the virgin mary. Mother of Jesus. The Greek name Maria or Mariam renders the Hebrew Miriam. There is comparatively little reference to Mary in the NT outside the birth and infancy stories of Matthew and Luke. Matthew records these largely from the point of view of Joseph. He is referred to as “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus” (Matt. 1:16), but it is made plain that the conception of Jesus took place when they were betrothed but before they had intercourse (Matt. 1:18-25). The was stated to be the one through whom she had conceived. The statement that he had no intercourse with her until she had borne a son (Matt. 1:25) implies that they had normal marital relations afterward.
Luke's first two chapters are centered around Mary. The angel Gabriel announces to her that she is to bear a son called Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Here also it is emphasized that she is betrothed to Joseph, that she has had no intercourse with him, and that it is the Holy Spirit who has brought about the conception. We see also in this passage Mary's willing dedication of herself to this unique role of being the mother of the, and the angel's address to her as “highly favored” (the recipient, not the giver of grace). Luke then records the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). Elizabeth describes her as “blessed among women” and “the mother of my Lord.” Mary then gives voice to her song, based upon the song of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1-10), which is known as the Magnificat. In this she praises God for His gracious action on behalf of His people and in particular of herself. She exults that all generations shall call her blessed because of what God has done for her. Luke then records the birth of Jesus of Mary at Bethlehem and the visit of the shepherds at the angel's command (2:1-20).
After reference to the circumcision of Jesus, there follows the account of the presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:21-40). Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her soul because of Jesus. Finally in these chapters, there is the visit to Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus is twelve (Luke 2:41-51). In this Mary is lovingly rebuked by Jesus for not understanding that He must be in His Father's house. A similar sort of rebuke is found in the story of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Otherwise, references to Mary in the ministry are almost entirely incidental, and it is stressed that obedience to the will of God is more important than blood relationship (Mark 3:31-35; Luke 11:27f.). John records Mary's presence at the crucifixion (John 19:25-27) and her commendation to the care of the beloved disciple. She is mentioned elsewhere in the NT only in Acts 1:14.
Mary clearly holds in the gospels a considerable place of honor because of her unique role, but there is no justification in history or in theology for the cultus which was to grow up around her figure in the church. In the fourth century Epiphanius had to rebuke heretics who worshiped her, but the Nestorian* controversy of the fifth century led to catholic Christians describing her as Theotokos, “bearer of God.” Together with this went the idea of her perpetual virginity, and these led on to the idea of her immaculate conception. The antithesis between Eve-the cause of the fall of the human race-and Mary-the cause of its redemption-was developed into the idea of her having a mediatorial role in the economy of salvation. This was particularly stressed in popular medieval devotion because of the apparent remoteness of Christ. The idea of the assumption of Mary to heaven was also developed. In 1854 Pius IX* proclaimed the dogma of the* and in 1950 Pius XII* that of the Assumption.* Many liturgical observances are associated with Mary, but Reformed churches have at most observed the Annunciation (25 March) and the Purification (or Presentation of Christ in the Temple-2 February).
See G. Miegge, The Virgin Mary (ET 1955), and M. Thurian, Mary, Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church (ET 1963); J. McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the(1975).
MARY (Μαρία, Μαριάμ, from Heb. מִרְיָ֨ם, prob. from מָרָא, H5257, meaning to be corpulent). The name was made famous by the sister of Moses. Possibly its prevalence in NT times was due to the popularity of Mariamne, the last of the Hasmoneans and wife of Herod the Great. Six women of this name are mentioned in the NT, assuming the correctness of the following identifications.
Mother of Jesus.
See separate article.
Mary of Rome.
This Mary, having served Paul and his party well elsewhere, moved to Rome (
Mother of John Mark.
Though mentioned only once by name in the NT (
Mary of Bethany.
Jesus appreciated Mary of Bethany as a special friend and a devoted follower. John speaks of Bethany as the town of Mary and of her sister (
The first event was in the Bethany home, though Luke does not make this clear (
The second cluster of reactions centers around the death and restoration to life of Lazarus (
The third event is a dinner, perhaps in gratitude for Jesus’ raising Lazarus. Both Jesus and Lazarus are at the table. The atmosphere is charged with impending crisis. No one can think of an appropriate word or action. Suddenly the quiet, contemplative Mary bursts forth with an impulse that has been growing in her heart. The alabaster cruse of precious imported perfume from India, that represented a year’s wages and that had been reserved much as a dowry for a great day—would not that express her feelings to her wonderful Lord? Forgetting her reserve in the intensity of her act, she pushed past the reclining forms, broke the expensive jar and poured the oil on the head of Jesus (
Some confuse this anointing with the one in Galilee (
Mother of James and Joseph.
This Mary is known by different names. She is the “mother of James and Joseph” (
The problem arises in relation to the husband. “Mary of Clopas” is mentioned by John as present at the cross (
Still another possibility is presented if Clopas and Alphaeus are the same. Hegesippus refers to a Clopas who is said to have been a brother of Jesus’ father, Joseph (Euseb. Hist. III. 11; IV. 22). This, if valid, would make Mary of Clopas and Mary the mother of Jesus sisters-in-law. Then an easy conjecture would be that the husband of the fifth Mary was Clopas and her children James (
Mary was called by the name of her native city, Magdala, on the W bank of the, three m. N of Tiberias. Magdala is the Gr. form of mighdōl or “watchtower,” prob. named for the tower that guarded the city. The Gr. name, Tarichaea, likely was used by the predominantly Gentile population. On the site are now the squalid hovels of Mejdel. Edersheim says the ancient city was famous for dye works and fine woolen textures (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, I, 571). Trade, shipbuilding, fishing, fish curing, and agriculture also brought great wealth to the city (Jer. Taan. 69a). Its moral corruption was also notorious.
Mary Magdalene was healed by Jesus. Seven demons went out of her (
S. Andrews, The Life of our Lord Upon the Earth (1862), 281-286, 596-612; J. Lange, The Life of the Lord(1872), I, 441; II, 258, 259, 489; III, 21-23, 365-367; IV, 253, 254, 470, 471; A. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883), I, 571; C. Pfeiffer, Baker’s Bible Atlas (1961), 204, 206; E. Bishop, “Mary (of) Clopas and Her Father” ET 73/11 (1962), 339.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
ma’-ri, mar’-i (Maria, Mariam, Greek form of Hebrew miryam):
I. DEFINITION AND QUESTIONS OF IDENTIFICATION
The Name Mary in the
II. MARY, THE VIRGIN
1. Mary in the Infancy Narratives
2. Mary at Cana
3. Mary and the Career of Jesus
4. Mary at the Cross
5. Mary in the Christian Community
6. Mary in Ecclesiastical Doctrine and Tradition
(a) The Dogma of Her Sinlessness
(b) Dogma of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity
(c) Doctrine of Mary’s Glorification as the Object of Worship and Her Function as Intercessor
III. MARY MAGDALENE
1. Mary Not the Sinful Woman of Luke 7
2. Mary Not a Nervous Wreck
IV. MARY OF BETHANY
1. Attack upon Luke’s Narrative
2. Evidence of Luke Taken Alone
3. Evidence Sifted by Comparison
4. Character of Mary
V. MARY, THE MOTHER OF JAMES AND JOSES
VI. MARY, THE MOTHER OF JOHN MARK
I. Definition and Questions of Identification.
A Hebrew feminine proper name of two persons in the
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;
(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
(5) One other possible identification is offered for our consideration. Zahn, in an exceedingly interesting note (New Testament, II, 514), identifies Mary of Rome (
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 episode.
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 (1:26 f), her maidenly fears (1:29,35), her loyal submission (1:38), her outburst of sacred and unselfish joy (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 (1:18); her bitter humiliation (1:19), her ultimate vindication (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 (
2. Mary at Cana:
The first episode which demands our attention is the wedding at Cana of Galilee (
(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 servants;
(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:
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 (19:25 ff). 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 it Himself.
5. Mary in the Christian Community:
The final passage which we need to consider (
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 us here.
(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 critical discussion.
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 (
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 as Intercessor: With no wish to be polemic toward, 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
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 (
(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
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
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 disposi-tion 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
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 7:50.
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 (
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
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," 209).
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
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;
(2) circumstances and scenery of the incident;
(3) description of the person who did the anointing;
(4) complaints of her action, by whom and for what;
(5) the lesson drawn from the woman’s action which constitutes our Lord’s defense of it;
(6) incidental features of the narrative.
(1) notice that all three evangelists place the incident near the close of the ministry and at Bethany. Under
(2) 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. Under
(3) we observe that Matthew and Mark say "a woman," while John designates Mary.
(4) According to Matthew, the disciples found fault; according to Mark, some of those present found fault; while according to John, the fault-finder was. According to all three, the ground or complaint is the alleged wastefulness of the action.
(5) 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
(6) 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 Lu 7.
An analysis of the incident of
(1) 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) 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) The description of the same woman as sinner in the sense of
(4) 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 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
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
(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
Martha was a good and useful woman. No one would deny that, least of all the Master who loved her (
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
The other notices of Mary show her lingering late at the cross (
VI. Mary, the Mother of John Mark.
This woman is mentioned but once in the New Testament (