By Anthony Hilhorst
Warszawskie Studia Teologiczne, Vol.20:2 (2007)
Introduction: In about the middle of the thirteenth century, the Dominican Burchard of Barby paid a visit to the Holy Places. In the account of this journey that he wrote some decades later, he offers a description of Hebron in which he makes the following remark: Ager Damascenus distat de spelunca duplici ad magnum iactum arcus, ubi formatus Adam, ‘The ager Damascenus lies at a good bowshot’s distance from the double cave; Adam was formed there.’ The words left untranslated are startling. A ‘Damascene field’ at Hebron? Indeed this is exactly what he says, and he is followed in this by a number of later authors. Apparently we have to accept the fact that there is an ager Damascenus, part of the Hebron area, that has nothing to do with the territory of Damascus in Syria; there, in Hebron, the creation of the first man took place. And if at about the same time Burchard’s fellow Dominican Jacobus de Voragine in his Golden Legend 51.141 states that the first man iuxta Damascum, in agro Damasceno dicitur fuisse formatus, ‘is said to have been formed in the region around Damascus, on the Damascene soil’, he is just the victim of a mistake. This is what we are told in the impressive study of traditions on Genesis by Hans Martin von Erffa.