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What is the connection, if any, between the author of the gospel of John having Jesus use "woman" to address Mary Magdalene when she encounters him at the tomb (Jn 20:15) just as he has used the same word to address his mother at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:26)? Note: Earlier in the story (Jn 20:13), two angels address her as "woman." Further, why does the author of John have Jesus switch from addressing Mary Magdalene as "woman" to addressing her as "Mary" (Jn 20:16)?

11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

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The vocative form of γυνή (= woman) is Γύναι (Gunai). It is essentially equivalent to the English formal form of address, "Madam", or "Ma'am", or, "Sir" for a man. While the word "woman" occurs 215 times in the NT, the vocative form only occurs 10 times. These are:

  • Matt 15:28 - Jesus addressing a Canaanite woman
  • Luke 13:12 - Jesus addressing a bleeding woman
  • Luke 22:57 - Peter addressing a woman in the courtyard
  • John 2:4 - Jesus speaking to his mother, Mary
  • John 4:21 - Jesus addressing the woman at the well
  • John 8:10 - Jesus speaking to the woman caught in adultery
  • John 19:26 - Jesus speaking to his mother, Mary
  • John 20:13 - Angels addressing Mary Magdalene
  • John 20:15 - Jesus addressing Mary Magdalene
  • 1 Cor 7:16 - Paul addressing a wife with an unbelieving husband

It is immediately apparent that Jesus and others, including Paul and angels, used this courteous form of address to show utmost respect.

Note that in John 20:15, Mary responds in kind by also using a formal address to Jesus (without knowing who He was yet) by saying, "Sir" (NIV, etc) from the Greek, Κύριε = the vocative form of "Lord".

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