The Women at the Tomb


This isn’t really anything much, just a small thread about which women were said to have visited Jesus’ tomb in the gospels.


Matthew 27:55-56 “many women … among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary [the mother] of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (“looking on from a distance”)
Mark 15: “women … among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary [the mother] of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome” (“looking on from a distance”)
Luke 23:49 “all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee” (“stood at a distance”)
John 19:25 “His mother and his mother’s sister, Mary [the wife] of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (“standing by the cross of Jesus”)

Jesus’ Burial

Matthew 27:61 “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary”
Mark 15:47 “Mary Magdalene and Mary [the mother] of Joses”
Luke 23:55 “The women who had come with him from Galilee”

Empty Tomb

Matthew 28:1 “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary”
Mark 16:1 “Mary Magdalene, Mary [the mother] of James, and Salome”
Luke 24:10 “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary [the mother] of James and the other women with them” (cf. 8:1 “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others”)
John 20:1 “Mary Magdalene” (but cf. v. 2 “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”)

All accounts agree that Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty. Now John names only Mary M., but her own words (ouk oidamen, “we do not know…” in the plural) might suggest - though some do disagree with this interpretation - that John probably also had in mind the tradition attested in the other gospels that it is a group of Jesus’ female disciples who discovered the empty grave.

The late-2nd century Gospel of Peter also continues the tradition of naming Mary Magdalene:

Now at daybreak of the Lord’s (Day) Mariam the Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord - fearing on account of the Jews since they were burning with wrath - had not done for the Lord’s tomb those which women are accustomed to do for those who had died and were beloved by them. Having taken (female) friends with her, she came to the tomb where he had been placed, and they were afraid lest the Jews should see them. And they were saying, “Even if on that day when he was crucified we could not lament and beat in mourning, yet now at his tomb we will do these. But who will roll away for us the stone that was placed upon the tomb’s entrance, that coming in we might sit by him and do those which are owed? Because the stone is great, and we are afraid lest anyone see us. And if we cannot, let us cast at the entrance the things that we bring for his memorial, lament and beat in mourning until we come to our house.”


I think, the point in telling us, that the women were there first, is that we do not think, that the Apostles were there first, because we then would suspect, that the Apostles had something to do with it.


Interesting!!! If so, it shows how well God knows our weakenesses, and thus arranges things in a way to circumvent them.


Well…I suppose we could also suspect that the female disciples “had something to do with it,” too…



“But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” That was from Josephus’ Antiquities (4.219), which probably pretty much sums up the cultural mentality at the time.


The most fascinating thing about women finding the empty tomb first is the criteria of embarrassment. Women being the ones there would make the story far less interesting or respectable at that time.


Richard Carrier’s take on the women at the tomb.


The apostles felt ashamed for being scattered.


So Jesus’ mother had a sister also named Mary? And who is the"other Mary?" Why so many Marys? I can’t keep up with them all.

Also, how close did the soldiers let people get to the cross? I thought they had to stay away and not get up close. If that was so how could Jesus’ blood be collected in a cup which became the Holy Grail cup?


Mark was obviously aware of that, he writes that the stone i front of the grave was extremely larg, that the women couldn’t move it.


“Sister” doesn’t necessarily mean a blood sister – it can refer to a female relative. (Just as the “brothers and sisters of Jesus” refers to his relatives/kinfolk and not to blood brothers and sisters.)


And here’s John Patrick Holding’s take on Carrier. :smiley:

There are actually two ways of reading John’s passage. You can either read “Mary of Clopas” in conjunction with “his mother’s sister” (in other words, Mary of Clopas is Jesus’ mother’s sister), thereby yielding three women standing near the cross - Jesus’ mother, Mary of Clopas (Mary mother of Jesus’s sister), and Mary Magdalene. Or, as the Syriac translation understands it, you can read it as referring to two different women, giving you a total of four women - Jesus’ mother, her sister (unnamed), Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

As for “the other Mary:” if you read the parallel in Mark it apparently refers to “Mary [the mother of] James the younger and of Joses.” Some people do try to identify Mark’s “Mary of James” as referring to Mary the mother of Jesus, pointing out how in John’s account Mary Jesus’ mother was present with other women at Golgotha (just like how Mary James’ and Joses’ mother was present with other women in Matthew’s and Mark’s account) and how in Mark 6:3 (cf. Matthew 13:55), Jesus is identified as “the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon.” But there’s still a difficulty here: if the ‘Mary’ referred to here is really the mother of Jesus as they claim, why was she identified in association with Joses or James (assuming that they were the ‘brothers’ mentioned in Mark 6:3) instead of Jesus - which would have been more easy? An alternative explanation identifies “the other Mary”/“Mary of James/Joses” with John’s “Mary [wife] of Clopas/Cleophas.”

The reason why there are so many Marys in the NT is because ‘Mary’ (Miriam/Mariam, Mariamme, or Mariah) was a common female name during that time. As far as we know, the majority of Jewish women in Palestine in the period apparently used only eleven Hebrew names - with less than half having names in other languages like Aramaic, Greek, Latin, or Persian. The most common/popular female names aside from ‘Mary’, going by different sources (the NT, Josephus, inscriptions from ossuaries (boxes where the bones of the dead are kept after the flesh had rotted away), documents from the Judaean desert), were Shelamzion, Shalom (Salome), Y(eh)ohana (the female form of Y(eh)ohanan ‘J(eh)ohanan/John’ - Joanna), and Shipra/Shapira.

One of the reasons why there was a limited stock of names at the time of Jesus was because of this apparent custom where kids were named after one’s father or mother (patronymy/matronymy), grandparents (papponymy), or some ancestor, thereby recycling the same names over and over again within the same family. This was especially true in the case of ruling dynasties (for example, the Hasmoneans - the priest-king dynasty the Maccabees founded after they kicked out the Hellenistic Seleucids - and the Herods.) Another popular fad was naming children after famous figures - for example, kings or national heroes of the past.

The top ten most attested Jewish male names during the period are (in descending order): Shim(e)on (Simon), Y(eh)osef (Joseph), Yehudah (Judah/Judas), Eleazar (cf. Lazarus), Y(eh)ohanan (J(eh)ohanan/John), Ye(ho)shua (Joshua/Jesus), Matityahu (Matthew/Matthias/Mattathias), Y(eh)onathan (Jonathan), Hananiah (Ananias/Annas, with the variant Hanina), and Menahem. (Ya’aqov (Jacob/James) is just after Menahem in terms of attestation.) These names were popular both because they were typical names of the Hasmonean dynasty (note that ‘Mattathias’, ‘John’, ‘Judas’, ‘Jonathan’ and ‘Simon’ are the names of the Maccabees!), plus the custom of patronymy/papponymy. (Now while Ya’aqov is also a popular name, ‘Abraham’, ‘Isaac’ and pretty much most of the other biblical/OT names are actually rare in the period.) It’s also no coincidence that the two most common female names - Shelomzion/Shalom and Mariam(me) - also had Hasmonean connections: Salome(zion) Alexandra and Mariamne the Hasmonean (Herod the Great’s second wife).

Also, how close did the soldiers let people get to the cross? I thought they had to stay away and not get up close. If that was so how could Jesus’ blood be collected in a cup which became the Holy Grail cup?

Simple - that was just a legend. It was a French poet, Robert de Boron, who first made the connection in the late 12th century.

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