WOMEN WERE WITNESSES, TOO.
752. We have brought out many striking points, as regards the incidents relating to the Incarnation and Crucifixion, which we know on the testimony of women only. As to the events connected with the latter, the written record in the Bible depends wholly on the word of the women coupled with John’s; no other witnesses are cited. It is more than likely that some unbelievers who witnessed the crucifixion became believers afterwards, and testified orally to the events; but these are not cited in the written record.
753. It was a fixed law, in the Bible, that one witness was not sufficient to establish testimony (Deuteronomy 19:15), but, as twice taught in the Gospels also, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matthew 18:16; see John 8:17). Hence, since John alone witnessed the Crucifixion, and the testimony of one is not to be accepted; and all the Gospels cite “the women from Galilee,” and no others as their other witnesses to these events, we discover that the written record of the events connected with the Lord’s Crucifixion rests, in its major part, upon the testimony of women.
754. The Resurrection: We must be ready for yet more surprises, as regards the women’s testimony to the incidents connected with the Resurrection, the earliest events of which, told by Matthew, are as follows: “As it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone”,¾and so the incident proceeds (Matthew. 28:1-2).
755. Most of us read this as though written: “And behold there had been a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord had descended,”¾before the women arrived. But this is not as stated, and Dean Alford declares: “This must not be taken as pluperfect, which would be altogether inconsistent with the text . . . [It] must mean that the women were witnesses of the earthquake, and that which happened . . . was not properly an earthquake, but was the sudden opening of the tomb by the descending Angel, as the gar [word “for”] shows . . . It was not for Him, to whom (see John 20:19,26) the stone was no hindrance, but for the women and His disciples, that this was rolled away. All attempts to deny the angelic appearances, or ascribe them to later tradition, are dishonest and absurd. That related in John is as definite as either of the others, and he certainly had it from Mary Magdalene herself.”
756. To recapitulate: That which we know about an earthquake; of the appearance of an angel; of the rolling away of the great stone; of the “keepers” falling as dead men, from fear; of the announcement “He is risen;” all this, told by Matthew, the two Marys alone were witnesses to. From Mark we learn that the women saw a young man (angel) “sitting on the right side, clothed in a long, white garment.” Luke says they saw “two men in shining garments.” At any rate, on that Resurrection morning two angels were seen, and by women alone. Not by Peter, nor by John. The guards felt the earthquake, and fell. It is not likely they saw the angels. If perchance they did, they were not fit witnesses. The testimony of women alone is cited here, in the Bible record. Providence saw to it that the earthquake did not take place, nor the angels descend, until the two Marys were brought there to witness and to record the events.
757. The question is, Did Jesus have no higher choice for the women who came with Him out of Galilee, and accompanied Him throughout His three years’ ministry,¾the women who were “last at the cross, and first at the tomb,” on the Resurrection morn¾than to let them feed and clothe Him? Were they not, all unconsciously to themselves, likewise in a school of training as His witnesses? Nay more, twelve were called for this special work; all failed Him, when danger was at hand, but one. But He had His chosen witnesses; the Marys were at hand. Did He never think ahead of how this should come to pass, when He said, so often “There are first that shall be last, and last first, for many are called, but few chosen.”
758. The twelve who had indeed forsaken much to follow Him, were not always actuated by the highest motives. Judging from the conversations among themselves which have been recorded, they thought largely of an exalted position to be given them, when their Master should come into a kingdom of earthly glory. But the women followed with no other motive than to make themselves of use to Jesus, and to His disciples. Could it be possible that the One who was teaching His disciples such lessons as, “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve,” and ”Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” and who declared, “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted,” intended to show, in His treatment of those who had humbled themselves and served (while the twelve exalted themselves, and discussed which should be the greatest of them), that His practice was inconsistent with His teaching? Nay, verily; this could not be. It did not happen that the women knew these incidents, and saw that they were recorded for future ages. They had humbled themselves; Christ exalted them. He gave them visions on the Resurrection morning that no one else had. He made the witness of women the very meat and marrow of His Gospel.
759. Then how did the male disciples receive the women’s testimony? “Mary Magdalene . . . went and told them . . . And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.” (Mark 16:9-11); and Luke says: “Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” When He met the two, later, on their way to Emmaus, they said “Certain women of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre . . . saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said He was alive.” Jesus replied, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Then He opened their understanding, expounding the Scriptures to them; and they knew that what the women had seen was true (Luke 24:22-27).
760. It was not so strange that they did not receive the testimony of the women (for Mark records that these two also did not believe), for we know, from Josephus, that the Jews had added to the word of the law (which says that on the testimony of two or three only can anything be established), these words: “But let not the testimony of women be received, because of the frivolity of the sex.” The rabbinical teaching was that the testimony of one hundred women was not sufficient to refute that of one man. But Jesus Christ entrusted to women the part of witnesses (and often the sole witnesses) to the most tremendous facts in His life. He could well take this risk, since it was never the Divine purpose that testimony to the truths of the Gospel should rest wholly, or even principally upon a human foundation. Those who are His chosen witnesses will always have the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to enforce the truth of all that is said upon the hearts of those willing to receive it. But as to testimony to the average prejudiced Jew steeped in rabbinical contempt for the testimony of mere women, there was no hope of getting an entering wedge into these hearts but through the testimony of men. This fully accounts for the fact that there were no women among the Twelve Apostles.