There is a group of women who, according to the Synoptic Gospels, saw Jesus’ crucifixion (Matt 27:55; Mark 15:40; Luke 23:49), saw him being laid in his tomb (Matt 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55), and saw that the tomb was subsequently empty (Matt 28:1,6; Mark 16:4-6). ‘It could hardly be clearer,’ writes Richard Bauckham, ‘that the Gospels are appealing to their role as eyewitnesses.’
All the Gospels name some of these women, while implying that others were also present (Matt 27:55; 28:1, 5; Mark 15:41, 47; 16:6; Luke 24:10; John 20:2). The tendency for the Gospels to name two or three of these women on each occasion is consistent with the requirement (going back to Deut 19:15, and applied far more widely than merely in the law-courts) for there to be two or three witnesses.
The fact that different women are named on different occasions does not, as some have thought, indicate a certain casualness on the part of the writers. Rather, the opposite is probably the case: these divergences confirm the scrupulous care with which the Gospel accounts were researched and written up. For example, Matthew names Mary the mother of the sons of Zebedee as being present at the crucifixion. It would have been easy for him to include her with the other two Marys as a witness to the burial and the empty tomb. It is reasonable to conclude that she is not named in connection with these latter events because she was now know as a witness of them. Other examples could be given, all pointing to the conclusion that
‘the Evangelists were careful to name precisely the women who were well known to them as witnesses to these crucial events in the origins of the Christian movement…Which women were well known to each Evangelist may have depended on the circles in which that Evangelist collected traditions and the circles in which each woman moved during her lifetime. The differences among the Gospel narratives of the women’s visit to the tomb may well reflect rather directly the different ways in which the story was told by the different women.’
See Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 2006.