Mark 16:2—Was Mary at the tomb before sunrise or after?

Problem: Mark states that Mary was there “very early in the morning ... when the sun had risen” (v. 2). But John says it was “early, while it was still dark” (John 20:1).

Solution: There are two general possibilities here. One possibility suggests that the phrase “when the sun had risen” (Mark 16:2) merely denotes early dawn (cf. Ps. 104:22), when it was “still dark” (John 20:1), relatively speaking.

Another view holds that Mary came alone at first when it was still dark before sunrise (John 20:1), and then again later after sunrise, she returned with the other women (Mark 16:1). In support of this is the fact that only Mary is mentioned in John, but Mary and the other women are named in Mark. Also, Luke (24:1) says it was “very early in the morning,” implying after sunrise, when the “women” [not just Mary] had come. Likewise, Matthew (28:1) speaks of it being “after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn” that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” Only John mentions Mary being there alone “while it was still dark” (John 20:1).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.