Acts 1:3 Jesus rises from the dead, as he said he would, on the Sunday morning – the third day after his crucifixion and burial on the preceding Friday. This ‘Day of Resurrection’ – Sunday 9th April 30AD – is now celebrated as ‘Easter Sunday’.
Luke, writing some thirty years later, tells us that, after rising from the dead, Jesus appeared to his disciples over a period of forty days, “and proved in many ways that he was alive” (Acts 1:3).
Map 14 Jesus's resurrection appearances
Mk 16:1-8 The three women who bring spices to anoint Jesus’s body on the morning after the Sabbath find the tomb is empty. An angel tells them that Jesus has risen from the dead.
Mk 16:9-11 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb near Golgotha early on the Sunday morning before sunrise.
Jn 20:1-9 Mary runs back into the city to tell Peter and another disciple (probably John), both of whom then visit the empty tomb. All they find are the strips of linen and the burial cloths that had been placed around Jesus’ face (see John 11:44).
An empty tomb, showing the vacant 'loculus' (Mark 16:6)
Matt. 28:1-10 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus (and of James), on the road near the tomb.
Lk. 24:13-35 Jesus appears to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, a village about 7 miles / 11 km west of Jerusalem (see 1 on Map 14). They rush back to Jerusalem to tell Jesus's close circle of eleven followers that they've seen the risen Lord (see 2 on Map 14).
The precise location of Emmaus has been a matter of conjecture for centuries. Luke tells us that the risen Jesus appeared to two disciples who were going to a village called Emmaus, sixty stadia from Jerusalem. Sixty Greek stadia was the equivalent of about 7 miles / 11 km (see Map 14).
Until the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, the Biblical name Emmaus was preserved in the Arab village of Imwas, near Latrun, alongside the main highway from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the village became the centre of an anti-Roman insurrection after Herod’s death in 4BC.
The settlement expanded after the Christian scholar Sextus Julius Africanus successfully appealed to the Emperor Elagabalus in 221AD for permission to rebuild his home village as a Roman city with a new name, Emmaus Nicopolis. From the 3rd century, the Biblical Emmaus was equated with Emmaus Nicopolis, and a large Byzantine church was erected during the 5th century. The city was decimated by a plague in 639AD and never fully recovered.
The site of Emmaus Nicopolis is now a country park. Visitors to the Cistercian abbey and Crusader fortress at Latrun can also view the excavated remains of the Crusader church built inside the remnants of the larger 5th century Byzantine church at nearby Emmaus.
The main difficulty of identifying Emmaus Nicopolis with the Biblical Emmaus is that it is 160 stadia (about 20 miles / 32 km) from Jerusalem, not 60 stadia (about 7 miles / 11km). While some old manuscripts say ‘160 stadia’, it is likely that 60 stadia was the actual distance in the original manuscript.
Other contenders for the location of the Biblical Emmaus include the villages of Abu Ghosh and Qubeiba, both about 7 miles / 11 km to the west of Jerusalem.
Abu Ghosh, the site of the Old Testament settlement of Kiriath Jearim (see 1 Samuel 7:1) was regarded as a holy site by early Christians. A Byzantine church was built here in the 5th century. The village began to be regarded as the site of Emmaus by pilgrims during Crusader times, and a church was built here by the knights of the Hospital of St John in 1140. Today, the remains of the earlier Byzantine church, including parts of its mosaic floor, are incorporated within the Church of Notre-Dame de l’Arche d’Alliance, built in 1901.
After the defeat of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem by Saladin at the Horns of Hattin in 1187, few Christian pilgrims passed through Abu Ghosh, and the identification of Emmaus moved to the village of Qubeiba by the 16th century. This lay on a different pilgrim route to the north of Abu Ghosh. Although the house of Cleopas is said to lie within the Franciscan church built at Qubeiba in 1902, there is little evidence that this is the actual site of the Biblical Emmaus.
Another possible site is a 1st century village much closer to Jerusalem, called Emmaus. This settlement was only 30 stadia (about 3 miles / 5 km) from Jerusalem. The village became swallowed up in a Roman ‘colonia’ (a settlement for retired soldiers) after the Romano-Jewish War of 66-70AD. The Arab village on this site retained the name Qoloniya until it was abandoned in 1948.