Section E New Testament

Chapter 39 - Mikvah, the Ritual Baths

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A first century mikvah used during the days of Jesus and the book of Acts, located south of the Temple Mount at the base of the Double Gate stairs. This could easily have been one of the many mikvah used to baptize some of the 3,000 new Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2.

The word “mikvah” (also, mikveh, mikva, miqve) means “collection” and refers to a collection of water that was used by the Jews for ceremonial washing. They are ritual baths. The Jews would purify themselves before several activities or after certain events that made them unclean. Conversion to Judaism requires submersion into a mikvah.

The area around the Temple Mount, especially to the south, is filled with mikvah. Many of them were most likely used on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) to baptize the converted Jews in Jesus’ name. It signified a major change in their understanding of who Jesus was and was a sign of their new faith and allegiance. A mikvah had to have a source of running water, such as a spring, or fresh water, such as rain. A mikvah had to be large enough to allow an average sized person to immerse his whole body. Stairs would be used to descend into and ascend from the mikvah. Often there was a wall separating the clean side from the unclean side.

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Galyn and Toni in the entrance of a mikvah on the outside of the southern wall of the Old City.