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
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
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
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
Beyond the Jordan, where Jesus was baptized, has long
been known from the Bible (John 1:28 and 10:40) and from the
Byzantine and medieval texts.
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
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.
For more information on
Bethany Beyond the Jordan, please click
to visit the "Baptism Site Commission" website.
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" (Deuteronomy 34:6).
His tomb remains unknown. After consulting the Oracle,
Jeremiah reportedly hid the Ark of the Covenant, the Tent
and the Altar of Incense 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 Byzantine mosaics.
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.
In addition to Bethany Beyond the Jordan and Mount Nebo,
there are three other holy sites in Jordan that were
designated by the Vatican as
Millennium 2000 pilgrimage sites.
Tall Mar Elias
Associated with the Prophet
Elijah, Tall Mar Elias is very close to the ruins of a
village known as Listib. It is believed that this place was
formerly Tishbi, the home of Elijah, a native of Gilias in
Tranjordan (2 Kings 17: I). The fact that this is a
religious site is substantiated by the two churches that
were built on the Tall (hilltop) at the end of the Byzantine
Elijah is known as the prophet Elias in Arabic. The Koran
calls him “an honorable man” and a “messenger of God”. It
also says “we left mention of him among later men”, which
refers to Elijah’s association with Moses, John the Baptist
The site at Tall Mar Elias includes extensive architectural
remains that are scattered across the summit of the hill
that rises above Listib, from the southeast.
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 David sent
Uriah the Hittite to the front lines of battle. 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.
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.
It is believed that Jesus
Christ, his disciples, and the Virgin Mary, passed through
Anjara once and rested in a cave there during a journey
between the Sea of Galilee, the
Decapolis cities, Bethany Beyond the Jordan and
Jerusalem. The cave in Anjara has long been a holy place for
pilgrims and has now been commemorated with a modern shrine,
the Church of Our Lady of the Mountain. The cave was also
designated by the Catholic Churches of the Middle East as
one of the five pilgrimage sites for the year 2000.
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.
It was here, at this hilltop fortified palace, overlooking
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.
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 against Israel.
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 others have been moved for
protection and displayed in the
Madaba Archaeological Park.
Madaba’s real masterpiece, in the Orthodox Church of St.
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
Dead Sea is one of
the most dramatic places on earth, with its stunning natural
environment equally matched by its powerful spiritual
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
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 refuge.
Umm Ar-Rasas (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
A rectangular walled city,
about 30km southeast of
Madaba, that 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.
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 As-Salt,
northwest of Jordan’s capital,
Amman, houses the tomb/shrine of Job, the wealthy,
righteous man from the Land of Uz.
As-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
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.
seems to be mentioned in the Bible’s Old Testament under
several possible names, including Sela and Joktheel (2 Kings
During the Exodus, Moses and the Israelites passed through
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).