MORE ANCIENT SOURCES
Egeria, Itinerarium XIII,3-XV,5 (381-384 A.D.)
It was a big village called Sedima; it is in the middle of a plain, and in the centre it has a fairly small hillock shaped like a big tomb. On top is a church, and below, all round the hillock, are huge ancient foundations, though only a few communities live there now. It was all so attractive that I asked "What is this delightful place?" I was told, "This is king Melchizedek's city. Its name used to be Salem, but it has now been corrupted into Sedima. The building you see on that hillock in the middle of the village is a church, and its present Greek name is Opu Melchisedech, since it is where Melchizedek offered God pure offerings of bread and wine, as we are told in the Bible. (Cf Gen 14:18).
On hearing this we dismounted, and at once the holy presbyter and clergy of the place kindly came to meet us. They welcomed us, and took us up to the church. When we got there, we had our usual prayer, an appropriate reading from the Book of Moses, and a psalm appropriate to the place. After another prayer we came down. And when we got to the bottom, we had a talk with the holy presbyter.
He was an oldish man with an excellent knowledge of the Bible, and had been in charge of the place from the time when he was a monk. Later on we came to know a good many bishops who spoke highly of his way of life, and said that he was certainly the right man to be in charge of this place, where holy Melchizedek met Abraham returning, and was the first of the two to offer pure offerings to God.
When he had got down to the bottom, as I have already told you, this holy presbyter said to us, "You see these foundations round the hillock. They were part of Melchizedek's palace, and to this day any time some one decides to build a house in the neighbourhood, and comes here to get foundation-stones, he is likely to find little fragments of silver and bronze among them. You see that road which runs between this village and the river Jordan. That is the road by which holy Abraham returned from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, king of the Nations, on his way back from Sodom, and it was on that road that he was met by holy Melchizedek, king of Salem."
Then I remembered that according to the Bible it was near Salim that holy John baptized at Aenon. (John 3:23) So I asked if it was far away. "There it is", said the holy presbyter, "two hundred yards away. If you like we can walk over there. It is from that spring that the village has this excellent supply of clean water you see." Thanking him I asked him to take us, and we set off. He led us along a well-kept valley to a very good clean spring of water which flowed in a single stream. There was a kind of pool in front of the spring at which it appears holy John Baptist administered baptism. "This garden", said the holy presbyter, " is still known in Greek as Cepos tu Agiou Ioanni, or in your language, Latin, "St. John's Garden". "A great many brothers, holy monks from different parts, travel here to wash at this place. So once more we had a prayer and a reading at the spring as we did in the other places. We said a suitable psalm, and did everything which was usual when arriving at a holy place. The holy presbyter also told us that nowadays at Easter the candidates who are to be baptized in the village, in the church called Opu Melchisedech, receive their actual baptism in the spring itself. Then, directly afterwards, they go off by torchlight singing psalms and antiphones, and accompagnied by the clergy and monks.