Does Mk pepper witness-engendering verbal-cues throughout his report on the women at Jesus’s death, burial and empty tomb

  • Clarifying the question

    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 Gospel of Mark records the death of Jesus (15:), his burial by Joseph of Arimathea (15:), and the discovery of his empty tomb (16:1f). In each situation, women witnesses are listed by name. Does the Gospel of Mark (and by extension the author or traditional-source) place emphasis on the women’s role as witnesses, by applying terms like “look” and “observed” to the women at Jesus’s death, burial and empty tomb? Are verbal cues rampant which leave the reader with the sense that the author intends the women to function as witnesses?

  • Historians

    • Richard Bauckham: “Attention to the verbs in these passages shows not only that the women’s seeing is stressed, but also that they do little else in Mark's narrative except see,” [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses 2nd ed. (Eerdmans, 2017), 522.]
    • Samuel Byrskog: “The verbs used are θεωρεΐν - again - and όράν. They see a young man in a white robe instead of finding Jesus’ body. The young man points out to them that the tomb was empty, urging them to see for themselves the place where they laid him (16:6). Specifically named women are thus eyewitnesses of Jesus’ death and of the location of his tomb, as well as of the empty tomb itself.” [Story as History—History as Story (Brill, 2002), 78.]
“Yes, after all…
  • The Greek conveys a sense of sustained attention

    The Greek chosen in Mk's gospel (e.g. θεωρεΐν) vividly portrays a sense of attentive watchers soaking in what they see.1 This is relevant because the Greek here indicates what Mk aimed to convey to the reader.

    1. John Donahue & Daniel Harrington: “[Regarding Mk 15:47] The use of the imperfect ‘were observing’ (etheōroun) suggests that these women took in everything from start to finish.” [The Gospel of Mark — Sacra Pagina (Liturgical, 2002), 455.]
      Richard Bauckham: “While horao and eidon can refer to a punctiliar act of seeing (we might say ‘noticing’), theoreo means to observe something with sustained attention. …they observed the events surrounding the death of Jesus from a distance, that the two Marys observed where the body of Jesus was laid, and that the three women observed that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. The sense of sustained attention is reinforced by the imperfect tense in the second case.” [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses 2nd ed. (Eerdmans, 2017), .]
  • Seven times Mk applies seeing verbs to them

    In various forms and fashions, the author of Mk chose to continuously apply seeing verbs to the women in his Passion narrative (especially for the empty tomb).1 This is relevant because the ratio of word is a useful indicator of the role the author and/or his tradition intended for audiences.

    1. They speak of seeing Jesus die on the cross (15:40 — some women looking on from a distance), be buried by Joseph (15:47 — Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid), and of seeing events related to the empty tomb (16:4 — they saw that the stone had been rolled away; 16:5 — Entering the tomb, they saw a young man 16:6 — looking for Jesus; 16:6 — behold, here is the place where they laid Him;16:7 — there you will see Him.)
  • Their commission is prefaced by “look” (ἴδε)

    In Mark’s account, the whole divine commission of Mary Magdalene et. al. is based on their role obeying the angels' command to “look” (ἴδε) and recount to the apostles what they have seen. This is relevant because their commission in major indicator of the role they play here as witnesses.

    1. Robert Gundry: “…downplaying the women’s role as witnesses places too little attention to the triple use of θεωρεω, “observe, see,” with them as the subject (15:40, 47; 16:4), to the young man’s commanding them ἴδε, “look!” (16:6), and to their commission (16:7).”