« Abijah Abilene Abishai »


ABILENE, ab´´i-lî´ne: A district mentioned in Luke iii. 1 as being under the rule of the tetrarch Lysanias. It is evidently connected with a town Abila, and Josephus (Ant., XVIII. vi. 10, XIX. v. 1, XX. vii. 1; War, II. xi. 5, xii. 8) indicates that the town in question was situated on the southern Lebanon. Old itineraries (Itinerarium Antonini, ed. Wesseling, Amsterdam, 1735, p. 198; Tabula Peutingeriana, ed. Miller, Ravensburg, 1887, x. 3) mention an Abila, eighteen Roman miles from Damascus, on the road to Heliopolis (Baalbek), the modem Suk Wady Barada, on the south bank of the river, in a fertile and luxuriant opening surrounded by precipitous cliffs. Remains of an ancient city are found on both banks of the river, and the identification is confirmed by an inscription (CIL, iii. 199) stating that the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus repaired the road, which had been damaged by the river, “at the expense of the Abilenians.” The tomb of Habil (Abel, who is said to have been buried here by Cain), which is shown in the neighborhood, may also preserve a reminiscence of the ancient name, Abila. It has generally been assumed that the Lysanias intended by Luke was Lysanias, son of Ptolemy who ruled Iturea 40-36 B.C. (Josephus, Ant., XIV. xiii. 3; War, I. xiii. 1). If this be correct, Luke, is in error, since he makes Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene in 28-29 A.D. It may be noted, however, that the capital of Iturea was Chalcis, not Abila; and Josephus does not include the territory of Chalcis in the tetrarchy of Lysanias. Furthermore, there is an inscription (CIG, 4521) of a certain Nymphaios, “the freedman of the tetrarch Lysanias,” the date of which must be between 14 and 29 A.D. Hence it is not improbable that there was an earlier and a later Lysanias and that the latter is the one who is mentioned as tetrarch of Abilene.

(H. Guthe.)

Bibliography: A. Reland, Palæstina, 527 sqq., Utrecht, 1714; Robinson, Later Researches, pp. 479-484; J. L. Porter, Giant Cities of Bashan, i. 261, New York, 1871; C. R. Conder, Tent-Work in Palestine, p. 127, London, 1880; ZDP, viii. (1885) 40; Ebers and Guthe, Palästina in Bild und Wort, i. 456-460, Stuttgart, 1887; Schürer, Geschichte, i. 716 sqq., Eng. transl., I. ii. 335 sqq.; W. H. Waddington, Inscriptions Grecques et Latines de la Syrie, Paris, 1870.

« Abijah Abilene Abishai »
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