Mary Magdelene, "Woman"


I have noticed that Jesus refers to Mary Magdeline in the garden as “Woman” before using her name on the day of His Resurrection. But I was always told that it was extremely significant that the Blessed Mother is called “Woman” at the Wedding of Cana and from the Cross, as this designates her as the New Eve. Why, then, is Mary Magdelene also specifically called by this name? Thanks for any help.


The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible says in the footnote to John 2:4 that “woman” was a title of respect and endearment in antiquity. There is, however, no ancient example of a son addressing his mother in this way.


In Genesis, the serpent is set against the woman.
In Revelation, the woman gave birth to a son to rule all nations.
And, as mentioned, woman is mentioned at Cana where Jesus performs His first public miracle.
It is an important contextual observation.
(note, I learned this from other apologists)


In both scenes, as mattp065 points out, the Gospel of John puts Jesus opposite a woman named Mary, at a crucial point in his mission. This is the beginning of his public life, and the commission in John of his disciples’ public life.

Both scenes also have a strong “New Eve” thing going on as you point out, with more than a couple allusions to Genesis in each. The point being that Jesus is forming a New Creation, and the New Eve thing in John’s narrative is meant to point to Jesus’ position as the transformer of the world.

John was a big fan of scenes that mirrored each other, for he liked chiastic structure.


The Virgin Mary is Jesus’ mom, and was appointed by Jesus to be John’s mom and thus the mom of all of us in the Church.

Mary Magdalene is one of Jesus’ female disciples. She’s an adopted daughter of the Father, like all of us in the Church.

They both are model members of the Church, and they both represent Eve in a way - Eve as “mother of all the living,” and Eve’s new redeemed and healed future as God’s adopted daughter. Obviously Mary is more closely and directly related to Eve, but we’re all representative of Adam and Eve to some extent.


There are a couple key scenes in John’s Gospel where Jesus engages in dialogue with a woman named Mary. They are worth looking at together. Lazarus’ resuscitation is one of them.

You’ll notice that in each scene, Mary makes a request of Jesus that causes him to reveal who he is. It creates a nice narrative flow, and illustrates to the reader a pattern, and an emphasis in the scenes in which it occurs.


Jesus called many people “woman.” There was a non Jewish Canaanite woman…

Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:28)

The Jewish woman in the synagogue who could not straighten herself…

And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity." (Luke 13:12)

The non-Jewish Samaritan woman at the well…

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. (John 4:21)

The woman caught in the act of adultery and about to be stoned…

Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" (John 8:10)

Mary Magdaline in the garden…

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" (John 20:15)

The two angels address Mary Magdaline this way…

They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:13)

Peter addresses the woman in the courtyard this way…

But he denied it, saying, "Woman, I do not know him." (Luke 22:57)

Peter addresses a man the same way…

But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. (Luke 22:60)

Honestly, I think people make too much of using the word “woman” in the Bible as a way to address a female. It’s not that big of a deal.



In the first century “Woman” was how you formally addressed a woman to whom you were not related, but the two scenes that OurLadyDaughter mentions are related (or at least that has been my view), and I think she is picking up on it.

The address used is just one of several details which, on its own isn’t much, but together help to unite the scenes.


It’s a different story when we are discussing the mother of God, who was prophesied to give birth to the savior (Isaiah). When this is contextually linked from three different areas of scripture about the same woman, it is very significant.
Note- the woman in Genesis and Revelations is Mary. The woman is not the nation of Israel.


^^^This. Seriously, Tim, thank you for laying it out so plainly.


Maybe it is a big deal. I’m not a theologian. I could be wrong and am open to correction.


Well Tim, I do have some training, and while I don’t think it’s usually a big deal, because, indeed, in the first century, this was how you referred to someone who wasn’t related to you, in the context of this specific question asked by the OP, the address used, “Woman,” is one detail among many in the two pericopes she mentions, which sets up a parallel between the two pericopes - especially given the fact that one never referred to one’s own mother this way (it was an insult).

But, why did Jesus refer to his mother this way if you never did that? Is that cheap writing on the evangelist’s part?

No, I don’t think so,especially because it was an insult to refer to your mother this way, and that was, I don’t think John’s intention. Although, he liked shocking Greek puns.

This address was also synonymous with “wife,” and there is an archetypal female thing which he’s developing in the scene where he gives Mary a line (this one) and the last scene where she shows up (the crucifixion), so, this title in the context he gives it, and there’s a lot to go into, the scene, even without the “woman” address, has a definite Genesis vibe. Having this be the address is just one additional detail among many that let’s the reader know what’s happening in the scene.

It’s not enough on it’s own, but take the whole thing together, it paints a picture of which the address is a part.


Plus, we are talking about the Gospel of John here, and you have to treat the four gospel’s separately when interpreting the literary style. Especially John, who’s notably different from the synoptics.
Only the passages from John you posted are really relevant.
There are *only three times *in John’s original Gospel where Jesus uses the address.

Jesus* only *refers to someone as “Woman” or, as it could also be translated “wife” in John’s Gospel, when the surrounding scene is marital, or betrothal. The wedding at Cana is like a wedding (hehe), and the woman at the well mirrors a traditional bethrothal scene.

Then, the resurrection, where John is going for a whole “Garden of Eden” thing by setting it in a Garden, having Jesus be “the Gardner” (which Adam was), setting it on the first day of the week, and it plays well into what many have called the “Johanine new creation theology.” Here he calls Mary, “woman” which both means wife and plays into an archetypal woman thing.

Now, John is a big fan of chiastic structure, so, the final scene with Mary where he uses the term “woman”, is meant to mirror the first scene where he calls a woman named Mary “woman.”

So, each scene with the address has a marriage thing - call it either bride of the soul, or making a new paradigm of humanity for which you need a man and a woman.

Now, you’re thinking, “What about the pericope adulterae”? Well, that was not originally in the Gospel of John. That was a later addition; we know because you can’t find it in early manuscripts. We can have a long conversation on where it’s originally from, but we can safely exclude it when trying to understand John’s diction, since it’s not really Johanine. Some speculate that it’s more appropriately Lucan, although I can’t defend that.


And come on David, you’re an author, haha. You can’t be one of the people on here who looks at every mildly confusing passage in the Bible and goes, “Well, that’s a plothole because the Bible’s full of them, because only textbooks have the duty not to have plotholes.” and “The Bible isn’t art; the guys who wrote weren’t worried about art.”

That isn’t your position I know, but that’s A LOT of people on here, and I want to complain about them.:smiley:


There is an ancient tradition in the Syrian church that it was Jesus’ mother in the garden. Some old versions of the Gospel of John have Maria at the tomb and Miriam in the garden. An appearance to his mother makes more sense.:slight_smile:


Well, dje, while Theotokos could work in that scene, I think Magdalene is probably the better choice, just because John doesn’t give Jesus’ mom a name in his Gospel.

This would be the first time Theotokos gets a name in the Gospel, after two scenes where her name for the narrator is “the mother of Jesus.” I mean, she doesn’t even get a name when she shows up in other Johanine literature (Revelations, for example).

Yeah, I think the Johanine community, at the time of the writing (c.a.100), knew about Jesus’ mom’s name, and therefore I agree there’s significance to how John is a fan of giving Jesus dialogue with women named Mary (e.g. Mary of Bethany), what with his mom being named “Mary” in their tradition and all - but working in the conceit of the text, I doubt that John would give Jesus’ mom a name change in her last scene for no apparent reason.

Also, then as now, you didn’t call your mother by her first name, and I can’t really see what this address change would serve, after Jesus never referring to his mother as anything but “woman” (which you didn’t call your mom either, but, there’s a good logic there for why).

Granted, Jesus at first calls Magdalene “woman,” but I think the fact that both the narrator and Jesus call her “Mary,” which throughout this Gospel just refers to female interlocutors of Jesus, and not his mother, whose name is “the mother of Jesus” for the narrator and “woman” for the character of Jesus, I think Theotokos is pretty improbable.

Plus, as we’ve discussed, the Samaritan at the well gets called “woman” too, so not every woman in John who gets called “woman,” is his mom.

PS Earlier, I should have said “Jesus only calls three people woman,” not “Jesus only calls someone woman three times.” I think my points stand with this discrepancy though.


Your points are interesting. However, since Mary is used to translate both Maria and Miriam, until some early document appears which definitely shows which name applies to Jesus’ mother the debate will continue. Personally, I prefer Miriam.


Well, part of my point is, that for John’s Gospel, the name of Jesus’ mother is apparently, “Jesus’ mother” when the narrator talks, and “Woman,” when Jesus is talking.

If she gets a name, she probably isn’t Jesus’ mother, because in John’s Gospel, the character’s name isn’t any version of “Mary.”

But, I suppose certitude is tough to establish if your argument is based on the early texts since I am unfamiliar with this specific issue.


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