Hello My Friends and Welcome.
The image illustrating this post in our continuing Lenten/Easter series is the painting The Three Mary’s at the Empty Tomb by William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1890. Bouguereau’s paintings have a softness of color and a sense of serenity about them. We used his 1873 painting, The Newborn Lamb as a cover for Witness, Book One in The Seeds of Christianity™ Series. We went back to Bougereau for Disciple, Book Two of the Series, adapting his 1860 painting, Tobias Saying Goodbye to his Father. Both covers are in the right sidebar.
Now, back to the three Mary’s. Which three Mary’s is he depicting? The answer, of course, is Mary Magdalene, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary, the wife of Aristopolus. This raises two additional questions: Who are these people and why are they all named Mary?
We all know the first one, Mary from Magdala. She is generally considered to be a woman of means who helped finance Yeshua’s ministry. She was also the first to encounter the risen Christ and, mistaking him for a gardener, asked where they had placed the body.
Mary, the wife of Clopas — also Cleopas or Alphaeus — was the wife of Herod Antipas’ cup bearer. Cup bearer, by the way, is a polite term for Royal Taster. A rather dicey job when you’re serving one of the Herods. Regardless, he was well placed and tradition says both of his sons were publicans, or tax collectors. Most probably they were Mokhes, custom officials. Galilee sat on the main roads of commerce and Herod Antipas’ principal source of revenue was derived from the goods passing through his territory. So who were these sons? We know them well. One was named Levi, or Mattithayu (Matthew). His brother’s name was Yaakov…Jacob…James. The man we’ve come to call James the Lesser.
The last Mary, and her husband Aristopolus, were early disciples. They owned the home with the “upper room” where Yeshua and his disciples celebrated the Last Supper. Mary had a brother by the name of Yosef, whom we also know well, as Barnabus the companion of Paul. She also had a son named John Mark…the associate of Peter, author of the Gospel of Mark, and, according to Eusebius, the eventual Bishop of Alexandria.
Why do we find a Mary everywhere time we turn around in the New Testament? The name Mary in all its many permutations, Miriam, Mariam, Maria, Mariamne, Mariamme, Mariamenom, was an extremely popular name in First Century Israel. It’s been estimated that somewhere between 25—35% of the women were named some form of Mary. Imagine if these three women attended a dinner at Lazarus’ home in Bethany along with Yeshua’s mother. Now we have at least five Mary’s in the same room…talk about confusion.
I’ve been asked why I chose to identify Yeshus’a mother as Miryam in my novels. There are two reasons. First, for authenticity I’ve used the Jewish spelling for the characters and Miryam is the original Jewish form of the name. Secondly, in Biblical manuscripts the name translated as Mary is written as MRYM.
Next time we’ll study the Jewish feast of Purim…one that Jesus and his disciples surely celebrated.
Until then, we wish you Peace and Blessings.
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