The study of the identity of the ladies visiting the tomb of Christ
raises some interesting issues.

Generally most commentators have taken the approach that Scripture is
only identifying one person by the title 'Magdalene'.

However, when we take a close look at the text of Mark 16:1-8 there
arises a few issues with this assumption.

    Mark  16:1   Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene,
                 Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought
                 spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
            :8   So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb,
                 for they trembled and were amazed. And they
                 said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Scripture quite clearly states that these three ladies 1)Mary Magdalene,
2)Mary of James and 3)Salome "said nothing to anyone". This being in sharp
contrast to the other texts which depict Mary Magdalene informing others.

    Matt  28:8   So they [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] went
                 out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy,
                 and ran to bring His disciples word.

    Mark  16:10  She [Mary Magdalene] went and told those who had
                 been with Him, as they mourned and wept.

    Luke  24:10  It was Mary Magdalene [the Magdalene Mary], Joanna,
                 Mary the mother of James, and the other women with
                 them, who told these things to the apostles.

    John  20:18  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that
                 she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken
                 these things to her.

The Mark 16:1-8 text also differs as to when the ladies arrive at the

    Mark  16:2   Very early in the morning [= And much dawn],
                 on the first day of the week, they came to the
                 tomb when the sun had risen.

These ladies do not arrive until after sunrise! (The rendering,
"Very early in the morning" is misleading and incorrect; what is
being said is that these ladies came to the tomb very late toward
the end of dawn, ie at sunrise.)

Other texts talk about Mary Magdalene arriving before sunrise.

   John  20:1    Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene
                 went to the tomb early, while it was still
                 dark, ...

   Luke  24:1    Now on the first day of the week, very early
                 in the morning [dawn deep], they, and certain
                 other women with them, came to the tomb ...

   Matt  28:1    Now after the Sabbath [After the close of the
                 Sabbaths], as the first day of the week began
                 to dawn [grow light], Mary Magdalene and the
                 other Mary came to see the tomb.

The former three ladies, who do not arrive at the tomb until after
the sun had risen, appear to arrive late because they first purchase
spices from the market that morning.

    Mark  16:1   Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene,
                 Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought
                 spices, that they might come and anoint Him.

What is also evident from the Mark 16:1-8 text is that these ladies,
who arrived after sunrise, had been completely unaware that the stone
in front of the tomb had earlier been rolled away.

    Mark  16:3   And they said among themselves, "Who will
                 roll away the stone from the door of the
                 tomb for us?"

The Mark 16:1-8 text is telling us that these three ladies either
a) lacked knowledge of the events which had transpired earlier that
morning or b) had been informed but did not believe.

Since Luke 24:9-10 does speaks of three ladies who inform the apostles
we know that despite similar titles/descriptions that at least six
different ladies visited the tomb on that day.

        MARK 16:1                      LUKE 24:10

        Mary Magdalene                 'the Magdalene Mary'
        Mary of James                  Mary of James
        Salome                         Joanna

Hence this suggests we not only have two ladies named Magdalene, but
also two ladies named Mary (both being related to, one or more, men
named James).


When we look at the verses discussing the ladies witnessing the
crucifixion of Christ we can also note the existence of two ladies
named Mary Magdalene.

The text of John mentions ladies standing close to the cross of

   John  19:25  Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His
                mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the
                wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

   Notice, that there is an 'and' between "His mother" and
   "His mother's sister" and also between "Mary of Clopas"
   and "Mary Magdalene".
   However, there is no 'and' between "His mother's sister"
   and "Mary of Clopas".
   (Some translations do not accurately mirror this (eg the NIV
   which leaves out the first 'and'.)

   The absence in the Greek of the 'and' between 'His mother's
   sister' and 'Mary of Clopas', suggests Mary of Clopas was
   the sister of Christ's mother.

Indicating there were three ladies close to the cross;

            - the mother of Jesus
            - His mother's sister, Mary wife of Clopas
            - Mary Magdalene

Clearly the mother of Jesus and His mother's sister were relatives.
So was the Mary Magdalene in John 19:25 also a family member?
After all it would have been appropriate for family members to be
standing close to the cross.

Mary of Clopas (or Cleopas) appears to be the wife of Peter.
Refer Luke 24:18.

 [ Cleopas also seems to be Alphaeus who is related to the
   apostle James (not the James who was the son of Zebedee).
   Refer Matt 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13.
   And Alphaeus was apparently also the father of Levi
   (also known as Matthew). ]

The Matthew and Mark texts describe ladies who looked on from afar.

    Matt  27:55  And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee,
                 ministering to Him, were there looking on from
            :56  among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother
                 of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's

    Mark  15:40  There were also women looking on from afar,
                 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother
                 of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome,
            :41  who also followed Him and ministered to Him when
                 He was in Galilee, and many other women who came
                 up with Him to Jerusalem.

    If it is assumed that the Matthew and Mark verses were referring
    to the same three ladies then we have;

             - Mary Magdalene
             - Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses
             - Salome, the mother of Zebedee's sons

This arrangement of all the ladies, both near and far from the cross,
tells us that,

             - there are two women named Mary Magdalene
             - Salome may be the name of the mother of
               Zebedee's sons
             - Mary of Clopas is not the mother of
               James the Less and Joses


In respect to the ladies, the name Joses is mentioned three times,
Matt 27:56, Mark 15:40 & 47.

    Matt  27:56  among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother
                 of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's

    Mark  15:40  There were also women looking on from afar,
                 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother
                 of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome,

            :47  And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses
                 observed where He was laid.

From these verses we can see that Joses is a brother of James. Also,
that this James, in Mark 15:40, was also known as "James the Less".
Implying that the Matt 15:40 James was of lesser standing than James
the brother of John or at least of a young age.

The listed brothers of Christ include both a James and a Joses.

    Matt  13:55  "Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother
                 called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses (or
                 Joseph), Simon and Judas?"
    Mark   6:3   "Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and
                 brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And
                 are not His sisters here with us?" And they were
                 offended at Him.

So Joses could be a) the younger brother of Christ or b) a previously
unmentioned brother of the apostle James the son of Alphaeus.

If one sets a distinction between the ladies standing near the
cross and those standing further away then Joses is most likely
a previously unmentioned brother of James the son of Alphaeus.

In Scripture the name Joses is also given to Barnabas.

    Acts   4:36  And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by
                 the apostles (which is translated Son of
                 Encouragement), a Levite of the country
                 of Cyprus,

Barnabas was a cousin of John Mark, who in turn appears to have been
the son of Peter.

    1Col   4:10  ... with Mark the cousin of Barnabas ...

    1Pet   5:13  ... and so does Mark my son.


We previously noted that there was a 'Mary of James' which was
one of the three ladies who said "nothing to anyone". And there
was a "Mary of James" who was one of the ladies who testified
about the appearance and message of the angel(s).

There are three people called 'James'.

  - James the apostle who was the brother of John.
  - James the apostle who was related to Alphaeus.
  - James who was the brother of Christ.

We previously noticed that Salome may be the mother of James and
John (comparing Matt 27:56 and Mark 15:40). So this would tend to
suggest the first James is not a possibility.

We now need to consider what other ladies were mentioned alongside
each of these two 'Mary of James' references.

  - Mark 16:1,  Mary Magdalene, Mary of James and Salome
                (who said "nothing to anyone")

  - Luke 24:10, the Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary of James
                (who testified)

From this Mary mother of Christ appears to be the Mary of James
in Mark 16;1. She is with the Mary Magdalene to which she is likely
related (not the Mary Magdalene to whom Christ first appears). Also
she would have been acquainted with Salome whose sons were in business
with her sister's sons.

At first it may seem strange to call Mary the mother of Christ by
the title Mary of James, but one only has to recall that Christ
has now died and that her next oldest son was named James.

This leaves James the son of Alphaeus as the Mary of James in Luke
24:10. A woman who is mentioned after the other two ladies, ie Mary
Magdalene (to whom Christ appeared) and Joanna.


The term Magdalene, is commonly thought to be suggesting a connection
to Magdala (near the Sea of Galilee);

    Matt 15:39  And He sent away the multitude, got into the
                boat, and came to the region of Magdala.

According to Strong's Concordance the word 'Magdala' is a word meaning
'the tower' or 'fortress'. So this opens the possibility that one of
the ladies is referred to by this name as a descriptive title.

The name Mary Magdalene is primarily mentioned in respect to Christ's
death and resurrection. However, there is one verse which mentions this
name early in the ministry of Christ.

    Luke   8:2   and certain women who had been healed of evil
                 spirits and infirmities; Mary called Magdalene,
                 out of whom had come seven demons,
            :3   ... and many others who provided for Him from
                 their substance.

This Mary called Magdalene was the same Mary to whom Christ first
appeared after His resurrection,

    Mark  16:9   Now when He rose early on the first day of the
                 week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out
                 of whom He cast seven demons.

This Mary informed others that Christ had risen,

    Mark  16:10  She went and told those who had been with Him,
                 as they mourned and wept.
            :11  And when they heard that He was alive and had
                 been seen by her, they did not believe.

With respect to timing it is important to notice that this Mary,
called Magdalene, did not see Christ until after the apostles,
Peter and John, had ran to the empty tomb. (Refer John chapter 20.)

A primary point of discussion in respect to Mary Magdalene is whether
she is the same person as Mary of Bethany.

Mary Magdalene is first mentioned soon after the mention of the
anointing of Christ's feet by a lady 'sinner'.

    Luke   7:37  And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner,
                 when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the
                 Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of
                 fragrant oil,
            :38  and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she
                 began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped
                 them with the hair of her head; and she kissed
                 His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.

This lady who was described in non-flattering terms as "a sinner" and
"what manner of woman" (Luke 7:39), appears in John to be identified
as Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha!

    John  11:2   It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with
                 fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair,
                 whose brother Lazarus was sick.

The John 11:2 verse is placed prior to the pre-death anointing of
Christ so it may be concluded that it refers to the Luke 7:36-50

When one looks at John's account of Christ appearing to Mary we can
see from verse 18 that Mary Magdalene was at least one of the ladies
present at that time.

    John  20:18  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that
                 she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken
                 these things to her.

The John 20:11-18 text only indicates the presence of one woman, but
Matthew 28:1,9 suggests that two ladies were present.

    Matt  28:1   ... Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to
                 see the tomb.

            :9   ... Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they
                 came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.

If Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are two separate women then it
is quite possible that the 'other Mary' in Matt 28:1 was Mary of

As mentioned earlier there is a Mary Magdalene who says "nothing to
anyone" and who was likely related to Mary mother of Christ. (Mary
mother of Christ was standing with her sister Mary the wife of
Cleopas (ie Peter) and this Mary Magdalene near the cross.)

The exact identity of this Mary Magdalene is uncertain, but Scripture
does provide a possible candidate.

    Matt   8:14  Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house,
                 He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a
            :15  And He touched her hand, and the fever left
                 her. Then she arose and served them.

If Mary mother of Jesus and Mary wife of Peter were full sisters
then this lady would have been Christ's grandmother! This lady's
name is not mentioned, but if her two daughters were named 'Mary'
then it is quite likely she was also. Given that this older lady
was the mother of Peter's wife and possibly the mother of Christ's
mother she would have been held in very high esteem and the
descriptive title 'Magdalene', meaning 'tower' or 'fortress' would
be understandable.


It goes without saying that for two groups of ladies to separately
visit the tomb on the day of His resurrection then each group must
include at least one lady who knows where His body was placed.

Scripture mentions the following women.

    Matt  28:61  And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary,
                 sitting opposite the tomb.

    Mark  15:47  And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses
                 observed where He was laid.

However, other ladies are also indicated.

    Luke  23:55  And the women who had come with Him from Galilee
                 followed after, and they observed the tomb and
                 how His body was laid.
            :56  Then they returned and prepared spices and
                 fragrant oils. ...

These Luke verses indicate that the women who followed Him from Galilee
all knew where He had been laid and that they were later that evening
involved in preparing spices.

[ NB: The following verse suggests Mary mother of Jesus could
      not have seen the tomb.
      John 19:27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your
                 mother!" And from that hour that disciple
                 took her to his own home.
      If Christ's mother was taken to John's home that very
      hour then she would not have been present to observe
      where Christ's body was laid. However, since the word
      'home' is not present in the inspired Greek text this
      reasoning is questionable. ]

At least one of the ladies in the group who purchased spices must
have known the location of the tomb. It seems that this was Salome,
the mother of Zebedee's sons, as she was one of the ladies who
had followed Jesus from Galilee, Matt 27:55-56.


1)  There was a Mary who was the mother of John Mark.

    Acts  12:2   Then he [Herod] killed James the brother of
                 John with the sword.

            :12  So, when he had considered this, he came to
                 the house of Mary, the mother of John whose
                 surname was Mark, where many were gathered
                 together praying.

    The home of Mary was located in the district of Jerusalem,
    where Herod was located.

2)  There was a James who was the brother of Jude.

    Jude   1:1   Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and
                 brother of James, ...


Correctly assembling the pieces of information related to the ladies
who witness the crucifixion of Christ and who later visit His tomb is
quite difficult.

While some information can be derived it seems that in the end one has
to make some reasonable assumptions.

It is hoped that this commentary may serve as a thought provoking basis
for the further study of this topic.


Email contact
Bible Study Index page
Other Topics