Emmaus, a titular see in Palaestina Prima, suffragan of Caesarea. It is mentioned for the first time in 166-65 B.C., when Judas Machabeus defeated there the army of Gorgias (I Mach., iii, 40, iv, 25). A little later the Syrian general Bacchides fortified and arrisoned it (Josephus, Ant. Jud., XIII, i, 3). In A.D. 4, during the rebellion of Athrongius against the Romans, the inhabitants left their city, which was, nevertheless, destroyed by Varus (Josephus, “Ant. Jud.” XVII, x, 7-9; Idem, “Bel. Jud.”, II, iv, 3). It soon rose again, for Josephus (Bel. Jud., III, iii, 5) and Pliny (Mist. nat., V, xiv) rank it amongst the “toparchies” of the country. Vespasian took it at the beginning of his campaign against the Jews, stationed a legion in the neighborhood, and named it Nicopolis (Sozom., Hist. eccl., V, xxi). According to Eusebius and St. Jerome, this name was given to it only in 223, by Julius Africanus, its governor and most illustrious son, and this is the name commonly used by Christian writers. Here a spring in which Christ is said to have washed His feet, and which was reputed to cure all diseases, was closed up by order of Julian the Apostate (Sozom., Hist. eccl., V, xxi). Four Greek bishops are known, from the fourth to the sixth century (Lequien, Or. christ., III, 593). At the beginning of the Arab conquest the plague broke out in the city, and the inhabitants fled; they must have soon returned, however, for Emmaus remained a very important town. It was the last station of the Crusaders on their way to Jerusalem in June, 1099. Eubel (Hierarch. cath., II, 223) has a list of eleven Latin titular bishops, but only for the fifteenth century. Today `Am’was (the native name) is a Mussulman village about eighteen miles from Jerusalem, on the road to Jaffa. There are still visible ruins of a beautiful basilica built in the fourth or the fifth century, and repaired by the Crusaders. Near `Am’was, at El-Atroun, the Trappists founded a priory in 1890.
In the opinion of many `Am’was is the Emmaus of the Gospel (Luke, xxiv, 13-35), where Christ manifested Himself to two of His Disciples. Such is, indeed, the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem, attested as early as the fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea, Titus of Bostra, and St. Jerome, a tradition confirmed by all pilgrims, at least to the time of the Crusades; it may even date back to the third century, to Julius Africanus and Origen. It is also supported by many Biblical commentaries, some of which are as old as the fourth or the fifth century; in these the Emmaus of the Gospel is said to have stood at 160 stadia from Jerusalem, the modern `Am’was being at 176 stadia. In spite of its antiquity, this tradition does not seem to be well founded. Most manuscripts and versions place Emmaus at only sixty stadia from Jerusalem, and they are more numerous and generally more ancient than those of the former group. It seems, therefore, very probable that the number 160 is a correction of Origen and his school, to make the Gospeltext agree with the Palestinian tradition of their time. Moreover, the distance of 160 stadiawould imply about six hours’ walk, which is inadmissible, for the Disciples had only gone out to the country and could return to Jersualem before the gates were shut (Mark, xvi, 12; Luke, xxiv, 33). Finally, the Emmaus of the Gospel is said to be a village, while `Am’was was the flourishing capital of a “toparchy”. Josephus (Ant. Jud., VII, vi, 6) mentions at sixty stadia from Jerusalem a village called Ammaus, where Vespasian and Titus stationed 800 veterans. This is evidently the Emmaus of the Gospel. But it must have been destroyed at the time of the revolt of Bar-Cocheba (A.D. 132-35) under Hadrian, and its site was unknown as early as the third century. Origen and his friends merely placed the Gospel Emmaus at Nicopolis, the only Emmaus known at their time. The identifications of Koubeibeh, Abou Gosh, Koulonieh, Beit Mizzeh, etc. with Emmaus, as proposed by some modern scholars, are inadmissible.