There are similar questions, but none ask exactly who Mary Magdalene is.

John 19:25 lists three other women including Jesus' mother who aren't Many Magdalene:

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25, ESV)

Other women not Mary Magdalene:

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. (Mark 16:1, ESV)

There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. (Mark 15:40, ESV)

Mary Magdalene was apparently very close to Jesus:

 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. (John 20:1, ESV)

In John 20 Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb even when Peter and Mark left. Jesus chose to appear to her first.

The following verse also seems to eliminate Jesus' mother:

and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:2–3, ESV)

Lazarus's sister Mary is never eliminated. In John 11 she shows the sensitivity that fits Mary Magdalene. But it is strange that except for Luke 8:2-3 the name Mary Magdalene is only used during Jesus death and resurrection. Can we determine who Mary Magdalene is?

  • 2
    Bethany and Magdala are half-a-country away from each other.
    – Lucian
    Jul 14, 2021 at 23:52
  • @Lucian that sounds like a good answer with more information. explaining it.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 15, 2021 at 1:05

1 Answer 1


In this post I offered a brief disambiguation of the Mary's of the New Testament. There are probably 6-8 different women in the NT record bearing this name--as noted in the OP, there are a few examples where there is insufficient data to determine if Mary in one passage is the same person as Mary in another.

As noted in the OP, we can rule out Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary of Cleopas based on their presence with Mary Magdalene at the crucifixion, and we can rule out Mary the mother of James & Joses based on the passion narrative of Mark (and Luke).

(note that if Mary the sister of Mary is a real person--see Mary #8 in linked post--we can probably rule her out too since she would presumably be from Nazareth, not Magdala)

Marys that are not explicitly ruled out are:

  1. Mary the sister of Martha (aka Mary of Bethany)
  2. Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12)
  3. Mary of Rome (Romans 16:6)

I propose, however, that the first two are very unlikely (though not impossible!). Mary the sister of Martha is from Bethany, in Judea. Mary the mother of John Mark has a home in Jerusalem (also in Judea). Mary Magdalene is from Magdala, in Galilee. Additionally, as can be see from the disambiguation of several other Marys, women at this time were often known by who their husband or children were. Since Mary Magdalene is known by her place of origin, some have inferred that she was unmarried and had no children.

We know virtually nothing about Mary of Rome--she could be anyone.

Another reason to suppose that Mary of Bethany & Mary Magdalene are not the same person is that an author uses disambiguation to inform the reader, not to confuse the reader, and so inconsistent disambiguation would defeat the purpose of disambiguating the characters in the first place.

If Luke mentioned one Mary and John mentioned the other, there would be a stronger circumstantial case for identity. But both Luke & John refer to each Mary Magdalene & Mary the sister of Martha in their work and never conflate the two.


Mary Magdalene is best known for being the (probably) first witness of the resurrection. Mary of Bethany is best known for receiving Jesus in her sister's home and for her role in the raising of her brother Lazarus from the dead. It is not impossible for one person to have done all of this, but the Gospel authors never suggest it. The suggestion that these two women are the same person, and that they are also the woman who committed many sins and anointed Jesus, is speculative.

I suggest the most unlikely (though uncertain) conclusion is that Mary Magdalene & Mary of Bethany are two distinct faithful disciples of Jesus.


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