Carem (Sept., karem; Hebrew, KRM, vine or vine-yard), name of a town in the Tribe of Juda. The name, at least in this form, occurs but once in the Bible, viz. in Josue, xv, 59, and here only in the Septuagint translation; it is therefore absent, together with some other names mentioned in the same passage, from the Vulgate and from the English versions.
By some scholars Carem has been identified with the Bethacarem or Bethacharam mentioned in Jeremias vi, 1, and II Esdras, iii, 14; but be that as it may, there is a general consensus of critical opinion to the effect that the ancient Carem occupied the site of the modern ‘Ain Karim, a flourishing village situated about four miles west of Jerusalem. In favor of this identification is alleged, besides the substantial identity of the name, the fact that around ‘Ain Karim are found other villages whose modern names correspond with considerable accuracy to the names mentioned with Carem in the Greek text of Josue, xv, 59. It is probable that the remarkable fountain which springs up close to the village on the north took its present name, ‘Ain Karim (Fountain of Karim), from the ancient Carem, which has been replaced by the modern town. The latter is a village of about 1000 inhabitants, more than half of whom are Mohammedans. It is located on a hill beyond the mountains that lie to the west of Jerusalem, and overlooks the beautiful valley of Colonieh, in which olives and fruit trees flourish in great abundance. Towards the eastern extremity of the village stands the church of the Nativity of John the Baptist, to which are attached a monastery and lodging-place for pilgrims. The present church and monastery were built by the Franciscan friars who have been established in the place since 1690. The older sanctuary which occupied the same site had been abandoned after the Crusades and had fallen to ruin. Five hundred yards south of the church is the fountain of Carem (‘Ain Karim), which is sometimes designated by the Christians as the Fountain of the Virgin. It flows from the side of a high mountain and is covered by a roofed structure with stone arches, which is a place of prayer for the Mussulmans. At a short distance from the fountain is another convent, erected by the Franciscans in 1892 on the ruins of an ancient monastery.
‘Ain Karim has acquired celebrity in the later Christian tradition, not only of the Latin, but also of the Oriental Churches. From the twelfth century onward many writers affirm that it is the “city of Juda” in the “hill country” whither, according to St. Luke (i, 39), the Virgin Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth; consequently, the dwelling-place of Zachary, the birthplace of John the Baptist. This identification is noted in certain manuscript copies of the Gospel in Arabic and Coptic, sometimes in the margin, sometimes in the text, a fact which would seem to indicate a standing tradition in the Christian communities of Egypt and Abyssinia, received, doubtless, from their neighbors of Syria and Palestine. There has been, moreover, since the twelfth century, a fairly constant tradition, based chiefly on the relations of pilgrims to the Holy Land, according to which ‘Ain Karim was revered, at least during the Middle Ages, as the birthplace of the Precursor. In most of the descriptions given by travellers the place is called St. John, the home of Zachary, etc., but it is described as located about five miles west of Jerusalem, and this corresponds well with the location of ‘Ain Karim. Besides, the characteristic features of the modern town are recognizable in the various descriptions. A text of the monk Epiphanius (Descriptio Terse Sanctae, CXX, 264), whom Rohricht (Bibliotheca Geographica Palestine, Berlin, 1890, p. 16) assigns to the middle of the ninth century, shows that the tradition is at least of earlier origin than the time of the Crusades. This writer calls the birthplace of the Precursor “Carmelion”, a name evidently derived from Carem, and locates it about six miles west of the Holy City, and about eighteen miles from Amoas (Emmaus). Against this nearly unanimous agreement of medieval descriptions there are recorded only two or three dissenting texts, and these being associated with erratic topographical statements concerning other localities have little weight against the existing tradition.
A far stronger objection is deduced from the silence of early writers, notably of St. Jerome, who wrote an ex professo treatise on the Biblical places of the Holy Land; and, as a matter of fact, the tradition concerning ‘Ain Karim has never been recognized as conclusive by the scholars, either ancient or modern, who have written commentaries on the New Testament. Thus (I) the chief commentators of the medieval period, understanding the words of St. Luke in a determined sense, viz. “the city of Juda”, referred them to Jerusalem, the city of Juda par excellence, giving to the word Juda a somewhat wide and indefinite meaning. This opinion was given up by nearly all later scholars. (2) Baronius, Papebroch, Cornelius a Lapide, and after them a great number of others, have for much better reasons identified the city of the “hill country” with Hebron, the most celebrated and important of the cities originally within the confines of Juda; Jerusalem, strictly speaking, belonged to Benjamin. But this opinion also has been abandoned by the majority of modern commentators. (3) Other writers, following a conjecture of Reland (Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata, Utrecht, 1714, p.870), take the word Iouda in this instance to be a proper name, and identify it with Jota or Jets, a levitical town of Juda mentioned in the Book of Josue (Jos., xv, 55; xxi,-16). This opinion, though lacking positive historical evidence, has been followed not only by the majority of Protestant commentators, but also by not a few Catholic scholars, for instance the Abbe Constant Fouard in his work “Christ the Son of God” (London, New York, 1891). Nevertheless, some modern Catholic writers, among whom is Victor Guerin, still adhere to the tradition of ‘Ain Karim; but in the absence of positive early documentary evidence the controversy cannot be definitely settled.
JAMES F. DRISCOLL