Saturday, May 6, 2006


The gospels are full of stories about Jesus’ 12 male disciples, but at the climactic moment when He was arrested in the garden, all fled (Matthew 26:56b; Mark 14:50) as Jesus had predicted (Matthew 26:31). Later, Peter followed at a distance and denied Christ, while John alone of the 12 stood at the cross (John 19:26). But there were other disciples there, the women. All four gospels mention them.

How many women were at the cross and what were their names?

Matthew 27:55 says, “Many women were there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, while ministering to Him.”

Verse 56, “Among them was Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”

Matthew clearly names only three women out of an indefinite number (“many”). It should be noted that the second Mary was not Jesus’ mother, but most likely the mother of James the son of Alphaeus, one of the 12 (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18).

Mark 15:40, 41 says, “There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem”

Mark also names three women out of the “many”. The first two are the same as Matthew’s first two. If Salome is the same as “the mother of the sons of Zebedee,” we have the same three as mentioned by Matthew. If these two are different persons, we now have four women.

Luke 23:49, 55 simply speaks of “the women who accompanied Him from Galilee” without giving names or numbers. In 8:1-3 he names some women who earlier had accompanied Jesus. “Mary who was called Magdalene,.. Joanna, the wife of Chuza,.. Susanna, and many others.” In 24:10 he mentions, “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James,” with “other women,” as witnesses of the resurrection.

Assuming the women at the tomb were also present at the cross, we now have at least four women or possibly six named.

John 19:25 says, “But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

John is the only evangelist who tells us that Jesus’ mother was there. He also mentions Mary Magdalene as do the other three evangelists.

The question here is whether “His mother’s sister” and “Mary the wife of Clopas” are the same or two different persons. Neither the English nor the Greek readings are unambiguous. On the side of their being two different persons is the fact that if they were the same person there would be sisters with the same name.

Some have attempted to identify the unnamed sister with “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” in Matthew, thus making the apostles James and John the first cousins of Jesus. Although this is possible, there is not to my knowledge the slightest hint of this elsewhere.

So who were the women at the cross?
The long list – eight named women, possibly nine:
1. Mary Magdalene (all four gospels)
2. Mary the mother of James the less and Joseph (or Joses) (Matthew and Mark)
3. The mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew)
4. Salome (Mark)
5. Joanna (Luke)
6. Mary, Jesus’ mother (John)
7. His mother’s sister (John)
8. Mary the wife of Clopas (John)
9. Also possibly Susanna (Luke 8:3)

If (4) Salome is (3) the mother of the sons of Zebedee and if (7) Jesus mother’s sister is also (8) the wife of Clopas, we have shortened our list to a minimum of six.

We should note again that of Jesus’ 12 original male disciples, all but one (John) had fled. The only other sympathetic men mentioned as being at the cross were Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both “closet disciples” until this point (John 19:38, 39).

Bill Ball 7/2004

1 comment:

Emily said...

sweet!!! man, that must have been a....unique (for lack of a better word) place to have been. Watching your son/savior/friend dying, watching people either spitting on him or crying beneath Wow...amazing. Now, what's the significance of the women being present? was it that since the men all fled, the women were the ones to remain and care for the body?