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Emmaus plays a significant role in Christian theology, notably for its association with the appearance of Jesus to two individuals after his resurrection (Luke 24). Although its name and distance from Jerusalem is given, pinning down the precise location Emmaus remains a subject of ongoing scholarly debate.

Emmaus Nicopolis

Emmaus Nicopolis was a prominent city on the crossroads connecting Jerusalem and the coast. It was a regional center in Roman times called Emmaus, and in the 3rd century the title Nicopolis (“city of victory”) was added to it. Since the 6th century Emmaus Nicopolis is associated with biblical Emmaus and churches were built at the site both in Byzantine and Crusaders times. However, the distance of 29 km (18 miles) between Emmaus Nicopolis and Jerusalem contrasts with the New Testament’s reference to a distance of about 11 km (7 miles) (Luke 24:13). This discrepancy has led to much confusion and over the centuries various alternative locations were suggested –

Abu-GoshDuring the Crusaders period pilgrims pointed to a site 11 km west of Jerusalem as Emmaus. Today it is part of the Israeli-Arab village of Abu-Gosh and is known for its remarkable Crusaders-era church. While it is in the right distance from Jerusalem there is no evidence that a village called Emmaus exited here in the first century.

Al-Qubeibah – North of Abu-Gosh is another site that is 11 km (7 miles) from Jerusalem. Moreover, Excavations at the site uncovered remains of a Crusaders-era village and church. On the other hand, no finds from the first century were made, nor was it ever called Emmaus.

MotzaAn archaeological site at Jerusalem’s western entrance that was inhabited in the first century and was called Emmaus (Wars 7 6 6). However, the site falls short as it is only 6 km (4 miles) from Jerusalem.

Khirbet Beit-Mizza – A site on a hill above Motza where finds from the first century were made.

Emmaus-Nicopolis Is Emmaus after All

Despite inconclusive evidence, Emmaus-Nicopolis remains a leading candidate for biblical Emmaus, supported by the following arguments –

  • Only Emmaus Nicopolis was called Emmaus in the first century. Moreover, the name was preserved in the name of an Arab village “Imwas” neaby.
  • Excavations at Emmaus Nicopolis uncovered first century finds, including two rock-cut tombs from the first Century that can still be seen near the Churches.
  • Two ancient versions of the New Testament, including the 6th century “Codex Sinaiticus” indicate a distance of “160 stadia”, aligning with the 29 km (18 miles) between Jerusalem and the Emmaus Nicopolis.

Touring Emmaus-Nicopolis

Emmaus-Nicopolis sits on the side of Tel-Aviv – Jerusalem main highway (Road no. 1), next to Latrun. The churches area is maintained by the Catholic Community of the Beatitudes and welcomes visitors Monday to Saturday. A well-preserved Roman bathhouse found nearby is another testimony to the ancient city that once flourished here.

A tour of Emmaus-Nicopolis can be combined in a guided day tour in the Judean Foothills (the Shephelah).

Contact us to inquire more about a private tour to Emmaus:

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