Mount Ephraim and Benjamin
54. Armathaim, also Arimathea - (Ranthis)
ARIMATHEA. Var. ARIMATHAEA; HARMATHAIM; RAMATHEM; RAMATHA; RAMAH; RAMA; ER-RAM. Each of the Gospels mentions this town only once, and always in association with Joseph of Arimathea - who placed Christ's body in his own tomb (Matt 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50; John 19:38). This Jewish town (Luke 23:50) was in the Shephelah hills area, approximately 20 mi. E of modern Jaffa, and it most likely is identical with either modern Ramathain (Jos. Ant 13.4.9) or Rathamein - Samaritan toparchies. In 145 B.C., the Syrian king Demetrius II Nicator delivered three Samaritan toparchies, including Arimathea, to the Jewish leader Jonathan (1 Macc 11:34).
Both Eusebius and Jerome identify Arimathea with the birthplace of Samuel, i.e., Ramah or Ramathaim-zophim, "the two Ramahs" or "twin heights" within Ephraim (1 Sam 1:19). The Onomasticon identifies it with this site (Aramathem-Sophim) near Thamna and Lydda (Euseb. Onomast. 144.28; 1 Sam 1:1). In the 4th century Jerome reported that the Holy Paula visited this location. Strong traditions from the Middle Ages buttress this claim, celebrating this town as the prophet's original home. And even a monastery of Joseph of Arimathea was erected there. Conflicting traditions urge Arimathea's location at modern Rentis, 15 mi. E of Jaffa. Other suggestions for Arimathea include er-Ram and el-Birah-Ramallah, 5 and 8 mi. N of Jerusalem, respectively. The mosaic Madeba Map also warrants attention, listing Armathem and Arimathe.
All of the above suggestions coincide with the Hebrew haramata, Ramathaim (1 Sam 1:1). The directive he-, "toward Rama," geographically accommodates the above selections. Haramata becomes Armathaim in the LXX.
Jerry A. Pattengale, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ad v. "Arimathea"
Ramathaim is Nebi Samwil?
Khalid Nashef (in: The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997, Jerusalem 1999, 234)
Moving southward on the map, one encounters Armathem or Arimathea. Arimathea has Old Testament associations (I Sam 1:1, 1 Macc 11:34) and was the home-town of the wealthy Joseph, who gave his tomb in Jerusalem for the burial of Jesus (Math 27:57, Mark 15:43, Luke 23:53, John 19:38). If one accepts its identification with the Ramatha, Arabic Rama(t), as Mujir al-Din (2:423) maintains, or Armathem (as by Arculf, Wilkinson 1977: 100), mentioned first by Theodosius (Wilkinson 1977: 65) as the burial place of the Prophet Samuel with en-Nabi Samwil, this could be another reference to a holy tomb of a Biblical character in the village bearing the same name. The mosque enshrining the cenotaph incorporates a church from the Crusader period. An old drawing depicts a tomb of Samuel as a typical maqam of a Muslim saint (SWP 3: 149-150).
See also the complete article: "Tradition and Reality of Holy Tombs in the Madaba Map".
Ramathaim is Ramah, near Ramallah?
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 52)
Identification and location are doubtful. Ramathaim is the birthplace of the prophet Samuel, Arimathea or Arimathia the town of Joseph who placed the Lord's body in his own tomb. Eusebius identified both villages, followed by the mosaicist, and located Arimathea correctly at Rantis (coord. 151-159), 14 km northeast of Diospolis (Lydda, modern Ludd). This location, however, cannot be meant on the Madaba map, because Diospolis is represented too far away. Since the 6th century at the latest, Christian pilgrims found the Ramathaim of Samuel on an-Nabi Samwil (coord. 167-137), about 7 km northwest of Jerusalem, the mons gaudii ('mountain of joy') of the Crusaders. Here the traditional tomb of Samuel is still shown. Should we not consider this location, not far from Rama and Gibeon, for the mosaic map as well? It is separated from Jerusalem only by the benediction for Benjamin and should have been placed more to the west - but there we read the benediction for Joseph.
Ramathaim is Rantis?
Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria, Jerusalem - in the press)
The SWP (II, 367) marks kokhim tombs cut in the rock southeast of the village; Guérin (Samarie II, 113) noted some cisterns in the village itself. The Schedule (1303) says: Foundations of a church with apse, cisterns, fragments of mosaic, rock-cut tombs, and ancient road to the southeast.' Father Abel, who supports the identification of Rentis with Arimathea of the gospel (GP II, 429), speaks only of fragments of mosaic and remains of a Crusader abbey at some distance from the village. We were able to observe these remains, much decimated, on a visit to the place in 1936. They are found in a field outside the village and seem to belong to a church.
Arimathea, also called Ramathaim and Remphthis, was visited by Christian pilgrims in the Byzantine period.
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Arimathea", 67.
Map Section 5 Place Sources