The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

“Notwithstanding which, there is a fountain by Jericho, that runs plentifully… near the old city, which Joshua, the son of Naue, the general of the Hebrews, took the first of all the cities of the land of Canaan, by right of war. The report is, that this fountain, at the beginning, caused not only the blasting of the earth and the trees, but of the children born of women, and that it was entirely of a sickly and corruptive nature to all things whatsoever; but that it was made gentle, and very wholesome and fruitful, by the prophet Elisha… he went out of the city to this fountain, and threw into the current an earthen vessel full of salt; after which he stretched out his righteous hand unto heaven, and, pouring out a mild drink-offering, he made this supplication, – That the current might be mollified, and that the veins of fresh water might be opened; that God also would bring into the place a more temperate and fertile air for the current, and would bestow upon the people of that country plenty of the fruits of the earth, and a succession of children; and that this prolific water might never fail them, while they continued to be righteous. To these prayers Elisha joined proper operations of his hands, after a skillful manner, and changed the fountain; and that water, which had been the occasion of barrenness and famine before, from that time did supply a numerous posterity, and afforded great abundance to the country… it affords a sweeter nourishment than other waters do… so that he who should pronounce this place to be divine would not be mistaken

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 4, 8:3

Wow, a fountain which was barren and caused every living thing, plant and animal, to become barren, then Elisha throws in a bucket of salt, waves his hands around in the air “after a skillful manner”, says some magic words and poof, the fountain is now fruitful producing a “numerous posterity”. I am sure some of you are going to be tempted to think that maybe the salt killed a colony of harmful bacteria or algae or something like that, but I am going to go ahead and assume that it was the “proper operations of his hands” which made the fountain become fruitful. And since this place can now be pronounced “divine”, this sounds like the perfect occasion for the creation of a Greco-Roman fertility goddess! If we were going to create here a fertility goddess we would want to take the name of the prophet who created her, Elisha, and make a more feminine and Hebrew sounding name, for example “Elishabeth”, which in Hebrew would mean “Elisha’s house”, however, neither Latin nor Greek have the “sh” sound, so they would have had to modify it to “Elisabeth”:

“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years… And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord… But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”

– Luke 1:5-13

I think it is important to keep in mind here that Jews do not have fertility goddesses, Greeks and Romans do, but the author of the Gospels was able to create a fertility goddess for the fountain near Jericho and was able to hide it in the form of a blessed Jewish woman.

“…He adds another Grecian fable, in order to reproach us…”

– Flavius Josephus Against Apion, Book 2 :8

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