Women as First Witnesses to the Empty Tomb

by Dr. Glenn Andrew Peoples

Sexism may be a bad thing, but there is actually an example where the existence of sexism contributes to the case for the resurrection of Jesus.

Early on the morning of the first Easter Sunday, according to the New Testament, a small number of women came to the tomb where Jesus had been laid, only to find that it was empty. The empty tomb is one of the widely accepted facts that speak in favour of belief in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.

One of the numerous considerations that favour the historical reliability of the account of the empty tomb is the fact that the initial testimony of the empty tomb is said to have come from a small group of women. However chauvinistic it might be, the fact is that in first century Palestine as in the wider Middle East, the testimony of a woman was regarded as inferior to that of a man. If an author had simply invented the discovery of the empty tomb and been trying to make it seem as persuasive as possible, women would certainly not have been his first choice of initial witness. Even in a court of law, women were regarded as being – compared to men – unqualified as witnesses. Presenting the testimony of women as the epistemological basis of the belief of others would perhaps have even served as an embarrassment to the early church. Hence, the authors of the Gospel would not have been motivated to paint fictional accounts with women as first witnesses. That they portrayed the events this way therefore counts in favour of the reliability of the account of the empty tomb.

Jeff Lowder of infidels.org is unmoved by this. He writes, “Having women discover the empty tomb may have been somewhat embarrassing to the church, but, if so, that would have been for reasons that had nothing to do with their qualification to serve as legal witnesses, since the women are not portrayed as legal witnesses in the story.”

But this really misses the point…


Women as First Witnesses to the Empty Tomb