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The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) make it clear that the Twelve were at the Last Supper, a Passover meal, with Jesus. Were these twelve men the only followers of Jesus who shared this special meal?

The Gospels don’t plainly mention anyone else being present. However, there are hints that other disciples were also with Jesus to celebrate the Last Supper the day before his crucifixion. These other disciples may well have included women. Let’s look at the evidence.

Women were with Jesus in Jerusalem

A few times when reading the Gospels, women are suddenly referred to in a way that indicates they were there all along, even though they had not been previously mentioned. For example, in Luke 8:3 we are told that a group of many women had been following Jesus around Galilee, but this is the first time we are told about them. Likewise, some of these women may have been at the Last Supper but the Gospel writers didn’t note their presence.

Women weren’t required to travel to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. This was only an obligation of Jewish men. However, many women from Galilee had travelled with Jesus to Jerusalem and remained close by when he was crucified the day after the Last Supper. Did these Galilean women travel all the way to Jerusalem but not share this meal with their Lord?

It’s hard to imagine these dedicated, devoted, and spiritually savvy women from Galilee missing out on sharing such a significant meal with their dear friend and spiritual leader.

Furthermore, Jesus had spent the previous days in Bethany, perhaps in Mary and Martha’s home. Two (or six) days before the Passover, Mary had anointed Jesus with expensive ointment and then wiped his feet with her hair, and Jesus plainly connected Mary’s anointing with his impending burial (Matt. 26:12; Mark 14:8; John 12:1-3). Did the sisters then stay in Bethany and not go with Jesus to nearby Jerusalem?[1]

Moreover, women like Martha, who was experienced in organising meals, may have offered to help with the Last Supper (cf. John 12:2).

The Twelve as Witnesses

In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, it sounds like disciples other than the Twelve made the preparations for the Passover meal (Matt. 26:17ff; Mark 14:12ff). In Luke’s Gospel, however, Jesus tells Peter and John to make the preparations (Luke 22:8ff). Nevertheless, the three synoptic Gospels make a point of saying that the Twelve Apostles were at the meal.

“When evening came, he was seated (literally, ‘reclining’) at the table with the Twelve” (Matthew 26:20).
“When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve” (Mark 14:17).
“When the hour came, he sat (‘reclined’) at the table, and the apostles with him” (Luke 22:14).[2]

One of the main roles of the Twelve was to be Jesus’s witnesses. The Last Supper and the teachings Jesus gave during the meal were a significant part of his life and ministry. So it makes sense that the Gospel writers would make the point that the Twelve were present at this key event.

What doesn’t make as much sense is when Jesus says this about his betrayer during the meal: “It is one of the Twelve—the one who is dipping bread in the bowl with me” (Mark 14:20). Why would Jesus say that the betrayer is one of the Twelve if they were the only ones present?[3]

Were Joseph (called Barsabbas) and Matthias at the Last Supper? These were the two who were nominated to fill the place soon to be vacated by Judas Iscariot. Peter said Judas’s successor was to be selected,

“from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us—from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22, italics added).

Joseph and Matthias met this requirement which indicates they were at the Last Supper. Moreover, the phrase “from among the men” suggests that Joseph and Matthias were chosen from a group of several men who had been with Jesus “the whole time” which would have included the Last Supper.

Was Cleopas at the Last Supper?

In his Gospel, Luke includes the story of Cleopas and his companion who were heading back towards Emmaus after they had been in Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 24:13-35). These two men met the resurrected Jesus on the road, but did not recognise him at first.[4] Luke writes that it was when Jesus “took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” that “their eyes were opened, and they recognised him” (Luke 24:30-31). Cleopas and his friend later tell the disciples that Jesus “was made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35).

Luke used similar language two chapters earlier in his account of the Last Supper.

“And [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

Cleopas and his friend’s statement becomes more meaningful if we understand that they were at the Last Supper with Jesus. This seems to be the connection Luke is drawing with his repeated language.

It appears there was more than the Twelve at Jesus’s Last Supper.[5] But were women present also?

“All of you”

I’ve heard some say that women cannot have been at the table with Jesus. They say that, according to a Middle-Eastern custom, women did not eat with men; women ate after the men were finished. Assuming this was how things were done in first-century Judea, it could have been a custom that Jesus ignored. Jesus often disregarded religious and social traditions that hindered loving and helping people.

Moreover, from the very beginning, the Passover Meal was a feast that families celebrated together. And Jesus regarded his disciples, both men and women, as family (cf. Matt. 12:48-50).

In Matthew’s retelling of the Last Supper, the Twelve are mentioned specifically in Matthew 26:20. But when it comes to the part where Jesus speaks about the bread representing his broken body and the wine representing his blood of the new covenant, Matthew uses the word “disciples” which often included more than the Twelve.[6]

Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you” (Matt. 26:26-27, italics added, cf. Mark 14:23).

This “all” could have included women.[7]

As well as women sharing in the meal, it’s also possible that Jesus washed their feet (John 13). Jesus broke taboos and was not afraid to make physical contact with women.[8]


It seems there were more people than just the Twelve at Jesus’s Last Supper, people such as Joseph (Barsabbas), Matthias, and Cleopas and his companion. And there is no reason to assume that the women who had faithfully followed Jesus to Jerusalem were not also present, sitting at the table(s), with Jesus and his male followers in the upper room (cf. Acts 1:12-14).

These women may have included Jesus’s mother (and perhaps his sisters), Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Salome, Joanna, Susanna, and other women from Galilee. Mary and Martha may also have been there, and perhaps Mary, the mother of John Mark, who lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).

These women loved Jesus, and these words in John 13:1 applied to them as well as to Jesus’s male disciples: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

I hope you have a blessed Pascha!


[1] On the other hand, Mary and Martha may have been too busy with their own ministry in Bethany to share the Passover with Jesus. I look at the idea that the women ran a hostel in Bethany, here.

[2] The Twelve are referred to as “apostles” (apostoloi) only a few times in the Gospels: once in Matthew, once in Mark (twice in the Textus Receptus), five times in Luke, and never in John. (See Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:14 TR; Mark 6:30; Luke 6:13; 9:10; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10.)

[3] Mark may have included this phrase to highlight that the betrayer is one of the Twelve–a shocking turn of events. Matthew seems to similarly highlight that Judas is one of the Twelve when Jesus and his disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane later that same night: “While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people” (Matt. 26:47).

[4] For three reasons, I do not think Cleopas’s travelling companion was a woman. I explain my reasons in a footnote here.

[5] The incident with the unnamed young man in Mark 14:50-52, who is captured by the mob but slips away leaving his linen garment behind, may be another indication that there were more than the Twelve with Jesus that eventful night, unless his linen garment was a nightshirt, as has been suggested. (He would not have worn a nightshirt to the Passover meal.)

[6] For more information about other disciples of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels, see the postscript entitled “More disciples than just the Twelve” here.

[7] When Paul refers to commemorations of the Last Supper, he highlights its communal aspect and gives no hint that women were, or are, in any way excluded or secondary.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving, for which we give thanks, a sharing in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

[8] I’ve written a somewhat detailed comment to Jenna about Jesus and “touching,” here.

© Margaret Mowczko 2022
All Rights Reserved

I previously posted a version of this article on my Patreon page in April 2022 here.
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Explore more

Partnering Together: Jesus and Women 
Jesus had Many Female Followers—Many!
Comparing the Anointing Stories 
Who was Mary the Magdalene?
The Other Mary: The Mother of James and Joseph
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany 
Is the Beloved Disciple in John’s Gospel a Woman? 
The Twelve Apostles were All Male
Apostles in the New Testament Church
The Passover Meal, the Seder, and the Eucharist
My other articles related to Communion are here.


20 thoughts on “Were there Women at the Last Supper?

  1. None of the gospels mention the decor or the weather, either.
    We only get what we need to know.

    1. Or we only get what fit on a scroll.

    2. And we only get what each Gospel author wanted to highlight.

  2. It seems a lot of scholars think the young man was Mark, and John Mark’s mother may have hosted the meal. It makes sense that Judas may have come back with soldiers to her house, found Jesus gone, then she woke up Mark and told him to run to warn Jesus. Haste would be essential, and might explain him not being completely dressed. My friend Bill Newkirk who writes on Mark and the story of the New Testament thinks this is a likely scenario.

    1. I haven’t heard that idea before. Mary of Jerusalem (AKA John Mark’s mother) seems to have been a prominent woman in the church at Jerusalem who hosted meetings in her home.

      According to Mark 14:14-15 and Luke 22:11-12, however, “the master/ owner of the house” (tō oikodespotē) where the Last Supper was held was male and a “he” (autos, kakeinos). Matthew 26:18 also indicates it was a man.

  3. I’m thinking others had to be present as there was a male carrying water (possibly a servent?) that the diciples had followed to get there. Besides there would have been at least one owner possibly more that owned or lived at that building which housed the upper room. One would think it would take several women (possibly men too?) to have to prepare and cook such a large amount of Passover food just to feed 13 hungry men, besides carrying all that food upstairs! Was there already an upstsirs kitchen? I dunno. But whether any of these extra people ate with Jesus and His diciples that night is unknown. But I do agree, the fact that Jesus said “…one of the twelve” does make a compelling argument that more than 13 were present in the upper room that evening.

    1. It could have been a big party with lots of helpers!

  4. The famous painting of The Last Supper by ‘Leonardo da Vinci, shows Christ with twelve disciples. The one sitting immediately to Jesus’ right (left as we look at the picture) looks like a woman. Has anyone ever queried this or explained it?

    1. This figure has been the topic of a lot of discussion. If you google it, you’ll find these discussions. This figure is understood to be the apostle John.

  5. i find it interesting/ironic that pat/comps say that only men can lead/be in authority because only men were recorded to be at that last supper. Yet that last supper is also used as the basis for the communion meal in churches which BOTH genders partake of the “body and blood” of Jesus.

    but by their very reasoning that if only men were at the last supper, shouldn’t it be only men partaking in the communion ceremony at church ? and not women or even children?

  6. Though biblical accounts of the Last Supper do not explicitly mention the presence of women, the narratives predominantly emphasize Jesus’ time with the Apostles. However, I think that women may have been among the attendees. Women such as Jesus’s mother, Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, Susanna, Mary and Martha, (just to name a few) could have been present.

    I also believe that within the historical and cultural context of Jesus’ time in Israel, where societal norms often relegated women to subordinate roles, primarily focused on domestic duties with limited rights. Considering these social dynamics, the inclusion of women at the Last Supper would not be inconceivable, Though these were not documented in the Gospel narratives.

  7. The two or six days would put on a timeline seems there are two separate events. So three anointings.

    1. I take the anointing stories in Matthew 26:6–7, Mark 14:3 and John 12:1–3 to be about the one, same event that happened in Bethany shortly before Passover. The three accounts mostly agree with the time and place of the anointing which is a prelude to Jesus’s crucifixion and burial.

      Plus, there are similarities with the conversation surrounding the anointing. There are statements such as “the poor you will always have with you” (John 12:8; Matt. 26:11; Mark 14:7), “leave her alone” (John 12:6//Mark 14:6), “she has prepared me for burial” (Matt. 26:12; Mark 14:8; John 12:7), and “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will also be spoken of in memory of her” (Matt. 26:13//Mark 14:9).

      I compare the anointings here: https://margmowczko.com/comparing-anointing-stories-gospels/

  8. The thought occurred to me as I was reading this is who baked the bread & made the wine, & who served the food? We all know that women (& sometimes men, are in the church kitchen preparing meals to this day!

    1. People often bought food from vendors rather than make it themselves, especially in the ancient world. But they would have needed servers and other helpers for the Last Supper.

  9. Last year I visited an old church, 15th century in Slovakia, World Heritage Listed because of the frescoes on the wall. It fascinated me that in the nave was a picture of what I interpreted as the Last Supper with women in attendance. Zehra Catholic Church, Slovakia.
    Happy to send you the photo I took but here is a web link I found.

    1. Hello Philippa, they are beautiful frescoes! Thanks for sharing the link.

      It’s difficult to see if any women are being depicted here:
      And I count 12 figures plus Jesus.

  10. I wonder if we can’t include the details from the days after Jesus’ Ascension into our understanding of the Passover time. In Acts 1:13-15. In these verses there is mention of going to the upper room in Jerusalem – among these mentioned are the 11 and also disciples including ‘certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers’ (Acts 1:14). On a subsequent day, when Peter recommended selecting someone to replace Judas, there were reported to be about 120 people present (Acts 1:15) who Peter addressed as ‘Brothers and sisters (Acts 1:16) indicating a mixed company of men and women.

    I do wonder whether our perception of the Last Supper and events in the upper room after Passover and during Pentecost are more informed by artists’ representation of the Last Supper than by a real searching of the scriptures to understand Jesus’ practice of affirming and accepting women into his inner circle.

    1. Hi Ros, yes, we know for certain that women were in the upper room before Pentecost, Acts 1:12-14, and perhaps it was the same upper room where the Passover was held.

      I have a footnote about andres adelphoi used several times in speeches in Acts, including Acts 1:16, here: https://margmowczko.com/the-first-century-church-and-the-ministry-of-women/

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