Are Women Reliable?

When we come to Luke 24 we find an interesting bit of insight into the historical veracity of the empty tomb account. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women present told the apostles of the things which they had just seen (i.e. the vacant tomb, the absent body, the two men, etc.). However, the apostles did not accept what they had to say concerning these things. But why not? Well, it seems that it is because the testimony of women was not held in high regard in their culture. Are there any extra-biblical sources that attest to this?

Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women. (Talmud, Sotah 19a)

The world cannot exist without males and without females-happy is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females. (Talmud, Kiddushin 82b)

But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment. (Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.15)

Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is the equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman. (Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1.8)

So Clint, what is the big point? Well, I am glad you asked! If the disciples were trying to create a resurrection account why would they use women as the primary witnesses? After all, women are the primary witnesses in all four gospels as opposed to men in only two gospels. Further, if legend creeps in over time, why was the text not redacted to show that men, a more reliable source, were in fact the first and primary witnesses to the empty tomb? Why even include the women at all? The scholar Gary Habermas found that about 75% of all critical and skeptical scholars accept the fact of the empty tomb (see The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus). However, there are those who refuse to let the evidence convince them. Their reasons? William Wand, former Oxford Church Historian addresses this matter in a concise manner stating that “all the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor of [the empty tomb], and those who reject it ought to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.”

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