Ancient Sources

The Peraea and the Dead Sea



17. Aenon, where now is Sapsaphas - (Wadi Kharrar)

ORIGINAL TEXTS

In illa parte Iordanis est fons, ubi baptizabat sanctus Iohannes, ad Iordane milia duo. In ipsa valle Helias inventus est, quando ei portabat corvus panem et carnes. In circuitu vallis illius multitudo heremitarum.
(Anonymus Placentinus 9,7-9)


ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Anonymus Placentinus, Itinerarium 9,7-9 (ca. 570 A.D.)
In that part od the Jordan is the spring where Saint John used to baptize, and which is two miles from the Jordan, and Elijah was in that valley when the raven brought him bread and meat. The whole valley is full of hermits.

Iohannes Moschus, Pratum Spirituale,1
It is the place called Sapsas. Close by to the left is the torrent of Chorath, where Elijah the Thesbite was sent at the time of the drought, in front of the Jordan.

BIBLICAL BACKGROUND

1 Kings 17:2-6 The prophet Elijah at the wadi Cherit
The word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

2 King 2: 1-14
The prophet Elijah is taken up to heaven
Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, "Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?" And he said, "Yes, I know; keep silent."
Elijah said to him, "Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho." But he said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, "Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?" And he answered, "Yes, I know; be silent."
Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan." But he said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha said, "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit." He responded, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not." As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Luk. 3:2-14 The preaching of John the Baptist
The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

John 1:19-28
The witness of John the Baptist
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

MORE ANCIENT SOURCES

Anonymus Placentinus, Itinerarium 9 (ca. 570 A.D.)
Then we came to the place where the Lord fed the five thousand people with the five loaves. It is a wide plain with olive and palm groves, and from there we arrived at the place where the Lord was baptized.This is the place where the children of Israel made their crossing, and also where the sons of the prophets lost their axe-head, and where Elijah was taken up. In that place is the "little hill of Hermon" mentioned in the psalm. At the foot of the mountain at seven o'clock in the morning, a cloud forms over the river, and it arrives over Jerusalem at sunrise, above the basilica on Sion and the basilica at Christ's tomb, the basilica of Saint Mary and Saint Sophia (once the Praetorium where Christ's case was heard). Above these places the dew comes down like showers, and sick people collect it. In the hospices all the dishes are cooked in it, and in the places where this dew falls many diseases are cured. For this is the dew of which the psalmist sings, "Like as the dew of Hermon, which fell upon the hill of Sion" (Ps 133,3). In that part of the Jordan is the spring where Saint John used to baptize, and which is two miles from the Jordan, and Elijah was in that valley when the raven brought him bread and meat. The whole valley is full of hermits.

Iohannes Moschus, Pratum Spirituale1 (7th cent. A.D.)
There was an old man, who lived in the monastery of Abba Eustoregius, whom the holy archbishop of Jerusalem [Elias] wanted to appoint hegumen of the monastery. But he did not accept, saying: "I want to go to Mount Sinai to pray." The archbishop pressed him to receive the appointment and then start out. But since the old man refused to submit, (the archbishop) dismissed him, after he had promised that on his return he would accept the abbacy. So (the old man) embraced the archbishop and started his journey to Mount Sinai, accompanied by his disciple. But, when he had crossed the river Jordan, at about one mile (thence), the old man began shivering and burning with fever. As he was unable to walk, they found a small cave and entered it, in order that the old man might rest. But he continued to be feverish and was almost unable to move: indeed, he had been in this cave for three days, when he saw in his sleep a figure, who asked him: "Say, old man, where do you want to go?" The old man answered the vision: " To Mount Sinai" and the vision said to him: No, please: do not go away." But, as he could not persuade the old man, the figure left him; and the fever lay on him more and more. Also the following night the same vision came to him, in the same habit, and said: "Why, good elder, do you want to be so sorely tried? Listen to me and never go away." The old man asked him: "Who would you be?" to which the vision answered: "I am John the Baptist, and the reason for my saying to you never to go away is that this little cave is greater than Mount Sinai, for often would our Lord Jesus Christ come in here to visit me. Give me your word, therefore, that you will abide here, and I shall restore you to health." The old man willingly accepted and promised to remain in that cave. And immediately he was cured, and he remained there all his life, having transformed the cave into a church and gathered a brotherhood (to live there). This is the place called Sapsas. At the left of it there is the 'brook Cherit, that is east of the Jordan'.

Epiphanius, Descriptio Terrae Sanctae 9 (8th cent. A.D.)
Beyond the Jordan, at a distance of about three miles, there is a cave, where the Precursor used to live. There is couch where he rested, a natural step, formed on the same rock, hewn in the cave, and a small vaulted chamber. And water bubbles out from within the cave; and inside the vault there is a fount, where saint John the Precursor, used to baptize.

see also: 6. Aenon near Salem which is also Saloumias
see also: 18. Bethabara, the place of baptism of St. John

Map Section 2 Place Discussion

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Created Saturday, December 16, 2000 at 11:54:09
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
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copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000