(behth' uh nee) Known primarily in the Gospels as the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, ancient Bethany occupied an important place in the life of Jesus. Jesus often found Himself staying in Bethany at the home of his closest friends as He ministered in Jerusalem.
Background of the City Located on the Mt. of Olives' eastern slope, Bethany sat “about two miles” (John 11:18, NIV) southeast of Jerusalem. Bethany became the final stop before Jerusalem just off the main east-west road coming from Jericho. Being at the foot of the mountain, the people could not see Jerusalem, thus giving Bethany a sense of seclusion and quietness. The road between Bethany and Jerusalem provided a ready avenue for travel across Olivet with the journey taking about fifty-five minutes to walk.
Since A.D. 333, Bethany primarily boasted of being the home of Lazarus' tomb. Over this site a church called the “Lazareion” (“shrine of Lazarus”) was erected which later aided in providing a new name for the town. El-Aziriyeh, the Arabic name of the present-day village, preserved the traditional connection of Lazarus with Bethany.
Role of the City in the Bible The primary event in the New Testament taking place in Bethany involved the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11-12). This magnificent miracle by Jesus demonstrated His authority, prepared for His resurrection, and was even magnified through the name of His friend, Lazarus (an abbreviation of Eleazar, “God has helped”).
Following a message sent to Him in Perea by Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, Jesus returned to Bethany four days after the burial of Lazarus. After spending time with Martha and Mary individually, Jesus' love for Lazarus and His family became evident in His tears. Then in a public display of prayer and power Jesus raised His good friend from the dead.
Another significant event in Jesus' life occurred in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper (Matthew 26:6;
Mark 14:3). Late on the Tuesday night of Jesus' last week, a woman (recognized as Mary in
John 12:3) gave Jesus His “burial anointment.” Coming to Jesus in the sight of all, she brought a costly alabaster vial of perfume and emptied its contents upon Jesus' head (“feet” in
Besides a number of smaller references to Bethany, one final event took place there. Bethany provided the location for Jesus' final blessing to His disciples and His subsequent parting. This encounter made up the final scene of ascension in Luke's Gospel (Luke 24:50-53).