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Are you Filtering God Out? (Hearing God’s Voice 2)

May 15, 2020

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Bible Gem 1299 - Sorting out the Women - Who Are they? (Luke 24:1-12)

October 15, 2019




A Draft Chronology


Saturday evening -  

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome  purchased burial spices  (Mark 16:1)


Early Sunday morning - 

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary  visit the tomb (Matt 28:1)

They went to the tomb (Mark 16:2)

The women went to the tomb (Luke 24:1)

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb (John 20:1)


Go quickly and tell His disciples (Matt 28:7)

Go and tell His disciplesincluding Peter (Mark 16:7)


The women ran quickly  to give the disciples the angel's message. Matt 28:8

The women fled from the tomb, and  they briefly reported all this to Peter and his companions (Mark 16:8)

They rushed back from the tomb to tell His eleven disciplesand everyone elsewhat had happened. (Luke 24:9) 

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. (Luke 24:10)

She (Mary Magdalene from John 20:1) ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved (John 20:2)


The first person who saw Him was Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9)

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and she stooped and looked in (John 20:11)

She turned to leave and saw Someone – Jesus (John 20:14)


Go find My brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to My Father'  (John 20:17) 
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them (John 20:18)

She (Mary Magdalene) went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. (Mark 16:10)
She told them . . . she had seen Him. (Mark 16:11) 


They (the women from verse 8) wentJesus met them (Matt 28:9)

They ran to Himgrasped His feet, and worshiped Him. (Matt 28:9)
Go tell My brothers to leave for Galilee (Matt 28:10)



The first thing to do in sorting out all these women is to determine who they are. There are a list of names here, some of which we know and some of which are a mystery. And of course that begs the question as to why all writers don’t record all women. Well that part is simple. Where there are a number of names mentioned in a list of a group of people not everyone will mention all names. Each person who speaks mentions the names of the ones most important or most dear to them personally. Hence the nature of the lists above from each gospel writer vary. But surely if a particular woman is involved at a particular point of the story with something that happened, factually the names should be the same. In other words if Mary Magadalene was the one who went back and told the disciples the Lord had risen then surely all gospel writers should state that as fact because she was the one who told them? I will deal with that in a subsequent Gem. Let’s start by listing the players so to speak and finding out who they are. From the various accounts above we have the following major players (This information is easily accessible from The International Standard Bible Enyclopedia (ISBE) in E-Sword which I have italicised below).



Mary Magdalene

(Μαρία Μαγδαληνή, Marı́a Magdalēnḗ = of “Magdala”). - A devoted follower of Jesus who entered the circle of the taught during the Galilean ministry and became prominent during the last days. The noun “Magdala,” from which the adjective “Magdalene” is formed, does not occur in the Gospels (the word in Mat_15:39, is, of course, “Magadan”). The meaning of this obscure reference is well summarized in the following quotations from Plummer (International Critical Commentary, “Luke,” 215): “'Magdala is only the Greek form of mighdōl or watch-tower, one of the many places of the name in Palestine' (Tristram, Bible Places, 260); and is probably represented by the squalid group of hovels which now bears the name of Mejdel near the center of the western shore of the lake.”


1. Mary Not the Sinful Woman of Luke 7:

As she was the first to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus, it is important that we should get a correct view of her position and character. The idea that she was a penitent, drawn from the life of the street, undoubtedly arose, in the first instance, from a misconception of the nature of her malady, together with an altogether impossible identification of her with the woman who was a sinner of the preceding section of the Gospel. It is not to be forgotten that the malady demon-possession, according to New Testament ideas (see DEMON, DEMONOLOGY), had none of the implications of evil temper and malignant disposi-tion popularly associated with “having a devil.” The possessed was, by our Lord and the disciples looked upon as diseased, the victim of an alien and evil power, not an accomplice of it. Had this always been understood and kept in mind, the unfortunate identification of Mary with the career of public prostitution would have been much less easy.


According to New Testament usage, in such cases the name would have been withheld (compare Luk_7:37; Joh_8:3). At the same time the statement that 7 demons had been cast out of Mary means either that the malady was of exceptional severity, possibly involving several relapses (compare Luk_11:26), or that the mode of her divided and haunted consciousness (compare Mar_5:9) suggested the use of the number 7. Even so, she was a healed invalid, not a rescued social derelict.


The identification of Mary with the sinful woman is, of course, impossible for one who follows carefully the course of the narrative with an eye to the transitions. The woman of Luke 7 is carefully covered with the concealing cloak of namelessness. Undoubtedly known by name to the intimate circle of first disciples, it is extremely doubtful whether she was so known to Luke. Her history is definitely closed at Luk_7:50.


The name of Mary is found at the beginning of a totally new section of the Gospel (see Plummer's analysis, op. cit., xxxvii), where the name of Mary is introduced with a single mark of identification, apart from her former residence, which points away from the preceding narrative and is incompatible with it. If the preceding account of the anointing were Mary's introduction into the circle of Christ's followers, she could not be identified by the phrase of Luke. Jesus did not cast a demon out of the sinful woman of Luke 7, and Mary of Magdala is not represented as having anointed the Lord's feet. The two statements cannot be fitted together.


2. Mary Not a Nervous Wreck:

Mary has been misrepresented in another way, scarcely less serious. She was one of the very first witnesses to the resurrection, and her testimony is of sufficient importance to make it worth while for those who antagonize the narrative to discredit her testimony. This is done, on the basis of her mysterious malady, by making her a paranoiac who was in the habit of “seeing things.” Renan is the chief offender in this particular, but others have followed his example.


(1) To begin with, it is to be remarked that Mary had been cured of her malady in such a marked way that, henceforth, throughout her life, she was a monument to the healing power of Christ. What He had done for her became almost a part of her name along with the name of her village. It is not to be supposed that a cure so signal would leave her a nervous wreck, weak of will, wavering in judgment, the victim of hysterical tremors and involuntary hallucinations.

(2) There is more than this a priori consideration against such an interpretation of Mary. She was the first at the tomb (Mat_28:1; Mar_16:1; Luk_24:10). But she was also the last at the cross - she and her companions (Mat_27:61; Mar_15:40). A glance at the whole brief narrative of her life in the Gospels will interpret this combination of statements. Mary first appears near the beginning of the narrative of the Galilean ministry as one of a group consisting of “many” (Luk_8:3), among them Joanna, wife of Chuzas, Herod's steward, who followed with the Twelve and ministered to them of their substance. Mary then disappears from the text to reappear as one of the self-appointed watchers of the cross, thereafter to join the company of witnesses to the resurrection. The significance of these simple statements for the understanding of Mary's character and position among the followers of Jesus is not far to seek. She came into the circle of believers, marked out from the rest by an exceptional experience of the Lord's healing power. Henceforth, to the very end, with unwearied devotion, with intent and eager willingness, with undaunted courage even in the face of dangers which broke the courage of the chosen Twelve, she followed and served her Lord. It is impossible that such singleness of purpose, such strength of will, and, above all, such courage in danger, should have been exhibited by a weak, hysterical, neurotic incurable. The action of these women of whom Mary was one, in serving their Master's need while in life, and in administering the last rites to His body in death, is characteristic of woman at her best.


Comparison with Mary of Bethany

Another devoted follower of Jesus. She was a resident of Bethany (Βηθανία, Bēthanı́a), and a member of the family consisting of a much-beloved brother, Lazarus, and another sister, Martha, who made a home for Jesus within their own circle whenever He was in the neighborhood.


The one descriptive reference, aside from the above, connected with Mary, has caused no end of perplexity. John (Joh_11:2) states that it was this Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. This reference would be entirely satisfied by the narrative of Joh_12:1, Joh_12:8, and no difficulty would be suggested, were it not for the fact that Luke (Luk_7:36-50) records an anointing of Jesus by a woman, accompanied with the wiping of His feet with her hair. The identification of these two anointings would not occasion any great difficulty, in spite of serious discrepancies as to time, place and other accessories of the action, but for the very serious fact that the woman of Lk 7 is described as a sinner in the dreadful special sense associated with that word in New Testament times. This is so utterly out of harmony with all that we know of Mary and the family at Bethany as to be a well-nigh intolerable hypothesis.


On the other hand, we are confronted with at least one serious difficulty in affirming two anointings. This is well stated by Mayor (Hastings Dictionary Bible, III, 280a): “Is it likely that our Lord would have uttered such a high encomium upon Mary's act if she were only following the example already set by the sinful woman of Galilee; or (taking the other view) if she herself were only repeating under more favorable circumstances the act of loving devotion for which she had already received His commendation?” We shall be compelled to face this difficulty in case we are forced to the conclusion that there were more anointings than one.


In the various attempts to solve this problem, or rather group of problems, otherwise than by holding to two anointings, Luke, who stands alone against Mark, Matthew and John, has usually suffered loss of confidence. Mayor (op. cit., 282a) suggests the possibility that the text of Luke has been tampered with, and that originally his narrative contained no reference to anointing. This is a desperate expedient which introduces more difficulties than it solves. Strauss and other hostile critics allege confusion on the part of Luke between the anointing at Bethany and the account of the woman taken in adultery, but, as Plummer well says, the narrative shows no signs of confusion. “The conduct both of Jesus and of the woman is unlike either fiction or clumsily distorted fact. His gentle severity toward Simon, and tender reception of the sinner, are as much beyond the reach of invention as the eloquence of her speechless affection” (International Critical Commentary, “Luke,” 209).  The first step in the solution of this difficulty is to note carefully the evidence supplied by Luke's narrative taken by itself. Mary is named for the first time in Luk_10:38-42 in a way which clearly indicates that the family of Bethany is there mentioned for the first time (a “certain τις, tis woman named Martha,” and “she had a sister called Mary,” etc.). This phrasing indicates the introduction of a new group of names (compare Joh_11:1). It is also a clear indication of the fact that Luke does not identify Mary with the sinful woman of Luke 7 (compare Mat_26:6-13; Mar_14:3-9; Luk_7:36-50; Joh_12:1-8).


Evidence Sifted by Comparison:

Our next task is to note carefully the relationship between the narratives of Mark, Matthew and John on one side, and that of Luke on the other. We may effectively analyze the narratives under the following heads: (1) notes of time and place; (2) circumstances and scenery of the incident; (3) description of the person who did the anointing; (4) complaints of her action, by whom and for what; (5) the lesson drawn from the woman's action which constitutes our Lord's defense of it; (6) incidental features of the narrative.


Under (1) notice that all three evangelists place the incident near the close of the ministry and at Bethany. Under (2) it is important to observe that Matthew and Mark place the scene in the house of Simon “the leper,” while John states vaguely that a feast was made for Him by persons not named and that Martha served. Under (3) we observe that Matthew and Mark say “a woman,” while John designates Mary. (4) According to Matthew, the disciples found fault; according to Mark, some of those present found fault; while according to John, the fault-finder was Judas Iscariot. According to all three, the ground or complaint is the alleged wastefulness of the action. (5) Again, according to all three, our Lord defended the use made of the ointment by a mysterious reference to an anointing of His body for the burial. John's expression in particular is most interesting and peculiar (see Joh_12:7). (6) The Simon in whose house the incident is said to have taken place is by Matthew and Mark designated “the leper.” This must mean either that he had previously been cured or that his disease had manifested itself subsequent to the feast. Of these alternatives the former is the more natural (see Gould, International Critical Commentary, “Mark,” 257). The presence of a healed leper on this occasion, together with the specific mention of Lazarus as a guest, would suggest that the feast was given by people, in and about Bethany, who had especial reason to be grateful to Jesus for the exercise of His healing power.


It is beyond reasonable doubt that the narratives of Matthew, Mark and John refer to the same incident. The amount of convergence and the quality of it put this identification among the practical certainties. The only discrepancies of even secondary importance are a difference of a few days in the time (Gould says four) and the detail as to the anointing of head or feet. It is conceivable, and certainly no very serious matter, that John assimilated his narrative at this point to the similar incident of Lk 7.


An analysis of the incident of Lk 7 with reference to the same points of inquiry discloses the fact that it cannot be the same as that described by the other evangelists. (1) The time and place indications, such as they are, point to Galilee and the Galilean ministry. This consideration alone is a formidable obstacle in the way of any such identification. (2) The immediate surroundings are different. Simon “the leper” and Simon “the Pharisee” can hardly be one person. No man could have borne both of these designations. In addition to this, it is difficult to believe that a Pharisee of Simon's temper would have entertained Jesus when once he had been proscribed by the authorities. Simon's attitude was a very natural one at the beginning of Christ's ministry, but the combination of hostility and questioning was necessarily a temporary mood. (3) The description of the same woman as sinner in the sense of Lk 7 in one Gospel; simply as a woman in two others; and as the beloved and honored Mary of Bethany in a third is not within the range of probability, especially as there is no hint of an attempt at explanation on the part of any of the writers. At any rate, prima facie, this item in Luke's description is seriously at variance with the other narratives. (4) Luke is again at variance with the others, if he is supposed to refer to the same event, in the matter of the complaint and its cause. In Luke's account there is no complaint of the woman's action suggested. There is no hint that anybody thought or pretended to think that she had committed a sinful waste of precious material. The only complaint is Simon's, and that is directed against the Lord Himself, because Simon, judging by himself, surmised that Jesus did not spurn the woman because He did not know her character. This supposed fact had a bearing on the question of our Lord's Messiahship, concerning which Simon was debating; otherwise one suspects he had little interest in the episode. This fact is, as we shall see, determinative for the understanding of the incident and puts it apart from all other similar episodes.


(5) The lesson drawn from the act by our Lord was in each incident different. The sinful woman was commended for an act of courtesy and tenderness which expressed a love based upon gratitude for deliverance and forgiveness. Mary was commended for an act which had a mysterious and sacramental relationship to the Lord's death, near at hand.


This brings us to the point where we may consider the one serious difficulty, that alleged by Mayor and others, against the hypothesis of two anointings, namely, that a repetition of an act like this with commendation attached would not be likely to occur. The answer to this argument is that the difficulty itself is an artificial one due to a misreading of the incident. In the point of central reference the two episodes are worlds apart. The act of anointing in each case was secondary, not primary. Anointing was one of those general and prevalent acts of social courtesy which might mean much or little, this or that, and might be repeated a score of times in a year with a different meaning each time. The matter of primary importance in every such case would be the purpose and motive of the anointing. By this consideration alone we may safely discriminate between these incidents. In the former case, the motive was to express the love of a forgiven penitent. In the latter, the motive was gratitude for something quite different, a beloved brother back from the grave, and, may we not say (in view of Joh_12:7), grief and foreboding? That Mary's feeling was expressed in the same way outwardly as that of the sinful woman of the early ministry does not change the fact that the feeling was different, that the act was different and that, consequently, the commendation she received, being for a different thing, was differently expressed. The two anointings are not duplicates. Mary's act, though later, was quite as spontaneous and original as that of the sinful woman, and the praise bestowed upon her quite as natural and deserved.


Mary, the Mother of James and Joses. (Literally - Mary of James)

Under this caption it is necessary merely to recall and set in order the few facts concerning this Mary given in the Gospels (see Mat_27:55, Mat_27:56, Mat_27:61; Mar_15:40; Mar_16:1; Luk_24:10; compare Luk_23:49-56).


In Mat_27:55, Mat_27:56 (parallel Mar_15:40), we are told that at the time of the crucifixion there was a group of women observing the event from a distance. These women are said to have followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him and to the disciples. Among these were Mary Magdalene; Mary, mother of James and Joses; and the unnamed mother of Zebedee's children. By reference to Luk_8:2, Luk_8:3, where this group is first introduced, it appears that, as a whole, it was composed of those who had been healed of infirmities of one kind or another. Whether this description applies individually to Mary or not we cannot be sure, but it is altogether probable. At any rate, it is certain that Mary was one who persistently followed with the disciples and ministered of her substance to aid and comfort the Lord in His work for others. The course of the narrative seems to imply that Mary's sons accompanied their mother on this ministering journey and that one of them became an apostle. It is interesting to note that two mothers with their sons joined the company of the disciples and that three out of the four became members of the apostolic group. Another item in these only too fragmentary references is that this Mary, along with her of Magdala and the others of this group, was of sufficient wealth and position to be marked among the followers of Jesus as serving in this particular way. The mention of Chuzas' wife (Luk_8:3) is an indication of the unusual standing of this company of faithful women.


The other notices of Mary show her lingering late at the cross (Mar_15:40); a spectator at the burial (Mar_15:47); and among the first to bear spices to the tomb. This is the whole of this woman's biography extant, but perhaps it is enough. We are told practically nothing, directly, concerning her; but, incidentally, she is known to be generous, faithful, loving, true and brave. She came in sorrow to the tomb to anoint the body of her dead Lord; she went away in joy to proclaim Him alive forevermore. A privilege to be coveted by the greatest was thus awarded to simple faith and trusting love.


The way this name is mentioned in the text  “Mary of James” which is mostly interpreted as Mary the mother of James and John. In Mark 15:40 there is a reference to Mary the mother of James and Joses. See also Mark 15:47 and 16:1 where the relationship is not clear. She could also be the daughter of a man named James or the wife of a man named James. But the grouping of references to this woman in Mark 15 and the beginning of 16 seem to infer we are talking about the same woman. Hence we conclude it Mary the mother of James to harmonise the references of both Mark and Luke. This Mary is likely to have been Virgin Mary’s sister of half sister (from John 19:25).   Ian


Salome (the other Mary) 

One of the holy women who companied with Jesus in Galilee, and ministered to Him (Mar_15:40, Mar_15:41). She was present at the crucifixion (Mar_15:40), and was among those who came to the tomb of Jesus on the resurrection morning (Mar_16:1, Mar_16:2). Comparison with Mat_27:56 clearly identifies her with the wife of Zebedee. It is she, therefore, whose ambitious request for her sons James and John is recorded in Mat_20:20-24; Mar_10:35-40. From Joh_19:25 many infer that she was a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus (thus Meyer, Luthardt, Alford); others (as Godet) dispute the inference.


Notice the line I have highlighted in red and emboldened. There is confusion between Mary Salome and Mary the mother of James and John. Some see therm being one and same person. I don’t. I believe Mary the mother of James and John and the other Mary are different people. It is clear from the combination of all gospel writers that Mary the mother of James and John and The Other Mary are different people as also is Salome. I believe Mary Salome is that other Mary. But you work out what you believe from all of this.  Ian




The wife of Chuzas, Herod's steward. She was one of the “women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities” which “ministered unto him (King James Version, i.e. Jesus, or “them” the Revised Version (British and American), i.e. Jesus and His disciples) of their substance,” on the occasion of Jesus' tour through Galilee (Luk_8:2, Luk_8:3). Along with other women she accompanied Jesus on His last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, and was present when His body was laid in the sepulcher (Luk_23:55). She was thus among those who prepared spices and ointments, who found the grave empty, and who “told these things unto the apostles” (Lk 23:56 through 24:10).



What is clear from the above clippings from E-Sword is that it is unclear.  Many link the biblical references to various combinations of the Marys involved. It is that which makes it difficult. This is not to infer there is a plot involved in who these people are. It is simply that there is confusion between the number of Marys involved. That happens when Tania and I tell parts of our testimony. I make it clear to people because there are numbers of Davids involved in our story. So I have to spell out which David it is I am talking about while distinguishing the one in focus from the others in the full story. It is the same principle which is happening here. I think I have it sorted out but I will leave it to you to piece together the details and come to your own conclusions. You can turn this into your own Bible research if you wish to.  Or you can simply take the attitude, oh this is complicated but I don’t think the differences or details are so important that I need to worry about them. I will let some one else work it all out, but good that I know it is complicated. 


I will move on to other aspects of the matter of the report of these women in the next Gem. We don’t quite have it all sorted yet.     



Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out. 


Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are. Kurt Cobain


Don’t look for society to give you permission to be yourself. Steve Maraboli


We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us. Virginia Satir


You were born an original. Don’t die a copy. Ian


Women should not have children after 35. Really . . .  35 children are enough.


Ladies: Let God make a man out of him before you try to make a husband out of him. 





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