The question of how many disciples were with Jesus at the cross is a topic of much debate and speculation among biblical scholars. While some believe that only a few disciples were present, others argue that there were many more who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. In this article, we will explore the different views on this topic and try to arrive at a conclusion based on available evidence.
The Gospel Accounts
The four gospels in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – all provide different accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. While there are some similarities between these accounts, there are also significant differences that make it difficult to determine exactly how many disciples were present.
Matthew’s gospel states that there were “many women” who had followed Jesus from Galilee and watched from a distance as he was crucified (Matthew 27:55-56). Among these women were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons (presumably James and John).
Mark’s gospel also mentions “many women” who watched from afar, but does not name them (Mark 15:40-41). It also states that “some” women had followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem.
Luke’s gospel mentions a larger number of people who witnessed the crucifixion. He states that “all his acquaintances” and “the women who had followed him from Galilee” stood at a distance (Luke 23:49). However, he does not specify how many people this would have been.
John’s gospel provides perhaps the most detailed account of those present at the cross. He names several individuals who were there, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (presumably John himself). He also mentions “other women” and “the mother of Jesus’ brother” (presumably James).
Interpreting the Evidence
Based on the gospel accounts, it is clear that there were at least several women present at the cross. However, it is difficult to determine exactly how many disciples were there. Some scholars argue that only a few disciples would have been present, given the danger of being associated with Jesus during his trial and execution.
Others, however, point to Luke’s account which suggests that a larger group of people may have been present. It is also worth noting that John’s gospel specifically mentions “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, which some scholars interpret as indicating that he was not the only disciple there.
In conclusion, while we cannot know for certain how many disciples were present at the cross, it is clear from the gospel accounts that there were at least several women who witnessed the crucifixion. Depending on how one interprets the evidence, it is possible that a larger group of people – including some male disciples – may have been present as well.
Regardless of how many disciples were actually there, what is important is that those who witnessed Jesus’ death remained faithful to him despite the danger and persecution they faced. Their presence at the cross serves as a powerful reminder of their devotion to Jesus and his message.