BETHABARA (bĕth'ab'a-ra, house of the ford). A place on the east bank of the Jordan where John baptized (John.1.28 kjv). The later and more reliable Greek manuscripts have rendered this word “Bethany.” Care must be taken, however, not to confuse this with the city of the same name near Jerusalem, the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Its exact location is uncertain. Some identify it with Beth Barah (Judg.7.24).
BETHABARA bĕth ă’ bə rə
, meaning house of crossing
). A town on the E bank of the Jordan River
The only mention of this town is in connection with John the Baptist’s activity at the Jordan River (John 1:28). The word Bethabara is supported only by inferior MSS and appears in the KJV. The weight of MS evidence supports the name “Bethany” (Aleph, A, and B, plus many early minuscules, VSS, and the church fathers).
This cannot be the same Bethany which is the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus since that is not “beyond the Jordan” as John 1:28 states. A scribal correction in Aleph renders it “Beth-araba,” which is a place on the plain of the Jordan not far from Jericho on the W bank (Josh 15:6, 61; 18:18). This name may be tr. as “house of the Arabah,” i.e., “desert,” while Bethabara means “house of the crossing” or “ford.” There are no solutions for the location of any Bethabara, but Beth-araba may be the modern ’Ain-el-Gharabeh in the Wadi Qelt.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
beth`abharah; (Bethabara, "house of the ford"): According to the King James Version (following Textus Receptus of the New Testament) the place where John baptized (Joh 1:28). the Revised Version (British and American) (with Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek following Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Ephraemi) reads BETHANY. It is distinguished from the Bethany of Lazarus and his sisters as being "beyond the Jordan." The reading "Bethabara" became current owing to the advocacy of Origen. Various suggestions have been made to explain the readings. G. A. Smith (HGHL) suggests that Bethany ("house of the ship") and Bethabara ("house of the ford") are names for the same place. Bethabara has also been identified with Bethbarah, which, however, was probably not on the Jordan but among the streams flowing into it (Jud 7:24). It is interesting to note that LXXB reads Baithabara for Massoretic Text Beth-`arabhah, one of the cities of Benjamin (Jos 18:22). If this be correct, the site is in Judea.
Another solution is sought in the idea of a corruption of the original name into Bethany and Bethabara, the name having the consonants n, b and r after Beth. In Jos 13:27 (Septuagint, Codex Vaticanus) we find Baithanabra for Bethnimrah (Massoretic Text), and Sir George Grove in DB (arts. "Bethabara" and "Beth-nimrah") identifies Bethabara and Beth-nimrah. The site of the latter was a few miles above Jericho (see Beth-nimrah), "immediately accessible to Jerusalem and all Judea" (compare Mt 3:5; Mr 1:5, and see article "Bethany" in EB). This view has much in its favor.
Then, again, as Dr. G. Frederick Wright observes: "The traditional site is at the ford east of Jericho; but as according to Joh 1:29,35,43 it was only one day’s journey from Cana of Galilee, while according to Joh 10:40; 11:3,6,27 it was two or three days from Bethany, it must have been well up the river toward Galilee. Conder discovered a well-known ford near Beisan called Abarah, near the mouth of the valley of Jezreel. This is 20 miles from Cana and 60 miles from Bethany, and all the conditions of the place fit in with the history."
See also BETHANY (2).