Emmaus (Greek: Ἐμμαούς, Emmaous Latin: Emmaus; Hebrew: אמאוס; Arabic: عمواس, ʻImwas) is a town mentioned in the Gospel of Luke of the New Testament. Luke reports that Jesus appeared, after his death and resurrection, before two of his disciples while they were walking on the road to Emmaus.
Its geographical identification is not clear; several locations having been suggested throughout history. We know only that it was connected by a road to Jerusalem; the distance given by Luke varies in different manuscripts and the figure given has been made even more ambiguous by interpretations.
- 1 Name
- 2 Emmaus in the New Testament
- 3 References in other sources
- 4 Historical identification
- 5 Symbolic identification
- 6 Notable residents
- 7 See also
- 8 References
The place name Emmaus is relatively common in classical sources about the Levant and is usually derived through Greek and Latin from the Semitic word for "warm spring", the Hebrew form of which is hamma or hammat (חמת). In the ancient and present-day Middle East, many sites are named Hama Hamath and variations thereof.
Emmaus in the New Testament
Emmaus is the town through which Jesus and his disciples travel to leave Jerusalem.
Luke 24:13-35 declares that Jesus appears to two disciples who are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which is described as being 60 stadia (10.4 to 12 km depending on what definition of stadion is used) from Jerusalem, after his resurrection. One of the disciples is named Cleopas (verse 18), while his companion remains unnamed.
Cleopas is a disciple who reminds Jesus of the people who believe in him as the Lord.
According to the gospel, the story takes place in the evening of the day of Jesus's resurrection. The two disciples hear that the tomb of Jesus was found empty earlier that day. They are discussing the events of the past few days when a stranger asks them what they are discussing. "Their eyes were kept from recognizing him."
He soon rebukes them for their unbelief and explains prophecies about the Messiah to them. On reaching Emmaus, they ask the stranger to join them for the evening meal.
When he breaks the bread, "their eyes [are] opened" and they recognize him as the resurrected Christ. Jesus immediately vanishes. Cleopas and his friend then hasten back to Jerusalem to carry the news to the other disciples and arrive in time to proclaim to the eleven who were gathered together with others that Jesus truly is alive.
As they describe the events, Jesus appears again to all who are there, giving them a commission to evangelize. Then he accompanies them as far as Bethany and blesses them, before ascending back into heaven.
References in other sources
Another Emmaus, mentioned by Josephus, is a village, placed closer to Jerusalem, at what is today the town of Motza.
Many sites have been suggested for the biblical Emmaus, among them Emmaus Nicopolis (c. 160 stadia from Jerusalem), Kiryat Anavim (66 stadia from Jerusalem on the carriage road to Jaffa), Coloniya (c. 36 stadia on the carriage road to Jaffa), el-Kubeibeh (63 stadia, on the Roman road to Lydda), Artas (60 stadia from Jerusalem) and Khurbet al-Khamasa (86 stadia on the Roman road to Eleutheropolis). The oldest identification that is currently known is Emmaus Nicopolis.
The first modern site identification of Emmaus was by the explorer Edward Robinson, who equated it with the Palestinian Arab village of Imwas (Arabic: عِمواس), near the Latrun monastery. Before its destruction in 1967, the village of Imwas was located at the end of the Ayalon Valley, on the border of the hill country of Judah, at 153 stadia (18.6 miles) from Jerusalem via the Kiryat Yearim Ridge Route, 161 stadia (19.6 miles) via the Beth-Horon Ridge Route and 1,600 feet (490 m) lower by elevation.
Eusebius was probably the first to mention Nicopolis as biblical Emmaus in his Onomasticon. Jerome, who translated Eusebius’ book, implied in his letter 108 that there was a church in Nicopolis built in the house of Cleopas where Jesus broke bread on that late journey. From the 4th century on, the site was commonly identified as the biblical Emmaus.
Archaeologically, many remains have been excavated at the site of the former Palestinian village, now located inside Canada Park, which support historical and traditional claims. Five structures were found and dated, including a Christian basilica from the 6th century and a 12th-century Crusader church. Emmaus Nicopolis is a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.
There are several sources giving information about this town's ancient history, among them the First Book of Maccabees, the works of Josephus, and chronicles from the Late Roman, Byzantine and Early Muslim periods. According to 1 Maccabees 3:55-4:22, around 166 BC Judas Maccabeus fought against the Seleucids in the region of this particular Emmaus, and was victorious at the Battle of Emmaus; later, this town was fortified by Bacchides, a Seleucid general (1 Macc 9:50). When Rome took over the land it became the capital of a district or toparchy, and was burnt by order of Varus after the death of Herod in 4 BC. During the First Jewish Revolt, before the siege of Jerusalem, Vespasian's 5th legion was deployed there while the 10th Legion was in Jericho. The town was renamed Emmaus Nicopolis in AD 221 by Emperor Elagabalus, who conferred it the title of polis ("city") following the request of a delegation from Emmaus. The Plague of Emmaus in AD 639, mentioned in Muslim sources, is claimed to have caused up to 25,000 deaths in the town.
Another possibility is the village of al-Qubeiba, west of Nabi Samwil on the Beit Horon road northwest of Jerusalem. The town, meaning "little domes" in Arabic, is located at about 65 stadia from Jerusalem. A Roman fort subsequently named Castellum Emmaus (from the Latin root castra, meaning encampment) was discovered at the site in 1099 by the Crusaders. However, there is no source from the Roman, Byzantine or Early Muslim periods naming it as "Emmaus" for the time of Jesus. Whether Josephus (who puts Emmaus at a distance of thirty stadia from Jerusalem) was referring to this place is now uncertain.
In the 12th century, the Crusaders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem called the site "Small Mahomeria," in order to distinguish it from the "Large Mahomeria" near Ramallah. Sounding similar to "Mahommed", the term was used in medieval times to describe a place inhabited or used for prayer by Muslims. It was referred to as Qubaibat for the first time at the end of that same century by the writer Abu Shama, who writes in his Book of the Two Gardens about a Muslim prince falling into the hands of the Crusaders at this spot. The Franciscans built a church here in 1902, on the ruins of a Crusader basilica. Excavations in 1943 revealed artifacts from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader periods.
Abu Ghosh is located in the middle of the Kiryat Yearim Ridge Route between Nicopolis and Jerusalem, nine miles (83 stadia) from the capital. A former Minorite convent with a Gothic church was turned into a stable. Robinson dated it to the Crusader period and declared it "more perfectly preserved than any other ancient church in Palestine." Excavations carried out in 1944 supported the identification with Fontenoid, a site the Crusaders held for a while to be Emmaus before accepting Nicopolis as the "real" Emmaus.
Colonia, between Abu Ghosh and Jerusalem on the Kiryat Yearim Ridge Route, is another possibility. At a distance of c. 8 km from Jerusalem, it was referred to as Mozah in the Old Testament (Joshua 18:26). Listed among the Benjamite cities of Joshua 18:26, it was referred to in the Talmud as a place where people would come to cut young willow branches as a part of the celebration of Sukkot (Mishnah, Sukkah 4.5: 178). Motza was identified as the Emmaus of Luke in 1881 by William F. Birch (1840-1916) of the Palestine Exploration Fund, and again in 1893 by Paulo Savi. One mile to the north of modern Motza is a ruin called Khirbet Beit Mizza, which was identified by some scholars as the biblical Mozah, until recent excavations placed Mozah at Khirbet Mizza (without "Beit"), as the ruins of Qalunya/Colonia are called in Arabic.
Excavations in 2001-2003 headed by Professor Carsten Peter Thiede were cut short by his sudden death in 2004. Thiede was a strong proponent of Motza as the real Emmaus. He offered that the Latin Amassa and the Greek Ammaous are derived from the biblical Hebrew name Motza: Motza – ha-Motza ("ha" is the Hebrew equivalent of the definite article "the") – ha-Mosa – Amosa – Amaous – Emmaus. His excavation summaries were removed from the website of the Basel college he was teaching at, but a book and at least one article he published on the topic are available. He contended that neither Nicopolis, Abu Ghosh, or Al-Qubeiba can be considered because the first was located too far from Jerusalem, while the two others were not called Emmaus at the time of Jesus.
Josephus Flavius writes in Antiquities of the Jews about a city called Emmaus in the context of the Maccabean Revolt, which corresponds well with the large city later called Emmaus Nicopolis, located at over 170 Roman stadia from Jerusalem, while in The Jewish War he brings up another Emmaus, just 60 Roman stadia from Jerusalem, where Vespasian settled 800 Roman legionnaires after the First Jewish Revolt. The ancient Latin manuscripts use "Amassa", while the medieval Greek manuscripts use "Ammaous". The newly created Roman "colonia" soon made the old name disappear: even the Jewish works of the 3rd-5th centuries, the Mishnah, the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmud, talk about "Qeloniya", an Aramaic distortion of "colonia". This name survived into modern times in Arabic as "Qalunya". This was indeed always a village, not a city like Emmaus Nicopolis, and thus fits the description by Luke (κωμη "village") much better than the latter. The difference in distance to Jerusalem between Luke's and Josephus' Emmaus, 60 vs. 30 stadia, is still much smaller than the one to Nicopolis, which lays full 176 stadia down the Roman road from Jerusalem. Thiede recalculated the actual distance between Jerusalem's western city gate at the time, and his excavation site at Motza which unearthed the Jewish village that predated the Roman veterans colony, and came up with a figure of 46 stadia. That would put it squarely in the middle between Luke's and Josephus' stated distances, which Thiede considers a good approximation for the time. Thiede's excavation produced Jewish artifacts of the time preceding the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, giving substance to his claim to have found Luke's Emmaus, which had necessarily to be settled by Jews. With no other Emmaus in the vicinity of Jerusalem, Motza was thus the only credible candidate.
One of the oldest extant versions of the Gospel of Luke, preserved in the Codex Bezae, reads "Oulammaus" instead of Emmaus. In Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament scriptures, Oulammaus was the place where Jacob was visited by God in his dream, while sleeping on a rock. However, Oulammaus was not a real place name but a translation mistake. The original name in Hebrew was "Luz". This mistake was later corrected, but was still there at the time when the Gospel was written around AD 100. Thus, a theory has been put forward, that the story in the Gospel was merely symbolic, drawing a parallel between Jacob being visited by God and the disciples being visited by Jesus.
Richard Carrier, in his book On the Historicity of Jesus, cites this story as one of two examples of the "Vanishing Hitchhiker" urban legend from antiquity,[page needed] the other being a legend concerning Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome. The story, found in Livy and Plutarch, tells of Proculus (meaning "Proclaimer" in archaic Latin) journeying by road from Alba Longa to Rome and meeting a stranger who is the resurrected Romulus. Rome is in turmoil because Romulus was recently killed and his body vanished. On their journey, Romulus explains the secrets of the kingdom, in other words how to conquer and rule the world, before ascending into heaven. Proculus then recognises the stranger and goes on to proclaim what he was told. The story recounted in Luke's gospel (Luke 24) parallels the earlier Roman myth: Cleopas (meaning "Proclaimer" in Greek), while traveling by road from Jerusalem to Emmaus after learning of the death of Jesus, meets Jesus in disguise. As they walk and eat together, Jesus explains the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus later vanishes and Cleopas, now realizing who the stranger was, goes on to proclaim what he was told.
- Holy Bible: St. Luke 24: 13-35; Encyclopedia Judaica, Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem, 1972, "Emmaus," Vol. 6, pp. 726-727
- Siméon Vailhé (1909). "Emmaus". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- Hooker, Morna D. (1991). A Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark. Black's New Testament commentaries. London: A & C Black. ISBN 978-0-7136-3284-2. OCLC 476570833.
- See David N. Bivin, "A Farewell to the Emmaus Road," (2017) Jerusalem Perspective Online.
- Emmaus Nicopolis, official site
- Josephus, The Jewish War 7.6.6. (Greek text)
- William Whiston, the translator of Josephus' works into English, thought that Josephus' figure for Emmaus was in error, where the original Greek text writes: "He (Caesar Vespasian) assigned a place for eight hundred men only, whom he had dismissed from his army, which he gave them for their habitation; it is called Emmaus, and is distant from Jerusalem thirty stadia." (See Greek text: ... ὃ καλεῖται μὲν Ἀμμαοῦς, ἀπέχει δὲ τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων σταδίους τριάκοντα). In most English editions of Josephus' The Jewish War 7.216, the text has been amended to read "...Emmaus, and is distant from Jerusalem threescore (sixty) stadia." See The Jewish War (William Whiston (ed.), 7.216 (note 2).
- W. F. Birch, "Emmaus", Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement 13 (1881), pp. 237-38; Paulo Savi, "Emmaus", Revue Biblique 2 (1893), pp. 223-27.
- Israel Finkelstein, Yuval Gadot, Mozah, Nephtoah and royal estates in the Jerusalem highlands, in Semitica et Cassica. International Journal of Oriental and Mediterranean Studies, Vol. VIII 2015, Brepols Publishers, pp. 227-8
- Thiede, Carsten Peter. "Ausgrabung einer jüdisch-römischen Siedlung aus biblischen Zeiten in Israel: Emmaus (Moza / Colonia)" (PDF). Staatsunabhängige Theologische Hochschule Basel (STH). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 21, 2005. Retrieved 27 August 2005. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Thiede, Carsten Peter (2005). "Die Wiederentdeckung von Emmaus bei Jerusalem" [Rediscovering Emmaus near Jerusalem]. Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum (in German). Walter de Gruyter. 8: 593–599. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- Thiede, Carsten Peter (2006). The Emmaus Mystery: Discovering Evidence for the Risen Christ. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-8264-8067-5 – via Google Books.
… the biblical history of Moza, the Christian history of Emmaus, and the Jewish history of the Mishnaic period met at this site.
- "Lokalisierung des neutestamentlichen Emmaus" [Identification of New Testment-era Emmaus]. Geistige Nahrung Dein Forum (in German).
- Josephus. The Jewish War. 7. Translated by William Whiston. Paragraph 6 – via Wikisource. .
- See Genesis 28:10-19.
- Read-Heimerdinger, Jenny (1999). "Where is Emmaus? Clues in the Text of Luke 24 in Codex Bezae". In Taylor, D.G.K. (ed.). Studies in the Early Text of the Gospels and Acts. Birmingham University Press. pp. 229–44. ISBN 978-1-902459-03-5. OCLC 464435795 – via Google Books.
- Read-Heimerdinger, Jenny; Rius-Camps, Josep (2002). "Emmaous or Oulammaous? Luke's Use of the Jewish Scriptures in the Text of Luke 24 in Codex Bezae". Revista Catalana de Teologia. 27 (1): 23–42 – via Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO).
- Carrier, Richard (2014). On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2. OCLC 861768627.