By Aaron Earls
In the Gospel of Luke, two disciples stumbled unaware into a meeting with the resurrected Jesus as they walked to Emmaus. Recently, a team of archaeologists announced they may have stumbled into discovering the ancient city by accident.
Excavating at Kiriath Yearim, Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein and and Thomas Römer, a professor of biblical studies at the College de France uncovered fortifications that are more than 2,000 years old, according to Haaretz.
Piecing together discoveries from the site with historical and biblical evidence led the team at the dig to believe they found the location of Emmaus.
“The finds at Kiriath Yearim hint at its long-term role in guarding the approach to Jerusalem,” Finkelstein told Fox News.
“This can be seen in the Iron Age, Hellenistic and early Roman periods. The Hellenistic and Roman period remains shed light on the much-debated issue of the location of the New Testament’s Emmaus.”
In an upcoming paper, Finkelstein and Römer argue the ancient fortifications at the site may have been built by Bacchides, the Seleucid general who ended the Maccabean Revolt, which connects the site to the location of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance.
During the revolt, Jewish forces rebelled against the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire and took control of Jerusalem and the temple in 164 B.C., which is still remembered today with the feast of Hanukkah.
Later, however, Bacchides retook Jerusalem and built a ring of fortifications around the city.
Ancient historians, including Josephus, name the locations of those fortresses, many of which have been investigated by archaeologists.
But one fortification location, mentioned as being to the west of Jerusalem on the road connecting the city of Jaffa to the Mediterranean Sea, had previously been undiscovered. The records referred to it as Emmaus.
“Finkelstein and Römer have a good case archaeologically, geographically and topographically,” Benjamin Isaac, emeritus professor of ancient history from Tel Aviv University, told Haaretz. “However, it is a hypothesis and remains a hypothesis.”
Previously, at least two other sites have laid claim to being the biblical site of Emmaus. Neither of these, however, match the location given by Luke’s Gospel.
In his description of Jesus’ appearance, Luke says the village of Emmaus was “60 stadia” or about seven miles from Jerusalem. One of the previous possibilities was too far away and the other was too close.
Kiriath Yearim, on the other hand, is seven miles from Jerusalem.
“Geographically I think the distance to Jerusalem fits well, so I do think that Kiriath Yearim could have been the Emmaus of the New Testament,” said Römer.
Aaron is a writer for LifewayResearch.com.