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Yeshua in Context » Disciples & Named Characters, Eyewitnesses, Gospels as History, Spectacular Commentary » Cleopas, Why You Should Know Him

Cleopas, Why You Should Know Him

A strange thing happens at the end of Luke’s gospel (several strange things, in fact). Yeshua, unrecognizable even by his disciples, walks with two of them on a road to Emmaus. Which two? Only one is named: Cleopas.

Why is only one of them named? And what else do we know about Cleopas? Here is where we get into some fascinating material from Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Cleopas is perhaps the most interesting case. And this evidence is the kind of simple, memorable material to silence skeptics who doubt completely that the story of Yeshua has a solid historical basis.

First, a few things we know about Cleopas:

(1) Cleopas is one of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:18).

(2) His wife is named Mary and she was at the cross (John 19:25, Clopas is a form of Cleopas and the name is rare).

(3) Cleopas was Yeshua’s uncle (Joseph’s brother) spoken of in Eusebius (citing Hegesippus) in Hist. Ecclus. 3.11; 4.22.

(4) Cleopas’ son, Simon, the cousin of Jacob (James) and Yeshua, was the leader who replaced Jacob (James) over the Jerusalem congregation.

But here is the most important thing: Cleopas is a perfect example of a trend in the gospels. The people who are named are treated so for a very important reason. The only consistent answer that explains why some are named and some are not (Baukham mounts his case with overwhelming evidence of detail) is that the named characters were known to the evangelists as eyewitnesses.

They lived and told their story of encountering Yeshua again and again. Cleopas is one example, a person of great importance in the Yeshua movement after the events the gospels narrate. He is a rare case of someone we know from later historical records as well.

And the fact that he is named and not the other disciple illustrates the truth. The only plausible reason the other disciple is not named is that Luke did not have a record of his story or that he was not generally known afterward as one of the eyewitnesses in the movement. But Cleopas, apparently, was.

Look for more on this theme under the categories “Disciples & Named Characters” and “Eyewitnesses.” See Richard Bauckham’s book for a full analysis, including charts of gospel names and variants.

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Filed under: Disciples & Named Characters, Eyewitnesses, Gospels as History, Spectacular Commentary

3 Responses to "Cleopas, Why You Should Know Him"

  1. David Jesse says:

    Thanks for the great blog posting. I’ve never before heard of the connections to Cleopas and extra-Biblical literature. Very interesting. I look forward to future posts.

  2. clifford Stevens says:

    The real mystery is not Cleopos, but his wife Mary. Is she the sister of Mary, the Mother of Jesus? But how can you have two Marys in the same family? I believe that the sister of the mother was not named Mary, but that a semicolon has to be put after the phrase “his mother’s sister, and that the name Mary indicates a different person from the “his mother’s sister”. It is also possible that the other person with Cleopos enroute to Emmaus was his son, Simon, who later became the second Christian of the Jerusalem Christians.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

  3. Lenny Hoy says:

    Thanks for this overview of Cleopas. I am well and duly informed!

    I have a deep passion for this passage. With it God opened my unbelieving eyes and my cold and cynical heart to the beauty and power of His Word. I won’t go into the particulars of that transformative morning but I would like to add this, this perhaps subjective response of the passage.

    Years ago, when I recovered my senses after reading and rereading this passage in unexpected and unstoppable tears, one of the thoughts I could not shake was that there was a reason why one disciple has no name: the blank space left room into which God poured my heart. For even now, I cannot read this passage and not again walk that very road with Cleopas and our risen Lord.

    Don’t take this too seriously, my perhaps too-subjectve reaction to the story, but even the passage of over forty years does not dull to joy I take in rereading it yet again.

    That Saturday morning in Perry, Maine, God let me walk in another man’s shoes. It remains a gift I treasure beyond measure.

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