Emmaus in the Christian Tradition

“Emmaus, whence came Cleophas in Luke’s Gospel. The same is now Nicopolis, a famous city of Palestine.”

Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea, Onomasticon, written between 295-312 AD.

(Translation: The Onomasticon, Greville Freeman-Grenville, trans., Jerusalem, 2003).

The Gospel of Luke, 24, 13-35

On the same day, two of Jesus’ followers were walking to a village called Emmaus, about (one hundred and) 60 stadia from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about all these things that had taken place. While they were discussing and analysing what had happened, Jesus himself approached and began to walk with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing with each other as you’re walking along?’ They stood still and looked gloomy. The one whose name was Cleopas answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what happened there in the past few days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They answered him, ‘The events involving Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in what he said and did before God and all the people, and how our high priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and had him crucified. But we kept hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.

What is more, this is now the third day since these things occurred. Even some of our women have startled us by what they told us. They were at the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body there, so they came back and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who were saying that he was alive. Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said. However, they didn’t see him.’

Then Jesus told them, ‘O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?’ Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself. As they came near the village where the two men were headed, Jesus acted as though he were going farther. But they strongly urged him, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the daylight is nearly gone.’ So he went in to stay with them. While he was at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it in pieces, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they knew who he was. And he vanished from them. Then they asked each other, ‘Our hearts kept burning within us as he was talking to us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us, didn’t they?’ They got up right away, went back to Jerusalem, and found the eleven disciples and their companions all together. They kept saying, ‘The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon!’ Then the two men began to tell what had happened on the road and how they had recognized him when he broke the bread in pieces.”

(translation: International Standard Version)

The Risen Jesus appears at Emmaus:

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 5 (written in 375-380 AD):

"…But when the first day of the week dawned He arose from the dead, and fulfilled those things which before His passion He foretold to us, saying: ‘The Son of man must continue in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.’ And when He was risen from the dead, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, then to Cleophas in the way, and after that to us His disciples, who had fled away for fear of the Jews, but privately were very inquisitive about Him. But these things are also written in the Gospel ."

(Translated by Irah Chase, N.Y., 1848, p. 121. )

St. Jerome, To Pammachius Against John of Jerusalem (written ca. 398 AD)

"And, simple ones, be not deceived by the resurrection of our Lord, because He showed His side and His hands, stood on the shore, went for a walk with Cleophas, and said that He had flesh and bones. That body, because it was not born of the seed of man and the pleasure of the flesh, has its peculiar prerogatives. He ate and drank after His resurrection, and appeared in clothing, and allowed Himself to be touched, that He might make His doubting Apostles believe in His resurrection. But still He does not fail to manifest the nature of an aerial and spiritual body. For He enters when the doors are shut, and in the breaking of bread vanishes out of sight. Does it follow then that after our resurrection we shall eat and drink, and perform the offices of nature? If so, what becomes of the promise, ‘The mortal must put on immortality.’ [1 Corinthians 15:53]. […] As He showed them real hands and a real side, so He really ate with His disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them. And as for His suddenly vanishing out of their sight, that is the power of God, not of a shadowy phantom. […] And how was it, you will say, that they did not recognize Him on the road if He had the same body which He had before? Let me recall what Scripture says: ‘Their eyes were holden, that they might not know Him.’ And again, ‘Their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.’ Was He one person when He was not known, and another when He was known? He was surely one and the same. Whether, therefore, they knew Him, or not, depended on their sight; it did not depend upon Him Who was seen; and yet it did depend on Him in this sense, that He held their eyes that they might not know Him. Lastly, that you may see that the mistake which held them was not to be attributed to the Lord’s body, but to the fact that their eyes were closed, we are told: ‘Their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.’

(translation: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, volume 6, N. Y., 1912, pp. 437-443. )

The Resurrection And The Meal At Emmaus, Grandison Psalter, 13th c., British library

Blessed Guerric of Igny, Cistercian abbot, The third sermon for the Advent, 3 (written in the first half of the 12th c.):

‘But unto you that fear my name, he says, the Sun of righteousness shall arise [Malachi 4:2], and he who walks righteously will see with his eyes the King in His beauty [Isaiah 33:15-17].’ Certainly, this has been said of the Beatitude to come, but to some extent, it is given to us too in the present life, through consolations, as the Resurrection of Christ clearly shows. Indeed, for forty days Holy Wisdom gave us ample evidence that she was ‘seeking high and low for souls worthy of her, and displaying to them along their paths her smiling face, courting them with all the solicitude of her providence.’ [Wisdom 6:16-17]. Jesus so willed to reveal himself as this Wisdom of which the Scripture speaks, and on that day to manifest physically what he reveals spiritually day after day; that is, to show us the smiling face on the roads of justice. That is why he went that day on the way to meet women returning from the tomb and, on the road once again, to show himself to the disciples on their way to Emmaus."

(Sources chretiennes 202, Paris, 1973, the translation is ours. )

Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 645 (published in 1992)

"By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion. Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ's humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father's divine realm. For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith. "

The companion of Cleophas on the way to Emmaus was his son Simon (Simeon), the future second bishop of Jerusalem:

Origen, Against Celsus, Book II, 62 (written in 248 AD)

"And in the Gospel of Luke also, while Simon and Cleopas were conversing with each other respecting all that had happened to them, Jesus drew near, and went with them. And their eyes were holden, that they should not know Him. And He said to them, What manner of communications are these that you have one to another, as you walk? And when their eyes were opened, and they knew Him, then the Scripture says, in express words, And He vanished out of their sight ."

(Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 23, Edinburgh, 1875, p. 65,

translated by Frederick Crombie)

St. Simeon, engraving by Diodore Rahoult

Eusebius of Caesarea, Church history, Book III, ch. 11 (written ca. 324 AD):

"After the martyrdom of James and the capture of Jerusalem, which immediately followed, the report is, that those of the apostles and the disciples of our Lord that were yet surviving, came together from all parts with those that were related to our Lord according to the flesh. […] These consulted together, to determine whom it was proper to pronounce worthy of being the successor of James. They all unanimously declared Simon the son of Cleophas, of whom mention is made in the sacred volume, as worthy of the episcopal seat there. They say, he was the cousin german of our Saviour, for Hegesippus asserts that Cleophas was the brother of Joseph ."

(The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, translated by Isaac Boyle, Michigan, 1955, p.99 )

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, ch. 24 (written in the first half of the 5th c.):

"You must know that these two disciples belonged to the number of the seventy, and that Cleophas’ companion was Simon - not Peter or the one of Cana - but another Simon, of the seventy ."

(A Commentary upon the Gospel according to S. Luke by S. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria,

translated by R. Payne Smith, Part II, Oxford, 1859, p. 726)

      13 Apparition aux disciples d’Emmaus NDPMur de clôture du choeurNotre-Dame de Paris[ Paris, France ].....Art Sacré-Le site www.art-sacre.net est soutenu par la Fondation Parfum de Béthanie, créée par l'artiste suisse Madeline Diener. Il a été conçu par Marie Jeanne Coloni et Giovanni Polito, qui sont également auteurs de deux CD-Rom: "Rome et le Monde" et "Le Trésor des Cathédrales".

Apparition of Jesus to the disciples on the way to Emmaus

(Notre-Dame de Paris)

Another tradition considers St. Luke to be Cleophas' companion:

St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, Preface, 3 (late 6th c.)

"…It is the manner of Holy Scripture for the persons who are writing so to speak of themselves in it, as though they were speaking of others. […] Hence Luke says, that two of them were walking by the way, Cleophas and another; which other indeed, while he was so carefully silent about him, he showed to have been no other than himself, as some assert ."

(Morals on the Book of Job by S. Gregory the Great, Oxford, 1844, John Henry Parger, transl., vol. 1, p. 15 )

Orthodox prayer for travelers

"O Lord Jesus Christ our God, the true and living Way, Who didst will to journey with Thy guardian Joseph, and Thy most pure Virgin Mother into Egypt, and didst accompany Luke and Cleopas on their way to Emmaus: we now humbly entreat Thee, O most holy Master: do Thou accompany now this Thy servant ..."

(source: https://www.oca.org/orthodoxy/prayers/prayer-for-travel )

At Emmaus, Jesus broke the bread at Cleophas' house:

St. Jerome, Letter 108 (written in 404 AD):

"Again, resuming her journey, Paula came to Nicopolis, once called Emmaus, where the Lord became known in the breaking of bread; an action by which He dedicated the house of Cleophas as a church. "

(Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 2, vol. 6, N.Y., 1912, p. 198)

Jesus breaking the bread at Emmaus, Codex Egberti, 10th c., the City Library of Trier

Cleophas who received Jesus at his home at Emmaus later died as a martyr:

Ado, the archbishop of Vienne in Lotharingia, Martyrology (written in the 9th c. AD):

"September 25, Nativity [Anniversary of Martyrdom] of Cleophas, one of the 70 disciples of Christ. The Lord appeared to him after his Resurrection while he was walking with another disciple towards the village of Emmaus, which is called Nicopolis nowadays. According to tradition, in the same town and in the same house, where Cleophas had received the Lord as a pilgrim at his table, he was killed by his compatriots for his confession of the One whom he had recognized at the breaking of the bread. There also he is buried in glorious memory. "

(PL CXXIII, 193, the translation is ours.)

Armenian synaxarium, Sahmi 21 (October 30)

"The holy Apostle Cleophas was a relative of Christ. [...] He was the first to see the risen Lord, when Christ appeared to him and his friends on the way to Emmaus and walked with them, as Luke says. Cleophas was the first to share a meal with the Lord after His Resurrection, eating and drinking with Him. He also received the Holy Spirit and the grace of doing miracles and speaking in tongues. He preached over the country and converted many people to Christ. He died as a martyr ... "

(PO XV, Paris, 1927, pp. 398-399, the translation is ours.)

Fra Bartolomeo, 15th c.

St. Albans Psalter, 12th c.