🔼The name Cleopas in the Bible
There's only one Cleopas in the Bible, namely one of the two travelers on the road to Emmaus, who were famously met by the risen Christ (Luke 24:18). This particularly story most obviously also refers to the Battle of Emmaus, whose victory allowed the Jewish state to be an independent kingdom during the Hasmonean era. This era ended with the Roman conquest, and Jesus' resurrection obviously also refers to the survival of Judaism (and hence Christianity) after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Some commentators demand that Cleopas is the same person as Clopas (John 19:25), but these names are really as different as the names Marky, Ricky and Danny. The name Cleopas is solid Greek while Clopas is rather obviously a transliteration of a Semitic name — the diacritics that were added to the original in the second century AD confirm that the earliest commentators reckoned these names to be different. But that doesn't mean that these two names are miles apart. In fact, here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the way the transliteration "Clopas" was chosen deliberately points at the scope and meaning of the name Cleopas, and hence probably also the literary function of the character Cleopas (which is emphasized in the meaning of this name).
🔼Etymology of the name Cleopas
The name Cleopas consists of two elements. The first bit comes from the verb κλεω (kleo), meaning to tell of or make famous:
The second part of our name is often thought to come from the familiar Greek word πατηρ (pater), meaning father. The equally familiar name Cleopatra, after all, does precisely that: consist of kleo and pater.
🔼Cleopatra and the Bible
The name Cleopas is short for Cleopatros, which is the masculine form of the name Cleopatra. The famous Cleopatra's full name was Cleopatra VII Philopator, or (somewhat freely): "The Father's Glory Ratifies The Father's Love", which is rather striking since Paul derived much of how he described the relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father from the Roman Imperial theology. This Roman Imperial theology derived in turn from the relationship between Julius Caesar (the deified father) and Caesar Augustus (the deified son) who caused the deceased Roman republic to be "born again" as glorious empire.
Cleopatra had been Julius' mistress and became mother to his son Ptolemy Caesar, the last Pharaoh of Egypt and the adopted half-brother of Rome's founding emperor — Ptolemy was Julius' only known biological son, lovingly nicknamed Caesarion, or little Caesar. During the civil war which would lead to the victory of Augustus (then still Octavian) and thus the birth of the empire, Cleopatra sided with Augustus' nemesis Mark Anthony but both were defeated at the battle of Actium (see our article on Nicopolis).
Cleopatra was a thoroughly informed intellectual who spoke nine languages including Greek, Egyptian, Arabic and Hebrew and, as Plutarch tells, only rarely required a translator (which in turn means that she believed in convention and dialogue and conversed with everybody imaginable). When Mark Anthony and Cleopatra realized they were defeated, they also realized that humanity had lost its most sacred idea of Republic (a government of the people by the people, in which all law is debated freely by free men) and was thrust into the bestial darkness of Empire (government by one tyrant whose will is law and under whom no man is free — see our article on Philippi). Until its demise, Rome would be perpetually pelted by anti-Roman sentiments, from the Liberators who killed Julius, to John, Jesus, Paul and possibly even Pilate, to the Germanians and Illyrians who nearly toppled Rome in 9 AD. Rome, of course, lived on long after it was sacked, and arose time and again in the various guises of whatever totalitarian rule. Even the Third Reich was based firmly on its premises (and even adopted its gaudy house style), and the only real difference between Hitler and Augustus is that Augustus won.
Unfortunately, none of the Liberators was able to defeat the imperial beast and Mark Anthony and Cleopatra committed the most famous suicide in literary history. For some reason, Mark Anthony thought that Cleopatra had already gone through with it and stabbed himself mortally. Only then he was told that she was still alive, upon which he hurried to her and ended up dying in her arms. As soon as she could, Cleopatra too killed herself — hence, rather obviously, the core dynamic of the story of Romeo and Juliet, whose very names reverberate with these events and significances.
🔼Resistance is NEVER futile!
History tells that Cleopatra died by dramatically pressing an Egyptian cobra to her chest, but whoever first came up with that story didn't bother to explain why an Egyptian cobra was more readily at hand than, say, something sharp to stab oneself with, somewhere high to fling oneself off of, or something poisonous more secure than a wily snake. The scribe who designed this report of Cleopatra's demise was clearly much more concerned with the relation between global events — that is: losing the republic, and thus the very life of humanity, to the ancient serpent of tyranny — and the wisdom tradition that described and discussed these global events (locutionary snakes in trees, sacred marriages; all that), than the real-time details of the events on a sweaty, personal human level. Doubtlessly a similarly concerned scribe is responsible for placing Cleopas with his unnamed comrade on the road to the Kingdom whilst unwittingly entertaining the resurrected Word of God.
Note that the Hasmonean era began with Judas Maccabee. The name Maccabee relates confidently to the Hebrew noun מקבת (maqqebet), meaning hammer, and the name Judas Maccabee means The Judean Hammer. The first part of the name Mark Anthony means just that: Enormous Hammer. The name Antony (which is said to relate to Anton, a son of Hercules) ultimately has to do with the familiar preposition αντι anti, meaning Opposition.
When Luke the evangelist was writing, people were routinely crucified on suspicion of aiding and abetting the resistance, and any public support to the resistance would surely have brought about bloody retaliation. Luke was writing in the wake of the holocaust of 70 AD, and remember that this time the fascists had won. Hence, much of the New Testament is written in a kind of poetic code (see our article on the name Onesimus) and by the time Luke's gospel reached a Roman with enough sense to recognize what was being said, it would have been copied galore and settled into general consciousness where it could no longer be deleted.
The only effective measure of counter-opposition was of course launched by the fourth century emperor Constantine, who stuck the familiar terms and phrases of the resistance movement on the stalks of the cult of Sol Invictus and hence deflated the whole thing into the imperial forms of Christianity that we know today. Fortunately for all of us, the world is waking up from its 2,000 year delirium.
🔼Why Cleopas and not Cleopater
The masculine version of Cleopatra is Cleopatros, and that was a fairly common name in the first century. But Luke's only named Emmaus goer isn't Cleopater but Cleopas. Of course the latter could technically be a shortened version (something similar happens with the names Antipater and Antipas), but the word pater doesn't really decline into pas. In stead, a very common word πας (pas) already exists in Greek and means "everything":
Most Biblical dictionaries and commentators will attest that Cleopas means The Father's Glory or something to that extend, but it doesn't. In stead it means Glorious Everything or All (Is) Glory.
The name Cleopas urges to keep talking about the wonders of creation and the glory of the Creator, without restrictions and without holding back. It marks the fact that Truth can not be subdued and will come back no matter what tyrants do to people and no matter what tyrants tell people what to believe.
The name Cleopas reflects in short what Paul says elaborately: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things" (Philippians 4:8).