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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Martha is first mentioned by John - the only other Gospel writer who refers to Martha - in his account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead at Bethany (John 11:1-44 ). The narrative indicates, however, that Jesus was already on terms of the closest friendship with her and her household (compare John 11:3 , John 11:5 ). In the incident which John here records, Martha again displayed her more practical nature by going out to meet Jesus, while Mary sat in the house (John 11:20 ). But she was not behind her sister in her love for her brother (John 11:19 ), in her faith in Jesus (John 11:21 f) and in her belief in the final resurrection ( John 11:24 ). The power of Him, whom she termed the "Teacher," to restore Lazarus to life even upon earth was beyond her understanding. To the words of Jesus concerning this she gave, however, a verbal assent, and went and informed Mary, "The Teacher is here, and calleth thee" (John 11:27 f). Yet she remained inwardly unconvinced, and remonstrated when Jesus ordered the stone before the grave to be removed ( John 11:39 ). Jesus then recalled His previous words to her remembrance (John 11:40 ), and vindicated them by restoring her brother to life (John 11:41-44 ). After the raising of Lazarus, Jesus then made His departure, but after a short stay in Ephraim (John 11:54 ) He returned to Bethany (John 12:1 ). While He supped there, Martha once more served, and Lazarus was also present (John 12:2 ). It was on this occasion that Mary anointed the feet of Jesus (John 12:3-8 ). According to Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9 , the anointing took place in the house of Simon the leper, and it has hence been concluded by some that Martha was the wife or widow of Simon. The anointing described in Luke 7:36-50 happened in the house of Simon a Pharisee. But in none of the synoptist accounts is Martha mentioned. For the relationship of these anointings with each other, see MARY , IV. As, according to John, the abode of the sisters was in Bethany, a further difficulty of a topographical nature is raised by those who hold that Luke implies, from the Galilean setting of Luke 10:38-41 , that the sisters lived in Galilee. But the information supplied by Luke, upon which this inference is based, is of the vaguest (compare Luke 10:38 ), and the great division of Luke's Gospel (Lk 9:51 through 18:31) has within it no organic cohesion of parts. In it is mentioned that on two separate occasions Jesus passed through Samaria (Luke 9:52; Luke 17:11 ). It is therefore more logical to suppose that the events described in Luke 10:38-41 , falling within the intervening period, took place in Bethany during an excursion of Jesus to Judea, and formed one of the several visits upon which the friendship recorded in John 11:3 , John 11:5 was built. According to a fragment of a Coptic gospel belonging to the 2nd century (compare Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen , 38, 39), Martha was present with the other two Marys at the empty grave of Jesus (compare Matthew 28:1 , Matthew 28:11 ), and went and informed the disciples.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Martha'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/m/martha.html. 1915.