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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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EMMAUS (Ἐμμαούς).—The question of Emmaus would seem at first sight to be simple, and the identification of this place easy. Indeed, Emmaus not being mentioned more than once in the Gospels, there are no different texts to be harmonized. We read in Luke 24:13 that Emmaus was a village 60 furlongs from Jerusalem, and that after having arrived there at the close of the day, and having sat with Jesus at a meal, the two disciples were able to return the same evening to Jerusalem and there find the Apostles still assembled together. The only parallel passage in Mk. (Mark 16:12), part of the unauthentic close of the Second Gospel, does not mention the name of the locality, and speaks only of an appearance to two disciples ‘as they walked on their way into the country’ (δυσὶνπεριπατοῦσινπορευομένοις εἰς ἀγρόν). On the other hand, Josephus says (BJ vii. vi. 6) that Vespasian established a colony of 800 Roman veterans on the lands which he gave them at a distance of 60 (v.l. 30) furlongs from Jerusalem, at a place called Emmaus. Now, there still actually exists to the west of Jerusalem, on the road which leads to Jaffa, a place named Kolonieh. It is true that the distance is less than 60 furlongs: authors estimate it sometimes at 45, but more frequently at only 35, furlongs. It might be held, however, that the territory of the colony extended over an area of several miles, and that it might, according to circumstances, be thus considered as being distant either 30 or 60 furlongs from the capital. Under these conditions nothing would seem to oppose our placing, on the grounds indicated above, the Emmaus of St. Luke, identified with that of Josephus, at Kolonieh.

It must, however, be remarked that the different reading noted in the passage from Josephus (60 or 30) creates some uncertainty. It must also be noted that, according to some authors, the name Kolonieh is not to be explained by the Latin colonia at all, but by the name Kulon (Κουλόν), mentioned in Joshua 15:59 (LXX Septuagint) as that of a town of Judah situated in the hill country. These difficulties, however, would not be altogether insurmountable if they were the only ones; a further and graver complication arises from the following facts.

In 1 Mac. an Emmaus is spoken of more than once as the scene of various occurrences: Judas Maccabaeus vanquished Gorgias there in b.c. 166–167 (1 Maccabees 3:40; 1 Maccabees 3:57; 1 Maccabees 4:3-25; cf. Josephus Ant. xii. vii. 4); and in b.c. 160 Bacchides fortified it and placed a garrison in it (1 Maccabees 9:50 f.; cf. Josephus Ant. xiii. i. 3). The position of this place is easy to determine; it must have been situated between Jerusalem and Jaffa, nearer the latter, at the spot where the slopes of the mountainous region descend towards the great maritime plain. In this quarter, indeed, is found a site which has left important ruins, and which is mentioned several times in the course of the first centuries of the Christian era under the name Emmaus. From the 3rd cent. onwards it was called Nicopolis, without the remembrance of the ancient Semitic name being lost; and, as is the case with most of those places with two names, under the Arab domination it resumed its earlier name and was called ‘Amwâs, the appellation it still bears. Now, from the earliest times of ecclesiastical history, the opinion gained ground that this Emmaus-Nicopolis was the Emmaus of St. Luke. Eusebius, no doubt reflecting the views of Origen, and after him Jerome, maintained this identity (OS2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] 257. 21, 121. 6); and after them this view of the case held sway for a long time in the Church. If it is asked how this conclusion could be formed, seeing that Emmaus-Nicopolis is situated at a distance from Jerusalem which is estimated (according to the particular route adopted) at 180, 175, 170, or 166 furlongs, almost thrice the 60 furlongs mentioned above, the reply is promptly given: א and some other MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts.] read ‘160’ instead of ‘60.’ The tendency to identify Emmaus-Nicopolis and the Emmaus of St. Luke became so strong, so irresistible, that it led to a curious result: in the Middle Ages, at the time of the Crusaders and afterwards, the memory of Emmaus-Nicopolis having been lost, the Emmaus of St. Luke was looked for nearer Jerusalem, and when it was believed that it had been found, not only the name of Emmaus, but also that of Nicopolis, was given to it.

From the 13th cent. (1280) or perhaps from the last years of the 11th (1099, see ZDPV [Note: DPV Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins.] xvi. p. 300), a tradition arose which for more clearness may be called the Franciscan tradition, and which places the Emmaus of St. Luke at el-Kubeibeh, to the N.W. of Kolonieh, at some distance to the north of the road from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and about 60 (more exactly 62–64) furlongs from the capital. Still, indeed, all the efforts of the champions of the Franciscan theory are directed towards establishing that the Emmaus of the Evangelist is el-Kubeibeh. Interesting ruins have been discovered there: those of a church dating from the time of the Crusades, and in the interior of its eneeinte the remains of a more ancient structure, which might be those of a Byzantine church, but which the defenders of the Franciscan tradition consider to be the very house of Cleopas, around which the sanctuary had been built.

The first question to clear up is that of the text. Now several authors, and in particular P. Lagrange (Rev. Bibl. 1896, pp. 87–92), have, in the opinion of the present writer, shown irrefutably that the original reading must have been ‘60 furlongs,’ and that ‘160’ is a correction meant to enable the Emmaus of St. Luke to be identified with that of 1 Maccabees. ‘The 160 furlongs,’ Lagrange concludes admirably (p. 89), ‘represent neither the ancient tradition, nor the universal tradition, nor the unconscious tradition. This reading is a critical one, imposed by the authority of a master, very probably Origen, and collides almost everywhere with the firmly assured tradition of the Churches. To judge from the manuscripts, the question is settled: we must read “60 furlongs.” ’

We must remark, further, that Emmaus-Nicopolis was a town before the Christian era and long beyond (πόλις, Josephus BJ ii. xx. 4), whereas the Evangelist speaks of a village (κώμη). Even after Emmaus-Nicopolis had been destroyed by the Roman soldiers of Varus (a.d. 4), it was not on that account a village; a ruined town is not a village. It was even the chief town of a toparchy (Josephus BJ iii. iii. 5; Plin. HN v. 14). The remains of a church have been found there, which date not merely from the Crusades, but very probably from the Byzantine epoch; it is in vain that a recent author (Barnabé), who favours el-Kubeibeh, has tried to prove that this church was really nothing but a hot-baths establishment. But it is also vain to seek to infer from the presence of a church, even an ancient one, that we have to do with the Emmaus of St. Luke.

Another very strong argument against Emmaus-Nicopolis is its excessive distance. It is worth noting what efforts its partisans make to show that the two disciples could have returned the same evening to Jerusalem, walking for this purpose five or six hours. One of the most convinced defenders of this theory, Schiffers, does not hesitate to affirm that they could have set out again from Emmaus as early as 3 o’clock in the afternoon and arrived at Jerusalem at 9 o’clock (Rev. Bibl. 1894, pp. 26–40; see also his book Amwâs, das Emmaus des heil. Lukas, 1890). In that case it must be held that the words ‘it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent’ (Luke 24:29), may have been spoken immediately after noon.

The failure of the identification of Emmaus-Nicopolis with the Emmaus of St. Luke proves nothing in favour of el-Kubeibeh, which can produce only a late tradition in its favour. The argument which it has been sought to draw from the name el-Kubeibeh as an alleged corruption of Nicopolis (!) refutes itself. But the probabilities indicated at the opening of this article in favour of Kolonieh are greatly weakened by the undisputed fact that the ecclesiastical tradition of the first centuries pronounces in favour of ‘Amwâs-Nicopolis; this fact proves that all recollection of an Emmaus situated nearer to Jerusalem had become effaced in the 3rd century. Under these circumstances the most elementary duty is to declare the problem unsolved, and incapable of solution under the present conditions and with the data which we possess.

Nor does the etymology of the name furnish any precise indication. We do not know to what Hebrew or Aramaic term Emmaus [we find also the forms Ammaus, Ammaum, Emmaum; Ἀμμαούς, Ἀμμαούμ, Ἐμμαούμ] corresponds. A vain attempt has been made to connect it with the root hamam, and to prove thereby that baths existed at this spot. An argument in favour of this has been based on the fact that the baths situated near Tiberias were called by the same name (cf. Joshua 19:35 Hammath), but it is now known that the correct reading is Ammathus (Ἀμμαθούς; cf. ZDPV [Note: DPV Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins.] xiii. pp. 194–198). It is on the frail basis of this hypothetical derivation that Mrs. Finn grounds her theory that Emmaus = Urtas, to the south of Bethlehem, near Solomon’s Pools, 60 furlongs from Jerusalem (see PEFSt [Note: EFSt Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1883, pp. 53–64). It is by an equally dubious etymological process that Colonel Conder has been led to seek for Emmaus in Khamasa, to the S.W. of Jerusalem, at a distance, moreover, not of 60, but of 80–90 furlongs. We may also note the attempt to place the Emmaus of St. Luke at Abu-Ghosh (Kiriet-el-’Enâb). From the point of view of distance this would be sufficiently exact, but there is nothing to lead us to conclude in favour of this particular spot rather than any other within the same circuit.

Lastly, we recall the fact that the Talmud speaks of Kolonieh as being also called Mosa or ham-Mosa, a name which we may connect with the הַמצָה of Joshua 18:26 (LXX Septuagint: ἈΜΩΣά, but also ἈΜΩΚή). Near Kolonieh there exists to-day a place called Beit-Mizzeh, which recalls Mosa.

Literature.—PEFSt [Note: EFSt Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1874, pp. 149, 160, 162–164, 1876, pp. 172–175, 1879, pp. 105–107, 1881, pp. 46, 237 f., 274, 1882, pp. 24–37, 1883, pp. 53–64, 1884, pp. 83–85, 1885, pp. 116–121, 1886, p. 17, 1901, pp. 165–167, 210; PEF [Note: EF Palestine Exploration Fund.] Memoirs, iii. 36–42, 130 f.; ZDPV [Note: DPV Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins.] xiii. 194–198. xvi. 298–300, xix. 222, xxv. 195–203; MNDPV [Note: NDPV Mittheilungen n. Nachrichten d. deutschen Pal. Vereins.] , 1901, 14 f.; Rev. Bibl. 1892, pp. 80–99, 101–105, 645–649, 1893, pp. 26–40, 223–227, 1894, p. 137, 1896, pp. 87–92, 1903, pp. 457–467, 571–599; Reland, Pal. 427, 758; Robinson, BRP [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] iii. 146–151, 158; Tobler, Top. von Jerusalem, ii. 538–545, 752 f.; Schwarz, Das heil. Land, 98; Guérin, Judée, i. 257–262, 293–308, 348–361; Thomson, The Land and the Book, i. 116, 123 ff., 132, ii. 59; Sepp, Jerusalem und das heil. Land2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , i. 54 ff., Neue Entdeekungen, ii. 228–253, 260–263; G. A. Smith, HGHL [Note: GHL Historical Geog. of Holy Land.] , 214; Buhl, GAP [Note: AP Geographic des alten Palästina.] 186; Conder, Tent Work, 8, 13, 140; Furrer, Wanderungen2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 161–169; Le Camus, Pays Bibliques, i. 185–194, 204–207; Sanday, Sacred Sites, 29–31, 92; Zschokke, Das neutest. Emmaus, 1865; Guillemot, Emmaus-Nieopolis, 1886; Buselli, L’Emmaus evangelico, 1885–1886; Domenichelli, L’Emmaus della Palestina, 1889, Ultime discussioni, 1898; Schiffers, Amwas, das Emmaus des heil. Lukas, 1890; Rückert, ‘Amwas, was es ist und was es nicht ist’ in Theol. Qschrift, 1892; Barnabé, Deux questions d’archéologie palestinienne, 1892; A. Duc, Die Emmaus-Frage, 1905; Merx, Die Evv. des Markus und Lukas, 1905, p. 523 f.; see also the Bible Dictionaries, s.v.; the Comm. on St. Luke, ad loc., and the Lives of Christ.

Lucien Gautier.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Emmaus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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