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How far from the cross did the women stand?

Posted on Mar.15, 2010. Filed in John, Luke, Mark, Matthew. Average rating: 1.5 / 10 (Rate It).

In all four gospels, the crucifixion is witnessed by women who have followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem. There is some inconsistency between the accounts, however, concerning how close to the cross the women stood.In Mark, the women from Galilee are described as watching the crucifixion “from a distance”:

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee… [Mark 15:40-41a, NRSV]

Matthew confirms this, also placing the women some way from the cross:

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them werre Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. [Matthew 27:55-56, NRSV]

Luke too has the women standing “at a distance” from the cross:

But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. [Luke 23:49, NRSV]

John, however, says that the women stood near the cross:

Meanwhile standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. [John 19:25b, NRSV]

So how far from the cross did the women stand? Did they watch from a distance, or did they stand nearby?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Errancy

    Even granting that the women stood still rather than moving about, or that the various descriptions of their position all relate to the same point in time, I think that the language used (specifically “at a distance” and “near”) is much too vague to make this charge of error stick.

  2. 2
    Amtiskaw

    Your new disclaimer brought on by recent misunderstandings could be snappier. How about:

    N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error; even in cases where the author (“Errancy”) disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site’s philosophy.

    Or something.

  3. 3
    Errancy

    Yeah, that’s probably better. (I’ll probably delete these comments at some point, as they aren’t assessments of the post.)

  4. 4
    WisdomLover

    Based on Matthew’s account, Matthew was probably standing some distance away because the only words of Jesus that he reports were those that he shouted. The centurion (traditionally named Longinas) standing right under the cross, said “Surely this man was the Son of God”. Immediately after he mentions this Matthew says that “Many women were there”. Where were the women? There, with Longinas. That they were looking on from a distance indicates that they were still separated a bit from Jesus and Longinas. Perhaps, though, close enough to hear some of Longinas’ words and report them to Matthew.

    The same points go, more or less, for Mark’s account. Peter (and probably Mark also) was standing well away from the cross with Matthew. Luke’s source must also have been with Matthew.

    John’s account is given from the perspective of someone close enough to hear not only Jesus’ shouts, but to be instructed about caring for Jesus’ mother (who was with John), to hear Jesus ask for a drink, to hear Jesus say “It is finished” with his dying breath. Perhaps still not right under the cross like Longinas.

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