Did named women (e.g. Mary) function as the witness sources for Mark’s burial and empty tomb account?

“Yes, after all…
  • Mk 15 (buried) & 16:1 (emptied) re-list similar participants

    A symbol of the Gospel of Mark is in the corner, and the image is of a man comparing two documents which both outsize him.

    The Gospel of Mark lists by name the persons (all women) viewing Jesus’s burial, and a few verses later—in narrating the empty tomb discovery—gives the same list of viewers with only a slight difference.

    Against the relevance of that first claim, plausibly

    • …it is just an accident of fiction.1
    • …it is just knit together two different traditions he inherited with slightly different lists.2
    1. In response to the idea that this phenomena is just an accident of fiction, there are several problems. To focus in on one problem, consider that such a repetition is literarily clumsy and tedious, both to the reader and the writer (even a somewhat repetitive one like the author of Mark).
      If one is inclined to reject the explanation in the main claim (that it's an indicator of eyewitness sources), then a far better explanation is that Mark was relaying two independent traditions he faithfully received and transmitted:

      Morna Hooker: “Even stranger, the names do not tally exactly… though Mark's purposes seems to be to establish this small group of women as witnesses of Jesus' death, to establish this small group of women as witnesses of Jesus' death, mentioned in 15.40, reappears. …the three different descriptions of this Mary cause problems …. The discrepancies suggest that Mark has taken over different traditions and reproduced them faithfully, at least in these details; they also warn us against assuming that there must be theological significance in the minor details of Mark's narrative!” [The Gospel According to St. Mark, in Black’s New Testament Commentary (Hendrickson, 2009), 383.]

    2. This is very plausible, but it suggests still that Mary and these named women function as witnesses in Mk. After all, they would have functioned as witnesses in the traditions Mark was relaying.
  • [Mk 16:1 and Lk 24:10 emphasize (by naming) different members]

    In the empty tomb accounts, Mark specfically includes the witness names most known by his audience. [Details forthcoming]1

    1. As a quick sketch, Mk 16:1 and Lk 24:10 seem emphasize (by naming) different members. Only Luke mentions Salome, for example. This is relevant because the naming of alternative witnesses in a larger group reflects different community interests (i.e. witnesses they know) or different witness sources. Reports are inclined to emphasize witnesses recognized by their local audiences. So, if Mark used the women as witnesses, then we can say the following: If Mt (using Mk) and Lk (using Mk) knew Mark was listing witnesses, but Mt and Lk had witnesses more appropriate to emphasize for their community, then it is virtually predictable that Mk, Mt, and Lk would vary slightly in which witnesses would be explicitly named.)
  • Mk 16:1 names them without introduction

    In Mk, the women are named as if the audience is supposed to know them. This is relevant because it is the same sort of way Mark’s tradition names Rufus and Alexander, whose only significance is that they are known to the audience. [Details forthcoming]

    1. Christopher Bryan: “We scarcely know who these women were [aside from Mary], but it is evident from the manner in which Mark refers to them that he believes his audience does know, just as they clearly know who Alexander and Rufus are (15:21). These are real people who exist outside of his text in the world of his hearers.(Hooker, Mark, 379; Witherington, Mark, 401.) In contrast to Alexander and Rufus, however, who play no part in the narrative other than being related to one of its participants, Mark identifies the women as eyewitnesses…” [The Resurrection of the Messiah (Oxford, 2011), 73.]
      Samuel Byrskog: “Their function as eyewitnesses is further accentuated as three or four of them are singled out by name.” [Story as History: History as Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History (Brill, 2002), 76-77.]

  • Mk 15-16 is loaded with witness-engendering language

    A woman stands with a scroll that has an eyeball drawn on it. A logo is at the bottom right of the whole image with the gospel of Mark.

    The account in Mk 15-16 comprehensively loads the women’s role with witness-engendering language and no competing roles

    This full page analyzes 3 arguments: