BETHANY (bĕth'a-nē, Gr. Bethania, house of unripe dates or figs)
Town mentioned in John.1.28, “Bethabara” being its name as given in the KJV. Nothing certain is known about it except what is found in this passage: it is beyond the Jordan, and it is where John the Baptist was accomplishing his work.Another city of this name—the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus—situated about two miles (three km.) SE of Jerusalem (John.11.18) on the eastern slope of Mount Olivet. Some refer to this as the Judean home of Jesus. It was here that he raised Lazarus (John.11.1-John.11.57) and attended the feast at Simon’s house (Matt.26.1-Matt.26.75; Mark.14.1-Mark.14.72; Luke.7.1-Luke.7.50). The ascension took place in the region of this city (Luke.24.50-Luke.24.51). It is known today as El-Azariyeh. The modern city contains the supposed tomb of Lazarus and house of Simon the leper.
Bethany still exists as a settled town today, its population being something like 1000. It is known as el-’Aziriyeh, “the place of Lazarus.” The traditional tomb of Lazarus is marked and fig, olive and almond trees continue to grow there.
2. A place E of the Jordan where John baptized and where his confrontation with the delegation of priests and Levites from Jerusalem took place (John 1:28). The KJV reads “Bethabara” on the basis of certain (mostly late) MS evidence. Origen took the name as Βηθαβαρά, G1028, though admitting that most MSS of his day were against that reading (Comm. on John, VI. 24). Having visited Pal. he knew of no place called Βηθανία, G1029, near the Jordan and, in any case, he was able to find an allegorical interpretation of Bethabara which peculiarly suited his hermeneutical method. He suggests that Bethabara meant “house of preparation” and links this with John’s ministry of preparation there. However, the present MS evidence does favor Βηθανία, G1029, it being supported by the Bodmer papyrus of a.d. 200, for example. The site having most claim to be that of “Bethany beyond Jordan” is prob. Qasr el-Yehud, E of the Jordan opposite Jericho where a monastery of St. John now stands.
F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, II (1938), 264, 265.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Bethany is today el `Azareyeh ("the place of Lazarus"--the L being displaced to form the article). It is a miserably untidy and tumble-down village facing East on the Southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, upon the carriage road to Jericho. A fair number of fig, almond and olive trees surround the houses. The traditional tomb of Lazarus is shown and there are some remains of medieval buildings, besides rock-cut tombs of much earlier date (PEF, III, 27, Sheet XVII).
(2) "Bethany beyond the Jordan" (Joh 1:28; the King James Version Bethabara; Bethabara, a reading against the majority of the manuscripts, supported by Origen on geographical grounds): No such place is known. Grove suggested that the place intended is BETH-NIMRAH (which see), the modern Tell nimrin, a singularly suitable place, but hard to fit in with Joh 1:28; compare Joh 2:1. The traditional site is the ford East of Jericho.