The Constantinian church at Mamre appears on the Madaba Map (right margin, adjacent to the modern pillar)
|Alternative name||Ramat el-Khalil (Rāmet el-Ḥalīl)|
|Location||Judea, West Bank|
|Founded||9th-8th century BCE, Kingdom of Judah; 1st century BCE, Herod the Great; 130 CE, Emperor Hadrian; 324 CE, Constantine the Great; 12th century, Crusaders|
|Archaeologists||Andreas Evaristus Mader (1926-1928), Sayf al-Din Haddad (1977), 'Abd el-Aziz Arjub (1984-85), Yitzhak Magen (1986-88)|
- This article is about the ancient site and holy tree north of historical Hebron. For the Russian Orthodox monastery at Hebron and the ancient tree within, see Abraham's Oak Holy Trinity Monastery and Oak of Mamre
Mamre (//; Hebrew: מַמְרֵא), full Hebrew name Elonei Mamre ("Oaks/Terebinths of Mamre"), refers to an ancient cultic shrine originally focused on a single holy tree, belonging to Canaan, Talmudic sources refer to the site as Beth Ilanim or Botnah, where it was one of the three most important "fairs", or market places, in Judea. Mamre lies approximately halfway between Halhul and historical Hebron, 4 kilometres north of the latter.
- 1 Hebrew Bible
- 2 History and archaeology
- 3 Footnotes
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 See also
Names and events
Genesis 13:18 has Abraham settling by 'the great trees of Mamre'. The original Hebrew tradition appears, to judge from a textual variation conserved in the Septuagint, to have referred to a single great oak tree, which Josephus called Ogyges. Mamre may have been an Amorite, a tribal chieftain after whom a grove of trees was named. Genesis connected it with Hebron or a place nearby that city. Mamre has frequently been associated with the Cave of the Patriarchs. According to one scholar, there is considerable confusion in the Biblical narrative concerning not only Mamre, but also Machpelah, Hebron and Kiryat Arba, all four of which are aligned repeatedly. In Genesis, Mamre is also identified with Hebron itself. The tradition of identifying the unwalled ruins of what Arabic tradition records called Rāmet el-Ḥalīl (Hill of the Friend), with the Old Testament Mamre goes back to the earliest Christian pilgrims in the 4th century CE.
Elsewhere it is called 'the Terebinths of Mamre the Amorite'. Mamre being the name of one of the three Amorite chiefs who joined forces with those of Abraham in pursuit of Chedorlaomer to save Lot (Gen. 14:13,24).
The supposed discrepancy is often explained as reflecting the discordance between the different scribal traditions behind the composition of the Pentateuch, the former relating to the Yahwist, the latter to the Elohist recension, according to the documentary hypothesis of modern scholarship.
Ramat el-Khalil, in one interpretation of the biblical account, was the Mamre site where Abraham pitched the tents for his camp, built an altar, and was brought divine tidings, in the guise of three angels, of Sarah's pregnancy,
Khirbet es-Sibte (also Ain Sebta), the present-day site of the Oak of Mamre, two kilometres southwest of Ramat el-Khalil, has been considered since the 19th century as the place where Abraham pitched his tents and saw the angels.
History and archaeology
Bronze age pottery shards found at the Ramat el-Khalil site may indicate that the cultic shrine was in use from 2600-2000 BCE, though there is no archaeological evidence for the site being occupied from the first half of the second millennium down to the end of the Iron Age.
Josephus: the terebinth
- Josephus' terebinth tree is distinct from the modern Oak of Mamre and stands at a different location
Josephus (37–c. 100) records a tradition according to which the terebinth at Mamre was as old as the world itself (War 4.534). The site was soaked in legend. Jews, Christians and Pagans made sacrifices on the site, burning animals, and the tree was considered immune to the flames of the sacrifices. Constantine the Great (r. 302–337) was still attempting, without success, to stop this tradition.
Herod: the enclosure
The 2 m thick stone wall enclosing area 60 m wide and 83 m long was constructed by Herod the Great, possibly as a cultic place of worship. It contained an ancient well, more than 5 m in diameter, referred to as Abraham's Well.
Late Roman period: Hadrian's temple
The Herodian structure was destroyed by Simon bar Kokhba's army, only to be rebuilt by the Roman emperor Hadrian. Hadrian revived the fair, which had long been an important one as it took place at an intersection forming the transport and communications nub of the southern Judean mountains. This mercatus (Heb. yerid or shuq: Ancient Greek: πανήγυρις) or "fair, market" was one of the sites, according to a Jewish tradition conserved in Jerome, chosen by Hadrian to sell remnants of Bar Kochba's defeated army into slavery.
They prohibited a fair only in the case of one of the character of that at Botnah. As it has been taught along these same lines in a Tannaitic tradition. There are three fairs, the fair at Gaza, the fair at Acre, and the fair at Botnah, and the most debased of the lot of them is the fair of Botnah.
Byzantine Christian rule
Notwithstanding the rabbinic ban, by the time of Constantine the Great's reign (302–337), the market had become an informal interdenominational festival, in addition to its functions as a trade fair, frequented by Christians, Jews and pagans. The cultic shrine was made over for Christian use after Eutropia, Constantine's mother-in-law, visited it and was scandalised by its pagan character. Constantine, informed of these pagan practices, attempted without success to put an end to the festive rituals celebrated about the tree. He ordered the comes Acacius to destroy all pagan idols and banned the pagan practices. The enclosure was then consecrated, Constantine had a basilica built, dedicated to Saint George and the enclosure of the Terebinth of Mamre roofed over, the foundations of which are still visible.
The 1957 plan and reconstruction of the site made after the excavation performed by German scholar A. E. Mader in 1926-1928, shows the Constantinian basilica along the eastern wall of the Haram Ramet el-Khalil enclosure, with a well, altar, and tree in the unroofed western part of the enclosure.[dubious ]
The place is presently called the Terebinth, and is situated at the distance of fifteen stadia from Hebron, . . There every year a very famous festival is held in the summer time, by people of the neighbourhood as well as by the inhabitants of more distant parts of Palestine and by Phoenicians and Arabians. Very many go there for the sake of business, some to sell and some to buy. The feast is celebrated by a very big congregation of Jews, since they boast of Abraham as their forefather, of heathens since angels came there, of Christians since he who should be born from the Virgin for the salvation of humankind appeared there to that pious man. Everyone venerates this place according to his religion: some praying God the ruler of all, some calling upon the angels and offering libations of wine, burning incense or sacrificing an ox, a goat, a sheep or a cock... Constantine's mother in law (Euthropia), having gone there to fulfill a vow, gave notice of all this to the Emperor. So he wrote to the bishops of Palestine reproaching them for having forgot their mission and permitted such a most holy place to be defiled by those libations and sacrifices.'
Antoninus of Piacenza in his Itinerarium, an account of his journey to the Holy Land (ca.570 CE) comments on the basilica, with its four porticoes, and an unroofed atrium. Both Christians and Jews worshipped there, separated by a small screen (cancellus). The Jewish worshippers would flock there to celebrate the deposition of Jacob and David on the day after the traditional date of Christ's birthday.
Arculf, a Frankish bishop who toured the Levant in around 680, writes, indicating a slightly erroneous location in relation to the Tombs of the Patriarchs:
A mile to the north of the Tombs that have been described above, is the very grassy and flowery hill of Mambre, looking towards Hebron, which lies to the south of it. This little mountain, which is called Mambre, has a level summit, at the north side of which a great stone church has been built, in the right side of which between the two walls of this great Basilica, the Oak of Mambre, wonderful to relate, stands rooted in the earth; it is also called the oak of Abraham, because under it he once hospitably received the Angels. St. Hieronymus elsewhere relates, that this tree had existed from the beginning of the world to the reign of the Emperor Constantine; but he did not say that it had utterly perished, perhaps because at that time, although the whole of that vast tree was not to be seen as it had been formerly, yet a spurious trunk still remained rooted in the ground, protected under the roof of the church, of the height of two men; from this wasted spurious trunk, which has been cut on all sides by axes, small chips are carried to the different provinces of the world, on account of the veneration and memory of that oak, under which, as has been mentioned above, that famous and notable visit of the Angels was granted to the patriarch Abraham. 
A vignette of the Constantinian basilica with its colonnaded atrium appears on the 6th-century Madaba Map, under the partially preserved Greek caption "Arbo, also the Terebinth. The Oak of Mambre".
Early Muslim period
After mid-12th century: new locations
The last clear identification and description of the Byzantine church remains at Ramat el-Khalil come from the Russian pilgrim known as Abbot Daniel (1106/8). After the middle of the 12th century the reports become vague and the location of "Abraham's Oak" seems to have migrated to one or more locations situated on the road connecting Ramat el-Khalil with Hebron. What is nowadays considered the traditional location of the Oak of Abraham is a site originally known in Arabic as Ain Sebta, which used to be outside historical Hebron but is now within the urban sprawl of the Palestinian city.
As written in a footnote from an 1895 publication of Arculf's pilgrimage report, "[t]he Oak or Terebinth of Abraham has been shown in two different sites. Arculf and many others (Jerome, Itin[erarium] Hierosol[ymitanum], Sozomen, Eucherius [possibly Eucherius of Lyon], Benjamin of Tudela, the Abbot Daniel,.... etc.) seem to point to the ruin of er Râmeh, near which is Beit el Khulil, or Abraham's House, with a fine spring well. This is still held by the Jews to be the Oak of Mamre. The Christians point to another site, Ballûtet Sebta, where is a fine specimen of Sindian (Quercus Pseudococcifera)." Ballut is the Arabic word for oak.
- Avraham Negev and Shimon Gibson (2001). Mamre (Plain of), and Ramat el-Khalil. Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land. New York and London: Continuum. pp. 312–313, 427–428. ISBN 0-8264-1316-1.
- Raphael Greenberg and Adi Keinan, Israeli Archaeological Activity in the West Bank 1967-2007, Emek Shaveh 2009
- Stephen Langfur, Byzantine Mamre
- Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spano, 'The Origin Myths and Holy Places in the Old Testament: A Study of Aetiological Narratives, Routledge, 2016 p.132.
- Augustine Pagolu,The Religion of the Patriarchs, A&C Black, 1998 pp.59-60.
- Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Land of Our Fathers: The Roles of Ancestor Veneration in Biblical Land Claims, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2011 pp.51-52 :'Throughout Genesis, all these toponyms crowd the ancestral burial site, jostling for recognition. Though it is often assumed these were all essentially the same place, the aligning, glossing or renaming of locations is frequently suggestive of changing or competing claims to ownership.'
- Jericke p.4: Book of Genesis, 23:19;25:27.
- Detlef Jericke Abraham in Mamre: Historische und Exegetische Studien Zur Region Von Hebron Und Zu Genesis 11, 27-19, 38, BRILL, 2003 p.1.
- Genesis 14:13
- David M. Gitlitz & Linda Kay Davidson, Pilgrimage and the Jews (Westport: CT: Praeger, 2006).
- Robert Alter, (tr.) Genesis, W.W.Norton & Co. āāNew York, London 1996 p.60
- Horne, Thomas Hartwell (1856) An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, p 63
- Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard (1998) Mercer Dictionary of the Bible Mercer University Press, ISBN 0-86554-373-9 p 543
- Haran, Menahem (1985) Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry Into Biblical Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School Eisenbrauns, ISBN 0-931464-18-8 p 53
- Menahem Haran,Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry Into Biblical Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School, Eisenbrauns, 1985 p.53. The third, Priestly recension excludes any such attachment of Abraham to the Terebinth cult.
- Genesis, 13:18
- Jericke p.2.
- Taylor, Joan E. (1993) Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-814785-6 pp 86-95
- William Adler, The Kingdom of Edessa and the Creation of a Christian Aristocracy, in Natalie B. Dohrmann, Annette Yoshiko Reed (eds.) Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire: The Poetics of Power in Late Antiquity, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013 pp.43-62 p.57
- Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (2008) The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-923666-6 p 370
- Robinson, Edward (1856) Biblical Researches in Palestine, 1838-52: A Journal of Travels in the Year 1838 pp 215-216
- Jericke, Detlef (2003) Abraham in Mamre: Historische und exegetische Studien zur Region von Hebron BRILL, ISBN 90-04-12939-1
- Letellier, Robert Ignatius (1995) Day in Mamre, Night in Sodom: Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18 and 19 BRILL, ISBN 90-04-10250-7
- Safrai, Zeev (1994) The Economy of Roman Palestine, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-10243-X p 254
- Rabbi Yohanan in the Avodah Zarah, 1:4,39d, Neusner, Jacob (1982). Abodah Zarah: A Preliminary Translation and Explanation. University of Chicago Press., pp. 29-30
- Rozenfeld, Ben Tsiyon (2005). Markets And Marketing in Roman Palestine. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-14049-2. p. 63
- Safrai, Zeev (1994) The Economy of Roman Palestine, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-10243-X p 249
- Life of Constantine By Eusebius, Translated by Averil Cameron, Stuart George Hall Oxford University Press, (1999) ISBN 0-19-814917-4 p 301
- Fergusson, James (2004) Tree and Serpent Worship Or Illustrations of Mythology and Arts in India: In the 1st and 4th Century After Christ Asian Educational Services, ISBN 81-206-1236-1 p 7
- Franciscan cyberspot Arbo, also the Terebinth. The Oak of Mambre - (Ramat al-Khalil)
- Itzhaq Magen, The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Jerusalem 1993, via www.quondam.com
- Netzer, Ehud and Laureys-Chachy, Rachel (2006) The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder Mohr Siebeck, ISBN 3-16-148570-X p 231
- Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn (1856) Sinai and Palestine, in Connection with Their History J. Murray, p 142
- Frazer, James George (2003) Folklore in the Old Testament Studies in Comparative Religion Legend and Law: Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend, and Law Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 0-7661-3238-2 p 336
- Andrew S. Jacobs, Remains of the Jews: The Holy Land and Christian Empire in Late Antiquity, Stanford University Press, 2004 p.130.
- Arculf (1895). "The Pilgrimage of Arculfus in the Holy Land (About the Year A.D. 670)". archive.org. London: Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society. pp. 33–34. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
- Adamnanus, De Locis Sanctis, 11, 11. 6, CCSL 175, 211.
- Pringle,1998, p. 203
- Adamnanus, De Locis Sanctis
- Alter, Robert (tr.) Genesis, W.W.Norton & Co. New York, London 1996
- Eusebius Life of Constantine, Translated by Averil Cameron, Stuart George Hall Oxford University Press, (1999) ISBN 0-19-814917-4
- Fergusson, James (2004) Tree and Serpent Worship Or Illustrations of Mythology and Arts in India: In the 1st and 4th Century After Christ Asian Educational Services, ISBN 81-206-1236-1
- Frazer, James George (2003) Folklore in the Old Testament Studies in Comparative Religion Legend and Law: Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend, and Law Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 0-7661-3238-2
- Haran, Menahem (1985) Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry Into Biblical Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School Eisenbrauns, ISBN 0-931464-18-8
- Horne, Thomas Hartwell (1856) An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts
- Jericke, Detlef (2003) Abraham in Mamre: Historische und exegetische Studien zur Region von Hebron und zur Genesis 11,27–19,38. Brill, Leiden NL 2003. ISBN 90-04-12939-1
- Letellier, Robert Ignatius (1995) Day in Mamre, Night in Sodom: Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18 and 19 BRILL, ISBN 90-04-10250-7
- Mader, Andreas Evaristus : Mambre. Die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen im heiligen Bezirk Râmet el-Ḫalîl in Südpalästina 1926–1928. 2 Bände. Erich Wewel Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 1954
- Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (2008) The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-923666-6
- Netzer, Ehud and Laureys-Chachy, Rachel (2006) The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder Mohr Siebeck, ISBN 3-16-148570-X
- Pringle, Denys (1998). The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: L-Z (excluding Tyre). II. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0 521 39037 0.
- Rosenfield, Ben-Zion; Joseph Menirav, Chava Cassel,Markets and Marketing in Roman Palestine, Brill, 2005 ISBN 90-04-14049-2
- Safrai, Zeev (1994) The Economy of Roman Palestine, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-10243-X
- Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn (1856) Sinai and Palestine, in Connection with Their History J. Murray,
- Taylor, Joan E. (1993) Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-814785-6
- Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard (1998) Mercer Dictionary of the Bible Mercer University Press, ISBN 0-86554-373-9
- Oak of Mamre, an ancient tree, situated ca. halfway between historical Mamre and Hebron, distinct from Josephus' "terebinth tree of Mamre" and the Constantinian site