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.