Which women went to Jesus’ tomb?

Posted on Apr.04, 2010. Filed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Average rating: 0.5 / 10 (Rate It).

All of the gospels describe at least one of the women who followed Jesus going to his tomb to anoint his body with spices. However, there are discrepancies between the accounts concerning precisely which women went.In John, only Mary Magdalene visited the tomb:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb… [John 20:1a, NRSV]

Matthew gives Mary Magdalene a companion, also called Mary:

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. [Matthew 28:1, NRSV]

Mark’s account adds a third woman to the party:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. [Mark 16:1-2, NRSV]

Luke is initally less specific, but is clear that more than one woman went to the tomb:

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  [Luke 23:55 – 24:1, NRSV]

He later identifies at least some of the women who were in the group, listing those who took the news to the disciples:

… and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. [Luke 24:9-10, NRSV]

So exactly which women went to visit Jesus’ tomb? Was it just Mary Magdalene, or Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, or Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, or Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some others?

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

    The inerrantist response above seems correct. The women mentioned include:

    1) Magdalene
    2) The Mother of James (also the mother of Jesus)
    3) The Other Mary (Mary of Bethany, Martha and Lazarus’ sister?)
    4) Salome
    5) Joanna

    There may have been other women along as well (e.g. Martha?). The women mentioned probably give us a clue about who told the Gospel writer about the events of Easter morning. Mary of Bethany probably told Matthew. Salome probably told Mark, Joanna probably told Luke and John probably got his account from directly from Magdalene (who seems to be, apart from Jesus, the key figure in these accounts).

  2. 2

    I would add Susanna to the list. And there were other women who were healed/delivered by Jesus and followed him.


    And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils;
    And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered to him of their substance.

    This reads like the entire “association” of women could have numbered well over twenty.

    So it is not beyond reason that as many as twelve or more were involved here.

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