Since AD 30, was the Jerusalem church saying the risen Jesus appeared to the Easter women—including Mary?

  • Question

    Jesus was crucified (in AD 30) and various sources report that God raised him from the dead a fews day later. Specifically, reports say that he appeared alive to people demonstrating that He had been raised by God in vindication of Jesus’s claims. However, prior to appearing to His apostles Jesus interestingly appeared to Mary Magdalene and some women (Mt 28:9, Ps. Mk 16:9, Jn 20:14).1 When and where did the report of Jesus’s appearance to Mary Magdalene originate? Does the report of this Christophany date to within AD 30, when Christianity was largely confined to the Jerusalem church (led by Jesus’s apostles in Jerusalem), or even within days of the crucifixion as the reports more specifically claim? Did the first Christians immediately start to circulate this appearance report and continue circulating it?

    1. Mt 28:9 — Jesus met them [a]and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
      Ps. Mk 16:9 — Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.
      Jn 20:14 — When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
  • Historians

    • Gerd Lüdemann: “The Gospels mention a first appearance to Mary Magdalene, which is firmly bound up with Jerusalem.” [What really happened to Jesus, Trans. by Bowden (Westminster, 1995), 80-81.]
“Yes, after all…
  • All reports on her seeing Jesus say she's 1st

    A woman joyfully raises her arms in celebration as she stands in front of a line of men.

    Jesus's appearing to Mary is multiply attesed and in all cases where we read of this, it is clear that Jesus appears to her and her group before anyone else (e.g. before the male apostles).

    A full page will debate these 4 arguments:

    • Mary and her opinion on issues everpresent to the Jerusalem church.
    • Mary is listed in all gospels.

    This is relevant because, if Mary was not known in the 1st church (and churches) as the first witness, then there is nothing else that would’ve later recommended her so strongly to all sources as being the first witness. Any attempt to introduce it would’ve been met with extreme resistance (e.g. “how have we not heard about this before?”)

    1. Samuel Byrskog: “Why was she [Mary Magdalene] accorded such an importance? Hengel suggests that her reputation of being the first one to see the risen Lord was the decisive factor. Schüssler Fiorenza agrees. (Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, p. 139.) And Esther de Boer, though without a detailed analysis of texts, also speaks of her as a ‘key witness’ to Jesus death, his burial and the empty tomb with the revelation that goes with it.(Boer, Mary Magdalene, pp. 45-55.) Truly, other plausible explanations are hard to find.” [Story as History—History as Story (Brill, 2002), 79.]
      Bart Ehrman: “It is also significant that Mary Magdalene enjoys such prominence in all the Gospel resurrection narratives, even though she is virtually absent everywhere else in the Gospels. She is mentioned in only one passage in the entire New Testament in connection with Jesus during his public ministry (Luke 8:1–3), and yet she is always the first to announce that Jesus has been raised. Why is this? One plausible explanation is that she too had a vision of Jesus after he died.” [“The Inerrancy of the Bible? And Those Who Doubt. Readers’ Mailbag October 2, 2016” at]
    2. And contra some scholars, Mk was not attempting to deal with this by saying concluding his gospel with, “and the women said nothing to anyone.”
  • Mt 28 & Jn 20 independently attest to it

    Both the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 28) and the Gospel of John (chapter 20) reprort on Jesus's appearing to Mary, and they do so without one having borrowed from the other.

    On this page we can debate this evidence:

    • They are strikingly/uncoincidentally similar, e.g. in how both agree on the context of Jesus's appearing to Mary (just after the tomb visit, seeing angels), both having Mary physically cling to Jesus, both having Jesus identify his disciples as “my brethren,” and both telling Mary to share the report of what happened with the men. And yet, neither Mt's nor Jn's gospel depend on each other.

    Mt 28 and Jn 20 independently attesting to Jesus's appearance to Matter helps show the early Jerusalm church's viewpoint because Jn and Mt date to around AD 40-90. That means their independent attestations are indicative of a branching-event from a common older tradition that predates them both. During these early years before AD 40 (likely well before), the Jerusalem church held primary and dominating sway over stories circulating about Jesus and the main characters in the Gospel stories (e.g. Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the like).

    But no, Plausibly…

  • Mary was herself saying “Jesus visited me”

    A woman kneels grabbing on to the robe of Jesus who is facing her. Another woman is in check behind them.

    Mary Magdalene was herself testifying that Jesus appeared to her alive from the dead. This is factors into the discussion because if Mary was herself saying this then in all likely the Jerusalem church--which she was a part off--was also saying it.

“No, after all…
  • Mary is absent in sources that would’ve mention her

    Jesus’s alleged appearance to Mary absent in sources that would’ve mentioned it (if the 1st church knew of it).

    The appearance to Mary is absent multiple expected sources:

    • 1 Cor 15 list would’ve included Mary.
    • Mk 16 would’ve recorded the visit to Mary.
    • Lk 24 would’ve recorded the visit to Mary.