3. Could Emmaus mentioned by Flavius Josephus at the distance of 30 stadia (about 6 km, 3.5 miles) from Jerusalem, be the New Testament Emmaus?

This question concerns the following text from Jewish war, 7, 6, 6 by Flavius Josephus (telling events of 72 A.D.):

“About the same time it was that Caesar sent a letter to Bassus, and to Liberius Maximus, who was the procurator [of Judea], and gave order that all Judea should be exposed to sale for he did not found any city there, but reserved the country for himself. However, he assigned a place for eight hundred men only, whom he had dismissed from his army, which he gave them for their habitation; it is called Emmaus [Greek: Άμμαους, Latin: Amassa, Amassada], and is distant from Jerusalem threescore furlongs. He also laid a tribute upon the Jews where so ever they were, and enjoined every one of them to bring two drachmae every year into the Capitol, as they used to pay the same to the temple at Jerusalem. And this was the state of the Jewish affairs at this time”.

Translated by William Whiston (see the original text here)

The text speaks about the founding of a Roman settlement of Colonia near the Jewish village of Motza 3.5 miles (6 km, 30 stadia) away from Jerusalem (see: Strack & Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, München, 1924, 1989, v. II , p.271).

Jewish war came to us in manuscripts written in Greek and Latin. The oldest surviving Greek manuscripts of Flavius Josephus only go back to the times of the Crusades and incorrectly render the names of many places in Palestine. These manuscripts were written by Christian scribes, which also explains the version of 60 stadia appearing in some manuscripts of Jewish War 7, 6, 6, no doubt due to the influence of the Gospel of Luke. For the same reason, apparently, the name “Motza” was rendered by them as “Emmaus”.

In the more ancient, Latin manuscripts, “Motza” is rendered as “Amassa”, “Amassada”. It should be noted that neither Jewish nor Roman-Byzantine or Arab sources have ever called Motza “Emmaus”. Thus, on the basis of only the Greek manuscripts of Jewish war 7, 6, 6 one cannot conclude that at the beginning of our era Motza bore the name of “Emmaus”.

In the Byzantine period Motza was not venerated as a place associated with the Resurrection of Jesus, nor as a Holy Place at all. Perhaps the connection between the village of Motza and the story of Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke 24: 13-35 was established shortly before the Crusades. The first mention of Emmaus, 30 stadia away from Jerusalem, appears in the text of St. John Mauropous, the Bishop of Euchaita, written in 1050, and belonging to approximately the same era as the Greek manuscripts of Flavius Josephus (see: The Early Arab period):

As to the words ‘the village, which was from Jerusalem about sixty stadia’, some extend far this distance, while others only reduce it to thirty stadia, arguing that this is the distance between Emmaus and Jerusalem ...

St. John Mauropous, Metropolitan of Euchaita, Letter 117, written in 1050, the translation is ours.

the original text was published in:

I. Bollig, P. De Lagarde, Iohannis Euchaitorum Metropolitae quae in Codice Vaticano Graeco 676 Supersunt, Gottingae, 1882, p. 63, see here.

It should be noted that Bishop John does not testify to the fact that at his time there actually existed a village called Emmaus at a distance of 30 stadia from Jerusalem, he only refers to the opinion which was placing it there.

Note that in none of the manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke does a distance of 30 stadia appear as the distance between Jerusalem and Emmaus; all of them contain either 60 or 160 stadia. Having encountered the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24: 27). This explanation certainly took a long time; in any case, more than an hour and a half necessary to cover 3.5 miles. The disciples apparently left Jerusalem early in the morning, after it was discovered that the tomb of Jesus was empty, but at the same time, before the first apparitions of the risen Jesus in the course of the day, of which they knew nothing. Their journey obviously took a few hours, because they had reached Emmaus only in the afternoon. At least that is the impression that we get from reading the text of the Gospel of Luke. Hence, this does not allow us to assume that Luke was referring to a village as close to Jerusalem as Motza. Mark 16:12 speaking about the apparition of the risen Jesus to two disciples on the road eis agron, i.e. “to the country”, also does not seem to be a sufficient basis to assert that their journey was short (Contrary to the opinion of E. Le Camus, La Bible et les études topographiques en Palestine, RB 1892, pp.100-112).

According to F.-M. Abel, starting with the 12th c., Motza could have been considered by some Crusaders to be Emmaus ( see here: Vincent & Abel, Emmaüs, Paris 1932, p. 383).

Starting with the centuries 13th -14th , some pilgrims identify the village of Beth-Ulma (Bethulme) near Motza as Emmaus (See: M. J. Schiffers, Amwas, das Emmaus des hl. Lucas, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1890, pp. 163-217, see here ; F. Vigouroux, Dictionnaire de la Bible, v. 2, part 2, Paris, 1912, columns 1757-1758, see here). For the identification of Emmaus during the Crusader period see: the Question #7.

On the issue of Emmaus - Motza see: Edward Robinson, Later Biblical Researches in Palestine and the Adjacent Regions, the Voyage of 1852, London, 1856, p. 149, see here; Vincent & Abel, Emmaüs, Paris, 1932, p. 284, 382-385, see here; for the contrary view, see: P. Benoit, Passion et Résurrection du Seigneur, Paris, 1969, p. 309; Carsten Thiede, The Emmaus Mystery, London, 2005.