Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1) The wife of Joseph, the mother of Jesus, called the "Virgin Mary,"
though never so designated in Scripture ( Matthew 2:11 ; Acts 1:14 ). Little is
known of her personal history. Her genealogy is given in Luke 3 . She was of the
tribe of Judah and the lineage of David ( Psalms 132:11 ; Luke 1:32 ). She was
connected by marriage with Elisabeth, who was of the lineage of Aaron ( Luke 1:36
While she resided at Nazareth with her parents, before she became the wife of
Joseph, the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the
promised Messiah ( Luke 1:35 ). After this she went to visit her cousin Elisabeth,
who was living with her husband Zacharias (probably at Juttah, Joshua 15:55 ;
21:16 , in the neighbourhood of Maon), at a considerable distance, about 100 miles,
from Nazareth. Immediately on entering the house she was saluted by Elisabeth
as the mother of her Lord, and then forthwith gave utterance to her hymn of thanksgiving
( Luke 1:46 - 56 ; Compare 1 Samuel 2:1 - 10 ). After three months Mary returned
to Nazareth to her own home. Joseph was supernaturally made aware ( Matthew 1:18
- 25 ) of her condition, and took her to his own home. Soon after this the decree
of Augustus ( Luke 2:1 ) required that they should proceed to Bethlehem ( Micah
5:2 ), some 80 or 90 miles from Nazareth; and while they were there they found
shelter in the inn or khan provided for strangers ( Luke 2:6 , 2:7 ). But as the
inn was crowded, Mary had to retire to a place among the cattle, and there she
brought forth her son, who was called Jesus ( Matthew 1:21 ), because he was to
save his people from their sins. This was followed by the presentation in the
temple, the flight into Egypt, and their return in the following year and residence
at Nazareth ( Matthew 2 ). There for thirty years Mary, the wife of Joseph the
carpenter, resides, filling her own humble sphere, and pondering over the strange
things that had happened to her. During these years only one event in the history
of Jesus is recorded, viz., his going up to Jerusalem when twelve years of age,
and his being found among the doctors in the temple ( Luke 2:41 - 52 ). Probably
also during this period Joseph died, for he is not again mentioned.
After the commencement of our Lord's public ministry little notice is taken of
Mary. She was present at the marriage in Cana. A year and a half after this we
find her at Capernaum ( Matthew 12:46 , 12:48 , 12:49 ), where Christ uttered
the memorable words, "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched
forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!"
The next time we find her is at the cross along with her sister Mary, and Mary
Magdalene, and Salome, and other women ( John 19:26 ). From that hour John took
her to his own abode. She was with the little company in the upper room after
the Ascension ( Acts 1:14 ). From this time she wholly disappears from public
notice. The time and manner of her death are unknown.
(2) Mary Magdalene,
i.e., Mary of Magdala, a town on the western shore of the Lake of Tiberias. She
is for the first time noticed in Luke 8:3 as one of the women who "ministered
to Christ of their substance." Their motive was that of gratitude for deliverances
he had wrought for them. Out of Mary were cast seven demons. Gratitude to her
great Deliverer prompted her to become his follower. These women accompanied him
also on his last journey to Jerusalem ( Matthew 27:55 ; Mark 15:41 ; Luke 23:55
). They stood near the cross. There Mary remained till all was over, and the body
was taken down and laid in Joseph's tomb. Again, in the earliest dawn of the first
day of the week she, with Salome and Mary the mother of James ( Matthew 28:1 ;
Mark 16:2 ), came to the sepulchre, bringing with them sweet spices, that they
might anoint the body of Jesus. They found the sepulchre empty, but saw the "vision
of angels" ( Matthew 28:5 ). She hastens to tell Peter and John, who were probably
living together at this time ( John 20:1 , 20:2 ), and again immediately returns
to the sepulchre. There she lingers thoughtfully, weeping at the door of the tomb.
The risen Lord appears to her, but at first she knows him not. His utterance of
her name "Mary" recalls her to consciousness, and she utters the joyful, reverent
cry, "Rabboni." She would fain cling to him, but he forbids her, saying, "Touch
me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." This is the last record regarding
Mary of Magdala, who now returned to Jerusalem. The idea that this Mary was "the
woman who was a sinner," or that she was unchaste, is altogether groundless.
(3) Mary the sister of Lazarus
is brought to our notice in connection with the visits of our Lord to Bethany.
She is contrasted with her sister Martha, who was "cumbered about many things"
while Jesus was their guest, while Mary had chosen "the good part." Her character
also appears in connection with the death of her brother ( John 11:20 , 11:31
, 11:33 ). On the occasion of our Lord's last visit to Bethany, Mary brought "a
pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus" as
he reclined at table in the house of one Simon, who had been a leper ( Matthew
26:6 ; Mark 14:3 ; John 12:2 , 12:3 ). This was an evidence of her overflowing
love to the Lord. Nothing is known of her subsequent history. It would appear
from this act of Mary's, and from the circumstance that they possessed a family
vault ( John 11:38 ), and that a large number of Jews from Jerusalem came to condole
with them on the death of Lazarus ( John 11:19 ), that this family at Bethany
belonged to the wealthier class of the people. (See MARTHA .)
(4) Mary the wife of Cleopas
is mentioned ( John 19:25 ) as standing at the cross in company with Mary of Magdala
and Mary the mother of Jesus. By comparing Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 , we find
that this Mary and "Mary the mother of James the little" are on and the same person,
and that she was the sister of our Lord's mother. She was that "other Mary" who
was present with Mary of Magdala at the burial of our Lord ( Matthew 27:61 ; Mark
15:47 ); and she was one of those who went early in the morning of the first day
of the week to anoint the body, and thus became one of the first witnesses of
the resurrection ( Matthew 28:1 ; Mark 16:1 ; Luke 24:1 ).
(5) Mary the mother of John Mark
was one of the earliest of our Lord's disciples. She was the sister of Barnabas
( Colossians 4:10 ), and joined with him in disposing of their land and giving
the proceeds of the sale into the treasury of the Church ( Acts 4:37 ; 12:12 ).
Her house in Jerusalem was the common meeting-place for the disciples there.
(6) A Christian at Rome who treated Paul with special kindness ( Romans 16:6 ).
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
same as Miriam (rebellion)
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(1) (FROM MARY THE VIRGIN) The mother of our Lord. There
is no person perhaps in sacred or profane history around whom so many legends
have been grouped a the Virgin Mary; and there are few whose authentic history
is more concise. She was, like Joseph, of the tribe of Judah and of the lineage
of David. ( Psalms 132:11 ; Luke 1:32 ; Romans 1:3 ) She had a sister, named,
like herself, ( John 19:25 ) and she was connected by marriage, ( Luke 1:36 )
with Elizabeth, who was of the tribe of Levi and of the lineage of Aaron. This
is all that we know of her antecedents. She was betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth;
but before her marriage she became with child by the Holy Ghost, and became the
mother of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. Her history at this time, her
residence at Bethlehem, flight to Egypt, and return to her early home st Nazareth,
are well known. Four times only does she appear after the commencement of Christs
ministry. These four occasions are--
|1. The marriage at Cana in Galilee took place in the three
months which intervened between the baptism of Christ and the passover of the
year 27. Mary was present, and witnessed the first miracle performed by Christ,
when he turned the water into wine. She had probably become a widow before this
2. Capernaum, ( John 2:12 ) and Nazareth, ( Matthew 4:13 ; 13:54 ; Mark 6:1 )
appear to have been the residence of Mary for a considerable period. The next
time that she is brought before us we find her at Capernaum, where she, with other
relatives, had gone to inquire about the strange stories they had heard of her
son Jesus. They sought an audience with our Lord, which was not granted, as he
refused to admit any authority on the part of his relatives, or any privilege
on account of their relationship.
3. The next scene in Marys life brings us to the foot of the cross. With almost
his last words Christ commended his mother to the care of him who had borne the
name of the disciple whom Jesus loved: "Woman, behold thy son." And front that
hour St. John assures us that he took her to his own abode. So far as Mary is
portrayed to us in Scripture, she is, as we should have expected the most tender,
the most faithful humble, patient and loving of women, but a woman still.
4. In the days succeeding the ascension of Christ Mary met with the disciples
in the upper room, ( Acts 1:14 ) waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit with
(2) (a tear) of Cleophas. So in Authorized Version, but accurately "of Clopas,"
i.e. the wife of Clopas (or Alphaeus). She is brought before us for the first
time on the day of the crucifixion, standing by the cross. ( John 19:25 ) In the
evening of the same day we find her sitting desolate at the tomb with Mary Magdalene,
( Matthew 27:61 ; Mark 15:47 ) and at the dawn of Easter morning she was again
there with sweet spices, which she had prepared on the Friday night, ( Matthew
28:1 ; Mark 16:1 ; Luke 23:56 ) and was one of those who had "a vision of angels,
which said that he was alive." ( Luke 24:23 ) She had four sons and at least three
daughters. The names of the daughters are unknown to us; those of the sons are,
James, Joses, Jude and Simon, two of whom became enrolled among the twelve apostles
[JAMES], and a third [SIMON] may have succeeded his brother ill charge of the
church of Jerusalem. By many she is thought to have been the sister of the Virgin
(3) a Roman Christian who is greeted by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans,
ch. ( Romans 16:6 ) as having toiled hard for him.
(4) (FROM MARY, MOTHER OF MARK) ( Colossians 4:10 ) was sister to Barnabas. (
Acts 4:36 ; 12:15 ) She was among the earliest disciples, and lived at Jerusalem.
She gave up her house to be used as one of the chief places of meeting. The fact
that Peter went to that house on his release from prison indicates that there
was some special intimacy, ( Acts 12:12 ) between them. (There is a tradition
that the place of meeting of the disciples, and hence Marys house, was on the
upper slope of Zion, and that it was here that the Holy Ghost came upon the disciples
with tongues of flame on the day of Pentecost. --ED.)
(5) (FROM MARY MAGDALENE) Different explanations have been given of this name;
but the most natural is that she came from the town of Magdala. She appears before
us for the first time in ( Luke 8:2 ) among the women who "ministered unto him
of their substance." All appear to have occupied a position of comparative wealth.
With all the chief motive was that of gratitude for their deliverance from "evil
spirits and infirmities." Of Mary it is said specially that "seven devils went
out of her," and the number indicates a possession of more than ordinary malignity.
She was present during the closing hours of the agony on the cross. ( John 19:25
) She remained by the cross till all was over, and waited till the body was taken
down and placed in the garden sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathaea, ( Matthew 27:61
; Mark 15:47 ; Luke 23:55 ) when she, with Salome and Mary the mother of James,
"bought sweet spices that they might come and anoint" the body. ( Mark 16:1 )
The next morning accordingly. in the earliest dawn, ( Matthew 28:1 ; Mark 16:2
) they came with Mary the mother of James to the sepulchre. Mary Magdalene had
been to the tomb and had found it empty, and had seen the "vision of angels."
( Matthew 28:5 ; Mark 16:6 ) To her first of all Jesus appeared after his resurrection.
( John 20:14 , 20:15 ) Mary Magdalene has become the type of a class of repentant
sinners; but there is no authority for identifying her with the "sinner" who anointed
the feet of Jesus in ( Luke 7:36 - 50 ) neither is there any authority for the
supposition that Mary Magdalene is the same as the sister of Lazarus. Neither
of these theories has the slightest foundation in fact.
(FROM MARY, SISTER OF LAZARUS)
(6) She and her sister Martha appear in ( Luke 10:40 ) as receiving Christ in
their house. Mary sat listening eagerly for every word that fell from the divine
Teacher. She had chosen that good part, the "one thing needful." The same character
shows itself in the history of ( John 11:1 ) ... Her grief was deeper, but less
active. Her first thought, when she saw the Teacher in whose power and love she
that trusted, was one of complaint. But the great joy and love which her brothers
return to life called up in her poured themselves out in larger measure than had
been seen before. The treasured alabaster box of ointment was brought forth at
the final feast of Bethany. ( John 12:3 )
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ma'-ri, mar'-i (Maria, Mariam, Greek form of Hebrew miryam):
I. DEFINITION AND QUESTIONS OF IDENTIFICATION
A Hebrew feminine proper name of two persons in the Old Testament (see Exodus
15:20; Numbers 12:1; Micah 6:4; 1 Chronicles 4:17) and of a number not certainly
determined in the New Testament. The prevalence of the name in New Testament times
has been attributed, with no great amount of certainty, to the popularity of Mariamne,
the last representative of the Hasmonean family, who was the second wife of Herod
The Name Mary in the New Testament:
|(1) The name Mary occurs in 51 passages of the New Testament
to which the following group of articles is confined (see MIRIAM). Collating all
these references we have the following apparent notes of identification:
|(a) Mary, the mother of Jesus;
(b) Mary Magdalene;
(c) Mary, the mother of James;
(d) Mary, the mother of Joses;
(e) Mary, the wife of Clopas;
(f) Mary of Bethany;
(g) Mary, the mother of Mark;
(h) Mary of Rome;
(i) the "other" Mary.
(2) A comparison of Matthew 27:56; 28:1 with Mark 15:47 seems clearly to identify
the "other" Mary with Mary the mother of Joses.
(3) Mark 15:40 identifies Mary the mother of James and Mary the mother of Joses
(compare Mark 15:47) (see Allen's note on Matthew 27:56).
(4) At this point a special problem of identification arises. Mary, the wife of
Clopas, is mentioned as being present at the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus,
the latter's sister and Mary of Magdala (John 19:25). In the other notices of
the group at the cross, Mary, the mother of James, is mentioned (Matthew 27:56
; Mark 15:40). Elsewhere, James is regularly designated "son of Alpheus" (Matthew
10:3 ; Mark 3:18 ; Luke 6:15). Since it can hardly be doubted that James, the
apostle, and James the Less, the son of Mary, are one and the same person, the
conclusion seems inevitable that Mary, the mother of James, is also the wife of
Alpheus. Here we might stop and leave the wife of Clopas unidentified, but the
fact that the name Alpheus (Alphaios) is the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic
chalpay, together with the unlikelihood that anyone important enough to be mentioned
by John would be omitted by the synoptists and that another Mary, in addition
to the three definitely mentioned, could be present and not be mentioned, points
to the conclusion that the wife of Clopas is the same person as the wife of Alpheus
(see ALPHAEUS). Along with this reasonable conclusion has grown, as an excrescence,
another for which there is no basis whatever; namely, that the wife of Clopas
was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This would make the apostle James
the cousin of Jesus, and, by an extension of the idea, would identify James, the
apostle, with James, the "Lord's brother." The available evidence is clearly against
both these inferences (see Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19).
(5) One other possible identification is offered for our consideration. Zahn,
in an exceedingly interesting note (New Testament, II, 514), identifies Mary of
Rome (Romans 16:6) with the "other" Mary of Matthew. We need not enter into a
discussion of the point thus raised, since the identification of a woman of whom
we have no details given is of little more than academic interest.
We are left free, however, by the probabilities of the case to confine our attention
to the principal individuals who bear the name of Mary. We shall discuss Mary,
the mother of Jesus; Mary of Magdala; Mary of Bethany; Mary, the mother of James
and Joses; Mary, the mother of Mark.
II. MARY, THE VIRGIN
The biography of the mother of Jesus is gathered about a brief series of episodes
which serve to exhibit her leading characteristics in clear light. Two causes
have operated to distort and make unreal the very clear and vivid image of Mary
left for us in the Gospels. Roman Catholic dogmatic and sentimental exaggeration
has well-nigh removed Mary from history (see IMMACULATE CONCEPTION). On the other
hand, reaction and overemphasis upon certain features of the Gospel narrative
have led some to credit Mary with a negative attitude toward our Lord and His
claims, which she assuredly never occupied. It is very important that we should
follow the narrative with unprejudiced eyes and give due weight to each successive
Mary appears in the following passages: the Infancy narratives, Matthew 1 and
2; Luke 1 and 2; the wedding at Cana of Galilee, John 2:1 - 11; the episode of
Matthew 12:46 ; Mark 3:21 , 31; the incident at the cross, John 19:25; the scene
in the upper chamber, Acts 1:14.
1. Mary in the Infancy Narratives:
|(1) It is to be noted, first of all, that Mary and her experiences
form the narrative core of both Infancy documents. This is contrary to the ordinary
opinion, but is unquestionably true. She is obviously the object of special interest
to Luke (see Ramsay, Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? 76 f), and there are not wanting
indications that Luke's story came from Mary herself. But, while Matthew's account
does not exhibit his interest in Mary quite so readily, that he was interested
in the pathetic story of the Lord's mother is evident.
Luke tells the story of Mary's inward and deeply personal experiences, her call
(Luke 1:26 f), her maidenly fears (Luke 1:29 , 35), her loyal submission (Luke
1:38), her outburst of sacred and unselfish joy (Luke 1:39 - 55). From this anticipatory
narrative he passes at once to the Messianic fulfillment.
Matthew tells the story of the outward and, so to say, public experiences of Mary
which follow hard upon the former and are in such dramatic contrast with them:
the shame and suspicion which fell upon her (Matthew 1:18); her bitter humiliation
(Matthew 1:19), her ultimate vindication (Matthew 1:20 f). Here the two narratives
supplement each other by furnishing different details but, as in other instances,
converge upon the central fact--the central fact here being Mary herself, her
character, her thoughts, her experiences. The point to be emphasized above all
others is that we have real biography, although in fragments; in that the same
person appears in the inimitable reality of actual characterization, in both parts
of the story. This is sufficient guaranty of historicity; for no two imaginary
portraits ever agreed unless one copied the other--which is evidently not the
case here. More than this, the story is a truly human narrative in which the remarkable
character of the events which took place in her life only serves to bring into
sharper relief the simple, humble, natural qualities of the subject of them.
(2) One can hardly fail to be impressed, in studying Mary's character with her
quietness of spirit; her meditative inwardness of disposition; her admirable self-control;
her devout and gracious gift of sacred silence. The canticle (Luke 1:46 - 55),
which at least expresses Luke's conception of her nature, indicates that she is
not accustomed to dwell much upon herself (4 lines only call particular attention
to herself), and that her mind is saturated with the spirit and phraseology of
the Old Testament. The intensely Jewish quality of her piety thus expressed accounts
for much that appears anomalous in her subsequent career as depicted in the Gospels.
2. Mary at Cana:
The first episode which demands our attention is the wedding at Cana of Galilee
(John 2:1-11). The relationship between Jesus and His mother has almost eclipsed
other interests in the chapter. It is to be noted that the idea of wanton interference
on the part of Mary and of sharp rebuke on the part of Jesus is to be decisively
rejected. The key to the meaning of this episode is to be found in 4 simple items:
|(1) in a crisis of need, Mary turns naturally to Jesus as
to the one from whom help is to be expected;
(2) she is entirely undisturbed by His reply, whatever its meaning may be;
(3) she prepares the way for the miracle by her authoritative directions to the
(4) Jesus does actually relieve the situation by an exercise of power.
Whether she turned to Jesus with distinctly Messianic expectation, or whether
Jesus intended to convey a mild rebuke for her eagerness, it is not necessary
for us to inquire, as it is not possible for us to determine. It is enough that
her spontaneous appeal to her Son did not result in disappointment, since, in
response to her suggestion or, at least, in harmony with it, He "manifested his
glory." The incident confirms the Infancy narrative in which Mary's quiet and
forceful personality is exhibited.
3. Mary and the Career of Jesus:
In Matthew 12:46 (parallel Mark 3:31 - 35), we are told that, when His mother
and His brethren came seeking Him, Jesus in the well-known remark concerning His
true relatives in the kingdom of heaven intended to convey a severe rebuke to
His own household for an action which involved both unbelief and presumptuous
interference in His great life-work. The explanation of this incident, which involves
no such painful implications as have become connected with it in the popular mind,
is to be found in Mark's account. He interrupts his narrative of the arrival of
the relatives (which belongs in Mark 3:21) by the account of the accusation made
by the scribes from Jerusalem that the power of Jesus over demons was due to Beelzebub.
This goes a long way toward explaining the anxiety felt by the relatives of Jesus,
since the ungoverned enthusiasm of the multitude. which gave Him no chance to
rest and seemed to threaten His health, was matched, contrariwise, by the bitter,
malignant opposition of the authorities, who would believe any malicious absurdity
rather than that His power came from God. The vital point is that the attempt
of Mary and her household to get possession of the person of Jesus, in order to
induce Him to go into retirement for a time, was not due to captious and interfering
unbelief, but to loving anxiety. The words of Jesus have the undoubted ring of
conscious authority and express the determination of one who wills the control
of his own life--but it is a serious mistake to read into them any faintest accent
of satire. It has been well said (Horace Bushnell, Sermons on Living Subject,
30) that Jesus would scarcely make use of the family symbolism to designate the
sacred relationships of the kingdom of heaven, while, at the same time, He was
depreciating the value and importance of the very relationships which formed the
basis of His analogy. The real atmosphere of the incident is very different from
4. Mary at the Cross:
To be sure that many have misinterpreted the above incident we need only turn
to the exquisitely tender scene at the cross recorded by John (John 19:25). This
scene, equally beautiful whether one considers the relationship which it discloses
as existing between Jesus and His mother, or between Jesus and His well-beloved
disciple removes all possible ambiguity which might attach to the preceding incidents,
and reveals the true spirit of the Master's home. Jesus could never have spoken
as He did from the cross unless He had consistently maintained the position and
performed the duties of an eldest son. The tone and quality of the scene could
never have been what it is had there not been a steadfast tie of tender love and
mutual understanding between Jesus and His mother. Jesus could hand over His sacred
charge to the trustworthy keeping of another, because He had faithfully maintained
5. Mary in the Christian Community:
The final passage which we need to consider (Acts 1:14) is especially important
because in it we discover Mary and her household at home in the midst of the Christian
community, engaged with them in prayer. It is also clear that Mary herself and
the family, who seemed to be very completely under her influence, whatever may
have been their earlier misgivings, never broke with the circle of disciples,
and persistently kept within the range of experiences which led at last to full-orbed
Christian faith. This makes it sufficiently evident, on the one hand, that the
household never shared the feelings of the official class among the Jews; and,
on the other, that the family of Jesus passed through the same cycle of experiences
which punctuated the careers of the whole body of disciples on the way to faith.
The beating of this simple but significant fact upon the historical trustworthiness
of the body of incidents just passed in review is evident.
The sum of the matter concerning Mary seems to be this: The mother of Jesus was
a typical Jewish believer of the best sort. She was a deeply meditative, but by
no means a daring or original thinker. Her inherited Messianic beliefs did not
and perhaps could not prepare her for the method of Jesus which involved so much
that was new and unexpected. But her heart was true, and from the beginning to
the day of Pentecost, she pondered in her heart the meaning of her many puzzling
experiences until the light came. The story of her life and of her relationship
to Jesus is consistent throughout and touched with manifold unconscious traits
of truth. Such a narrative could not have been feigned or fabled.
6. Mary in Ecclesiastical Doctrine and Tradition:
The ecclesiastical treatment of Mary consists largely of legend and dogma, about
equally fictitious and unreliable. The legendary accounts, which include the apocryphal
gospels, deal, for the most part, with details tails of her parentage and early
life; her betrothal and marriage to Joseph; her journey to Bethlehem and the birth
of her child. At this point the legendary narratives, in their crass wonder-mongering
and indelicate intimacy of detail, are in striking contrast to the chaste reserve
of the canonical story, and of evidential value on that account.
There is, in addition, a full-grown legend concerning Mary's later life in the
house of John; of her death in which the apostles were miraculously allowed to
participate; her bodily translation to heaven; her reception at the hands of Jesus
and her glorification in heaven. In this latter series of statements, we have
already made the transition from legend to dogma. It is quite clear, from the
statements of Roman Catholic writers themselves, that no reliable historical data
are to be found among these legendary accounts. The general attitude of modern
writers is exhibited in the following sentences (from Wilhelm and Scannel, Manual
of Catholic Theology, II, 220, quoted by Mayor, Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible,
II, 288, note): "Mary's corporeal assumption into heaven is so thoroughly implied
in the notion of her personality as given by Bible and dogma, that the church,
can dispense with strict historical evidence of the fact." If that is the way
one feels, there is very little to say about it. Aside from the quasi-historical
dogma of Mary's bodily assumption, the Roman Catholic doctrinal interpretation
of her person falls into three parts.
|(a) The Dogma of Her Sinlessness:
This is discussed under IMMACULATE CONCEPTION (which see) and need not detain
(b) Dogma of Mary's Perpetual Virginity:
It is evident that this, too, is a doctrine of such a nature that its advocates
might, with advantage to their argument, have abstained from the appearance of
Even if all the probabilities of exegesis are violated and the cumulative evidence
that Mary had other children done away with; if the expression, "brethren of the
Lord" is explained as "foster-brethren," "cousins" or what-not; if Jesus is shown
to be not only "first-born" but "only-born" Son (Luke 2:7); if the expression
of Matthew 1:25 is interpreted as meaning "up to and beyond" (Pusey, et al.; compare
Roman Catholic Dict., 604), it would still be as far as possible from a demonstration
of the dogma. That a married woman has no children is no proof of virginity--perpetual
or otherwise. That this thought has entered the minds of Roman Catholic apologists
although not openly expressed by them, is evidenced by the fact that while certain
forms of dealing with the "brethren-of-the-Lord" question make these the sons
of Joseph by a former marriage, the favorite doctrine includes the perpetual virginity
of Joseph. Just as the idea of the sinlessness of Mary has led to the dogma of
the immaculate conception, so the idea of her perpetual virginity demands the
ancillary notion of Joseph's. No critical or historical considerations are of
any possible use here. It is a matter of dogmatic assumption unmixed with any
alloy of factual evidence, and might better be openly made such.
It is evident that a very serious moral issue is raised here. The question is
not whether virginity is a higher form of life than marriage. One might be prepared
to say that under certain circumstances it is. The point at issue here is very
different. If Mary was married to Joseph and Joseph to Mary in appearance only,
then they were recreant to each other and to the ordinance of God which made them
one. How a Roman Catholic, to whom marriage is a sacrament, can entertain such
a notion is an unfathomable mystery. The fact that Mary was miraculously the mother
of the Messiah has nothing to do with the question of her privilege and obligation
in the holiest of human relationships. Back of this unwholesome dogma are two
utterly false ideas: that the marriage relationship is incompatible with holy
living, and that Mary is not to be considered a human being under the ordinary
obligations of human life.
(c) Doctrine of Mary's Glorification as the Object of Worship and Her Function
With no wish to be polemic toward Roman Catholicism, and, on the contrary, with
every desire to be sympathetic, it is very difficult to be patient with the puerilities
which disfigure the writings of Roman Catholic dogmaticians in the discussion
of this group of doctrines.
|(i) Take, for example, the crude literalism involved in
the identification of the woman of Revelation 12:1 - 6 with Mary. Careful exegesis
of the passage (especially Revelation 12:6), in connection with the context, makes
it clear that no hint of Mary's status in heaven is intended. As a matter of fact,
Mary, in any literal sense, is not referred to at all. Mary's motherhood along
with that of the mother of Moses is very likely the basis of the figure, but the
woman of the vision is the church, which is, at once, the mother and the body
of her Lord (see Milligan, Expositors' Bible, "Revelation," 196 f).
Three other arguments are most frequently used to justify the place accorded to
Mary in the liturgy.
(ii) Christ's perpetual humanity leads to His perpetual Sonship to Mary. This
argument, if it carries any weight at all, in this connection, implies that the
glorified Lord Jesus is still subject to His mother. It is, however, clear from
the Gospels that the subjection to His parents which continued after the incident
in the Temple (Luke 2:51) was gently but firmly laid aside at the outset of the
public ministry (see above, II, 2, 3). In all that pertains to His heavenly office,
as Lord, Mary's position is one of dependence, not of authority.
(iii) Christ hears her prayers. Here, again, dogmatic assumption is in evidence.
That He hears her prayers, even if true in a very special sense, does not, in
the least, imply that prayers are to be addressed to her or that she is an intercessor
through whom prayers may be addressed to Him.
(iv) Since Mary cared for the body of Christ when He was on earth, naturally His
spiritual body would be her special care in heaven. But, on any reasonable hypothesis,
Mary was, is, and must remain, a part of that body (see Acts 1:14). Unless she
is intrinsically a Divine being, her care for the church cannot involve her universal
presence in it and her accessibility to the prayers of her fellow-believers.
To a non-Romanist, the most suggestive fact in the whole controversy is that the
statements of cautious apologists in support of the ecclesiastical attitude toward
Mary, do not, in the least degree, justify the tone of extravagant adulation which
marks the non-polemical devotional literature of the subject (see Dearden, Modern
Romanism Examined, 22 f).
Our conclusion on the whole question is that the literature of Mariolatry belongs,
historically, to unauthorized speculation; and, psychologically, to the natural
history of asceticism and clerical celibacy.
III. MARY MAGDALENE
(Maria Magdalene = of "Magdala").--A devoted follower of Jesus who entered the
circle of the taught during the Galilean ministry and became prominent during
the last days. The noun "Magdala," from which the adjective "Magdalene" is formed,
does not occur in the Gospels (the word in Matthew 15:39, is, of course, "Magadan").
The meaning of this obscure reference is well summarized in the following quotations
from Plummer (International Critical Commentary, "Luke," 215): "'Magdala is only
the Greek form of mighdol or watch-tower, one of the many places of the name in
Palestine' (Tristram, Bible Places, 260); and is probably represented by the squalid
group of hovels which now bears the name of Mejdel near the center of the western
shore of the lake."
1. Mary not the Sinful Woman of Luke 7:
As she was the first to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus, it is important
that we should get a correct view of her position and character. The idea that
she was a penitent, drawn from the life of the street, undoubtedly arose, in the
first instance, from a misconception of the nature of her malady, together with
an altogether impossible identification of her with the woman who was a sinner
of the preceding section of the Gospel. It is not to be forgotten that the malady
demon-possession, according to New Testament ideas (see DEMON, DEMONOLOGY), had
none of the implications of evil temper and malignant disposition popularly associated
with "having a devil." The possessed was, by our Lord and the disciples looked
upon as diseased, the victim of an alien and evil power, not an accomplice of
it. Had this always been understood and kept in mind, the unfortunate identification
of Mary with the career of public prostitution would have been much less easy.
According to New Testament usage, in such cases the name would have been withheld
(compare Luke 7:37 ; John 8:3). At the same time the statement that 7 demons had
been cast out of Mary means either that the malady was of exceptional severity,
possibly involving several relapses (compare Luke 11:26), or that the mode of
her divided and haunted consciousness (compare Mark 5:9) suggested the use of
the number 7. Even so, she was a healed invalid, not a rescued social derelict.
The identification of Mary with the sinful woman is, of course, impossible for
one who follows carefully the course of the narrative with an eye to the transitions.
The woman of Luke 7 is carefully covered with the concealing cloak of namelessness.
Undoubtedly known by name to the intimate circle of first disciples, it is extremely
doubtful whether she was so known to Luke. Her history is definitely closed at
The name of Mary is found at the beginning of a totally new section of the Gospel
(see Plummer's analysis, op. cit., xxxvii), where the name of Mary is introduced
with a single mark of identification, apart from her former residence, which points
away from the preceding narrative and is incompatible with it. If the preceding
account of the anointing were Mary's introduction into the circle of Christ's
followers, she could not be identified by the phrase of Luke. Jesus did not cast
a demon out of the sinful woman of Luke 7, and Mary of Magdala is not represented
as having anointed the Lord's feet. The two statements cannot be fitted together.
2. Mary Not a Nervous Wreck:
Mary has been misrepresented in another way, scarcely less serious. She was one
of the very first witnesses to the resurrection, and her testimony is of sufficient
importance to make it worth while for those who antagonize the narrative to discredit
her testimony. This is done, on the basis of her mysterious malady, by making
her a paranoiac who was in the habit of "seeing things." Renan is the chief offender
in this particular, but others have followed his example.
|(1) To begin with, it is to be remarked that Mary had been
cured of her malady in such a marked way that, henceforth, throughout her life,
she was a monument to the healing power of Christ. What He had done for her became
almost a part of her name along with the name of her village. It is not to be
supposed that a cure so signal would leave her a nervous wreck, weak of will,
wavering in judgment, the victim of hysterical tremors and involuntary hallucinations.
(2) There is more than this a priori consideration against such an interpretation
of Mary. She was the first at the tomb (Matthew 28:1 ; Mark 16:1 ; Luke 24:10).
But she was also the last at the cross--she and her companions (Matthew 27:61
; Mark 15:40). A glance at the whole brief narrative of her life in the Gospels
will interpret this combination of statements. Mary first appears near the beginning
of the narrative of the Galilean ministry as one of a group consisting of "many"
(Luke 8:3), among them Joanna, wife of Chuzas, Herod's steward, who followed with
the Twelve and ministered to them of their substance. Mary then disappears from
the text to reappear as one of the self-appointed watchers of the cross, thereafter
to join the company of witnesses to the resurrection. The significance of these
simple statements for the understanding of Mary's character and position among
the followers of Jesus is not far to seek. She came into the circle of believers,
marked out from the rest by an exceptional experience of the Lord's healing power.
Henceforth, to the very end, with unwearied devotion, with intent and eager willingness,
with undaunted courage even in the face of dangers which broke the courage of
the chosen Twelve, she followed and served her Lord. It is impossible that such
singleness of purpose, such strength of will, and, above all, such courage in
danger, should have been exhibited by a weak, hysterical, neurotic incurable.
The action of these women of whom Mary was one, in serving their Master's need
while in life, and in administering the last rites to His body in death, is characteristic
of woman at her best.
IV. MARY OF BETHANY
Another devoted follower of Jesus. She was a resident of Bethany (Bethania), and
a member of the family consisting of a much-beloved brother, Lazarus, and another
sister, Martha, who made a home for Jesus within their own circle whenever He
was in the neighborhood.
The one descriptive reference, aside from the above, connected with Mary, has
caused no end of perplexity. John (11:2) states that it was this Mary who anointed
the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus
was sick. This reference would be entirely satisfied by the narrative of John
12:1,8, and no difficulty would be suggested, were it not for the fact that Luke
(7:36-50) records an anointing of Jesus by a woman, accompanied with the wiping
of His feet with her hair. The identification of these two anointings would not
occasion any great difficulty, in spite of serious discrepancies as to time, place
and other accessories of the action, but for the very serious fact that the woman
of Luke 7 is described as a sinner in the dreadful special sense associated with
that word in New Testament times. This is so utterly out of harmony with all that
we know of Mary and the family at Bethany as to be a well-nigh intolerable hypothesis.
On the other hand, we are confronted with at least one serious difficulty in affirming
two anointings. This is well stated by Mayor (Hastings Dictionary Bible, III,
280a): "Is it likely that our Lord would have uttered such a high encomium upon
Mary's act if she were only following the example already set by the sinful woman
of Galilee; or (taking the other view) if she herself were only repeating under
more favorable circumstances the act of loving devotion for which she had already
received His commendation?" We shall be compelled to face this difficulty in case
we are forced to the conclusion that there were more anointings than one.
1. Attack upon Luke's Narrative:
In the various attempts to solve this problem, or rather group of problems, otherwise
than by holding to two anointings, Luke, who stands alone against Mark, Matthew
and John, has usually suffered loss of confidence. Mayor (op. cit., 282a) suggests
the possibility that the text of Luke has been tampered with, and that originally
his narrative contained no reference to anointing. This is a desperate expedient
which introduces more difficulties than it solves. Strauss and other hostile critics
allege confusion on the part of Luke between the anointing at Bethany and the
account of the woman taken in adultery, but, as Plummer well says, the narrative
shows no signs of confusion. "The conduct both of Jesus and of the woman is unlike
either fiction or clumsily distorted fact. His gentle severity toward Simon, and
tender reception of the sinner, are as much beyond the reach of invention as the
eloquence of her speechless affection" (International Critical Commentary, "Luke,"
2. Evidence of Luke Taken Alone:
The first step in the solution of this difficulty is to note carefully the evidence
supplied by Luke's narrative taken by itself. Mary is named for the first time
in Luke 10:38-42 in a way which clearly indicates that the family of Bethany is
there mentioned for the first time (a "certain tis woman named Martha," and "she
had a sister called Mary," etc.). This phrasing indicates the introduction of
a new group of names (compare John 11:1). It is also a clear indication of the
fact that Luke does not identify Mary with the sinful woman of Luke 7 (compare
Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8).
3. Evidence Sifted by Comparison:
Our next task is to note carefully the relationship between the narratives of
Mark, Matthew and John on one side, and that of Luke on the other. We may effectively
analyze the narratives under the following heads:
|(1) notes of time and place;
notice that all three evangelists place the incident near the close of the ministry
and at Bethany. The time and place indications, such as they are, point to Galilee
and the Galilean ministry. This consideration alone is a formidable obstacle in
the way of any such identification.
(2) circumstances and scenery of the incident;
it is important to observe that Matthew and Mark place the scene in the house
of Simon "the leper," while John states vaguely that a feast was made for Him
by persons not named and that Martha served. The immediate surroundings are different.
Simon "the leper" and Simon "the Pharisee" can hardly be one person. No man could
have borne both of these designations. In addition to this, it is difficult to
believe that a Pharisee of Simon's temper would have entertained Jesus when once
he had been proscribed by the authorities. Simon's attitude was a very natural
one at the beginning of Christ's ministry, but the combination of hostility and
questioning was necessarily a temporary mood.
(3) description of the person who did the anointing;
we observe that Matthew and Mark say "a woman," while John designates Mary. The
description of the same woman as sinner in the sense of Luke 7 in one Gospel;
simply as a woman in two others; and as the beloved and honored Mary of Bethany
in a third is not within the range of probability, especially as there is no hint
of an attempt at explanation on the part of any of the writers. At any rate, prima
facie, this item in Luke's description is seriously at variance with the other
(4) complaints of her action, by whom and for what;
According to Matthew, the disciples found fault; according to Mark, some of those
present found fault; while according to John, the fault-finder was Judas Iscariot.
According to all three, the ground or complaint is the alleged wastefulness of
the action. Luke is again at variance with the others, if he is supposed to refer
to the same event, in the matter of the complaint and its cause. In Luke's account
there is no complaint of the woman's action suggested. There is no hint that anybody
thought or pretended to think that she had committed a sinful waste of precious
material. The only complaint is Simon's, and that is directed against the Lord
Himself, because Simon, judging by himself, surmised that Jesus did not spurn
the woman because He did not know her character. This supposed fact had a bearing
on the question of our Lord's Messiahship, concerning which Simon was debating;
otherwise one suspects he had little interest in the episode. This fact is, as
we shall see, determinative for the understanding of the incident and puts it
apart from all other similar episodes.
(5) the lesson drawn from the woman's action which constitutes our Lord's defense
Again, according to all three, our Lord defended the use made of the ointment
by a mysterious reference to an anointing of His body for the burial. John's expression
in particular is most interesting and peculiar (see John 12:7). The lesson drawn
from the act by our Lord was in each incident different. The sinful woman was
commended for an act of courtesy and tenderness which expressed a love based upon
gratitude for deliverance and forgiveness. Mary was commended for an act which
had a mysterious and sacramental relationship to the Lord's death, near at hand.
This brings us to the point where we may consider the one serious difficulty,
that alleged by Mayor and others, against the hypothesis of two anointings, namely,
that a repetition of an act like this with commendation attached would not be
likely to occur. The answer to this argument is that the difficulty itself is
an artificial one due to a misreading of the incident. In the point of central
reference the two episodes are worlds apart. The act of anointing in each case
was secondary, not primary. Anointing was one of those general and prevalent acts
of social courtesy which might mean much or little, this or that, and might be
repeated a score of times in a year with a different meaning each time. The matter
of primary importance in every such case would be the purpose and motive of the
anointing. By this consideration alone we may safely discriminate between these
incidents. In the former case, the motive was to express the love of a forgiven
penitent. In the latter, the motive was gratitude for something quite different,
a beloved brother back from the grave, and, may we not say (in view of John 12:7),
grief and foreboding? That Mary's feeling was expressed in the same way outwardly
as that of the sinful woman of the early ministry does not change the fact that
the feeling was different, that the act was different and that, consequently,
the commendation she received, being for a different thing, was differently expressed.
The two anointings are not duplicates. Mary's act, though later, was quite as
spontaneous and original as that of the sinful woman, and the praise bestowed
upon her quite as natural and deserved.
(6) incidental features of the narrative.
The Simon in whose house the incident is said to have taken place is by Matthew
and Mark designated "the leper." This must mean either that he had previously
been cured or that his disease had manifested itself subsequent to the feast.
Of these alternatives the former is the more natural (see Gould, International
Critical Commentary, "Mark," 257). The presence of a healed leper on this occasion,
together with the specific mention of Lazarus as a guest, would suggest that the
feast was given by people, in and about Bethany, who had especial reason to be
grateful to Jesus for the exercise of His healing power.
It is beyond reasonable doubt that the narratives of Matthew, Mark and John refer
to the same incident. The amount of convergence and the quality of it put this
identification among the practical certainties. The only discrepancies of even
secondary importance are a difference of a few days in the time (Gould says four)
and the detail as to the anointing of head or feet. It is conceivable, and certainly
no very serious matter, that John assimilated his narrative at this point to the
similar incident of Luke 7.
An analysis of the incident of Luke 7 with reference to the same points of inquiry
discloses the fact that it cannot be the same as that described by the other evangelists.
4. Character of Mary:
With this fictitious and embarrassing identification out of the way, we are now
free to consider briefly the career and estimate the character of Mary.
|(1) At the outset it is worth mentioning that we have in
the matter of these two sisters a most interesting and instructive point of contact
between the synoptic and Johannine traditions. The underlying unity and harmony
of the two are evident here as elsewhere. In Luke 10:38 - 42 we are afforded a
view of Mary and Martha photographic in its clear revelation of them both. Martha
is engaged in household affairs, while Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, absorbed
in listening. This, of course, might mean that Mary was idle and listless, leaving
the burden of responsibility for the care of guests upon her more conscientious
sister. Most housewives are inclined to take this view and to think that Martha
has been hardly dealt with. The story points to the contrary. It will be noticed
that Mary makes no defense of herself and that the Master makes no criticism of
Martha until she criticizes Mary. When He does speak, it is with the characteristic
and inimitable gentleness, but in a way leaving nothing to be desired in the direction
of completeness. He conveyed His love, His perfect understanding of the situation,
His defense of Mary, His rebuke to Martha, in a single sentence which contains
a perfect photograph of the two loved sisters. Martha is not difficult to identify.
She was just one of those excellent and tiresome women whose fussy concern and
bustling anxiety about the details of household management make their well-meant
hospitality a burden to all their guests. Mary's quiet and restful interest in
the guest and His conversation must be set against the foil of Martha's excess
of concern in housework and the serving of food. When one comes to think of it,
Mary chose the better part of hospitality, to put no higher construction upon
(2) In John 11:20, we are told that Martha went forth to meet Jesus while Mary
remained in the house. In this we have no difficulty in recognizing the same contrast
of outwardness and inwardness in the dispositions of the sisters; especially,
as when Mary does come at Martha's call to meet Jesus, she exhibits an intensity
of feeling of which Martha gives no sign. It is significant that, while Mary says
just what Martha had already said (11:21,32), her way of saying it and her manner
as a whole so shakes the Lord's composure that He is unable to answer her directly
but addresses His inquiry to the company in general (11:34).
(3) Then we come to the events of the next chapter. The supper is given in Bethany.
Martha serves. Of course she serves. She always serves when there is opportunity.
Waiting on guests, plate in hand, was the innocent delight of her life. One cannot
fail to see that, in a single incidental sentence, the Martha of Luke 10:38 -
42 is sketched again in lifelikeness. It is the same Martha engaged in the same
task. But what of Mary in this incident? She is shown in an unprecedented role,
strange to an oriental woman and especially to one so retiring in disposition
as Mary. Her action not only thrust her into a public place alone, but brought
her under outspoken criticism. But after all, this is just what we come to expect
from these deep, intense, silent natures. The Mary who sat at Jesus' feet in listening
silence while Martha bustled about the house, who remained at home while Martha
went out to meet Him, is the very one to hurl herself at His feet in a storm and
passion of tears when she does meet Him and to break out in a self-forgetful public
act of devotion, strange to her modest disposition, however native to her deep
Martha was a good and useful woman. No one would deny that, least of all the Master
who loved her (John 11:5). But she lived on the surface of things, and her affections
and her piety alike found adequate and satisfying expression at all times in the
ordinary kindly offices of hospitality and domestic service. Not so Mary. Her
disposition was inward, silent, brooding, with a latent capacity for stress and
the forthwith, unconventional expression of feelings, slowly gathering intensity
through days of thought and repression. Mary would never be altogether at home
in the world of affairs. Hers was a rare spirit, doomed often to loneliness and
misunderstanding except at the hands of rarely discerning spirits, such as she
happily met in the person of her Lord.
V. MARY, THE MOTHER OF JAMES AND JOSES
Under this caption it is necessary merely to recall and set in order the few facts
concerning this Mary given in the Gospels (see Matthew 27:55 , 56 , 61 ; Mark
15:40 ; 16:1 ; Luke 24:10 ; compare Luke 23:49 - 56).
In Matthew 27:55 , 56 (parallel Mark 15:40), we are told that at the time of the
crucifixion there was a group of women observing the event from a distance. These
women are said to have followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him and to
the disciples. Among these were Mary Magdalene (see III, above); Mary, mother
of James and Joses; and the unnamed mother of Zebedee's children. By reference
to Luke 8:2 , 3 , where this group is first introduced, it appears that, as a
whole, it was composed of those who had been healed of infirmities of one kind
or another. Whether this description applies individually to Mary or not we cannot
be sure, but it is altogether probable. At any rate, it is certain that Mary was
one who persistently followed with the disciples and ministered of her substance
to aid and comfort the Lord in His work for others. The course of the narrative
seems to imply that Mary's sons accompanied their mother on this ministering journey
and that one of them became an apostle. It is interesting to note that two mothers
with their sons joined the company of the disciples and that three out of the
four became members of the apostolic group. Another item in these only too fragmentary
references is that this Mary, along with her of Magdala and the others of this
group, was of sufficient wealth and position to be marked among the followers
of Jesus as serving in this particular way. The mention of Chuzas' wife (Luke
8:3) is an indication of the unusual standing of this company of faithful women.
The other notices of Mary show her lingering late at the cross (Mark 15:40); a
spectator at the burial (Mark 15:47); and among the first to bear spices to the
tomb. This is the whole of this woman's biography extant, but perhaps it is enough.
We are told practically nothing, directly, concerning her; but, incidentally,
she is known to be generous, faithful, loving, true and brave. She came in sorrow
to the tomb to anoint the body of her dead Lord; she went away in joy to proclaim
Him alive forevermore. A privilege to be coveted by the greatest was thus awarded
to simple faith and trusting love.
VI. MARY, THE MOTHER OF JOHN MARK
This woman is mentioned but once in the New Testament (Acts 12:12), but in a connection
to arouse intense interest. Since she was the mother of Mark, she was also, in
all probability, the aunt of Barnabas. The aunt of one member and the mother of
another of the earliest apostolic group is a woman of importance. The statement
in Acts, so far as it concerns Mary, is brief but suggestive. Professor Ramsay
(see Paul the Traveler, etc., 385) holds that the authority for this narrative
was not Peter but Mark, the son of the house. This, if true, adds interest to
the story as we have it. In the first place, the fact that Peter went thither
directly upon his escape from prison argues that Mary's house was a well-known
center of Christian life and worship. The additional fact that coming unannounced
and casually the apostle found a considerable body of believers assembled points
in the same direction. That "many" were gathered in the house at the same time
indicates that the house was of considerable size. It also appears that Rhoda
was only one of the maids, arguing a household of more than ordinary size. There
is a tradition of doubtful authenticity, that Mary's house was the scene of a
still more sacred gathering in the upper room on the night of the betrayal. We
conclude that Mary was a wealthy widow of Jerusalem, who, upon becoming a disciple
of Christ, with her son, gave herself with whole-souled devotion to Christian
service, making her large and well-appointed house a place of meeting for the
proscribed and homeless Christian communion whose benefactor and patron she thus
Louis Matthews Sweet
3 marys with jesus at the cross, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, mary, mary magdalene, mary sister of lazarus, mary the mother of mark, mary the wife of cleopas, miriam, mother of jesus, seven devils (demons), virgin mary, wife of joseph