How Many Came to Anoint Jesus’ Body?

26 Aug
Women at the Tomb

from Google Images

Scholars have tried to piece together the four witnesses in a manner in which told one clear story about what occurred on Resurrection Sunday, but some of the differences in the four Gospel records prevent a definitive chronology that would be accepted by all. To be sure, there is no doubt among believers that the records are true as they pertain to Jesus rising from the dead, but the order in which his resurrection was discovered and the chronology of his later appearances leave many in doubt of an accurate and orderly arrangement. Therefore, whatever may be said about the chronology of the day’s events should be taken with some skepticism, since another, and perhaps equally plausible account, could be presented by someone else. There simply isn’t enough information in all four witnesses to establish chronology beyond doubt. That said, I will now begin to offer my understanding of those events.

Luke tells us that the time of day was “very early in the morning” or the deep (G901) dawn (G3722). This isn’t an uncommon phrase in Greek literature. For example Plutarch says of Alexander the Great, that he ate his evening meal in the deep evening. That is, when it was dark but with, perhaps, only a slight glow of the sun’s waning rays in the western sky. While in prison, Socrates asked what time of day it was and was told it was deep dawn, or, in other words, it was yet dark but the eastern sky was just beginning to show light. The sun was deep in the horizon and had not yet risen.[1] So we have Mary Magdalene coming to Jesus’ tomb very early in the morning, at the deep dawn (Luke 24:1), while it was yet dark at the gravesite (John 20:1).

Luke tells us that they came to the sepulcher (Luke 24:1), that is, the woman who came with Jesus from Galilee (cf. Luke 23:55-56). They came to wash and anoint Jesus’ body for burial (Mark 16:1). The implication is that the burial made by Joseph and Nicodemus (John 19:38-42), was not complete. It was a hurried event, in that the Holy Day Sabbath (i.e. the Feast of Unleavened Bread) was near, so they put Jesus’ body in Joseph’s own new tomb, because it was nearby (Luke 23:53-54; cf. Matthew 27:59-60; John 19:42).

None of the four accounts put Mary Magdalene with the other women, but this doesn’t mean she wasn’t with a group of women. She is probably with a particular group of women, but the others simply aren’t mentioned. The other Mary is mentioned with her in Matthew 28:1, but no other person, male or female, seems to have been with her when the Lord appeared to her in John 20:11-18.

How many groups of women are implied in the scriptures (John 20:1-2; 11-18; Mark 16:9-11; Mark 16:2-8; Matthew 28:5-10; Luke 24:1-9; 24:10)? If Mary and the other Mary came alone on Saturday, before sunset (Matthew 28:1) to simply see the sepulcher and perhaps ask the guard when they would be permitted to anoint Jesus’ body, then the scriptures indicate only two groups of women coming to the tomb to anoint Jesus. Luke mentions Joanna and the group of women who came from Jerusalem (Luke 24:1-10), but a second group of women probably came from Bethany. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were part of the group of women mentioned in Mark 16:1-8, which probably came from Bethany. However, although the Bethany group returned home telling no one, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to Jerusalem and told the Apostles and those with them.


The Women Who Visited the Tomb
Matthew 28 Matthew probably records what occurred with the group of women who came from and returned to Jerusalem (Matthew 28:5-10).
Mark 16 Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome were probably staying at Bethany, while most or all of the men stayed in Jerusalem and met in the Upper Room.
Luke 24 Luke mentions both groups of women in Luke 24:1, but highlights only those who went to Jerusalem to tell the disciples. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, were probably part of the group coming from Bethany. Joanna and the group with her, no doubt, came from Jerusalem, for Joanna would have been staying in Herod’s palace, being the wife of Chuza (Luke 8:3).
John 20 Mary Magdalene came with the group from Bethany. When they found the tomb empty and the stone rolled away, this group stayed at the tomb, while Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter and the other disciple with him. All three returned to the tomb together (John 20:1-10). She either met the Jerusalem group of women on her way to fetch Joseph and Peter and told them the tomb was empty, or they found out from the Bethany group, when they arrived at the gravesite.


[1] See : Plato, Crito, 43

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Posted by on August 26, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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