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In a new piece for Christianity Today online, Andreas Köstenberger and I look at Five Errors to Drop from Your Easter Sermon. Here is a comment on the role of the women that may be helpful to remember:

As you preach this Easter, do not bypass the testimony of the women as an incidental detail.

In the first century, women were not even eligible to testify in a Jewish court of law.

Josephus said that even the witness of multiple women was not acceptable “because of the levity and boldness of their sex.”

Celsus, the second-century critic of Christianity, mocked the idea of Mary Magdalene as an alleged resurrection witness, referring to her as a “hysterical female . . . deluded by . . . sorcery.”

This background matters because it points to two crucial truths.

First, it is a theological reminder that the kingdom of the Messiah turns the system of the world on its head. Into this culture, Jesus radically affirmed the full dignity of women and the vital value of their witness.

Second, it is a powerful apologetic reminder of the historical accuracy of the resurrection accounts. If these were “cleverly devised myths” (2 Pet. 1:16), women would never have been presented as the first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ.

For a quick guide to the identity of these women, go here.

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9 thoughts on “Why It Matters Theologically and Historically That Women Were the First to Discover the Empty Tomb”

  1. Rachael Starke says:

    Thanks for this, Justin. I was listening in on the Band of Bloggers session you and others had at T4G and what struck me was how naturally and intentionally you all talked about the way women writers were being incorporated into the work of TGC and the fruit it was bearing. That’s practical outworking of belief in the dignity of women and the value of our witness to our risen Lord.

  2. Thanks so much for this, Justin. ;-)

  3. ken stewart says:

    Excellent! Have you and Kostenberger an opinion as to why the female witnesses are not highlighted in Paul’s enumeration of those who had seen Jesus, post-Easter, given in 1 Corinthians 15.1-7. From one perspective, it is a very significant omission.

    1. David says:

      Fascinating question, I would be interested in knowing this as well!

  4. Martin says:

    Ken’s question is indeed provocative! I would be eager to hear a response.

    Justin’s last point regarding how women point to the historical accuracy of the resurrection is very good.

  5. Russ says:

    Justin, while I greatly appreciated your other 4 points in the linked CT article above, you said:
    “Don’t say the same crowds worshiped Jesus on Palm Sunday and then cried out for his crucifixion on Good Friday.”

    Doesn’t Peter (at Pentecost, especially Acts 2:22-23) make the same sort of assumption months later? Certainly the ‘crowd’ in Jerusalem has changed greatly between Passover & Pentecost. Yet if Peter feels comfortable assigning the same sort of blame across a much larger time frame (several weeks & shifting ‘crowds’), why wouldn’t that logic extend merely to 4 days earlier at the Triumphal Entry?

    Again, I appreciate your work, brother. Curious to hear your response.

  6. Ken Stewart says:

    As to Paul’s omission of the report of the women at the tomb in his summation of those who saw Jesus alive after Easter (in 1 Cor. 15.1-7), U.K. author, John Wenham wrote this in his book _Easter Enigma_ (Zondervan, 1984, p. 52) ” Paul does not intend it (the list) to be exhaustive, for he does not mention (or at least clearly identify) any of the incidents which his travel-companion and ‘biographer’ Luke records: the visit of the women to the tomb, the Emmaus appearance, or its sequels in Jerusalem and on the way to Bethany. He seems to present a list of Christ’s revelations to his officially commissioned representatives”. This is a fairly satisfactory explanation of what persons/events are alluded to in 1 Cor. 15.1-7 and which are not.

  7. Martin says:

    “He seems to present a list of Christ’s revelations to his officially commissioned representatives”. This is a fairly satisfactory explanation…”

    That seems like a fairly weak explanation. How much more “officially commissioned” could the women have been but to have Jesus Himself say to them to go tell the brethren that He had risen.

  8. Martin says:

    Whoops! Forgot to say that my comment was based on John 20:11-18

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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