It was the first Easter, two thousand years ago. Two confused, disheartened disciples are on their way out of Jerusalem, encounter a stranger on the road, and quickly find themselves as students in the infant Church’s first Sunday School class! — taught by the risen, but as-yet unrecognized, Jesus no less! That never-to-be-forgotten encounter — as “he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” — captivates us, as it has believers down through the ages, with both its mystery and immediacy, in a way that we easily imagine ourselves there!
But where is — or was — the Emmaus of Luke 24? From the recorded beginnings of Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land at least 1700 years ago, it has remained one of the classic conundrums of sacred geography, with at least four sites being identified over the centuries. With a little effort, we can discern how the vexing confusion arose. For various reasons — because certain places can flourish and then disappear over the span of a few centuries, because the names of places change over time, and common place-names (like “The Springs”) are sometimes affixed to different locales — the church fathers as early as the 4th Century may have gotten it wrong. One of them apparently even altered the gospel text slightly to comport with what they thought they knew!
And what about the Roman road itself, the other focus of this post? Well, the remains are still there, descending from the western outskirts of Jerusalem — if one knows where to look. (In all my years in Jerusalem I never had a good fix on the location, thus never ventured out in search of them.) What’s interesting, too, is that this stretch of ancient roadway “works” as the road to Emmaus for most of the various places identified over time as the site of the NT village.
My real purpose here is to point you to a fine new article published on-line by David Bivin and the folks at Jerusalem Perspective. (Most JP content is by subscription — well worth digging into — but this piece has been made available to all, free.) Bivin Continue reading