John 20:13

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Mary Magdalene Questions the Angels in the Tomb by James Tissot, c. 1890

John 20:13 is the thirteenth verse of the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. This verse occurs after Mary Magdalene has found Jesus' tomb empty, except for two angels.[1]


In this passage the angels ask Mary why she is crying, the King James Version of the Bible stating:

And they say unto her, Woman,
why weepest thou? She saith unto
them, Because they have taken
away my lord, and I know not
where they have laid him


Mary's statement echoes her earlier words to Apostle Peter in John 20:2: "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid him", signifying that she was unaware of the resurrection.[1] This is confirmed a third time immediately thereafter in John 20:14-15, when she turns back and sees Jesus without recognizing him, and assumes him to be the gardener.[1]

James L. Resseguie has stated that the conversation between Mary and the angels is characteristic of the underlying theme of the episode, i.e. a theme of "discovery and awakening" in which Mary and then the disciples are awakened to something they could not have foreseen beforehand.[1]

The contrast between Mary's bewilderment in this episode and the dramatic change that takes place immediately thereafter is also reflected in the iconography of the corresponding scenes.[2] The depiction of Mary's confusion in her encounter with the angels is often attributed to Matthew 28:13 in which the guards are paid to say that the body had been stolen.[2] The somewhat bleak iconography of this scene is then often contrasted with the brilliant lights that shine from a resurrected Jesus after he has been recognized.[2]

The role of the angels presented in the Gospel of John during the resurrection narrative is far less than in the synoptic gospels, with John placing much of the weight on the following encounter between Mary and a resurrected Jesus.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Narrative criticism of the New Testament by James L. Resseguie 2005 ISBN 0801027896 pages 141-145; see also "A Glossary of New Testament Narrative Criticism with Illustrations" page 7
  2. ^ a b c The Resurrection and the Icon, by Michel Quenot 1998 ISBN 0881411493 pages 104-106
  3. ^ Noli Me Tangere: Mary Magdelene: One Person, Many Images by B. Baert, R. Bieringer, K. Demasure and S. van den Eynde 2006 ISBN 9042918071 page 22

Preceded by
John 20:12
Gospel of John
Chapter 20
Succeeded by
John 20:14