Did the women who found Jesus’ tomb empty go and tell the disciples?

Posted on Apr.07, 2010. Filed in Matthew, Mark, Luke. Average rating: 4.0 / 10 (Rate It).

The synoptic gospels all have some of the women who followed Jesus visiting his tomb and finding it empty. But did these first witnesses to the resurrection take the news to the disciples or not?

In Matthew, an angel speaks to the women at the tomb and gives them a message to take to Jesus’ disciples:

Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ [Matthew 28:7a, NRSV]

The women leave to do so, and meet the risen Jesus who repeats the instruction:

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell the disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’ [Matthew 28:8-10, NRSV]

It isn’t explicitly stated in Matthew that the women pass the message on, but the next we hear of the disciples they have returned to Galilee, even to the mountain that Jesus had told them to go to, which strongly suggests that they did:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. [Matthew 28:16, NRSV]

Luke’s account also has the women spreading the word that the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive:

… and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. [Luke 24:9, NRSV]

Mark, however, clearly states that the women, despite having been told to go and tell the disciples, kept the news of Jesus’ resurrection to themselves:

‘But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he [Jesus] is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. [Mark 16:7-8, NRSV]

So did the women take news of the Resurrection to the disciples, or did they say nothing to anyone out of fear?

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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  1. 1

    If you want the strongest contradiction in this whole story, I believe it’s between John, who has MM go to the tomb alone and meet nobody, and Matthew, who has MM go to the tomb with the other Mary and meet both an angel and Jesus. John has MM meet Jesus on her 2nd trip to the tomb, whereas Matthew is clearly describing the 1st (and only) trip.

  2. 2

    The Holy Women did not tell anyone about the angels (at least not right away), but they did pass the message on to the disciples.

  3. 3

    “John has MM meet Jesus on her 2nd trip to the tomb, whereas Matthew is clearly describing the 1st (and only) trip.”

    Of the extant topics here, the one about the timing of their arrival at the tomb seems the most germane to this issue.

    It seems to me that John is exclusively describing events that occur before sunrise.

    The other Gospel writers are describing events after the arrival of all the rest of the Holy Women. Those events occur at or after sunrise.

    So, I think you’ve got Magdalene’s trips ordered backwards Amtiskaw. The texts, taken together, read as though Mary arrived early, left to fetch Peter and John, returned and waited for the other Holy Women.

  4. 4
    burt hackett

    The story of the resurrection is the most mix-up
    and unlikely part of the new testament.

    The 4 botched tales can not be strightened out, each writer heard a different tale, 50 to 100 years later in koine greek from some one who also heard it from some one else.

    Probably badly garbled when translated from aramaic,
    We are not even sure the man Jesus lived, the resurrection story is probably all bunk and rates up there with Jonah and Noah.

  5. 5

    Mark and Matthew record the same group (subset) of women, and should be taken together. They were overjoyed and amazed; and hurried to the upper room to tell the disciples. However, it was dawn, and people were filling the streets as the day began. Some of these same people had shouted “crucify him!” just a few days earlier.

    Mark 16:7-8 refers to their fear of those they passed on the way to share the good news.

  6. 6

    A number of the women did run to tell the disciples. The chief difficulty is in the fact that Matthew,for example, does not tell us the Mary is no longer with the women, having ran off immediately as John reports.

  7. 7

    “The chief difficulty is in the fact that Matthew, for example, does not tell us the Mary is no longer with the women, having run off immediately as John reports.”

    John reports:

    1. Mary left the tomb to fetch Peter and John.
    2. Returned with Peter and John.
    3. Lingered at the tomb and saw two angels and Jesus Himself.
    4. Announced what she saw to the other disciples.

    Nothing in John says or suggests that Mary was not re-united with the other Holy Women between events 3 and 4. John says nothing at all about how much time passed between Mary’s seeing Jesus and her report to the disciples. For all that John says, days might have passed. (FTR, I don’t think that it was days.) During that interval, Mary could easily have been reunited with the other Holy Women.

    The only immediate running off that John reports is that Mary ran off immediately to Peter and John when she found the tomb open and empty before dawn. But John reports that she returned to the tomb after that. Still well in advance of the other Holy Women, who arrived at or after dawn.

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