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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Mary, the (Wife) of Clopas

Mary, The (Wife) Of Clopas

(Μαρία τοῦ Κλωπᾶ, A. V. "of Cleophas"), described by John as standing by the cross of Jesus in company with his mother and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25). The same group of women is described by Matthew as consisting of Mary Magdalene, and Mary [the mother] of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children" (Matthew 27:56); and by Mark, as "Mary Magdalene, and Mary [the mother] of James the Little and of Joses, and Salome" (Mark 15:40). From a comparison of these passages, it appears that "Mary of Clopas," and "Mary of James the Little and of Joses," are the same person, and that she was the sister of Mary the Virgin. The arguments, preponderating on the affirmative side, for this Mary being (according to the A.V. translation) the wife of Clopas or Alphaeus, and the mother of James the Little, Joses, Jude, Simon, and their sisters, have been given under the heading (See JAMES).

To solve the difficulties of this verse the following supposition has been suggested:

(1) That the two clauses "his mother's sister" and "Mary of Clopas" are not in apposition, and that John meant to designate four persons as present, namely, the mother of Jesus; her sister, to whom he does not assign any name; Mary of Clopas; and Mary Magdalene (Lange). It has been further suggested that this sister's name was Salome, wife of Zebedee (Wieseler). This is avoiding, not solving a difficulty. John could not have expressed himself as he does had he meant more than three persons. It has been suggested

(2) that the word ἀδελφή is not here to be taken in its strict sense, but rather in the laxer acceptation, which it clearly does bear in other places. Mary, wife of Clopas, it has been said, was not the sister, but the cousin of Mary the Virgin (see Wordsworth, Gr. Test., Preface to the Epistle of St. James). There is nothing in this suggestion which is objectionable, or which can be disproved. But it is hardly consistent with the terms of close relationship assigned to the connected members of the holy family. (See BRETHREN OF OUR LORD). By many, therefore, it has been contended

(3) that the two Marys were literally sistersgerman. "That it is far from impossible for two sisters to have the same name may be seen by any one who will cast his eye over Betham's Genealogical Tables. To name no others, his eye will at once light on a pair of Antonias and a pair of Octavias, the daughters of the same father, and in one case of different mothers, in the other of the same mother. If it be objected that these are merely gentilic names, another table will give two Cleopatras. It is quite possible, too, that the same cause which operates at present in Spain may have been at work formerly in Judaea. MIRIAM. the sister of Moses, may have been the holy woman after whom Jewish mothers called their daughters, just as Spanish mothers not unfrequently give the name of Mary to their children, male and female alike, in honor of Mary the Virgin. (Maria, Maria-Pia, and Maria-Immacolata, are the first names of three of the sisters of the late king of the Two Sicilies.) This is on the hypothesis that the two names are identical, but, on a close examination of the Greek text. we find that it is possible that this was not the case. Mary the Virgin is Μαριάμ ; her sister is Μαρία. It is more than possible that these names are the Greek representatives of two forms which the antique מַרְיָם had then taken; and as in pronunciation the emphasis would have been thrown on the last syllable in Μαριάμ , while to the final letter in Μαρία would have been almost unheard, there would, upon this hypothesis, have been a greater difference in the sisters' names than there is between Mary and Maria among ourselves. The ordinary explanation that Μαριάμ is the Hebraic form, and Μαρία the Greek form, and that the difference is in the use of the evangelists, not in the name itself, seems scarcely adequate: for why should the evangelists invariably employ the Hebraic form when writing of Mary the Virgin, and the Greek form when writing about all the other Marys in the Gospel history? It is true that this distinction is not constantly observed in the readings of the Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Ephraemi, and a few other MSS.; but there is sufficient agreement in the majority of the codices to determine the usage. That it is possible for a name to develop into several kindred forms, and for these forms to be considered sufficiently distinct appellations for two or more brothers or sisters, is evidences by our daily experience." "We find that the high-priest Onias III had a brother also named Onias, who eventually succeeded him in his office under the adopted name of Menelaus.

We have the authority of the earliest traditions for the opinion that our Lord's mother had at least one sister called Mary. Indeed, it is an old opinion that Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary, had three daughters of that name by different husbands; and Dr. Routh, in his Reliquiae Sacrae, gives us from Papias, the scholar of John (ex Cod . MS. Bib. Bodl. 2397), the following enumeration of four Marys of the N.T.: 1. Maria, Mater Domini; 2. Maria, Cleophae sive Alphaei uxor, que fiuit mater Jacobi Episcopi et Apostoli, et Simonis, et Thadsei, et cujusdam Joseph; 3. Maria Salome, uxor Zebedaei, mater Johannis evangelista et Jacobi; 4. Maria Magdalene. It is further stated, in this fragment of Papias, that both Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Salome, were aunts of our Lord, and consequently sisters of the Virgin Mary" (Kitto). Finally, most interpreters, regarding all the above positions as untenable, or, at least, improbable, suppose (4) that the two Marys were sisters-in-law by virtue of having married brothers, i.e. Joseph and Alphaeus or Clopas, and afterwards, perhaps by a Levirate marriage, having become the wives of the same husband, namely, Joseph the survivor. (See ALPHAEUS).

The only knowledge we have of this Mary, besides the above facts of her sons, and of her presence at the crucifixion, is that she was that "other Mary" who, with Mary Magdalene, attended the body of Christ to the sepulcher when taken down from the cross (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55). She was also among those who went on the morning of the first dav of the week to the sepulcher to anoint the body, and who became the first witnesses of the resurrection (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1). A.D. 29.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mary, the (Wife) of Clopas'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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