2. Why is it written in the Bible that Emmaus "was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs" (i.e. 60 stadia, ca. 12 km, 7 miles), while Emmaus-Nicopolis is situated 160 stadia away from Jerusalem (ca. 30 km, 19 miles)?
The fact that since ancient times, Nicopolis has been venerated by Christians as the New Testament Emmaus, is confirmed by ancient high-quality manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke, which bear the distance of about one hundred and sixty stadia (30 km) between Emmaus and Jerusalem: the uncial (majuscule script) manuscripts א (Codex Sinaiticus), Θ, Ν, Κ, Π, 079, several minuscule manuscripts, as well as ancient translations into Latin (some manuscripts of the Vetus Latina, the high quality manuscripts of the Vulgate), Aramaic (Palestinian Evangeliarium) and Armenian languages.
Most existing ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke bear the distance of sixty stadia (12 km, 7 miles) between Jerusalem and Emmaus, and that’s why Bibles printed today adopted this particular version. However, the quantity of manuscripts cannot be a decisive argument in this question. One of the principles of a critical study of the ancient texts is to take the more difficult version of the text as authentic. In our case, it may be assumed that some copyists of the Gospel eliminated the word “hundred” to facilitate the understanding of the story: Cleopas and his companion have completed their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus and having recognized the risen Jesus in the breaking of bread, return to Jerusalem. It is easier to imagine that they covered 14, rather than 38 miles in a single day, all the more so that on the return journey, they had to walk up the mountain!
A page from the Codex Sinaiticus, containing chapters 23 and 24 of the Gospel of Luke (British library)
The Gospel of Luke does not affirm that two disciples arrived back to Jerusalem on the same night. Nevertheless, from comparing Luke’s story with the Gospel of John 20:19-23, one can deduce that they returned to Jerusalem on the same night, prior to the first apparition of Jesus to the group of the Apostles, on the evening of Easter Day. Reducing the distance to 60 stadia (7 mi, 12 km), the copyists of the Gospel of Luke, thus strived to create a correspondence between the two Gospels. Evidence that there was indeed a tendency to impose the reading of “60 stadia”, comes from the fact that in two of the uncials and in three of the minuscule manuscripts (mentioned above), which bear the distance of 160 stadia, the word “hundred” was scraped.
The same is true for the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible by St. Jerome, done in 4-5th c. A.D). From the works of Jerome, we know that he, like other Church Fathers, considered Emmaus-Nicopolis to be the New Testament Emmaus (see: The Byzantine period). We can thus be sure that Jerome inserted the version of 160 stadia in his translation of the Gospel of Luke, as it appears in the best and most ancient manuscripts of the Vulgate: F (see here), O*, Y, EP, G. By the scribes’ efforts, however, most of the extant manuscripts of the Vulgate bear the version of 60 stadia.
No literary or historical source not depending upon the Gospel of Luke has ever referred to a place named Emmaus located at a distance of 60 stadia (12 km, 7 miles) from Jerusalem. At the same time, there is plenty of written, onomastic and archaeological evidence concerning Emmaus at the valley of Ayalon. Some scholars assume, that the original version of St. Luke’s Gospel is that of 60 stadia, and that the “160 stadia” version is a later amendment, made in order to bring the text of the Gospel into line with the local Palestinian tradition. However, there is no reason to suppose that a village called Emmaus really existed at a distance of 60 stadia from Jerusalem in 1st c. AD. For example, all the known manuscripts of the 2nd Book of Maccabees erroneously indicate a distance of 240 stadia (about 48 km, 30 miles) between Jerusalem and the port of Jamnia (Yavne), but no one is looking for this port in the middle of the fields.
The story of Jesus’ apparition at Emmaus is the only instance where St. Luke indicates the distance between two places using stadia as a measurement. Luke also names the village where the two disciples were heading. The Gospel writer aware of the significance of Emmaus placed this specific information to imply connections with past traditions and texts. In the Jewish tradition, Emmaus was associated with the heroic history of Joshua and Judas the Maccabee (See: The Old Testament period and The Hasmonean period). The holy writer intended to build a parallel between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the historical victories of Israel, accomplished through the God’s help.
It is also possible that Luke names the distance of 160 stadia, in order to emphasize the zeal of the two disciples, which despite their fatigue from that day’s journey immediately turned back toward Jerusalem once they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Another reason for St. Luke’s insistence upon the distance of 160 stadia from Jerusalem, is that it prepares for the account of the evangelization of the neighbouring areas of Shephelah and Samaria in St. Luke’s second book, The Acts of the Apostles, chapters 8-9 ( see here: Vincent & Abel, Emmaüs, Paris, 1932, p. 307).
As a conclusion, one can note that the version of 60 stadia is contrary to the ancient Jewish tradition, which knows only one village called Emmaus in the vicinity of Jerusalem (by the Ayalon Valley, about 30 km , 19 miles from Jerusalem). This version also contradicts the testimony of the Church Fathers: Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Jerome, and other authors from the Byzantine period, who identify the New Testament Emmaus with Emmaus-Nicopolis. The version of 60 stadia is also contrary to the ancient Christian tradition of pilgrimage to Emmaus-Nicopolis. See: The Roman and The Byzantine periods.