The Same Person or different Women?

C Mc
C Mc Posts: 4,463
edited March 2019 in Bible Questions

The Bible speaks of MARY MAGDALENE, MARY OF BETHANY and THE SINFUL WOMAN OF LUKE 7, are they same person or different people? Make your case for or against. To be clear, I speak of the following:

  1. The anonymous woman "sinner" of Luke 7:36-50.
  2. The woman who anoints Jesus in Bethany (Matt 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8) who is named Mary the sister of Lazarus (John 11:2).
  3. Mary Magdalene who is mentioned by all four Gospels in connection with the resurrection of Jesus.

Looking at the four Gospel accounts beside each other show striking similarities. Three women: are all one and the same person? CM


  • reformed
    reformed Posts: 3,176

    Different Marys. It was a really popular name. There were several marys just at the cross alone.

    We don't know the woman in Luke 7 was even named Mary.

    Mary, sister of Martha, is mentioned in several places throughout the Gospels as you have shown but has a very different background than Magdalene that there is no reason to believe they were the same person much less similar.

  • C Mc
    C Mc Posts: 4,463


    I will look closely at the passages above for answers from the Word. I propose that the story in Matthew, Mark, John, Luke is the same event describe in all four Gospels. In addition, the unnamed woman of Luke’s account is identified with Mary of Bethany and with Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons. Also, Simon himself is declared to be the one who had led Mary into sin at some previous time.

    As for now, let me say, Tertullian (ca.155-220 A.D.) linked the Lucan and Marcan characters, using an idea common to the other two Gospels. He writes:

    "He permitted contact even with His own body to the 'woman, a sinner,' —washing, as she did, His feet with tears, and wiping them with her hair, and inaugurating His sepulture with ointment." (Trans. by Thelwall, "On Modesty":

    Tertullian links together the "sinner," an idea only in Luke, with getting Jesus ready for burial ("inaugurating his sepulture" or "inaugurating his own decease"), an idea found in all Gospels except Luke. Contact with Christ's body is mentioned in Matt 26:12 and Mark 14:8. Thus Tertullian brings together the Gospel accounts of this story.

    For centuries paintings portrayed a seductively clothed Mary Magdalene, often with red or gold hair and an alabaster jar of perfumed oil. Haskins chronicles Mary's portrayal in two millennia of art, literature, and theology.

    Keep studying, the quest for truth and understanding. CM


    • Tertullian, De pudicitia, XI, 1, PL2, col 1001B
    • Susan Haskins, Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor (London: Pimlico, 2005)
  • reformed
    reformed Posts: 3,176

    There is no evidence they are the same person. You are reading way too much into things.

  • C Mc
    C Mc Posts: 4,463

    (1) Ten details are clearly agreed upon by two writers without contradictions elsewhere.

    1. Pure nard-- is extracted from the spike of the nard plant, which grows near the foothills of the Himalayas. It had probably come via the spice markets of India by ship to Arabia, then by camel train to Jerusalem. Pure nard, not mixed with cheaper substances, would be worth a working person's wages for a year (300 denarii). One can only imagine the personal cost of earning this as a prostitute. Mark 14:3 and John 12:1-8.
    2. Why waste? Matt 26:8; Mark 14:5 & 5
    3. Jesus defends -- Matt. "don't bother her"; Mk -- "leave her alone"; Jn --leave her alone
    4. Jesus: she did -- what she could, a beautiful thing (v. 6), what she could (v. 8); Love much (Lk 7:47)
    5. Poor always --Only Mark adds the phrase "and you can help them, whenever you want" alluding to Deut 15:11, the command to be open-handed to the poor and needy (Matt/Mk).
    6. Her story told
    7. Judas will betray
    8. Mary Magdalene travels with Jesus-- mentioned later ((Matt. 27:55-56; Lk follows immediately (8:1-3)
    9. Mary Magdalene had demons (Mk 16: 9; Lk 8:2)
    10. Mary of Bethany wipes Jesus' feet with her hair (John 11:2; 12:1, 3), as does the unnamed woman sinner (Luke 7:38).
    • This was a striking action, since the rabbis considered a woman's hair too seductive to be shown in public. One scholar saw this act as a reason for divorce.

    Jeremias believed, "It was the greatest disgrace for a married woman to unbind her hair in the presence of men." Similar rules presumably applied to single women. One could reasonably expect this action to be unique and strongly suggests the connection between the stories and the characters.

    In addition, with details yet to share, there are other points the four Gospel accounts reveals striking similarities:

    2) Six details show that three writers agree with each other without contradictions elsewhere.

    (3) Three details without differences occur in all four writers.

    (4) Thirteen details are mentioned in only one writer, without contradictions elsewhere.

    There are thirty-two details without differences and seven details with differences.

    Reformed, do you have specific substances to say the opposite to what have been shared above? Read on, read correctly, share generously. CM


    • J. Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus (London: SCM Press, 1954), 101-102

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