DISCUSSION

Mount Ephraim and Benjamin

38. Sychar which is now Sycchora - ('Askar)


The village has a spring; despite this, some ancient authors identified it with the Sychar of the Gospel, the home of the Samaritan woman. This identification is attested by the anonymous pilgrim of 333 who, after having described Sychem, goes on saying: 'A thousand paces from there is the place called Sechar, whence the Samaritan woman went down to draw water at the place where Jacob dug a well, and Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with her' (Itinerarium Burdigalense 588, 1, CCSL 175,14). Some believe that Sechar is today's 'Askar, because of the distance and the similarity of the name; on the other hand, many modern scholars reject the old tradition because 'Askar has its own fountain. But the argument is not unaswerable, because one wonders what were the woman's intentions in going to the well where the young Jew was resting.
At 'Askar, a chance discovery followed by an excavation has revealed a second-third centuries burial chamber with beautiful sarcophagi adorned with wreaths and rosettes and two Greek inscriptions which acquaint us with some inhabitants of the place: Justus, son of Justus, son of Theophilus and his wife Archelaia, daughter of Simon, son of Alexander, and Sabbatius. The excavators think that the tomb belonged to a rich Samaritan family (E. Damati, IEJ 22 [1972], 174). Other kochim tombs have been known for a lond time (SWP II, 170).
Up to now no Christian remains have been noticed in the village. The village is mentioned in Crusader documents (R. Rshhricht, ZDPV 10 [1887], 213) which however do not provide even a glimpse of the presence of Christians there. As early as 1108 it became a fief for the maintenance of the church of the Tomb of the Virgin at Gethsemane. Whoever discards the hypothesis that 'Askar is the Sychar of the Gospel places the latter at Balata, nearer the well itself. The village would have been a miserable extension of Sychem.

Bellarmino Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria, Jerusalem (in the press)

P. O'Callaghan (Supplément au Dictionnaire de la Bible, ad v. "Madaba", col. 645)
Le Midrash parle d'une "Azkaroth sur la hauteur" à propos de la benédiction de Joseph. La particularité à beaucoup pres la plus importante est que la carte de Madaba distingue Sychar de Sichem, distinction trouvée déjà chez le Pèlerin de Bordeaux (Geyer, p. 20,6 sq.): Inde (a Sechim) passus mille locus est, cui nomen Sechar uncle descendit mulier Samaritana ad eundem locum, ubi Jacob puteum fedit...; chez Eusèbe (Onom., p. 164, 1 et p. 150, 2), où Sichem est l'endroit désert aux faubourgs de Neapolis; et dans la Peregrinatio Sanctae Paulae (XVI): Transivit Sichem, non, ut plerique errantes legunt, Sichar et chez Arculfe (Geyer, p. 270, 4-5). Le 'EnSokher de la Mishna dont parlent Neubauer (p. 170) et Avi-Yonah (p. 123) est très obscur et n'a peut-être rien à faire avec 'Asker ("camp militaire" en arabe) qu'on identifle avec la Sychar de Joa., IV, 5 sq.' se trouve à 1 500 m. au nord-est du puits de Jacob, dont la localisation est certaine (Abel, Géogr.. II, p. 473). Mais on pourrait defendre l'opinion que c'était de Sichem que venait la Samaritaine rencontrée par Jésus, puisque l'argument qui attribue à une erreur de scribe la corruption de ce nom en Sychar n'est pas dépourvu de force. Le nom de Samarie se trouve deux fois parmi les mots qui précèdent, et la vieille version syriaque nous donne Sichem dans le contexte. Cette ville, anjourd'hui Balata, se trouvait beaucoup plus proche du puits de Jacob que n'était 'Askar, et florissait sans doute encore au temps de l'épisode qui nous occupe. Le fait qu'il y avait une belle source à Sichem aussi bien qu'à 'Asker, cree moins de difficulté pour Sichem, puisqu'elle était plus proche du puits (voir W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, 1951, p. 247). Quant au puits de Jacob, il était déjà, en 380 embelli par la construction d'une église cruciforme, dont font mention plusieurs pèlerins, à savoir: Paula, Theodosius, Arculfe (Geyer, p. 270, 7 sq.) qui écrit: ...ecclesiae quadrifidae... in cujus medietate fons Jacob.... et, apres les épreuves des VI-VIIs., Bède le Vénérable (Geyer, p. 319, 5 sq.). La carte nous montre une église en dessous des mots opou he pege/tou Iakob, mais elle n'est pas cruciforme; voir F.-M. Abel, L'église byzantine du Saint-Puits, dans Rev. bibl., XI.II, 1933, p. 391-397).

Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 46)
This village is identical with the 'Ein Sokher of the Mishna (Menahot, X,2) and with modern Askar. In Byzantine times it became famous because here the Gospel of St. John (4:5-6) placed the Well (in the Greek 'spring', 'pege') of Jacob, at which Jesus met the Samaritan woman. Eusebius (Onomasticon 164,1) does not distinguish between the village and the well; but from the fourth century onwards the two are separated, as they are on the map (where the sanctuary of Joseph and the village of Shechem stand between them.

General plan of historical sites around Nablus

For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Sychar", 238.

Map Section 5 Place Sources

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Created Tuesday, December 19, 2000 at 23:39:25
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copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000