the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
1. Mary the mother of James the Little and Joses, one of the women who followed Jesus from Galilee, stood beside the cross, watched the burial, and visited the sepulchre on the Resurrection morning (Matthew 27:55-56 = Mark 15:40-41, Matthew 27:61 = Mark 15:47, Mark 16:1 = Matthew 28:1 = Luke 24:10). From John 19:25 it appears that she was wife to Clopas. This name is distinct from Cleopas (Luke 24:18), and is perhaps identical with Alphaens, both representing חַלְפַי. Cf. J. B. Lightfoot, Gal. p. 256. WH [Note: H Westcott and Hort’s text.] write Ἀλραῖος (see NT, vol. ii. § 408). If this identification be allowed, then (1) James the Little was probably one of the Twelve (Matthew 10:3 = Mark 3:18 = Luke 16:15); (2) he was perhaps brother to Levi (Matthew), the son of Alphaeus. The latter inference is favoured by (a) the v.l. Ἰάκωβον for Δευείν in Mark 2:14; (b) the tradition that James, like Matthew, had been a tax-gatherer (Chrysost. in Matth. xxxiii.: δύο τελῶναι, Ματθαῖος καὶ Ἰάκωβος; Euth. Zig.: Ματθαῖος δὲ καὶ Ἰάκωβος ὁ τοῦ Ἀλφαίου, τελῶναι). See artt. Alphaeus and Clopas.
Hegesippus (in Eus. Historia Ecclesiastica iii. 11. 32, iv. 22) mentions a Clopas who was brother to Joseph, our Lord’s foster-father; but there is no evidence that he was identical with this Clopas. Jerome, in support of his theory of ‘the Brethren of Jesus,’ construes Μαριὰμ ἡ τοῦ Κλωτᾶ in John 19:25 as in opposition to ἡ ἀδελφὴ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, thus reducing the number of the women by the Cross to three, and making ‘Mary the [wife] of Clopas’ the Virgin’s sister. See J. B. Lightfoot, Gal. p. 255 ff. But (1) it is improbable that two sisters bore the same name, and (2) ‘the sister of his mother’ was apparently Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (cf. Mark 15:40 = Matthew 27:56).
2. Mary Magdalene.—She is first mentioned (Luke 8:2) as one of a company of women who attended Jesus on His second mission through Galilee in the course of the second year of His ministry. She is distinguished by two significant epithets: (1) ‘the Magdalene,’ i.e. the woman of Magdala (Mejdel), a town on the Lake of Galilee, some 3 miles from Capernaum, at the southern end of the Plain of Gennesaret. The modern Mejdel is a miserable village, but the ancient Magdala was a wealthy place, one of three cities, according to the Talmud, whose tribute had to be conveyed in waggons to Jerusalem (cf. Lightfoot on John 12:3). It had, however, an evil reputation, and was destroyed, according to the same authority, for harlotry, so that ‘Mary the Magdalene’ might be equivalent to ‘Mary the harlot’ (cf. ‘Corinthian Lais’). It is only fair, however, to add that many regard this as very precarious.
(2) ‘From whom seven demons had gone forth.’ In Jewish parlance, immorality was a form of demonic possession,* [Note: Lightfoot on Luke 8:2. Cf. Jer. Vit. Hil. Erem.: a virgo Dei at Majumas possessed by amoris dœmon.] and, just as the grace of the Holy Spirit is called ‘sevenfold,’† [Note: Od. Clun. Hymn. de S. Mar. Magdal.:
‘Qui septem purgat vitia
Per septiformem gratiam.’] so sevenfold possession might signify complete abandonment to the dominion of unclean passion. Cf. Matthew 12:45 = Luke 11:26. It is possible that Mary had been a harlot, that Jesus had rescued her from her life of shame, and that she followed Him out of gratitude. She was one of the devoted women who stood by the cross (John 19:25, Matthew 27:56 = Mark 15:40), watched His burial (Matthew 27:61 = Mark 15:47), and came on the Resurrection morning to the sepulehre (John 20:1 = Matthew 28:1 = Mark 16:1 = Luke 24:10). Finding it empty, she waited beside it weeping, and was rewarded with the first vision of the risen Lord (John 20:11-18, cf. Matthew 28:9-10).
3. Mary of Bethany.—She is first introduced by St. Luke (Luke 10:38-42), who tells how Jesus, probably on His way to the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2; John 7:10) in the third year of His ministry, reached ‘a certain village,’ and was hospitably received by ‘a certain woman by name Martha,’ who had a sister called Mary. The Feast of Tabernacles was a season of feasting and friendship. ‘They ate the fat and drank the sweet, and sent portions unto them for whom nothing was prepared, and made great mirth’ (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:33-44, Numbers 29:12-38, Nehemiah 8:9-18). Martha, a good housewife, was busy making ready the festal cheer; but Mary, oblivious of all save the Lord’s presence, seated herself, in the posture of a disciple (cf. Acts 22:3), at His feet and listened to His discourse. Martha, ‘distracted about much service,’ interposed: ‘Lord, dost thou not care that my sister left me alone to serve? Tell her then to lend me a helping hand.’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ He answered, gently protesting against the sumptuousness of His hostess’s preparations, ‘thou art anxious and troubled about many things, but a few are all we need; or rather,’ He added, ‘only one thing;‡ [Note: אBL, WH ὀλίγων δέ ἑστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός.] for it is the good “portion” that Mary chose, one which shall not be taken away from her.’ At that season, when they were all feasting and sending ‘portions,’ Mary was thinking not of the meat that perisheth, but of that which endureth unto eternal life.
St. Luke does not name the village where Martha and Mary dwelt. St. John tells us that it was Bethany, and that they had a brother named Lazarus (John 11:1-46). Some months later, when Jesus was at the other Bethany beyond Jordan, whither He had retired from Jerusalem to escape the fury of the rulers (John 10:40; cf. John 1:28 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ), Lazarus fell sick, and his sisters sent Jesus word. For two days after He heard the news He remained where He was, and only when Lazarus died did He set out. His approach was reported to Martha, apparently the elder sister and mistress of the house; and she went to meet Him and sorrowfully upbraided Him: ‘Lord, hadst thou been here, my brother had not died.’ Assured of His sympathy and help, she returned home and, finding her sister among the mourners, whispered to her that the Teacher had come. Mary arose, and, hurrying to Him, fell at His feet, crying in the very words which Martha had used, the words which had been on their lips all those sorrowful days: ‘Lord, hadst thou been here, my brother had not died.’ Cf. art. Martha.
Mary appears a third time six days before the Passover, when Jesus was entertained in the house of Simon the Leper at Bethany, and she came in during the feast and anointed His feet (John 12:1-11; cf. Matthew 26:6-13 = Mark 14:3-9). See Anointing, I. 2.
Literature.—Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. ii. pp. 23, 388, 652; Hengstenb. on John 11:1-46; Andrews, Life of our Lord, pp. 281–286; artt. ‘Mary’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible and in Encyc. Bibl.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mary'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​m/mary.html. 1906-1918.