Why Did Christ Say "Don't Touch Me?"
What Really Happened?
"But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, [and looked] into the sepulchre, and sees two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said unto her, Woman, why do you weep? She said unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus said unto her, Woman, why do you weep? Who do you seek? She, supposing him to be a gardener, said unto him, Sir, if you have borne him hence, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus said unto her, Mary. She turned herself and said unto him Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus said unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and [to] my God and your God" (John 20:11-17).
Why did Christ tell Mary "Don't touch me"? What reason was there that she should not touch him at that time? Or was there any reason? What is it that happens just a few verses later?
"Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace [be] unto you" (John 20:19). So not long after Jesus had seen Mary he visited his disciples. Was he still saying, "Don't touch me"? No.
How can we make sense of this? Was Christ discriminating against Mary because she was a woman? No.
One convenient explanation that has been taught was that Christ ascended to heaven after his conversation with Mary but before his conversation with his disciples. The secret ascention theory is taught in many religions. And since Christ mentions going to the Father, it seems to fit. This would mean that Christ's second coming in the last days would really be his third coming. Does this fit?
We will see there is really no need for this contrived explanation. Christ did not participate in a secret ascention. Let's examine what Christ really said.
"...Touch me not..." (John 20:17).
Look at the King James word "touch" in the original Greek. The word is απτου ("aptou"). What does it mean. It can have the meaning "touch". It can also have the meaning "take hold of". Within the context, what does the whole phrase translated in the King James as "Touch me not" really mean?
In the Greek it is μη μου απτου ("may mou aptou"). It means "Stop clinging to me". Christ was not telling Mary to not touch him. She and the other women were already touching him (Matthew 28:9). He was telling her to stop clinging to him because he wasn't going to be around for long. He would be returning to the Father. This is something Mary needed to get used to.
Arndt, William R., and Gingrich, F. Wilbur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, London, University of Chicago Press, Ltd., 1957.
Scholz, The English Hexapla, London, Samuel Bagster and Sons, Paternoster Row, 1645.
Stevens 1550, The Englishman's Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.
Vine, W.E., Unger, Merril F., and White, William, Jr., Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary, Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1968.