DISCUSSION

Mount Ephraim and Benjamin

48. Luza, also Bethel - (Beitin)


LUZ. Formerly the place name for Bethel (Gen 28:19; 35:6; 48:3; Judg 1:23; Jub. 27:19, 26). According to Gen 28:10-22, it was Jacob who renamed the place Bethel after he encountered God in that place (M.R. 172148).
The tribal-boundary descriptions locate Luz on or near the common boundary between Joseph (Josh 16:1-3) and Benjamin (18:11-13). These two texts have occasioned some dispute regarding the actual geographical relationship between Luz and Bethel. One could interpret weyatsai mibbet-iel luzah "going from Bethel to Luz" (Josh 16:2) to mean that the border ran from Bethel to Luz and thus that the names indicated two distinct sites. Then the note that identifies Bethel with Luz in Josh 18:13 might be judged an interpolation, especially if one understood Beth-aven of 18:12 to be a distortion of Bethel. Having argued in this way, Noth located Luz at Beitin, and he regarded Bethel as the name of a sanctuary in its immediate proximity which eventually gave its name to the town of Luz (Noth Josua HAT, 21953: 101, 106, 109).
According to another interpretation, Luz and Bethel were successive names for one place. In favor of this position one may argue that the ah ending on luzah in Josh 16:2 is not necessarily locative (cf. the second luzah in Josh 18:13). Then one may interpret Bethel-Luzah as a compound name, as both LXX Codex Alexandrinus (v 1) and LXX Codex Vaticanus (v 2) seem to have done (Kallai HGB, 129-31, 143).
Bibliography: Gottwald, N. K. 1979. Tribes of Yahweh. Maryknoll, NY.

Wesley I. Toews, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ad v. "Luz" (extract)

P. O'Callaghan (Supplément au Dictionnaire de la Bible, ad v. "Madaba", col. 654)
Louza e kai Bethel. En lettres blanches à l'ouest de Rimmon et au nord de Jérusalem. Le mosaïste nous rappelle Gen., XXVIII,19, qui signale le changement de nom que Jacob impose à ce lieu sacré. Béthel a joué un très grand rôle dans l'histoire sainte dès le temps des Patriarches (Gen., XII,8; XIII,3; XXXI,13; XXXV,1-16); ce même site évoque encore le souvenir du culte illégitime de Jéroboam (I Reg., XII,29 sq.), de l'opposition des prophètes (Am., VII,12-14) et de la réforme de Josias (II Reg., XXIII, 15-18). Eusèbe précise: Baithel. Kai nun esti kome Ailias apothen semeiois [ib apionton eis Neapolin deksia.Oulamma] ous de to proteron ekaleito kai Louza. E kai gegone phules Beniamin, plesion Bethaun kai tes Gai. Kai tauten de 'Iesous epoliorkese (Onom., p. 40,20 sq.; voir aussi p. 140,15 sq.). Il donne la même distance de ce parvus vicus en parlant de 'Ai et S. Jérôme (Onom., p. 7, 2 sq.) fait mention d'une église et (Epist., CVIII, 13) d'un couvent à Béthel au IV s. Béthel était éphraimite (Jos., XVI, 2; XVIII, 2), et devint ensuite judéenne (Jos., XVIII,22, Esdr., II,28), Vespasien l'avait dotée d'une garnison (Josèphe, Bell. jud., IV, IX, 9). Bet El, en gree Baithell (LXX), est devenue après le Moyen-Age Beitin, qu'on connaît encore aujourd'hui à 19 km au nord de Jérusalem. Les fouilles effectuées en cet endroit par MM. Albright et Kelso (1928 et 1934) ont mis à jour des vestiges datant du Bronze II et surtout les traces d'une grande conflagration qui ruina cette ville forte dans la première moitié du XIII s., aussi bien que des traces de sa destruction vers l'an 587.
Le mosaïste ne mentionne nullement le nom Beth Awen (Os., IV,15, X,5) qu'on avait appliqué à Béthel d'après Amos, V,5. Eusèbe (Onom., p. 50, 24 sq.), se référant à Jos., XVIII,12, place Bethaun dans la tribu de Benjamin, près de Béthel, mais distincte de cette dernière. La note qu'ajoute S. Jérôme (p. 51), licet plerique, ut supra dictum est, eandem putent esse Bethel semble confirmer cette distinction. Les Talmuds, se basant sur Jos., VIII,2, avaient identifié les deux noms, et S. Jérôme (Comm. ad Hoseam, v, 8; P.L., XXV, 861) ne les différenciait pas non plus. Et c'est déjà ce que suppose Osée, lorsqu'il attribue Bethaven à Benjamin (V,8). Il est bien possible que le mosaïste, suivant Eusèbe ne l'identifie pas avec Béthel; aussi s'abstient-il de l'écrire.

Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 51)
It is modern Beitin (coord. 172-148). Bethel, whose oldest name was Luz, is situated on the ancient road from Jerusalem to Neapolis. On the Madaba map it is represented much too far to the east, certainly from lack of space. The road is shown in white cubes going right across the benediction for Benjamin [no. 55].

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

Bethel (Beitin) in the Christian Period

Near Bethel Abraham pitched his tents, and later Jacob dreamt of the ladder with the promise of many descendants; hence he called the place Bethel, saying: 'This is none other than the house of God, and that is the gate of heaven!' (Gen 28,17). On his return from Mesopotamia, he built an altar here; and nearby, 'under the oak of weeping' at the foot of the hill, Deborah, Rebecca's nurse, was buried (Gen 35, 6-8).
The name has been preserved to our own day, even if somewhat transformed into Beitin. In the earliest Christian centuries the village was probably inhabited by Jews, as can be inferred from two names inscribed on an ossuary found on the Mount of Olives:Iouda Ioudou Betheletou, which is interpreted 'Judah, son of Judah of Bethel' (CIJ, no. 1283).
The Byzantine Period.
From a note added to Eusebius'Onomasticon by St. Jerome, when he translated this work in 390, we learn that a church had been erectedin the traditional place of Jacob's vision. It was subject to the archbishop of Jerusalem, as can be gathered from a well-known letter in which St. Epiphanius described his trip to Bethel with Bishop John II on the occasion of the annual festival (PG 43, 390; DOP 7 [1953], 65). According to the Calendar of the church of Jerusalem, this festival was celebrated on October 18 (Garitte, Calendrier, 352). The Christianization of the holy place argues for a Christian majority in the village.
In the second half of the fifth century the church was taken care of by a paramonarius who functioned also as a cantor, as we learn from John Rufus' Plerophoriae (chs. 30, 92, PO 8,73, 159-160). This paramonarius, a Chalcedonian, received as a guest a monk from the Sinai, called Zosimus, and wished to keep him there to serve in the church with him, although the other was a Monophysite. But Zosimus had a vision of the patriarch Jacob who told him to leave the place, because he could not communicate with the Chalcedonian church .
According to a legendary Life of the saints John and Paul (ed. A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Analekta Hierosolymitikes Stakyologias V [St. Petrsburg 1891], 378), in the fifth century the sanctuary preserved the stone on which Jacob had slept. According to the same source, there would have been also a monastery there, and Father Vailhé (ROC 4 [1899], 518) regards this piece of news as 'not unlikely.'
According to a text copied by Peter the Deacon, probably from the late fourth-century Itinerary of the Spanish nun Egeria (CCSL 175, 99), in the church there was also the tomb of an unknown prophet who prophesied against Jeroboam (1 Kings 12-13). Had the prophet's grave been discovered on the basis of dreams, like many other holy tombs in that period, or was it only a memorial monument?
The church was destroyed and the Crusaders built another, placing it under the Abbey of St. Joseph of Arimathea, then under the Canons of the Holy Sepulcher (Röhricht, ZDPV 10 [1887], 207, 292). When the Latin Kingdom fell, the church fell to ruins and the village was almost abandoned, so that Western visitors lost trace of it until the nineteenth century. Then, in 1837, Robinson in his search for biblical sites, heard from the priest of Tayyibe that the ancient Bethel, its name slightly changed, survived in the modern village of Beitin (Biblical Researches II, 128). The identification was so satisfactory that it soon took root among scholars.
A study of Beitin, carried out by a native of the village, A.M. Lutfiyya (Baytin, London 1966, 36), shows that the inhabitants came for the most part from outside in the course of the last century, some from Transjordan and others from different places. All are Moslems.
The Ancient Ruins. In their eagerness of discovering biblical Bethel, archeologists unwittingly came upon Byzantine buildings. J. L. Kelso, who conducted several campaigns of excavations there, once promised us he would publish also the Byzantine ruins; but the promise was kept only in part. In the final publication (J. L. Kelso et al., Excavations at Bethel (1939-1960), AASOR 39 [1968]), he provided only a sketchy plan without relating it to the church and the fountain, and touched only briefly upon some of the finds (AASOR 39, 19-19, 41-44, 81; Pls.11, 90, 120; see also BA 19 [1956],42 and BASOR 151 [1958], 3-8).
To the north of the modern village, located high up on the southern slope of the hill, a Middle Bronze Age gate was discovered; beside its ruins the Byzantines built defenses against Samaritan attacks, and a new gateway. From this point begins a street that was followed by the excavators for about one hundred meters. It leads south through the modern village, and Arab houses were built along it, utilizing the walls of the Byzantine house which lined both sides of the street. The ancient walls are easily discernible to this day. According to Kelso, this is the oldest and one of the best-preserved Byzantine streets in Palestine (AASOR 39, 19; BASOR 151, 7).
To the same Byzantine period Kelso ascribes the large reservoir located in the valley, west of the church. The reservoir was often mentioned by travellers and Palestinian guides; for example, Brother Liévin (Guide, 18 ) descrides it as 'one of the largest pools known in these regions.' However, for many years the pool has served only as a threshing-floor, for at least since 1935 we have seen people flailing grain there.
The church was described many times by nineteenth-century authors. I. Martorelli (Terra Santa, 389) wrote in 1854: 'In Beitin there are the holy remains of an ancient church built on the site of Jacob's vision, whose apse, in full center, is intact. Within the cracks of the walls grows simphitum orientale which I religiously collected as a souvenir. Near these ruins are those of an old and spacious pool.'
In 1880 C.W. Wilson (Picturesque Palestine I [London 1880,] 19) published a drawing of the southern part of the apse; and the authors of SWP (II, 305) gave a summary description of the building, tracing it to the Crusader period: massive walls, stones with rough or smooth bosses, a cornice characteristic of the period, and one-nave interior. Father Lagrange (RB 1 [1892], 453) reports that a Protestant wanted to purchase the ruin, and for this reason the inhabitants transformed it into a mosque. The apse, which remained outside, has disappeared and the mosque does not occupy the whole area of the church.
The archeologists of the American School carried out an excavation to the east of the mosque and found a large wall which Kelso interpreted as part of a monastery. Its great thickness suggests medieval construction, but it is not necessarily the earliest building erected there. Many Byzantine potsherds were found on the site.
Brother Liévin (Guide, 18), after mentioning the pool, goes on speaking of fragments of columns and large stones, and suggests that a temple might have existed there. For the same reason - since the one-nave Crusader church did not need columns - one can assume that the village church of the Byzantine period was nearby. Some architectural elements can be still seen on the north side of the main road near the street that climbs northward, not far from the church. These are three bases placed upside down so as to serve as benches in front of the houses. A dado measures 58cm. Their moulding is of the type customarily found in Byzantine churches.
Many years ago the inhabitants sold Father Saller a beautiful terra sigillata bowl decorated with a running deer (Faenza 1953, 72). It is a lovely example of the plates that were often used for the liturgy, and is preserved today at the Flagellation Museum.


The ruins of el-Burj in 1935

El-Burj and el-Muqater. Going eastward along the road for Deir Diwan, one finds two ecclesiastical ruins, one to the left of the road on the western slope of the hill and the other to the right, on the hilltop. The first has been known for centuries as el-burj ('The tower'), and consists of a tower within an enclosure. Guérin saw there a lintel decorated with a Greek cross surrounded by circles, and another stone with a cross and two pyramids. A.M. Schneider (ZDPV 57 [1934], 186-190) dedicated a study to this structure, giving also a plan of the tower (32 x 24 meters) and of the enclosure (walls 1.20 m thick), and sketches of columns and mouldings. The purpose of the tower seems to have been defensive and the Christian elements take us back to the Byzantine period. Nowadays the ruins of the tower belong to the Benedictines.
EL-Muqater, called by some also Kh. el-Kenise, is nothing but the church and monastery of the Byzantine period. A sketchy plan is in SWP II, 353, and a more accurate one in Schneider's article. It is athree-naved church surrounded by rooms. The church is 20.18 m long and 14.50 m wide. The atrium is 16.20 m long. The walls of the monastery are not always straight and the dilapidated condition of the building prevents our learning details. Schneider noticed remains of a mosaic pavement with geometric patterns. The capitals were Corinthian. A monolith, almost destroyed, impressed us as having been a baptismal font (photograph in LA 1 [1950-51], 279). The church seems to have been built in the sixth century. The many sherds we saw on the site also point to this period. The name itself suggests a religious foundation since it means 'censer' (Palmer, SWP VI, 355).
Identifications. Considering the ancent sources which mention only one church, seemingly accompanied by a monastery, and the memory of Abraham and Jacob, one wonders if the above-mentioned ruins had memorial associations, and which. In my opinion, there is no doubt that in the medieval period the church built near the fountain represented in the Crusaders' eyes the sanctuary of the vision of Jacob's ladder. Does the same interpretation hold for the Byzantine period? Can we maintain that at that time a church stood on the same spot, and was replaced later by the Crusader edifice? The presence of columns and capitals along the nearby street could point in this direction, but we cannot be certain, although it would be logical to suppose that the village grew around the sanctuary, as happened, for example, at Bethany. Hence it would be appropriate to look for it near the Byzantine road.
The ruins of el-Muqater, with the adjoining monastery could suggest that Jacob's shrine was there: but in this case, why would the village have been so far away? It would have been without a church. The ruins of el-Burj could have commemorated Abraham's presence, as did other sacred enclosures. In any case, for the time being the archeological data do not provide clear clues for resolving the question of identifications.

For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Bethel", 81.

Map Section 5 Place Sources

logo logo

Created Tuesday, December 19, 2000 at 23:39:36
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
Webmaster: John Abela ofm - Space by courtesy of Christus Rex
copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000