Cleopas – An Eyewitness Resurrection Encounter

Eyewitness statements carry significant weight both in ancient and modern law as well as in the eyes of God.[1] The Law of Moses handed down by God defined that two eyewitnesses were required to establish a fact.[3]

Luke’s investigative Gospel contains one of the greatest eyewitness statements of anyone who encountered Jesus.[3] The eyewitness statement of Cleopas is quoted in Luke chapter 24.

Cleopas and his traveling partner, possibly his wife, were walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday.[4] They were joined on the road by a stranger who asked what they were so intently discussing?

Incredulous, Cleopas asked, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”[5] The man asked, “What things?”[6]

Answering the question, Cleopas provided a succinct witness statement of events to the stranger. He began by identifying a man known as Jesus of Nazareth whose powers caused people to recognize him as a prophet. Summarizing the events that had transpired over the Passover weekend, Cleopas said:[7]

LK 24:19-23 “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” (NKJV)

Resurrection accounts of all four Gospels are corroborated by the statement of Cleopas – Matthew, Mark and Luke saying Jesus would rise again on the third day and of angels greeting Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna and Mary the mother of James at the empty tomb; and Luke and John descriptions of two Disciples, Peter and John, verifying that the tomb was empty as reported by the women from Galilee.[8]

Cleopas had expressed hope that Jesus would be the one who would redeem Israel. Now it was the third day after the crucifixion and his hope was renewed by the reliable reports of a resurrection. Yet, to his knowledge, no one had yet seen the resurrected Jesus.

Most translations of the Greek word anoetos quote the stranger responding to Cleopas by referring to him as a fool or foolish. Anoetos is derived from the Greek word noeo with the primary meaning “to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding.”[9] The actual primary definition of anoetos is an antonym, “not understood, unintelligent” while the secondary definition is “not understanding, unwise, foolish.”[10]

In essence, the response from the unidentified man was bemoaning the lack of understanding by people of the prophesies concerning the Messiah. The man continued by asking, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”[11]

Most significantly, the man did not dispute the statement of Cleopas indicating his acceptance that the account was accurate. Had the account been inaccurate, it would be expected that a man with full knowledge of the events would correct or dispute the statement if he knew it was incorrect – the statement of Cleopas was not disputed.

Instead, beginning with Moses and the prophets who followed, the stranger interpreted the prophecies written in the Scriptures.[12] Still, the couple still did not connect the dots that they were talking to the resurrected Jesus. Why should they?

Consider the circumstances – they were not one of the chosen Disciples; they were outside of Jerusalem; most of what they knew was second-hand information; and no one to their knowledge had seen the resurrected Jesus who had been crucified and buried. It was probably not even conceivable to them that the identity of the stranger who joined them was the resurrected Jesus.

Getting late in the day, the concerned pair invited the man to their home in Emmaus. He accepted their offer and stayed during supper preparations. When they sat down to eat the meal, the man blessed the food, broke the bread and served it. “At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight.”[13]

Something that the man said when he prayed caused the Cleopas pair to realize that the identity of the stranger in their midst was, in fact, the resurrected Jesus.[14] What did Jesus say? His words are not recorded in the Gospels; however, their recognition of Jesus was confirmed when he simply vanished right before their eyes.

Did the Cleopas pair believe they had just encountered Jesus? Their actions provide a very strong clue. The pair took on the challenges of an immediate walk back to Jerusalem – a 7-mile trek by foot near sunset on a hilly, unpaved road.[15]

Arriving back in Jerusalem at the location of the eleven Disciples and other followers, they learned “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!”[16] Cleopas told them about their encounter consistent with his previous statement that it was not until Jesus prayed before their meal that they recognized him.

Comparing and sharing their experiences, there was more to come… “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’”[17] Neither Cleopas nor his partner disputed that it was the same person they had encountered previously in Emmaus who was now standing before them again in the room in Jerusalem.

First Jesus showed the group the healed crucifixion wounds in his hands and feet suggesting they touch them to see that he was flesh and bone. Further, to prove he was real and not just an apparition, Jesus ate some fish.

Consistently with what he had told Cleopas and his partner on the road home to Emmaus, Jesus affirmed to the group that what had happened to him was predicted by Moses, the prophets and in the Psalms. “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day…” this time adding “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”[18]

Gospel accounts are in sync, consistent and corroborated by the Cleopas eyewitness statement. Does his eyewitness statement of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection events ring true?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Ketubah.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Sanhedrin 9a, 30a, 32a-b, 49b, 56a-b. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html> Foster, Brittany. LegalDepot. “Witnesses in a Legal Document.” 2018. <https://www.lawdepot.com/blog/witnesses-in-a-legal-document>  “A Notary Official Signature.” American Association of Notaries. 2019. <https://www.notarypublicstamps.com/articles/a-notary-official-signature>
[2] Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Numbers 35:30.
[3] “Cleopas, Why You Should Know Him.” Yeshua in Context. 2010. <http://www.yeshuaincontext.com/2010/10/cleopas-why-you-should-know-him>
[4] “Clopas.” Abarim Publications. 2021. <https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Clopas.html>  “Cleophas.” Catholic Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04048b.htm> Jones, Victoria Emily. “The Unnamed Emmaus Disciple:  Mary, wife of Cleopas?” Art & Theology. 2017. <https://artandtheology.org/2017/04/28/the-unnamed-emmaus-disciple-mary-wife-of-cleopas>
[5] Luke 24:18. NRSV.
[6] Luke 24:19.
[7] Luke 24:19-24, 31.
[8] Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:3. CR Matthew 27:62-63; Mark 8:31-32, 9:31; Luke 18:31.
[9] “noeo <3539>.” NetBible.org. 2021. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=3539> “G3539> Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/3539.html>
[10] Luke 24:25.  “anoetos <453>.” NetBible.org. 2021. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=453>  “G0453.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/0453.html>
[11] Luke 24:26. NASB.
[12] Luke 24:27, 32.
[13] Luke 24:31. NET.
[14] Luke 24:31, 35.
[15] Luke 24:33. “Topography of Jerusalem Looking from the South.” Generation Word. 2005. <http://www.generationword.com/nt_maps/136_topography_of_jerusalem.jpg>
[16] Luke 24:34.  NET, NASB.
[17] Luke 24:36. NKJV.
[18] Luke 24:46. NASB. Luke 24:47. NSRV.

The Arabian Desert – Two Passages to Bethlehem?

Matthew’s Nativity account of the wise men, the Magi, establishes that they traveled two different routes during their quest to find the newborn “King of the Jews,” ultimately to and from Bethlehem. Travel from Persia required facing the hardships and challenges posed by the great Arabian Desert.[1]

Magi were well-known by reputation for their origins in Persia east of Judea by hundreds of miles. Marco Polo, famed thirteenth century explorer, wrote in 1298 of his travels to the Province of Persia searching for information about the Magi.[2]

Writing of a city called Saba, Marco Polo wrote that he first visited the burial place of the “magi who came to adore Christ in Bethlehem.” Today the city is known as Saveh located about 50 miles southwest of Tehran, Iran.[3] From Saba, his pursuit to find the location where the Magi had lived took him on a 3-day trek to the castle of “Palasata, which means the castle of fire-worshippers.”[4]

Visiting with the residents of the Palasata castle, they told the story of three renowned Magi whose home towns were given as Dyava, Saba and the castle of Palasata. While Matthew’s account neither discloses the number of Magi nor that they were kings, Marco Polo recounts being told of “three offerings” made by three kings:[5]

“…anciently, three kings of that country went to adore a certain king who was newly born, and carried with them three offerings, namely, gold, frankincense, and myrrh:  gold, that they might know if he were an earthly king; frankincense, that they might know if he were God; and myrrh, that they might know if he were a mortal man.” [6]

Travel from Persia to Judea offered only two realistic choices when confronted with the second largest desert in the world. One option was around the edges of the northern half of the Arabian Desert. The other option, was the longer southern route through the desert by way of Petra south of the Dead Sea.

 

Arabian Desert Parthian Empire’s trade routes 2nd BC – 1st AD

Shorter of the two trade routes to Jerusalem, the first destination of the Magi, was approximately 700 miles.[7] The route coursed from Seleucia near present day Bagdad, north through the populous area east of the Euphrates River, on to Edessa in southeast Turkey, turned west to Damascus, Syria, then turned south following the ancient King’s Highway paralleling the east side of the Jordan River in Jordan.

Trade route spurs off the King’s Highway across the Jordan River were limited to only three. When traveling from the north, the first two were not logical choices for a Jerusalem destination. The last crossing opportunity was to ford the Jordan just above the Dead Sea heading west by Jericho, then onward to Jerusalem.

A longer trek to Jerusalem was by way of the southern half of the Parthian loop some 100 miles longer at around 800 miles. This southern trade route ran southwest from Seleucia in central Persia, west across the Arabian Desert to Petra, then turned north joining the King’s Highway south of the Dead (Salt) Sea, then to the Jordan River crossing near Jericho.

King Herod’s winter palace was located in Jericho where he would soon travel for the futile treatment of his horrible bowel disease.[8] It was this same crossing point near Jericho where the Israelites entered into the Promised Land after their wonderings in the Sinai wilderness.[9]

Erza 7:9 mentions how a similar journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took four months. On the timeline of history, Ezra was written after the Jew’s release from the Babylonian captivity while they were still under Persian rule in the late 300 BC era.[10]

Scrolling forward a century to the last quarter of the 200s BC, trade routes had been established by the Parthian Empire making travel relatively much faster.[11] Commonly referred to as “caravan routes,” these trade routes were busy – the interstate highways of the day dotted with trading posts making them the best practical means for land travel.[12]

First, the Magi traveled to Jerusalem where they sought guidance from ruler of the land, King Herod. Jerusalem was not located on the common caravan routes making their arrival newsworthy in the city were everyone seemed to be aware of their arrival.[13]

Perhaps it was their conspicuous caravan of camels; their foreign grandiose attire; or that they were regarded as kings from Persia.[14] Nevertheless, it is obvious the Magi were recognized on the highest social hierarchy as King Herod who granted the Magi immediate access to his palace.

Herod directed the Magi to go to Bethlehem after consulting with Jewish religious experts in exchange for revealing the location of the child after they found him. Bethlehem was only 5 miles to the south of Jerusalem accessible directly by a north-south road. Matthew’s account then provides a key detail:

MT 2:12 “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (NIV)

Avoiding King Herod presented a logistical challenge. Herod would assuredly know if the Magi were back in the City of Jerusalem; undoubtedly he would know if they were passing by the much smaller Jericho where area local contacts to the King’s winter palace were certain.

A return route back to Persia that avoided Jerusalem and Jericho left only one option across the Arabian Desert the southern Parthian loop. The catch was how to reach it from Bethlehem.[15]

Palestine Trade Routes

Copied with permission: Biblewalks.com.

Access to the southern Parthian trade route out was literally at their doorstep. The Central Ridge Road ran south out of Bethlehem to the Spice Road, then passed under the Dead Sea and rejoined the southern Parthian route at Petra.[16] The other less traveled minor route spurs off the Central Ridge Road may have shortened the southward path, but the trade-off was a more difficult passage, few trading posts, and greater risks.

Many secular historical accounts confirm the information about the Magi – who they were, their reputation, from where they came as well as two well-known geographically established caravan trade routes from Persia to Judea. Marco Polo’s account affirms the Magi arrived safely back to their home country. Do these historical accounts corroborate and add credibility to Matthew’s about the Magi and the Nativity of Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Matthew 2:1, 12. “Arabian Desert.” New World Encyclopedia. n.d. <https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Arabian_Desert>  “Arabian Desert.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Arabian-Desert>
[2] Polo, Marco.  The Travels of Marco Polo the Venetian.  1818.  Ed. Ernest Rhys. 1908 Edition.  Chapter XI. p 50. <http://archive.org/stream/marcopolo00polouoft#page/50/mode/2up> “Marco Polo.” Bibliography.com. 2020 <https://www.biography.com/explorer/marco-polo>  
“Marco Polo and his travels.” Silk-Road.com. n.d. <http://www.silk-road.com/artl/marcopolo.shtml
[3] Saveh, Iran (untitled). Bing.com/maps. Map. 2020. <https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=caeb94c6-d007-42ed-a5c8-19628ce0cebc&cp=35.411126~50.908664&lvl=9&v=2&sV=2&form=S00027> Hartinger, J. A. “Saba and Sabeans.” Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 13. 1912.  NewAdvent.org. 2009. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13285c.htm>
[4] Strabo. Geography. Chapter III. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=15:chapter=3&highlight=magi>Stillwell, Richard, et. al. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. “Hatra Iraq.” n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=hatra&highlight=caravan>
[5] Matthew 2:11.
[6] Polo. The Travels of Marco Polo the Venetian.  p 50.
[7] II Kings 25:1-17; Jeremiah 52:3-30. Middle East. Bing.com. Map. 2020. <https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=a2a3d404-6095-4abc-9ac8-b6d695d42293&cp=34.13455~41.097873&lvl=7&v=2&sV=2&form=S00027>  “Spice Ways.”  Israel Antiquities Authority.  Map.  n.d.  2014.  <http://www.mnemotrix.com/avdat/spiceroute2.gif>  “Trade Routes of Palestine.” Bible Odyssey. Map. 2019. <https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/map-gallery/v/map-trade_routes-g-01>
[8] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews.  Trans. and commentary.  William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XVII. Chapter VI. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>   Geva, Hillel. “Archaeology in Israel: Jericho – The Winter Palace of King Herod.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2020. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jericho-the-winter-palace-of-king-herod> “Herodian Jericho.” Oxford Bible Studies Online. 2020. <http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t393/e57>
[9] Numbers 20:19, 22:1; Deuteronomy 32:48, 34:1-4; Joshua 3:14-17. “Roads in Israel.” Bible History Online. Map.  n.d.  <http://www.bible-history.com/maps/ancient-roads-in-israel.html>
[10] “Ezra and Nehemiah, Books of.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2020. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ezra-and-nehemiah-books-of> “Ezra.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ezra-Hebrew-religious-leader>
[11] “Trade between the Romans and the Empires of Asia.” MetMuseum.org. 2020. <https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/silk/hd_silk.htm> “Map of Roman & Parthian Trade Routes.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.ancient.eu/image/11763/map-of-roman–parthian-trade-routes>  Hopkins, Edward C. D. “History of Parthia.”  Parthia.com. 2008. <http://www.parthia.com/parthia_history.htm>  “Parthian Empire.” Iran Chamber Society. 2020. <http://www.iranchamber.com/history/parthians/parthians.php>
[12] Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Bernice or Pernicide Portum (Madinet el-Haras) Egypt.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=berenice-1&highlight=caravan>  Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Beroea (Aleppo) Syria.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=beroea&highlight=caravan> Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Dura Europos Syria.”  The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=dura-europos&highlight=caravan> Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Palmyra (Tadmor) Syria.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=palmyra&highlight=caravan> “Trade Routes/” National Museum of American History. n.d. <https://web.archive.org/web/20160618154742/http://americanhistory.si.edu/numismatics/parthia/frames/pamaec.htm>  “Chapter 4. Iran Historical Maps Arsacid Parthian Empire, Armenian Kingdom.” “Iran Historical Maps Arsacid Parthian Empire, Armenian Kingdom.” Iran Politics Club. n.d. <http://iranpoliticsclub.net/maps/maps04/index.htm>  “Roads in Israel – 1st Century AD.” Bible-History.com. Map. n.d. <https://www.bible-history.com/maps/first-century-roads-israel2.jpg>
[13] Matthew 2:3.
[14] Strabo. Geography. Chapters II-III. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=1:chapter=2&highlight=magi> <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=15:chapter=3&highlight=magi>  Diogenes Laertius. Lives of Eminent Philosophers. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0258:book=1:chapter=prologue&highlight=magi>  Stillwell, Richard et. al. “Gaza Israel.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=gaza&highlight=caravan>
[15] Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. 4.451. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0148:book=4:section=451&highlight=petra>
[16] “Major Trade Routes.” Bibarch.com. Map. n.d. <http://www.bibarch.com/images/Map-Regions.jpg> Ancient Israel trade routes (untitled).  BibleWalks.com. Map. 2011. <https://web.archive.org/web/20190414151021/https://biblewalks.com/Photos72/IncenseRoute.JPG> “Ancient Palestine.” The History of Israel. Map. n.d. <http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/images/AncientRoadsandCities2.jpg>  “Old Testament Map & History.” The History of Israel.  “Palestine.” Map. n.d.  <http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/old-testament-map.html>  “The Geographical, Historical, & Spiritual Significance of Shechem.” Bible.org. 2020. <https://bible.org/article/geographical-historical-spiritual-significance-shechem> “Spice Ways.” Israel Antiquities Authority. Map. n.d. Mnemotrix Systems, Inc. 2014.  <http://www.mnemotrix.com/avdat/spiceroute2.gif>  “The Urantia Papers’ First Century Palestine.” The Urantia Book Fellowship. Map. n.d. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20070820230158/http://www.urantiabook.org/graphics/gifmap1.htm>  Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Petra (Selah) Jordan.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=petra-2&highlight=caravan> Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Elusa (El-Khalasa) Israel.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites.. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=elusa-2&highlight=caravan>

Rare Conjunction December 21, 2020 – Imagine 7 Closer Conjunctions!

News and weather reports are broadcasting the big news in the sky – a rare planetary conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. The conjunction of this close proximity has not occurred in almost 800 years!

Franck Marchis, senior planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer at Unistellar, said the rare Jupiter-Saturn conjunction on December 21, 2020, is a celestial event “you don’t want to miss.”

“Though they are actually 456 million miles apart, these two massive planetary bodies will be 0.1 degrees apart from our perspective here on Earth…”[1]

Image 7 rare conjunctions, all closer than the one on December 21, 2020. It happened in 3-2 BC just months apart!! All confirmed by NASA science technology.

Check out the details of these 7 rare conjunctions and how they might have been interpreted by the Magi who traveled to Bethlehem. Just click the underlined URL links (no cookies, no Junk emails, no spams!).

 

[1] Ciaccia, Chris. “Christmas star is coming: Jupiter and Saturn are about to do something not seen for nearly 800 years.” FoxNews.com. 21 December 2021. <https://www.foxnews.com/science/christmas-star-is-coming-jupiter-saturn-double-planet-800-years>