JERUSALEM — The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a Second Temple-era ritual bath near what has been believed to be the site of the Mount of Olives, appearing to confirm that the location is indeed where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Up until now, there had not been any archaeological finds to link the specific site to Jesus’ time.
The Bible states in Matthew 26:30 that after the Last Supper, Jesus and His disciples “went out into the Mount of Olives.” They walked down the mount to Gethsemane, which being translated means “olive press,” where Jesus instructed, “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.”
As He prayed in agony, knowing what was to come, Jesus was soon taken into custody and led away to Caiaphas, the high priest.
“According to the New Testament, right here, after the Last Supper, Jesus foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem. He understood that He had to die in order to save humanity [from] its sins,” said archaeologist Amit Re’em in a video released by the Antiquities Authority on Monday.
“Back then, 2,000 years ago, it was a field outside the walls of Jerusalem full with olive trees, and in the middle of the field was some kind of olive press for making oil,” he explained.
However, up until this point, there wasn’t any archaeological proof that the site actually was the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane/a placed used as an “olive press,” Re’em outlined. But now a ritual bath has been discovered, archaeologists are cautiously optimistic that it seems to confirm the location.
The Franciscans, who own the land, had worked on building an underground passage from The Church of Gethsemane, also known as The Church of the Agony, to the Kidron Valley. In the middle of the passage, during excavation and exploration by the Antiquities Authority and the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, some of the soil gave way, suddenly revealing steps leading to a bath.
The bath, or mikveh, was used in biblical times for purification purposes for those who were to work with wine or oil.
“According to the Jewish law, when you are [producing] wine or olive oil, you need to be purified,” Re’em explained.
The next step is to send plaster samples to be tested for olive pollen and other substances, The Times of Israel reports. If those traces can be found, it will further solidify the find.
According to the outlet, while Re’em wasn’t sold on the discovery bearing “evidence to the truth of the Gospels,” he did state in the video that “[f]or the first time, we have archaeological evidence that something was here during the Second Temple period in the days of Jesus.”
“I must say that the way this ancient mikveh was exposed, and the meaning, is truly important and exciting,” he admitted.
“The find of this bath, unaccompanied by buildings, probably attests to the existence of an agricultural industry here 2000 years ago — possibly producing oil or wine,” Re’em said. “The discovery of the ritual bath may therefore hint at the origin of the place’s ancient name, Gethsemane (Gat Shemanim, ‘oil press’), a place where ritually pure oil was produced near the city.”
In John 20:29, Jesus said to Thomas, “[b]ecause thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”