Emmaus Walk

Emmaus Walk

In the Gospel according to Luke, the risen Jesus first appears to his disciple Peter as he and a companion were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. This account implies that the event took place on the Sunday of the Resurrection (Luke 24:1-34). In central Europe Christians honored this story with an Easter Monday outing called an Emmaus walk. These outings revolved around walks to a picturesque site in the countryside where everyone would share a meal together. Some writers believe that in past times these informal processions had a religious dimension to them, but that with the passing of time they became less religious and more social. In more recent times groups of friends or families dressed in their fine Easter clothes, packed a picnic lunch, and headed for some scenic spot. Once they reached their destination they spent the rest of the day enjoying their meal, playing games, dancing, and singing. German speakers sometimes called a meadow frequently used for this purpose an Osteran- ger, or an "Easter field." The Poles named these festive sites "Emmaus groves." This old European custom may have inspired the American Easter parade. The biblical story of the disciples'walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus has intrigued scholars, who so far have not been able to agree upon the location of this village. The name Emmaus means "warm wells" in Hebrew. According to most Bible manuscripts, this town lay about seven miles (sixty stadia) from Jerusalem. Scholars following up on this clue have proposed that such modern towns as Abu-Ghosh, Qaloniyeh, Motsa, and el-Qubeibeh may be ancient Emmaus. None of these locations, however, were associated with the name "Emmaus" in ancient times. A few Bible manuscripts as well as an old Palestinian folk tradition provide an alternative solution. They locate Emmaus about twenty miles from Jerusalem. Therefore, some researchers believe that Emmaus may have been a town now called Amwas, which lies nineteen miles from Jerusalem. The Romans and Greeks knew the town as Nicopolis but the Israelites called it Emmaus. It was the site of an important Jewish military victory in ancient times (1 Maccabees 3:40, 57; 4:1-15). Indeed, early church tradition names this site as the Emmaus of the Easter story.

Further Reading

Barth, Edna. Lilies, Rabbits, and Painted Eggs. New York: Houghton Mifflin/Clarion Books, 1970. Carey, Greg. "Emmaus." In David Noel Freedman, ed. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. Miller, Charles H. "Emmaus." In Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. Weiser, Francis X. The Easter Book. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1954. ---. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1952.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002