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Holman Bible Dictionary


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(mahr' thuh) Personal name meaning “lady [of the house]” or “mistress.” Sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany and one of Jesus' best-loved disciples. True to her name, Martha is portrayed as a person in charge: she welcomed Jesus as a guest in her home ( Luke 10:38 ); she was concerned with meeting the obligations of a hostess, whether preparing food (Luke 10:40 ; John 12:2 ) or greeting guests (John 11:20 ). Together with Mary, she sent for Jesus when Lazarus was ill (John 11:3 ). Luke 10:38-42 contrasts Martha's activist discipleship with Mary's contemplative discipleship. The church cannot minister without “Marthas” who are willing to serve alone. Jesus' gentle rebuke serves as a perpetual reminder not to major on minor matters. Jesus must not be neglected in the name of service. In John 11:21-27 , Jesus led Martha from an inadequate to a lofty confession. Faced with the realities of death, Martha, however, later doubted (John 11:39 ). Some interpreters identify Martha as the wife (widow) or daughter of Simon the leper on the basis of harmonization with Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 . The three traditions which involve anointings of Jesus (1. Matthew 26:6-13 ; Mark 14:3-9 ; Mark 2:1 . Luke 7:37-39 ,Luke 7:37-39,7:44-50 ; Luke 3:1 . John 21:1-8 ) present a nearly insurmountable challenge to a harmonizer. A more sound approach is to appreciate each tradition within the context of the Gospel of which it is a part.

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Martha'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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