• Elaine Kelly

How many Women are in the Gospels?

When I mention I am writing a novel about women at the time of Jesus, most people can name two: Mary the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. In many minds, these two both represent unrealistic people, purity for an immortal virgin Mary, and prostitution for the repentant Magdalene. Both of these descriptions are likely inaccurate. My upcoming novel, "Out of Brokenness: The Forgotten Followers", shines the light on every woman who interacts with Jesus in the Gospesls, many of whom have been remembered only for their faults, whos roles were minimized, or who have been forgotten altogether.

One study found that there are 93 women in the Bible, of whom only 49 are named, and that together they speak just 1.1% of the time. The study resulted in the book “Bible Women: All their Words and Why They Matter”

Another study found there are 188 to 205 women who have names in the Bible, including sixteen women named in the Apocrypha. It is difficult to say how many women are in the Bible, since many women do not have a name, and many individuals have the same name as another person, unfortunately resulting in a merging of female characters. Since there are 1,181 named men in the Bible, we can calculate that of the characters named in the Bible, women represent 14.5% to 17.3% of named Biblical characters.

A third study presents historical information on more than seventy women mentioned in the New Testament alone. This information is in the book "Walking with the Women of the New Testament."

In my novel, “Out of Brokenness: The Forgotten Followers” I include all the women mentioned in the Gospels. There are 35. This count can vary if names are merged or two people are thought to be one. Of this total of 35 biblcal women in my novel

13 have names from the Bible,

6 have names from church tradition,

7 were given fictional names, and

9 remain unnamed.

Here they are, along with where you can find them in the Bible.

Women and their Biblical References

Biblical Name

  1. Maria, mother of Jesus (Matt 1:16-25; 2:11-14, 20-21; Matt 12:46-50; Matt 13:55-56; Mark 3: 31-35; Mark 6:3; Luke 1:26-56; 2:5-51; Luke 8: 19-21; John 2:1-12; 6:42; John 19:25-27; Acts 1:14; Gal 4:4) Women gathered with the apostles in prayer Acts 1:14

Mary (called Maria of Nazareth in my novel)

2. Mary of Clopas: Mary, the mother of James and Joses Matthew 27:56; The “Other Mary” Matthew 27:61, 28:1-10; Mary, the mother of Joses Mark 15:47; Mary, mother of James the Less Mark 15: 40-47, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24: 1-32; Mary, the wife of Cleophas/ Clopas/ Alphaeus (John 19:25) ; Jesus’ mother’s sister/sister-in-law (John 19:25) Women which bewailed and lamented (Luke 23: 27-29) Many other woman who came up with Jesus from Galilee and were watching from afar (Matt 27:55-56; Mark 15: 40-41); Saw Jesus put into the tomb (Matthew 27:61), Women that followed Jesus (Luke 23: 49, 55-56) Women gathered with the apostles in prayer Acts 1:14

Mary of Clopas, mother of James and Joses, the Other Mary

​3. Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-80) Maria’s relative, mother of John the Baptist


4. Anna (Luke 2: 36-38) Prophet who blessed Jesus