sunni Muslims and approximately 6% are
Christians. The majority of Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, but
there are also Greek Catholics, a small Roman Catholic community, Syrian
Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and a few Protestant
denominations. Several small Shi'a and Druze populations can also be found in
As Jordan is an Islamic state, one may explore the principles of Islam through
direct interaction with the people of this monotheistic religion. As the
capstone of a long tradition beginning with Judaism and Christianity, Muslims
believe that Islam completes the revelation of God's message to humankind.
Islam – which in Arabic means "submission" - is an assertion of the unity,
completeness, and sovereignty of God. Muslims believe that God, or Allah, as He
is known in Arabic, revealed his final message to humankind through the Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH) and the Holy Qur'an, which is the divine immutable word of God.
Islam focuses heavily on the equality of all humans before the one true God,
and therefore it is in many ways a return to the original doctrine of the pure
monotheism that characterized the early Judeo-Christian tradition.
The Mosque at Mazar.
Islamic tradition has crystallized five fundamental observances, or "pillars",
that are as important as faith in defining Islamic identity and strengthening
the common bond that ties all Muslims together. They are Confession of Faith,
Daily Prayer (five times per day facing the holy city of Mecca), Fasting during
the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Alms giving, and Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan
The site of John the Baptist's settlement at
Bethany beyond the Jordan, where Jesus was baptised, has long been
known from the Bible (John 1:28 and 10:40) and from the Byzantine and medieval
On the banks of the River Jordan.
The site has now been identified on the east bank of the Jordan River, in the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and is being systematically surveyed, excavated,
restored, and prepared to receive pilgrims and visitors.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan is located half an hour by car from the
Jordanian capital Amman.
The Bethany area sites formed part of the early Christian pilgrimage route
between Jerusalem, the Jordan River, and
The area is also associated with the biblical account of how the Prophet Elijah
(Mar Elias in Arabic) ascended to heaven in a whirlwind on a chariot of fire.
(See main Image above).
From Mount Nebo’s windswept promontory, overlooking the
Dead Sea, the Jordan River Valley, Jericho and the distant hills of
Jerusalem, Moses viewed the Holy Land of Canaan that he would never enter. He
died and was buried in Moab, "in the valley opposite Beth-peor". His tomb
remains unknown. After consulting the Oracle, Jeremiah reportedly hid the Ark
of the Covenant, the Tent and the Altar of Incense at
The basilica at Mount Nebo.
Mount Nebo became a
place of pilgrimage for early Christians from Jerusalem and a small church was
built there in the 4th century to commemorate the end of Moses' life. Some of
the stones from that church remain in their original place in the wall around
the apse area. The church was subsequently expanded in the 5th and 6th
centuries into the present-day large basilica with its stunning collection of
The serpentine Cross, which stands just outside the sanctuary, is symbolic of
the bronze (or brazen) serpent taken by Moses into the desert and the cross
upon which Jesus was crucified.
The serpentine Cross at Mount Nebo.
In addition to Bethany Beyond the Jordan and Mount Nebo, there are three other
holy sites that were designated by the Vatican as
Millennium 2000 pilgrimage sites.
The Jordanian capital, Amman,
and its surrounding regions is referred to in the Bible as Ammon, or the
Ammonite Kingdom, and was famous for its springs and citadel. This is the place
where the Biblical story of David and Goliath (Uriah the Hittite) took place.
The massive fortifications, where David, an ancestor of Jesus, brought about
Uriah’s death so that he could marry his widow Bathsheba, are still standing.
Decapolis city of Gadara (modern-day
Umm Qays), with its spectacular panoramic views overlooking the Sea of
Galilee, is the site of Jesus’ miracle of the Gadarene swine. It is here that
He encountered a demented man who lived in the tombs near the entrance to the
city, Jesus cast the bad spirits out of the man and into a herd of pigs, which
then ran down the hill into the waters of the Sea of Galilee and drowned.
Ruins at Umm Qays.
A rare five-aisled basilica from the 4th century was recently discovered and
excavated at Umm Qays.
It has been built directly over a Roman-Byzantine tomb and has a view into the
tomb from the interior of the church. It is also located alongside the old
Roman city gate on the road from the Sea of Galilee. Everything about this
distinctive arrangement of a church above a tomb at this particular place,
strongly indicates that it was designed and built to commemorate the very spot
where the Byzantine faithful believed that Jesus performed his miracle.
Pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Mountain Church - a rebuilt cave that is
venerated as a place where Jesus and his mother Mary passed during their
journeys between the Sea of Galilee, the
Bethany beyond the Jordan and Jerusalem.
Anjara was designated by the Vatican as a
Millenium 2000 pilgrimage site.
Khirbat al Wahadina
Pilgrimage to the birthplace of St Elijah.
The 1st Century AD Roman-Jewish historian, Josephus, identifies the
awe-inspiring site of Mukawir (Machaerus) as the palace/fort of Herod, who was
the Roman-appointed ruler over the region during the life of Jesus Christ.
The hill where King Herod's fortified palace was situated.
It was here, at this hilltop fortified palace, overlooking the
Dead Sea region and the distance hills of Palestine and Israel that
Herod Antipas, the son of Herod, imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist after
Salome’s fateful dance.
Madaba and its hinterlands
were repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament. Then it was known as Medeba and
it featured in narratives related to Moses and the Exodus, David’s war against
the Moabites, Isaiah’s oracle against Moab and King Mesha of Moab’s rebellion
The mosaic map of the Holy Land at St. George's church.
Between the 4th and 7th centuries AD, the prosperous ecclesiastical centre of
Madaba produced one of the world’s finest collections of Byzantine
mosaics, many fine examples of which are well preserved. Several church floor
mosaics can be seen in their original locations, while other have been moved
for protection and displayed in the
Madaba Archaeological Park.
Madaba’s real masterpiece, in the Orthodox Church of Saint George, is the 6th
century AD mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land – the earliest religious
map of the Holy Land in any form to survive from antiquity.
The Dead Sea & Lot’s Cave
The Dead Sea is one of the
most dramatic places on earth, with its stunning natural environment equally
matched by its powerful spiritual symbolism.
The infamous Sodom and Gomorrah and other cities of the Dead Sea plain, or
(Cities of the Valley) were the subjects of some of the most dramatic and
enduring Old Testament stories, including that of Lot, whose wife was turned
into a pillar of salt for disobeying God’s will. Lot and his two daughters
survived and fled to a cave near the small town of Zoar (modern-day Safi). The
Bible says Lot’s daughters gave birth to sons whose descendents would become
the Ammonite and Moabite people, whose kingdoms were in what is now central
Jordan. Although not confirmed, the sites of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
are believed to be the remains of the ancient walled towns of Bab ed-Dhra’ and
Numeira, in the southeastern Dead
Sea central plain. On a hillside above the town of Zoar (modern-day
Safi), Byzantine Christians built a church and monastery dedicated to Saint
Lot. The complex was built around the cave where Lot and his daughters found
A rectangular walled city, about 30 kilometres southeast of
Madaba, which is mentioned on both the Old and New Testaments of the
Bible. It was fortified by the Romans and local Christians were still
embellishing it with Byzantine-style mosaics well over 100 years after the
start of the Muslim Umayyad rule.
Mosaic detail from St. Stephen's church at Umm ar-Rasas.
Just outside the city walls is the recently unearthed Church of Saint Stephen
with its perfectly preserved outstanding mosaic floor, the largest of its kind
to be discovered in Jordan and second only to the world famous mosaic map at
The City of Salt,
northwest of Jordan’s capital, Amman,
houses the tomb/shrine of Job, the wealthy, righteous man from the Land of Uz.
Salt is also the location
of the tomb/shrine of the prophet Jethro, who was the father-in-law of Moses.
It is also the site of the tombs of Jad and Asher, who were both sons of Jacob.
Some of the most important events in the lives of Isaac’s twin sons, Jacob and
Esau, took place in ancient Jordan.
Modern day Pella (ancient
‘Penuel’, meaning ‘the face of God’) was so named by Jacob after he wrestled
there all night with God in the form of a man or angel (Genesis 32:24-30). A
massive Bronze and Iron Age temple recently discovered at
Pella, in the northern Jordan Valley, is thought to be the best
preserved temple from Old Testament times anywhere in the Holy Land.
The Kings Highway
The Kings Highway is the world’s oldest continuously used communication route.
It linked ancient Bashan, Giliad and Ammon in the north with Moab, Edom, Paran
and Midian in the south.
Abraham, a common patriarch of Jews, Christians and Muslims, who passed through
northern, central and southern Jordan, would certainly have used this route on
his journey from Mesopotamia to Canaan.
Moses asked the King of Edom if he and his people could "go along the Kings
Highway" during their journey to Canaan, but his request was refused. The Kings
Highway is also mentioned in an earlier story in Genesis 14:5-8, in relation to
the four Kings from the north, who attacked Soddom and Gomorrah and the three
other Cities of the Plain.
Petra seems to be mentioned in
the Bible’s Old Testament under several possible names, including Sela and
Joktheel (2 Kings 14:7).
During the Exodus, Moses and the Israelites passed through the
Petra area in Edom. Local tradition says that the spring at Wadi Musa
(Valley of Moses), just outside Petra,
is the place where Moses struck the rock and brought forth water (Numbers
Aaron, the brother of Moses and Miriam, died in Jordan and was buried in
Petra at Mount Hor, now called Jabal Harun in Arabic (Mount Aaron). A
Byzantine church and later an Islamic shrine/tomb of Aaron were built on the
summit of the mountain, which today attracts pilgrims from all over the world.
Petra was almost certainly the
last staging post of the three kings, who took frankincense, gold and myrrh to
honour the baby Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12).
On March 20th, 2000, the late Pope John Paul II visited Mount Nebo during his visit to the Holy Land.
It is generally agreed that the land of modern Jordan forms part of the blessed
"neighbourhood" mentioned in the Holy Qur'an [Sura 17, verse 1].
Some of the worlds earliest known churches have been recently discovered in
Jordan. These include a 4 th century church at Umm Qays, a possible 2 nd or 3
rd century AD “prayer hall” at Bethany beyond the Jordan, and the remains of a
mud brick building at Aqaba (see image) that may be the worlds oldest known
purpose built church. The Aqaba building dates from the late 3 rd or early 4 th
In and around southern Jordan, God first manifested Himself to human beings, as
documented in the narratives related to Abraham, Job, and Moses. Subsequently,
this land witnessed the missions of numerous prophets.