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Who was that guy?

April 9, 2012

As we conclude Holy Week I’ve been thinking about the conversation between Jesus and the two followers of His on the road to Emmaus.  (Luke 24:13-35).  Luke spends a great deal of time on this account so we know he deemed it significant.  But one fact was left out.  We know that one of them was Cleopas but who was the other guy?  Is he doomed to be an unnamed follower for all eternity?  Perhaps so.  Or perhaps he wasn’t even a “he.”

Is it possible that it was a woman?  Some aspects of the story imply it might be.  For one, we have Cleopas himself.  Elsewhere in the Gospels we probably see his name.  In John 19:25 we see “Mary the wife of Clopas” listed as one of the three Marys at the cross.  In some translations Clopas is spelled Cleopas as well.  So could it be that this Mary was the one who was on the road with Cleopas?  There are other examples in the Bible where names are spelled in two different ways, is this one of them?

If so, it fits details of the story.  It would explain why the two of them were travelling together; they were simply a husband and wife going home.  They also urge Jesus to “stay with us”, which would be consistent with the invite of a husband and wife to have Him dine in their home.  So, while we can never know, the idea that that “guy” was Mary is at least plausible.

And yet, commentators rarely consider that option.  And yet more, movie productions on the life of Christ consistently have the role filled by a man.  Why?  Is it possible that it is simply our willingness to see men as the followers and not seriously consider the women?

I raise this issue not to make any feminist point or to castigate us on the treatment of women but simply as a caution on our reading of Scripture.  We evangelicals are emphatic on the inerrancy of Scripture, which is fine.  But there is always a danger that we can take an unwarranted next step and attribute to our understanding of what Scripture says an undeserved inerrancy. 

As we defend an inerrant Scripture from perceived attacks it is all too easy to defend what we think Scripture says and not what it actually says.  In this case, the identity of the second follower on the Emmaus road, there are not a lot of attacks and not a lot of emotional defenses so it makes a good example.  We don’t know who that person is.  Mary, the wife of Clopas, is at least a viable option.  Perhaps some might say Cleopas is not Clopas or others want to make a textual defense of why they think Mary it not an option; that it must be a man.

But in any event, we do not truly know and, were we to get into a debate upon it, we’d be debating opinions and not Scripture itself.  And this is exactly what takes place across a whole range of subjects that are the center of debates, often acrimonious, among believers.  The lesson is clear.  Study the Scripture, reach your conclusions, but express them with humility and receive contrary ones with grace.

From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. jessop permalink

    Thank you. In over 40 years os walking with Christ I have never come across that suggestion but it does sound credible.

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