5. Some people believe Emmaus-Nicopolis is too far from Jerusalem to walk to Emmaus and back to Jerusalem on the same day, especially taking in consideration that at the moment when Jesus came with Cleopas to Emmaus, "it was toward evening, and the day had been far spent" (Luke 24:29).
The Gospel of Luke does not specify that the disciples, on their way back from Emmaus, reached Jerusalem on the same day; this is only deduced by comparing the text of Luke with the account of the apparition of Jesus to the Apostles on Easter night in the Gospel of John (20:19-23). At the same time, it should be noted that walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus-Nicopolis and back in one day is physically possible, and it has been proved several times by experience (see: Les missions catholiques, 1890, pp. 316-317, see here; K.-H. Fleckenstein, M. Louhivuori, R. Riesner, Emmaus in Judäa, Brunnen Verlag, 2003, pp. 209-211). In ancient times, people were accustomed to walking, see for example the episode in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 23:23-32), written by Luke himself, where several hundred soldiers left Jerusalem at nine o'clock in the evening, only to come back the next day, after having covered ca. 75 mi, 120 km.
It was common to spend a whole day travelling from one place to another. One can note that the English word “journey” comes from the Old French “jornee”, meaning “the whole day”.
An interesting confirmation of the possibility of accomplishing the round trip between Jerusalem and Emmaus in one day is found in the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Pessachim 93b:
“What is the distance that a man can traverse in one day? Ten Parsaoth. From the time the morning star appears until sunrise five miles, from sunset until the stars appear five miles, and from sunrise until noon fifteen miles, and from noon until sunset fifteen miles.”
Our translation, see the original text here.
Ten Parsaoth (Parasangs) are equal to 40 miles, ca. 60 km (see: Der Babylonische Talmud, Frankfurt am Main, 1967, 1996, v. 2, p. 608, footnote 18). Thus, leaving Jerusalem early in the morning, the disciples could have arrived to Emmaus by mid-day and returned to Jerusalem late at night. The disciples could also have ridden donkeys to make the return journey quicker.
As for the expression “the day is far spent” (literally: “the day is declining”), it was used in Palestine to designate the afternoon. A good example appears in the book of Judges, chapter 19, where the Levite who comes to Bethlehem to take back his concubine, receives an invitation from her father to stay overnight because “the day draweth toward evening” (Judges 19:9). The Levite refuses and begins to walk, “and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him” (ibid., verse 10). When they were near Jerusalem, “the day was far spent” (verse 11), but they continued their way, and sunset caught them near Gibeah, which means that since they had left Bethlehem, when “it was toward evening” until sunset, they had covered 9 mi, 15 km. Depending on the time of year, the sun sets in Palestine around 5-7 pm, i.e. it can be assumed that they left Bethlehem about 2 or 3 pm.
It is also important to note that the disciples’ journey to Emmaus took place during the Passover feast, when there is a full moon, thereby allowing them to do a part of their return journey after sunset.
The same is illustrated by an ancient Byzantine text:
“Question: How could John say that Christ manifested himself to all his disciples, except Thomas, on Sunday evening [John, 20, 19-24], while Luke says that he appeared only to Peter, when Cleopas and his companion came back the evening of that same day to Jerusalem after having seen the Lord at Emmaus [ Luke 24, 33-34]?
Solution: After the [holy] women, it is to Peter that Christ first appeared, then to the Apostles, according to what Paul says: ‘He was seen by Cephas and then by the Twelve’ [1st Letter to the Corinthians, 15, 5], not counting Thomas, who was absent, but Matthias and Justus [Acts of the Apostles 1, 22-23]. Furthermore, it is while Cleopas and his companion were on the way back from Emmaus that Christ appeared to Peter. When they had returned from Emmaus and had recounted to the Apostles how they had recognized him in the breaking of the bread, then Christ showed himself to all of them on Zion, as Luke asserts [Luke, 24, 35-36]. One must not be surprised if in the same day they went from Jerusalem to Emmaus and from Emmaus to Jerusalem. It is not written that it was evening when they approached Emmaus, but that it was towards evening [Luke 24, 29], and that the day was declining, for example about the eighth or ninth hour [2 or 3 p. m.]. From the seventh hour [1 p. m.], the sun seems to incline towards the west. Without counting the fact that the joy of announcing the miracle had to hasten their journey and that they would have arrived very late. We have, in effect, the habit of calling evening [opsias, see: John 20, 19] the time which extends until a late hour in the night. Here, still, Christ appeared to them as well as to the others“.
Hesychius of Jerusalem, Quaestiones, difficultas 57; text of the beginning of the 5th c., PG XCIII, 1444, see here, the translation is ours.