ISRAEL PHOTOS III -- A COLLECTION OF PHOTOS
WITH DESCRIPTIONS OF SCENES AND
SITES PERTINENT TO THE STUDY OF CHRISTIANITY
THE MIKVEH POOL AND THE BAPTISMAL
There were laws that dealt with cleanness in Leviticus
"Or if any one touch any unclean thing, whether it be the carcass of an unclean
beast, or the carcass of unclean cattle, or the carcass of unclean creeping
things, and it be hidden from him, and he be unclean, then he shall be guilty."
Leviticus 11 dealt with problems of unclean animals' carcasses falling into
cooking pots or pitchers of water that had to be broken if they were made
unclean. There were problems with people touching something unclean thus
making the person unclean until evening. The person was not allowed to
touch anyone else for fear of making others unclean. The person was
required to wash during the evening after being made unclean. There were other
passages that indicated a person was unclean if he/she had an emission. A woman
was thought to be made unclean by her menstrual period.
In addition to the Torah passages of Leviticus there were more laws made in
the Talmud. The Jerusalem Talmud contained some of this legal code about
what was clean and what was not.
People used small pools called mikvehs to wash away ritual uncleanness
thought to be on their bodies. The earliest dated mikveh was one
found at the Hasmonean palace in Jericho dated to c. 110 B.C.
There were over a hundred mikvehs in use in Jerusalem by 70 A.D. A
mikveh was uncovered at the first century synagogue of Gamala in the
Golan Heights region. A later mikveh was found at the synagogue of
Khirbet Shamai near Meron in northern Israel. Ritual cleansing
pools were present at Qumran. The sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls
described a cleansing pool. Qumran scrolls may date between the 2nd
century BC and the 1st century AD.
Some mikvehs were deep while others were shallow and not deep enough
for full immersion.
Mikveh at the Jerusalem Archaeology Park near the Western
Wall, Jerusalem July 2006
Pigeon at a mikveh at Ophel-Jerusalem 2008
Some of the first century religious rulers were accusing Jesus of
being unclean because he did not wash his hands.
Mark 7 (ASV Public Domain)
1 And there are
gathered together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the
scribes, who had come from Jerusalem,
2 and had seen that some of his disciples ate their bread with
defiled, that is, unwashen, hands.
(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their
hands diligently, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders;
4 and when they come from the market-place, except they bathe
themselves, they eat not; and many other things there are, which
they have received to hold, washings of cups, and pots, and
5 And the Pharisees and the scribes ask him, Why walk not thy
disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat
their bread with defiled hands?
And he said unto them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you
hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their
lips, But their heart is far from me.
But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the
precepts of men.
Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of
And he said unto them, Full well do ye reject the commandment of
God, that ye may keep your tradition.
Then there come to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for
they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
And he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also
transgress the commandment of God because of your
For God said, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, He
that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the
But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or his
mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited
by me is given to God (as corban -to the temple
he shall not honor his father. And ye have made void the
word of God because of your tradition.
Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying,
This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart
is far from me.
But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their
doctrines the precepts of men.
10 And he called to him the multitude, and said
unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which entereth into the mouth
defileth the man; but that which proceedeth out of the
mouth, this defileth the man.
12 Then came the disciples, and said unto him,
Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, when they
heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant which my
heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they are blind guides. And if
the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit.
15 And Peter answered and said unto him, Declare
unto us the parable.
16 And he said, Are ye also even yet without
17 Perceive ye not, that whatsoever goeth into
the mouth passeth into the belly, and is cast out into
the draught (some translated the Greek as into the
'latrine' or 'sewer')?
18 But the things which proceed out of the mouth
come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts,
murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false
20 these are the things which defile the man; but
to eat with unwashen hands defileth not the man.
It was likely the mikveh/mikvat was responsible for the transmission of deadly bacteria from the
ritual washing of one's body and subsequent contamination of the water
feces attached to the skin and clothes then washed into the pool.
The mikveh was also used for the washing of pots, pans, and water
pitchers (The Mishna Mikvaot (c. 150-250 AD)). The Talmud
required new kitchen utensils be dipped in the mikveh. Parts of the Talmud
teachings dated to the first century and were passed down orally until
they were recorded in writing. Cholera, typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea, salmonella, and
polio were transmitted through water. When the Jews got home from the market they may have feared they touched
something that had been touched by something unclean and may have washed
their hands with pitchers washed in the mikvehs as it was required for a new pitcher
to be dipped in the mikveh. Polluted water on the hands was a problem, as the pollution might have
been transferred to food. Jesus not washing his hands before
eating may have been good practice as they did not have chlorine for
water purification in those days. The Roman baths
were also likely to be polluted during times of epidemics. Little was known about the
mysterious uncleanness thought to be in corpses, women who had menstrual
periods, and dead reptiles. If a house were
thought to contain a leprosy it was torn down. There was also a law that
the ashes of a burnt red heifer mixed with water could cure one of
uncleanness. Red cow ashes were no more than a placebo for a
people with primitive ideas about what was sanitary and clean.
Early Jewish Christians chose to reject
part of the Jewish laws in favor of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31) .
In the 19th century British missionary doctors arrived in Turkish
controlled Tiberias. During a cholera epidemic a missionary doctor went to
the local governor and got him to post a guard where the Muslim women
were washing their clothes and instructed them to wash the clothes at a
separate beach from where they drew their drinking water from the lake
to avoid the likelihood of getting cholera..
Ritual mikveh use seemed to have ended in Judea during the second
century A.D. This was when Hadrian ordered the Jews out of
Judea after they rebelled in the Bar Kochba war. There is a mikveh
at Khirbet Shammai near Meron that may have been in use during the
third century in the corner of a synagogue found there. There was a mikveh
from the third century found during an IAA salvage dig at Tiberias
before construction of a wastewater treatment plant (IAA reports, No. 22,
c. 2004). The use of the mikveh in late Roman times has been argued to be
the case at Sephoris also. In modern times only a few who practice
Judaism use mikvehs as modern sanitary practice is better understood
than superstitious passages from the Torah.
John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus were both reported to have
baptized in the flowing Jordan River. There is evidence some early
Christian sects turned to pouring water over a person as a form of
baptism. Some modern sects sprinkled water as a form of baptism.
The baptism was only supposed to be a once in a lifetime event, yet
there were later arguments that infant baptism was not voluntary and
adults should voluntarily seek baptism. There was less likelihood
of Christians getting waterborne diseases from the teaching of John of
baptizing in the river as a representation of efforts to teach repentance for the cleansing
of sins. A Christian named Louis Pasteur discovered the practice
of pasteurization to eliminate bacteria. It was the bacteria in
stagnant water that was as more likely to make one ill than touching
someone who had touched a dead reptile or menstruating woman.
Baptistery at Kursi in lower Galilee, Israel -- Byzantine era site
Baptistery at Shivta in the Negev near the Sinai
border -- Byzantine era
Shivta (see photo above) was near the border of Israel and Egypt in the Negev.
The later inhabitants were Christian and
built two large churches in the town.
In I Peter 3:21 (KJV):
"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not
the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good
conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Baptism was not the same as scrubbing away the filth on one's skin,
but it was an emulation of the baptism Jesus received, acknowledging
that those who do righteousness for God will receive righteous rewards
from God as John the Baptist taught that repentance was required for
forgiveness to occur. This was not contingent on sacrificing animals and
burning them on the temple altar.
of the Mustard Seed
A Mustard Field
Along Highway 87-North Shore of Galilee
Seeds in the Palm of a Hand
Branching Mustard Plant Near the Jordan River/Bethsaida
Field March 1999
Upper Most Seats of the Synagogue
The Fig Tree
Mt of Olives Fig Tree April
and Pomegranate trees below Siloam in Jerusalem
Photos II fig tree page
Sycomore Fig Tree
The Good Shepherd
The Parable of the Sheep and
Harvest of Samaria
Pearl of Great Price
A First Century Synagogue at Gamala
from the Vulture Overlook
Galilee Fishing Boats
Steep Slope near the Lake
Feeding the 5,000
On the Mountain
Walking on Water
The Pool(s) of Bethesda in Jerusalem
Chapel and St. Ann Church
The Pool of Siloam in
Overlook of Siloam
Tower of Siloam
A Watch Tower in a Vineyard/Olive
Grape Vines at
Over the edge
View of Nazareth from
Basilica of the Annunciation
Healing a Paralytic in
Waterskins and Wineskins
The Fish and the Coin
Casting out a demon
The Road to Jericho
Old Roman Road
Gethsemane and the Cave
Church of the Holy
Rolling Stone Tombs - Jerusalem
Other Rolling Stone Tombs
Solar Power in Israel
Salt of the earth