In Luke’s Gospel, it was the place best known where Jesus appeared to His disciples after His death and resurrection. Today, the identity of the village of Emmaus has been largely obscured over the centuries. And while many Bible scholars and researchers have suggested possible locations, the story remains compelling—despite the lack of a commemorative site.
Generally referred to in Hebrew sources to mean “hot spring” or a “spring of salvation,” Emmaus played a critical historic role because of its strategic position. But it was the unforgettable encounter that two men—on a walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus—had with the risen Jesus (Luke 24:13-35) that provides the true context and significance of this ancient town.
Among reasonable sites proposed as the actual location of Emmaus, these are likely possibilities:
Located off the highway which runs between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Nicopolis was mentioned in the Greek historical record by the historian Eusebius as the biblical village of Emmaus. Moreso, the historian and priest Jerome had suggested a church having been built in Nicopolis in the house of Cleopas, one of the men who Jesus encountered on the road to Emmaus.
The site has been considered the traditional location of Emmaus since the 4th century, and it is here you can see the ruins of a 12th century church. It is located inside Canada Park, established and named for the Jewish National Fund of Canada (JNF Canada).
Slightly west of Jerusalem on the main road to Jaffa lies the town of Abu Ghosh, the former site of a Crusader church, built in 1140. The church, which has been restored and renamed the Church of the Resurrection, stands today as one of the most pristine examples of Crusader architecture.
Also on the road to Jaffa, west of Jerusalem, is Colonia, favored by contemporary scholars as the most likely location of Emmaus. Adjacent to the modern suburb of Moza, the town of Colonia remains high on the list of possible sites because of its close proximity to Jerusalem and its mention by the renowned historian Josephus as a Roman colony called “Ammaous.”
And while you can easily visit these sites and many others, perhaps the greatest lesson about the elusiveness of Emmaus can be found in Luke’s account of the two men who encountered Jesus:
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”