May 2, 2008

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: Witnesses to the Crucifixion

John F. Fink(Thirty-eighth in a series of columns)

Who were some of the women mentioned by name who were present when Jesus was crucified—besides Jesus’ mother, Mary, and Mary Magdalene? And who were those who went to the tomb on the following Sunday, planning to anoint Jesus’ body?

We know, first of all, from Luke’s Gospel, that those named were among the women from Galilee who traveled with Jesus and the Apostles, and supported them out of their resources. Susanna was named by Luke as one of the women, but she is not specifically named at the Crucifixion so she might or might not have been there.

Matthew’s Gospel names Mary, the mother of James (one of the Apostles) and Joseph, whom he also calls “the other Mary.”

She is sometimes identified as the wife of Clopas, who might have been Joseph’s brother and, therefore, the Blessed Virgin’s brother-in-law. Matthew’s Gospel says that she went with Mary Magdalene to the tomb on Easter. They were told by an angel that Jesus had risen, went to tell the Apostles, and were met by Jesus on the way.

Mark’s Gospel adds Salome, the wife of Zebedee and mother of the Apostles James and John, both at the Crucifixion and at the tomb.

We met Salome earlier, in Matthew’s Gospel, when she approached Jesus with her sons and asked him to “command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom” (Mt 20:21). (Mark’s Gospel says that the two Apostles themselves asked. We don’t know why Matthew, who may very well have gotten the story from Mark, added Salome.)

Luke’s Gospel doesn’t mention any of the women present at the Crucifixion by name, saying only, “The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind [while Jesus was being buried], and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils” (Lk 23:55-56).

However, Luke does identify those women when they went to the tomb on Sunday: Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James. It’s the only mention of Joanna during the Crucifixion, but Luke earlier identified her as the wife of King Herod’s steward, Chuza. We don’t know anything else about her, but it’s interesting that one of Jesus’ close followers was connected to Herod Antipas.

All of these women probably were among those who remained with the Apostles in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension and were present when the Holy Spirit descended upon them on Pentecost.

Before I finish writing about the women in the Gospels and move on to the Acts of the Apostles, I should mention Peter’s mother-in-law. She appears very briefly in two verses in Matthew’s Gospel and three in Mark’s.

In Capernaum, Jesus went to the house of Peter and his brother, Andrew, where Peter’s mother-in-law was ill. Jesus cured her so she could get up and wait on them (Matthew says “him”). It’s probably best that I not say any more about that.†

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