How Many Women at the Tomb?

How many women were at the tomb of Jesus? The four different gospels mention different numbers. John 20:1 says one. Matt. 28:1 says two. Mark 16:1 says three.  Luke also says three, but is a different three than Mark 16:1. So, which is it, one, two, three, four, or more? Does it mean there is a contradiction, or is it just different views from different perspectives? Let’s take a look.

  • ONE: John 20:1 says that Mary Magdalene went early to the tomb
    • John 20:1, “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.
  • TWO:  Matt. 28:1 says that Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, were at the tomb.
    • Matthew 28:1, “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
  • THREE: Mark 16:1 says that Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, were at the tomb.
    • Mark 16:1, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.
  • FOUR or more:  Luke does not say how many women were at the tomb. But, after the tomb narrative, Luke 24:10 says that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and the other women were reported to the apostles.
    • Luke 24:10, “Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.

So, this brings the total to four, but possibly more since Luke 24:10 says that “other women” were reporting, too. The verse does not necessitate the ‘other women’ were at the tomb. It could be that Mary Magdalen and Mary, the mother of James, told other women who later went to the apostles as a larger group.

Here is a summary of the verses where the different women are mentioned.

  • Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 4:10; John 20:1)
  • Mary, the mother of James (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10)
  • Salome (Mark 16:1)   peaceful
  • Joanna (Luke 24:10)  God is gracious, wife of Chuza (Luke 8:3).
  • Other women (Luke 24:10)

How many women were at Jesus’ tomb

Several women were at Jesus’ tomb. The four gospel writers mentioned different ones, but we don’t know why. The testimony of eyewitnesses varies because people don’t always say the exact same thing. The Gospels are accurate accounts of what people said and reported. It is not that the peoples’ memories were inspired to reveal an exhaustive disclosure of facts. The women at the tomb were not inspired. But, the gospel writers were, and they accurately represented what different eyewitnesses said. The accuracy of the recording of what they related is important. Each recounted things differently, and the differences were recorded.

Furthermore, it is possible that the gospel writers focused on individuals for different reasons. It does not mean they were contradictory. After all, if there were four, there were also three, two, and one. If the text said, “Only Mary Magdelene was at the tomb,” then that would be a problem.

However, sometimes there is a reason of mentioning different people because the names mean different things, and citing those names can influence the understanding of the text. For example, Isaac means ‘laughter,’ and Abraham means ‘father of a multitude.’ Likewise, in the New Testament, Salome means ‘peaceful,’ and Joanna means ‘God is gracious.’ Salome is mentioned in Mark 16:1. The context is them inquiring about who would move the stone for them. Could it be that mentioning Salome means to be a peace concerning the moving of the stone?  Perhaps. Likewise, Joanna means ‘God is gracious,’ and she is mentioned in Luke 24:10 in the context of the apostles not believing the women’s testimony of Christ’s resurrection. Perhaps there is a hint of the need for the Apostles to trust God’s grace. Nevertheless, I don’t offer this as proof of anything. It is just an afterthought.

Matt Slick

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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