We have spoken something already concerning Emmaus in our Chorographical Century, chapter 45; let us add some few things in this place.
I. It was distant from Jerusalem, as appears both from our evangelist and Josephus, about threescore furlongs. By account of common furlongs, seven miles and a half, eight of the Jewish. What copy, therefore, of Josephus must the learned Beza have by him, who thus speaks upon the place? "Sixty; so the Syriac hath it, and indeed all copies: so that here is either a mistake in the number, or else it is ill written in Josephus, thirty furlongs." Our Josephus plainly hath it, "A town called Emmaus, distant from Jerusalem threescore furlongs"...
III. Josephus commonly renders Chammath of Tiberias (a place so called from the hot baths) by Ammaus; but whether our Emmaus ought to have this derivation, is a question. There were, indeed, at Emmaus, noted waters; but we can hardly suppose they were warm, if we consider but the usual writing of the word amongst the Talmudists.
"Rabban Jochanan Ben Zacchai had five disciples, who, while he lived, sat always with him; but when he died, they retired to Jabneh. But R. Eliezer Ben Erech betook himself to his wife at Emmaus, a place of pleasant waters and pleasant dwelling." There is something in this little story that might not be unworthy our inquiry, as to the scholastical history of the Jews; viz. where Rabban Jochanan should make his abode, if not in Jabneh? for that is the place they commonly allot to him; but this is not a place to dispute of such matters.
"They came to Nicopolis: now Nicopolis is a city in Palestine. This the book of the gospel calls Emmaus, while it was yet a village. There, through the plenty of good waters, and all necessary provisions, they enjoyed a good comfortable night."
This author, upon this occasion, quotes some passages out of Sozomen, in the sixth book of the Tripartite History, which are in his fifth book, chapter 20; wherein the waters at Emmaus are celebrated not only for their plenty and pleasantness, but as they were wonderfully wholesome and medicinal. For thus he: "There is a city in Palestine, which now hath the name of Nicopolis, of which the holy gospel makes mention as of a village (for then it was so), and calls it Emma. The Romans, having sacked Jerusalem, and gained an entire victory over the Jews, from the event of that war, gave this town the name of Nicopolis. Before the city near the road (where our Saviour, after he had arisen from the dead, walking with Cleophas, made as if he was hastening to another town), there is a certain medicinal spring, wherein not only men that are sick, being washed, are cured, but other sort of animals also, of whatsoever diseases they are afflicted with. The report is, that Christ, as he was once going that way with his disciples, turned aside to that fountain; and having washed his feet in it, the waters have ever since retained a healing quality and virtue in them."
We leave the credit of the story to the relater of it: only one thing we may observe from the hint he gives us, that it is no wonder if, in the evangelist's time, Emmaus was but a little village, when as, not long before it, it had been burnt and destroyed by Varus. Nor is it more strange, that its ancient name Emmaus should change into Nicopolis, when the place itself became a Roman colony.