Would Christians find this illogical: “The women & Mary’s testimony confirm our resurrection evidences!”

  • Clarifying the Argument

    Soon after Jesus's crucifixion, Christians started proclaiming their belief that Jesus rose from the dead, hoping others would believe it. In the 1st century, how effective would the following argument be?

    “The testimony of Mary and the women—that ‘we saw Jesus’s tomb empty’ and/or ‘He appeared to us’— shows those evidences for Jesus’s resurrection are true!”

    So here is our question: For the sake of acquiring and using new evidence for Jesus’s resurrection, how would Christians evaluate the persuasive force of this argument in their evangelism and apologetics? Rather than respecting it, would early Christians judge this argument to be blatantly irrational given their social structures, or at best overtly subpar evidence?

“Yes, after all…
  • Women were considered unreliable witnesses

    In Mediterranean society, a woman’s testifying voice held relatively little persuasive value for listening audiences.

    • Jews tended to distrust women’s testimony,1 as did Romans/Greeks. [Both forthcoming]
    1. Here, one often cited evidence that Jews disvalued women as witnesses is that women were generally unable to testify in court. [Forthcoming] In response, others have said the value of their testimony in court is irrelevant in this context, either because the context was not legal:
      Maurice Casey: “…the New Testament is not a law court. Accordingly, the position of women in court is irrelevant until John 20, which was written by people in open conflict with the Jewish community.”[Jesus of Nazareth: An Indepdent Historian's Account of His Life and Teaching (T & T Clark International, 2010), 475.]
      Claudia Setzer: “Discussions of whether or not women's witness was legally valid seem out of place since this is hardly a legal context.” [“Excellent Women: Female Witness to the Resurrection” Journal of Biblical Literature 116/2 (1997): 261.]
      Or because even in legal contexts women could testify in special circumstances:
      R. T. Beckwith: “Applying this to the resurrection appearances, it would mean that Mary Magdalene was on rabbinical principles entitled to give witness to an appearance of Christ which was made only to her or to her and other women.” [as cited in John Wenham, Easter Enigma: Are the Resurrection Accounts in Conflict? (Second ed., Baker, 1992), 150-51.]
      However, these objections may miss the point being made my most historians. Very few claim that the resurrection was being judged in the New Testament as “in a law court”. Instead, the point is that the cultural disallowance of women to testify in court is clearly symptomatic of a larger bias against the reliability of women as witnesses. This bias is all that is being argued for.
  • Demoniacs were considered unreliable witnesses

    A devil faces three judges who each have a rejection x below them.

    People possessed by demons (past or present) were not considered credible sources in Mediterranean society; their testimony held little persuasive value for typical audiences.

    Full article [Forthcoming] weighs these 2 arguments:

    • They were judged to be mentally ill (or crazy, subject to paranoia).
    • E.g. Mary was considered unreliable on that basis.

    This is relevant because Mary Magdalene, and some of Jesus’s other women followers, had a reputation of being formerly demon possessed.1

    1. We see this reported in two early Christian sources:

      Lk 8:2 — “Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out”
      Mk 16:9 — “He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.” [Note: Although this is the so-called false ending of Mark, it is still early.]