the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Holman Bible Dictionary
1. Mother of Jesus. Mary seems to have been related to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and wife of the priest Zechariah. Elizabeth was also of a priestly family. If “kinswoman” in Luke 1:36 is a reference for family line and not a relationship established by marriage, then Mary's family heritage may have been priestly. Luke presented Mary as a person of great faith prepared to be an agent of God in the birth of the Messiah. In later church tradition, two important theological beliefs focus the significance of Mary. One has to do with what is referred to as “divine maternity,” while the other is “virginial conception.” Their scriptural orientation is based on Luke 1:34 that details Mary's response to the angel's announcement that she would have a son. Mary questioned how this could be since she did not have a husband. The Greek states, “I am not knowing a man.” Some have interpreted the Greek text as making an eternally valid theological statement that her virginity is an on-going state that equals a “perpetual virginity.” Matthew 1:24-25 (including, [Joseph] “knew her not until she had borne a son”) would seem to challenge the perpetual virginity belief. The Luke text is sufficiently vague as to allow the growth of such doctrine. In contemporary Christianity, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches embrace these doctrines, while most Protestant churches do not. However, in all cases, Mary is a revered character in Christian tradition who is believed to represent goodness, innocence, and profound commitment to the ways of God.
Mary does not play as high a profile in the Gospels as one might expect. The Gospel writers attempted to emphasize Jesus' divine origins at the expense of deemphasizing the importance of His mother. The Gospel of John presents women in an essential place in the public ministry of Jesus, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, functions in such a role. In John 2:1-11 , Mary's presence at Jesus' first public miracle of changing water to wine at the marriage at Cana underscores, in a profound manner, that Jesus' destiny challenges all norms, including that of immediate family relationships. The recurring Johannine theological theme of Jesus' “hour” being divinely directed is pointedly made by Mary's presence in the episode (compare Mark 3:31-35; Luke 11:27-28 ). Mary's presence at the foot of the cross (found only in John 19:25-27 ) highlights the mother's love. Acts 1:14 indicates that Mary was present, along with other hero figures of early Christianity, in the upper room scene in Jerusalem.
2. Mary Magdalene. Magdala was an important agricultural, fishing, and trade center of ancient Galilee. Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2 indicate that this Mary, from Magdala, was exorcised of some seven demons. In antiquity, demon possession was an indication of physical or spiritual illness; obviously, Mary Magdalene was quite ill before her encounter with Jesus. Mary eventually became part of an inner circle of supporters of Jesus. She was a witness of His crucifixion ( Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25 ), burial (Mark 15:47; Matthew 27:61 ), the empty tomb (Mark 16:18; Matthew 28:1-10; Luke 24:10 ), and she was a witness of Jesus' resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:1-18 ). A tradition, especially prevalent in western Christianity from about A.D. 500 onward, identified Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50 . The text gives no reason for such an association, as the introduction of Mary in Luke 8:1 is quite removed topically from Luke 7:36 . To confuse the interpretative tradition further, the sinful woman in the anointing scene of Luke 7:36-50 is often identified incorrectly with another Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazrus. On all accounts, no evidence exists that the sinful woman of Luke 7:1 should be identified as Mary.
3. Mary (of Bethany), the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus seem to have been part of an inner circle of Jesus' associates. The Gospel of John places particular emphasis on their select status. Mary from Bethany played a primary role in the episode of Lazarus' resurrection from the dead in John 11:1 . In John 12:1 , Mary anointed Jesus' feet with precious oil, thus serving an important confessional function of anticipating Jesus' death. Given the sequence of John's Gospel, Mary is represented as a follower of Jesus who is well acquainted with Jesus' ultimate destiny (compare Judas, the disciple in John 12:4 , who is not as well informed).
4. Mary, the mother of James the younger and of Joses and Salome. This Mary would appear to be part of Jesus' following from Galilee who moved with Him during His itinerant public ministry (compare Mark 15:40-41 ). She witnessed Jesus' crucifixion and was part of the group of women who encountered the empty tomb (Mark 15:47; Mark 16:1-8; Matthew 27:55-56; Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 23:56; Luke 24:1-10 ).
5. Mary, the mother of John Mark. This woman was the owner of the house in Jerusalem where the first followers of Jesus met (Acts 12:12 ). Her son, John Mark, eventually became a disciple of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25 ). See Mark, John .
6. Mary, the wife of Clopas. She witnessed Jesus' crucifixion (John 19:25 ) and may be the same character as Mary, the mother of James, Joses, and Salome in the Synoptic Gospels accounts.
7. Mary, from Rome. An individual Paul greeted in Romans 16:6 . Wayne McCready
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Mary'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​m/mary.html. 1991.