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PEREA (pĕ-rē'a, Gr. Peraia, Peraios, Peraites). A word that does not occur in the Bible but was used by Josephus and others to designate the small territory on the east side of the Jordan opposite old Judea and Samaria; known in the Gospels as the land “beyond the Jordan.” For example, the words in Matt.4.25 apo tēs Galilaias kai...Ioudaias kai peran tou Iordanou should be understood as “from Galilee and Judea and Perea,” and is so listed on Bible maps (cf. Matt.4.15; Mark.3.7-Mark.3.8). The curious statement in Matt.19.1 that says that Jesus “left Galilee” and came into “the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan,” must mean that Jesus went from Galilee to Judea by way of Perea, the usual road the Jews took in order to avoid going through Samaria.

In the days of Jesus, Herod Antipas ruled the unfertile desert country together with Galilee; but after the Herods, at the time the Gospels were written, Perea belonged to the larger province of Judea. It stretched from Pella in the north to Machaerus in the south. In the days of the Maccabees it was inhabited chiefly by Gentiles, but at the time of Christ it had a heavy Jewish population. Gadara may have been the capital. John baptized in Bethabara “on the other side of Jordan,” or in Perea (John.1.28). Jesus did much of his teaching in Perea (Mark.10.1-Mark.10.33) and made his final journey to Jerusalem from there (John.10.40; John.11.54). Today it is part of the modern kingdom of Jordan with the capital at Amman.

PEREA pə rē’ ə (ἡ Περαία, Περαι̂ος, Περαίτης, on the other side). The Gr. term for Trans-Jordan.

The LXX tr. of the familiar OT term beyond the Jordan is πἐραν του̂ Ιορδάνου. It never occurs in the Bible (except in a variant of Luke 6:17), but is regularly used by Josephus and others to describe both political Perea and the land beyond the Jordan in general.

Before the Israelite conquest, Perea was occupied by Moabites, Ammonites, and others. Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh inherited it in the original allotment. Being on the E frontier of the Promised Land, Perea often suffered first from an attack from the E. 1 Maccabees 5:9-54 describes Judas Maccabee’s rescue of a Jewish minority living there. Alexander Janneus conquered and forcibly converted the Pereans to Judaism. Alexander Janneus himself died in Ragaba in 76 b.c. After the death of Herod the Great and during the life of Christ, Herod Antipas (4 b.c.-a.d. 39) controlled Perea and rebuilt Betharamphtha (Beth-haram of Josh 13:27) and named it Julias (Jos. Antiq. XVIII. ii. 1).

The Mishnah speaks of three districts in the matters of ḥazaķah and marriage: Judea, Trans-Jordan, and Galilee (Baba Bathra 3:2; Ketuboth 13:10). This being the case, Jews from Galilee could reach Judea, where Jerusalem was, without passing through Samaria, which lay between Galilee and Judea on the W bank. A Jew could thus avoid setting his foot on “unholy ground” during his three annual pilgrimages (provided, i.e., that the Decapolis was not considered separate from Perea). Josephus’ boundaries, however, seem to exclude the Decapolis since the N boundary was S of Pella—a city to which Christians fled during the Jewish uprising against Rome (Jos. Wars III. iii. 3). Thus Perea and Galilee would not be contiguous. The southern boundary of Perea was Machaerus, a Herodian fortress halfway down the E shore of the Dead Sea. According to Josephus (Jos. Antiq. XVIII. v. 2), Herod beheaded John the Baptist at Machaerus. Jews from Perea joined in the unsuccessful rebellion against Rome (Jos. Wars, IV. vii. 4-6). Herod Agrippa II, under Emperor Nero, ruled Perea until his death in a.d. 100. After that, it was sometimes ruled from Damascus and sometimes from Kerak. Today Perea is included in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but the term “Perea” has been in disuse for centuries.

NT commentators speak of Christ’s Perean ministry. It began with His departure from Galilee (Matt 19:1; Mark 10:1) and ended with the anointing by Mary in Bethany (Matt 26:6ff.; Mark 14:3ff.). Very few of the incidents recorded for that period of our Lord’s ministry actually took place beyond the Jordan, so the designation “Perean ministry” is somewhat of a misnomer.

The Bethany of John 1:28 where Jesus was baptized is described as “beyond the Jordan.” Jesus certainly passed through Perea on His many journeys from Nazareth to Jerusalem in the years before His public ministry. According to Matthew 4:25 and Mark 3:8, crowds came from Perea to be healed by Christ.


G. Dalman, Sacred Sites and Ways (1935), 233-239.