Pentecost Sunday is coming up. And while the baptism of the Spirit remains a contentious issue in the Christian world, water baptism isn’t much behind when it comes to controversy.

On the Day of Pentecost 3,000 Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the great feast of Shavuot, heard the apostle Peter preach and accepted his message, accepting Jesus as the Messiah of Israel.

So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

It clearly says they got baptized. But where?

Throughout its extensive history, Jerusalem has consistently struggled with providing adequate water for its residents. During the Iron Age (1200–586 B.C.E.), the nearby Gihon Spring, together with a large reservoir and several cisterns, managed to meet the needs of the city’s relatively modest population. In the eighth century B.C.E., King Hezekiah constructed Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the Siloam Pool to enhance the city’s existing Iron Age water infrastructure. By the end of the Second Temple period, the population of the city had significantly increased, making the Gihon Spring insufficient for the city’s water demands.

Consequently, the Jerusalem aqueduct was constructed to transport water from more distant sources. The exact chronology of the aqueduct system is widely debated, with numerous segments being added over time. One of the final additions was the so-called Bier aqueduct, believed to have been built by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate in the mid-first century C.E.

The city’s original water supply came from an underground spring that filled the Pool of Siloam. However, baptizing 3,000 people in a single public pool would be time-consuming, particularly during holiday celebrations.

It’s likely that the apostles utilized the numerous mikvehs located around the Temple Mount for the baptisms. A mikveh is a stepped pool used by Jews for ritual purification. Before engaging in prayer or worship, Jews would immerse themselves in a mikveh to achieve ritual cleanliness. Archaeological findings have unearthed hundreds of mikvehs in Jewish communities from the periods before, during, and after Jesus’ lifetime, including one recently identified under a medieval Jewish building in Marseille, France.

The concept of mikvehs is deeply rooted in the biblical emphasis on purification through water. According to scripture, the world was created pure and good through water (Gen. 1:2, 6-7). The flood in Noah’s time was seen as a cleansing of the world’s sins (Gen. 7-8, 1 Pet. 3:20). Israel’s initiation into the Covenant involved a form of baptism through the cloud and the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1-2), and their entry into Canaan crossed through Jordan’s waters. Priests under the Mosaic Law were required to wash frequently before worship (Exod. 29:1-4, 30:20). Fittingly, Jesus was baptized in water at the beginning of His ministry as our High Priest (Matt. 3:13).

By the time of Jesus, mikvehs were common and found near places of Jewish habitation and often adjacent to synagogues, as seen in the ruins of ancient Magdala and Chorazin. Communities like Qumran had multiple pools to meet the demands for ritual purity. During this period, the practice extended to other areas of life, such as meals, with regular washing of hands, dinnerware, and furniture (Mark 7:3-4).

More than 125 mikvehs have been found near the Temple Mount, many along the main road leading to the southern entrance. Jews, both men and women, would often sing Psalms of Ascent as they ascended to the temple, purifying themselves in a mikveh before entering. Jesus, adhering to Jewish customs, would have used these mikvehs, as would have Paul, especially noted during his last temple visit in Acts 21:26 when he purified himself.

Jews frequently immersed themselves in mikvehs throughout their lives. When Peter called for immersion “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38), the process was familiar, but the baptism in Jesus’ name was a distinct, transformative act intended to wash away sins permanently.

Do you enjoy my weekly blogs? Help me reach more people, and please share this with your friends. Thank you!

Jeff Hagen
President & Founder
Hill Cities, Inc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *