Women in the Synoptic Gospels
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D. 

Gospel of MARK

Female Characters in Mark's Gospel and other references to women, both real and fictional:

CHARACTER / EPISODE MARK MATTHEW LUKE JOHN
Healing of Simon's Mother-in-Law 1:29-31 8:14-15 4:38-39 x
Concern of Jesus' Family: Mother and Brothers 3:19b-21, 31-35 12:46-50 8:19-21 x
The Daughter of Jairus 5:21-24, 35-43 9:18-19, 23-26 8:40-42, 49-56 x
A Woman with a Flow of Blood 5:25-34 9:20-22 8:43-48 x
Jesus is called "Son of Mary"; ref. to his sisters 6:3 13:55-56 x [6:42]
John the Baptist's Death: HERODIAS and her daughter 6:17-29 14:3-12 [3:19-20] x
The Syrophoenician Woman's Daughter 7:24-30 15:21-28 x x
On Divorce 10:2-12 19:3-12 [16:18] x
Jesus quotes the Decalogue: "Honor Your Father and Mother" 10:19 19:19 18:20 x
"No one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother
or father or children or fields for my sake..."
10:29-30 19:29 18:29 x
The Case of a Woman Who Had Seven Husbands 12:18-27 22:23-33 20:27-40 x
The Widow's Mite 12:41-44 x 21:1-4 x
Apocalyptic Discourse: Children Rise against their Parents 13:12 [10:21] 21:16 x
"Alas for those with child or nursing" 13:17 24:19 21:23-24 x
Anointing at Bethany: Anonymous Woman 14:3-9 26:6-13 [7:36-50] 12:1-8
Peter's Denial: The Serving Girl 14:66-72 26:69-75 22:56-57 18:16-17
Women at the Cross: MARY MAGDALENE,
MARY mother of James & Joses, and SALOME
15:40-41 27:55-56 23:49 19:25b-27
Women See Jesus Buried 15:47 27:61 23:55-56 x
Women Go to Jesus' Tomb 16:1-8 28:1-8 24:1-11 20:1-2a, 11-13
[Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene / Women] [16:9-11] 28:9-10 24:10-11 20:14-18


Gospel of MATTHEW

Additional References to Women in Matthew's Gospel:

References found ONLY in Matthew:

Passage (Source)

Brief Description

Matt 1:3, 5, 6 Genealogy of Jesus: "...and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar... and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth... and David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah."
Matt 1:16 Genealogy of Jesus: "...Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born."
Matt 1:18-25 Birth of Jesus: "When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit... 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.' " (cf. Isa 7:14)
Matt 2:11 Magi's Visit: "On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage."
Matt 5:27-28 Sermon on the Mount, on Adultery: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Matt 5:31-32 Sermon on the Mount, on Divorce: "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (cf. Mark 10:2-12 and par.)
Matt 14:21 Feeding of the 5000: "Those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children."
Matt 15:38 Feeding of the 4000: "Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children."
Matt 18:25 Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: "...his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made."
Matt 21:5 Jesus' Entrance into Jerusalem: "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (cf. Isa 62:11; Zech 9:9; John 12:15)
Matt 25:1-13 Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids and Their Lamps (actually Torches)
Matt 27:19 Pilate's Wife: "While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, 'Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.'"

References found in BOTH Matthew and Luke (from the "Q" Source):

Reference Brief Description Cross Reference
Matt 10:35 Divisions within Households: "For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;" cf. Luke 12:53
Matt 10:37 Conditions of Discipleship: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;" cf. Luke 14:26
Matt 11:11 Jesus Speaks about John the Baptist: "Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." cf. Luke 7:28
Matt 12:42 Seeking Signs: "The Queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!" cf. Luke 11:31
Matt 13:33 New Parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." cf. Luke 13:20-21
Matt 23:37b Lament over Jerusalem: "How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" cf. Luke 13:34
Matt 24:38 Apocalyptic Discourse: "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark." cf. Luke 17:26-27
Matt 24:41 Apocalyptic Discourse: "Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left." cf. Luke 17:35

Gospel of LUKE

Women are mentioned frequently in all four of the New Testament Gospels, but they are especially prominent in Luke: 

Passage (Source) Brief Description
Luke 1:5-7 (L) Zechariah's wife Elizabeth is named; both are righteous and old
Luke 1:13, 18 (L) Gabriel and Zechariah each mention Elizabeth briefly
Luke 1:24-25 (L) Elizabeth conceives & praises God for taking away her "disgrace" (of being barren)
Luke 1:26-38 (L) Annunciation: Gabriel visits Mary to proclaim Jesus' birth; Mary agrees to cooperate
Luke 1:39-56 (L) Mary visits Elizabeth; Elizabeth praises Mary; Mary praises God in the "Magnificat"
Luke 1:57-61 (L) Elizabeth gives birth to John & she names him
Luke 2:5-7 (L) Mary goes with Joseph to Bethlehem; there she gives birth to her firstborn child
Luke 2:15-20 (L) Shepherds visit Mary & Joseph; Mary treasures all things in her heart (v. 19)
Luke 2:22 & 27 (L) "They" go to Jerusalem for "their" purification; Simeon speaks to both "parents"
Luke 2:33-35 (L) Simeon speaks directly to Mary: a sword shall pass through her heart
Luke 2:36-38 (L) Prophet-widow Anna praises God and speaks to the people about Jesus
Luke 2:41-51 (L) Both "parents" take Jesus to Jerusalem; his Mother speaks (v. 48) and "treasures" all (v. 51)
Luke 3:19 (Mk) Wicked Herodias mentioned only very briefly (contrast Mark 6:17-29)
Luke 4:25-26 (L) Jesus uses as examples the OT stories of the widows of Israel & the widow of Zarephath
Luke 4:38-39 (Mk) Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law; she then immediately serves them all
Luke 7:11-17 (L) Jesus has compassion for a widow in Nain, and so restores her only son to life
Luke 7:28 (Q) "Among those born of women, no one is greater than John (the Baptist)
Luke 7:35 (L) "Wisdom is vindicated by all her children"
Luke 7:36-50 (Mk) A sinful woman anoints Jesus and is forgiven; she is contrasted to Simon the Pharisee
Luke 8:1-3 (L) Several women are named who accompany Jesus and provided for the disciples
Luke 8:19-21 (Mk) Jesus' mother & brothers come; those who hear & do God's word are his mother/brothers
Luke 8:40-42, 49-56 (Mk) Jesus restores Jairus' daughter to life; child's parents both mentioned (vv. 51, 56)
Luke 8:43-48 (Mk) Jesus heals a hemorrhaging woman; she takes the initiative and is praised for her faith
Luke 10:1-20 (L) Jesus sends out another seventy disciples (or 72) on a mission (possibly including some women)
Luke 10:38-42 (L) Martha serves & complains while Mary sits at Jesus' feet (like a disciple!) and is praised
Luke 11:27-28 (L) A woman says, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!"
Luke 11:31 (Q) The Queen of the South used as a positive example; she came to hear Solomon's wisdom
Luke 12:45 (L) In a parable, both men & women slaves are beaten by a wicked manager
Luke 12:53 (Q) Families will be divided: father/son, mother/daughter, mother-in-law/daughter-in-law
Luke 13:10-17 (L) On a sabbath, Jesus cures a woman crippled for 18 years
Luke 13:20-21 (Q) Parable of the Kingdom of God being like a woman mixing yeast & flour
Luke 13:34 (Q) Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem's children like a mother hen protects her brood
Luke 14:26 (Q) Disciples must "hate" father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters
Luke 15:8-10 (L) Parable of a woman who lost & found a coin, then rejoices with her female friends & neighbors
Luke 16:18 (Mk) Brief saying against men divorcing their wives or marrying divorced women
Luke 17:26-27 (Q) In the days of Noah, people were marrying and giving in marriage
Luke 17:32 (L) "Remember Lot's wife."
Luke 17:35 (Q) Two women will be grinding grain: one will be taken, one left
Luke 18:1-8 (L) Parable of a widow fighting for her rights against an unjust judge
Luke 18:20 (Mk) "Honor your father and mother" (cited from Exod 20:12)
Luke 18:28-30 (Mk) Disciples who have left wives, brothers, parents, children, etc. will be rewarded
Luke 20:27-36 (Mk) Sadducees question the resurrection with story of a woman who had seven husbands
Luke 21:1-4 (Mk) Poor widow's small offering is worth more than the offerings of rich people
Luke 21:23-24 (Mk) Alas for pregnant and nursing women in the days of Jerusalem's destruction
Luke 22:56-57 (Mk) Peter's first denial comes after a servant girl challenges him
Luke 23:26-31 (L) Jesus speaks to wailing women in the crowd on the way to his crucifixion
Luke 23:49 (Mk) The women from Galilee watch Jesus' crucifixion from a distance
Luke 23:55-56 (Mk) The women see where Jesus is buried and prepare spices & ointments
Luke 24:1-11 (Mk & L) The women find Jesus' tomb empty; two messengers speak with them;
they remember Jesus' words and go tell the other disciples, who don't believe them
Luke 24:22-24 (L) Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (two men? a married couple? "Cleopas" named in 24:18)
tell Jesus how some women of their group went to the tomb that morning & saw vision of angels

Sources:  L = only in Luke;  Q = also in Matthew, but not Mark;  Mk = also in Mark (and usually also Matthew)
Note:  When Luke mentions “disciples” or “they,” do not assume the reference is only to men; it may also include women!


Summary of Female Characters in the Four Gospels

All the female characters in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, organized into categories:

References to OLD TESTAMENT CHARACTERS MARK MATTHEW LUKE JOHN
Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, wife of Uriah (in genealogy of Jesus) x 1:3, 5, 6 x x
 “Behold, The virgin shall conceive and bear a son…” (cf. Isa 7:14) x 1:22-23 x x
Wisdom is vindicated by all her children” (Mt “her deeds”) x 11:19 7:35 x
Queen of the South came to Solomon (1 Kgs 10:1-10) x 12:42 11:31 x
Widows of Israel & widow of Zarephath (1 Kgs 17:1-7) x x 4:25-26 x
“Remember Lot’s wife” (see Gen 19:15-26) x x 17:32 x
Daughter of Zion” (Zech 9:9; ref. to Jerusalem) x x x 12:15
MARY, Mother of Jesus;  his sisters;
ELIZABETH, Mother of John Baptist;  and ANNA
MARK MATTHEW LUKE JOHN
Concern of Jesus’ family (not named) 3:19b-21 x x x
Arrival of Jesus’ mother & brothers (not named) 3:31-35 12:46-50 8:19-21 x
Jesus is called “Son of Mary”; mention also of his sisters 6:3 13:55-56 x [6:42]
Genealogy: “…Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born” x 1:16 x x
Birth of Jesus: mother Mary engaged, pregnant, wife of Joseph x 1:18-25 x x
Magi visit “the child with Mary his mother x 2:11 x x
Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah (brief mentions) x x 1:5-7, 13, 18 x
Elizabeth conceives a child & praises God x x 1:24-25 x
Angel Gabriel visits Mary to proclaim Jesus’ birth x x 1:26-38 x
Mary visits Elizabeth; Elizabeth praises Mary;
Mary praises God in the “Magnificat”
x x 1:39-56 x
Elizabeth gives birth to John and gives his name x x 1:57-61 x
Mary & Joseph go to Bethlehem; she gives birth to her firstborn son x x 2:5-7 x
Shepherds visit Mary & Joseph; Mary treasures all things in her heart x x 2:15-20 x
Simeon speaks to Mary: “a sword shall pass through your heart” x x 2:33-35 x
Prophet-widow Anna praises God and speaks about Jesus x x 2:36-38 x
Jesus’ parents (not named) take him to Jerusalem at age 12 x x 2:41-51 x
Mother of Jesus (not named) at the Wedding of Cana x x x 2:1-12
Jews claim they know Jesus’ “father and mother x x x 6:42
Mother of Jesus (not named) at the Cross x x x 19:25-27
NAMED CHARACTERS / EPISODE MARK MATTHEW LUKE JOHN
HERODIAS & her daughter (cause John Baptist’s death) 6:17-29 14:3-12 [3:19-20-anon.] x
Many Galilean women support Jesus & his disciples:
MARY MAGDALENE, Joanna wife of Chuza, Susanna, and many others
x x 8:1-3 x
Martha and Mary of Bethany host Jesus for dinner x x 10:38-42 x
Martha and Mary of Bethany at the death of Lazarus x x x 11:1-45
Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus x x x 12:1-8
Women at the Cross (various names in the four Gospels):
Mark: Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James & Joses, and Salome
Matt: Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James & Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee
Luke: [anonymous here; not named until 24:10]
John: Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene
15:40-41 27:55-56 [23:49] 19:25b-27
Women see Jesus buried (various names in the four Gospels):
Mark: Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of Joses
Matt: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
Luke: “the women who had come with him from Galilee…”
John: [only Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus]
15:47 27:61 23:55-56 x
Women visit Jesus’ tomb (various names in the four Gospels):
Mark: Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome
Matt: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary mother of James, and the other women with them (v. 10)
John: Mary Magdalene alone (but she says “we” in 20:2)
16:1-8 28:1-8 24:1-11 20:1-2a, 11-13
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (and other women) [16:9-11] 28:9-10 x 20:14-18
ANONYMOUS CHARACTERS / EPISODE MARK MATTHEW LUKE JOHN
Mother-in-law of Simon Peter, healed by Jesus 1:29-31 8:14-15 4:38-39 x
Whoever does God’s will is Jesus’ brother, and sister, and mother 3:33-35 12:48-50 8:21  
Daughter of Jairus, raised by Jesus from the dead 5:21-24, 35-43 9:18-19, 23-26 8:40-42, 49-56 x
Woman with a flow of blood, healed by Jesus 5:25-34 9:20-22 8:43-48 x
Syrophoenician woman (Mt: Canaanite) & her daughter 7:24-30 15:21-28 x x
Widow at the temple treasury in Jerusalem 12:41-44 x 21:1-4 x
Woman at Bethany (anonymous), who anoints Jesus 14:3-9 26:6-13 [cf. 7:36-50] [cf. 12:1-8]
Servant girl challenges Peter, who denies knowing Jesus 14:66-72 26:69-75 22:56-57 18:16-17
Pilate’s wife, who tells Pilate of her dream x 27:19 x x
Widow at Nain, whose son Jesus raised x x 7:11-17 x
Sinful woman, who anoints Jesus in Galilee x x 7:36-50 x
Jesus sends out seventy disciples (or 72) on a mission (possibly including some women) x x 10:1-20 x
Woman in a crowd, who says to Jesus,
“Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!”
x x 11:27-28 x
Crippled woman, healed by Jesus x x 13:10-17 x
Wailing women of Jerusalem on the way to his crucifixion x x 23:26-31 x
Two disciples on the road to Emmaus tell Jesus: some women of their group had gone to the tomb x x 24:22-24 x
Samaritan woman at the well, who encounters Jesus x x x 4:1-42
Woman caught in adultery, forgiven by Jesus x x x [8:1-11]
Parents of the man born blind (implicitly including the mother) x x x 9:18-23
FICTIONAL CHARACTER / EPISODE MARK MATTHEW LUKE JOHN
Example of a woman who had seven husbands 12:18-27 22:23-33 20:27-40 x
“Alas for pregnant and nursing women 13:17 24:19 21:23-24 x
Parable of a woman mixing yeast & flour x 13:33 13:20-21 x
Mention of “two women grinding meal together x 24:41 17:35 x
Parable of the unforgiving servant: mentions his wife & children x 18:25 x x
Parable of the ten bridesmaids and their lamps x 25:1-13 x x
Parable of wicked manager: beats both men & women slaves x x 12:45 x
Parable of a woman who lost & found a coin, rejoicing with her female friends & neighbors x x 15:8-10 x
Parable of a widow fighting against an unjust judge x x 18:1-8 x
Nicodemus asks Jesus: “Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" x x x 3:4
John (Baptist) uses analogy of a bride and bridegroom       3:29
Analogy of a woman in labor x x x 16:21

 

Related Page: Women in John's Gospel


Women in the New Testament – A Bibliography

Commentaries and Dictionaries:

Studies (in reverse chronological order):

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