Newly Found 1500-Year-Old Pool May be Site of New Testament Baptism

By Nancy Flory Published on February 6, 2018

Archaeologists recently announced the discovery of a 1,500-year-old pool that may have been the site of the Ethiopian eunuch’s baptism. Unearthed between 2012 and 2016, the pool was part of a system of pools on the site of an ancient church near Jerusalem. It’s now part of at Ein Hanniya national park.

Ancient Pool Unearthed

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the pools date back from between the 4th and 6th centuries A.D. The excavation director, Irina Zilberbod, said the pools were the most significant finding in the excavation. “This pool was built in the center of a spacious complex at the foot of a church that once stood here. Roofed colonnades were built around the pool that gave access to residential wings.”

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“It’s difficult to know what the pool was used for — whether for irrigation, washing, landscaping or perhaps as part of baptismal ceremonies at the site,” Zilberbod continued.

She noted that the pool’s water drained to a fountain. The fountain is the first of its kind in Israel, archaeologists said.

Ein Hanniya Site Israel - 600

Photo: Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

 

What It Means For Christians

The importance of the pools to Christians is the possibility that a New Testament baptism was held there. Jerusalem District Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch said it’s been linked to the baptism of a eunuch by St. Philip the Evangelist. “We believe that some early Christian commentators identified Ein Hanniya as the site where the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, as described in Acts 8:26-40.” 

Acts 8:36-40 describes the experience: 

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

“The baptism of the eunuch by St. Philip was one of the key events in the spread of Christianity,” Baruch continued. “Therefore, identifying the place where it occurred occupied scholars for many generations and became a common motif in Christian art.”

The Christian Presence

The Armenian Church owns part of the site and it, along with the Ethiopian Church, still holds services there.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that in the 1930s an archaeologist found a Byzantine church, but someone later buried it. Even though it was about 2,150 square feet in area, no one now knows where it is. “It was documented in the scientific literature,” says Baruch. “I have a theory where it is, but we haven’t found it yet. We will in the future.”

Haaretz also reported that the pool “had been the deepest of any fed by springs in the Judean Hills, but the restored version is only 70 centimeters (27 inches) deep. The authorities preferred to reduce its level, so it could allow people to visit without needing to keep a lifeguard on the payroll.”

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