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Zacharias and Elisabeth

Returning after his course had completed its ministry, to Lukel 23-25. his own house in the hill-country of Judah, his wife Elisabeth conceived a son, and spent the five months following in retirement.

The home of Zacharias was in " the hill-country," or mountainous region of Judah, (Luke i. 39 and 65.) But as the name of the city is not mentioned, several cities have contended for the honor of John's birthplace. Many have supposed Hebron to be meant, a city very ancient, and very conspicuous in early Jewish history.8 A Jewish tradition also gives this as John's birthplace.3 Aside from this, its claims rest chiefly upon the fact that it was a priestly city; and upon the form of expression in Joshua, (xx. 7, xxi. 11,) where it is described as being " in the mountain," and "in the hill-country of Judah."

Some have contended for Jutta, the Juttah of Joshua, (xv. 55,) regarding Juda (v. 39) lovBa, as an erroneous writing of Jutta, lovSa, or Ioura. This view, first suggested by Reland, (870,) although wholly unsupported by any manuscript authority, has found many advocates.4 The modern Jutta is described by Robinson, (ii. 206,) who saw it from a distance, as "having the appearance of a large Mohammedan town on a low eminence, with trees around." It is about five miles south of Hebron, and was one of the priestly cities. (Josh. xxi. 16.) But granting the identity of the Juttah of Joshua with the modern city, this adds nothing to the proof that it was John's birthplace ; and the fact that there is no tradition of that kind amongst the in-» habitants, nor any local memorials, seems to make strongly against it.

i Greswell, i. 382; Patritius, iii. 8.

2 So Barouius, Lightfoot, Ewald, Sepp, Townsend.

» Winer, i. 586. Ritter, Raumer, Robinson, Patritius.

Those who made Zacharias to be high-priest, and so necessarily resident near the Temple, supposed Jerusalem to be the city meant, but this has now no advocates.

An ancient tradition designates a small village about four miles west of Jerusalem, as the home of Zacharias.1 It is now called by the natives Ain Karim, and is thus described by Porter (i. 233): " Ain Karim is a flourishing village, situated on the left bank of Wady Beit Hanina. In the midst of it, on a kind of platform, stands the Franciscan convent of St. John in the Desert. The church is large and handsome, and includes the site of the house of Zacharias, where St. John Baptist was born. It is in a kind of grotto, like all the other holy places, and is profusely ornamented with marble, bas-reliefs, and paintings. In the centre of the pavement is a slab, with the inscription, Hie Praecursor Domini natus est. About a mile distant is the place known to the Latins by the name of the Visitation. It is situated on the slope of a hill, where Zacharias had a country house. Tradition says that the Virgin Mary, on her visit, first went to Elisabeth's village residence, but not finding her there, proceeded to that in the country, where accordingly took place the interview related in Luke i. 39-55. The spot is marked by the ruins of a chapel, said to have been built by Helena. About one mile farther is the grotto of St. John, containing a little fountain, beside which the place is shown where he was accustomed to rest."

Ain Karim has found a recent supporter of its traditionary claim in Thomson, (ii. 537,) who finds no reason "why the home of the Baptist should be lost any more than the site of Bethlehem, or Bethany, or Nazareth, or Cana." Tobler, however, traces these traditional claims of Ain Karim only to the beginning of the 16th century. According to Raumer, a still older tradition designated Beth Zacharias as the place of John's birth. The point is in itself of very little importance. We need not infer, as some have done, (so Meyer,) from the Evangelist's silence, that he was ignorant where Zacharias lived, but only that he did not think it important to mention it. That Elisabeth left her own house, and went to some obscure dwelling, where she might be hidden from all observation for a time, is not improbable; yet the text is consistent with the supposition that, continuing at home, she withdrew herself from the eyes of visitors

* See Early Travels, 287 and 461.