Bookmark and Share
My Photo


    Opinions expressed on the Insight Scoop weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Ignatius Press. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Ignatius Press with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.


« "The liturgical celebration of the Easter Vigil makes use of two eloquent signs." | Main | A short introduction to St. Mark the Evangelist »

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Eric Giunta

Uh . . . actually, we *do* know why the women went to the tomb: the Gospels tells us they were there to anoint Jesus' body! Please edit this post before some Evangelical reads it and is confirmed in their prejudices about Catholic Biblical illiteracy . . . ;-)

Carl E. Olson

A fair enough point, Eric, about the women going to anoint the body, but there is more to it than you indicate.

John's account, which I am referring to in my column, differs from that of the Synoptics (cf. Mt. 28:1ff, Mk. 16:1ff, Lk. 23:55-24:3), which also differ from each other in some details.

While Mark and Luke expressly state that the women (plural) came to the tomb at "when the sun had risen" (Mk. 16:2) and "early dawn" (Lk. 24:1) in order to "anoint him" (Mk. 16:1) and "taking the spices which they had prepared" (Lk. 24:1), Matthew says only that Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" went to "see the tomb" (Mt. 28:1). John indicates that Mary Magdalene was alone and that she went to the tomb while it was "still dark", which almost all commentators agree refers to sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 am. John makes no reference to Mary Magdalene bringing spices; in fact, he suggests that the preparation of the body was complete already (see Jn. 19:39-42).

So, commentators (both Catholic and otherwise) have speculated as to why Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. St. John Chysostom wrote: "For being entirely full of loving affection toward her Master, when the sabbath was past, she could not bear to rest but came very early in the morning, desiring to find some consolation from the place" (Homilies on the Gospel of John, 85.4). Sanders and Mastin (Anglicans) concludes that even if the burial and preparation was complete, "there is no improbability in the women going to weep at the tomb (cf. xi.31)" (Harper's New Testament Commentary [1968], p. 417). A.M. Hunter (also Anglican) states that "Mary Magdalene makes her way to Joseph's rock-tomb to render the last offices of love", without indicating if he means simply mourning or further preparation of the body (The Cambridge Bible Commentary [1965], p. 184). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990), flatly states, "Since the anointing of Jesus was completed in the Johannine burial scene, it is not the motive for her visit (cf. Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1)" (p. 983). Fr. Raymond Brown goes over all of this is excruciating detail in his massive two-volume commentary, noting, "John does not specify why" Mary Magdalene went to the tomb at the early hour she did, but is sympathetic to the idea that she went to mourn further (cf. Jn. 11:31).

There is, then, room for some differing ideas about John 20:1. My opinion is that Mary Magdalene went earlier, before the other women, in order to grieve; this seems very consistent with John's indication that the preparation was finished and also with his emphasis on the special place of Mary Magdalene (no, not "special" as in how Dan Brown depicts her, but as an "apostle to the apostles").

Of course, it could be that although I was an Evangelical prior to becoming Catholic, my being Catholic has now completely addled my once brilliant intellect. ;-)

Eric Giunta

Truth be told, I think we do have outright factual contradictions in the Resurrection narratives that are impossible to reconcile. Which tells me that, although the Gospels are historical, they are not written according to modern canons of historiography, and we probably do violence to authorial intent by forcibly harmonizing them. Happy Easter, Carl; Christ is risen; alleluia!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Ignatius Insight


Ignatius Press

Catholic World Report


Blogs & Sites We Like

June 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Blog powered by Typepad