We conduct the first molecular studies of the higher level phylogeny of bethylid wasps (Hymenoptera: Bethylidae). Sequences of the 500-bp D2/D3 expansion regions of the nuclear 28S rRNA gene are obtained for 33 bethylid species in 18 genera covering all four commonly recognized subfamilies, and an additional 13 outgroup species. A 450-bp sequence of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene is obtained for a smaller subset of those species. Strong support is found for the monophyly of Bethylidae, and for Bethylinae as the sister to the other bethylid subfamilies. Pristocerinae are supported as monophyletic. A species of Mesitiinae clusters with the Sclerodermini (sensu lato), these two strongly supported as a monophyletic clade. The Epyrini are supported as monophyletic, but our data do not demonstrate whether Pristocerinae or the Mesitiinae+Sclerodermini clade are their closest relatives. Kishino–Hasegawa tests reject the monophyly of the Epyrinae. Our results are consistent with Kieffer's original five major subtaxa of Bethylidae.