New Testament Jericho (Mark 10)

Illustration: some of the oldest ruins of Jericho

Mark 10:46-52 tells of Jesus’ healing of blind Bartimaeus as He was going out from Jericho. The same account in Luke 18:35-43, however, records that this happened as Jesus was approaching Jericho. This appears to be a contradiction in the texts, but the explanation may be very simple – that in Jesus’ day there were two cities called Jericho – an Old Testament Jericho and its New Testament counterpart. The Old Testament city was located at a site now called Tell es-Sultan and the New Testament city at nearby Tulul Abu el-Alayiq.

The new town, which thrived from the late second sentury B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, extended south and west of the mound that covered the ruins of Old Testament Jericho. The heart of the newer city was the winter palace complex built by Herod the Great, situated about 3,2 km southwest of Old Testament Jericho. Incorporating the foundations of earlier Hasmonean palaces, this complex covered an area of some 35 acres and was made up of luxurious palaces, villas, gardens, pools, theatres and athletic facilities. The Jewish historian Josephus mentioned many of these palatial facilities, as well as the murder of Aristobulus III in one of the pools (Josephus, Antiquities 15.3.3 and Wars 1.22.2).

Mark related the healing of Bartimaeus to Old Testament Jericho; thus the event occurred as Jesus was leaving that city and entering its New Testament counterpart. Luke, on the other hand, associated the incident with the New Testament Jericho; following this, he recounted Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus within the town (Luke 19:1-10). Thus, Luke wrote that Bartimaeus was healed as Jesus was approaching Jericho (18:35) and then that Jesus encountered Zacchaeus as He entered and was passing through the city (19:1).


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