BC_Encyclopaedia

Mary - which one’s which?


There are 6 references to women with the name Mary, in the New Testament, as far as I can see, which makes things a bit confusing!

The name Mary is equivalent to Miriam in the Hebrew language.

(1.) The wife of Joseph & the virgin mother of Jesus. (Matthew 2:11; Acts 1:14). Her genealogy is recorded in Luke 3. She was a descendent of King David (Psalms 132:11; Luke 1:32). She was connected by marriage with Elisabeth, who was a descendent of Aaron, Moses brother. (Luke 1:36). Mary was present at the marriage in Cana, scene of Jesus’ first miracle. One & a half years later she is mentioned in connection with the Lord’s words, “Who is my mother? and who are my brothers?” This occurs in Capernaum (Matthew 12:46, 48, 49.) The next time we read of this particular Mary, is at the cross along with her sister Mary (see (4) below), which makes the account very confusing! Another Mary (see (2) below), Mary Magdalene, and Salome, and other women were also present (John 19:26). From the time of Jesus execution on the cross the disciple John took Mary to his own home. She was with all of the disciples in the upper room after Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1:14). No-one knows what happened to her after that time.

(2.) Mary Magdalene, or Mary of Magdala, which was a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Out of Mary were cast seven demons. Gratitude to Jesus prompted her to become his follower & to give money to His earthly ministry. Mary Magdalene stood near the cross of Jesus (Matthew 27:55) & is implied as being present in Mark 15:41 & Luke 23:55. Mary Magdalene, with Salome and Mary the mother of James came to Jesus tomb to anoint his body. (Mat 28:1; Mark 16:2) They found the tomb empty, but saw the “vision of angels” (Mat 28:5). She ran to tell Peter and John (John 20:1, 2), and then returned to the tomb. There she encounters the resurrected Jesus. This is the last record regarding Mary of Magdala, who now returned to Jerusalem.

(3.) Mary, the sister of Lazarus & Martha, all of whom lived at Bethany, near Jerusalem. (Martha was the woman who was busy! (see Luke 10: 38-42) On the occasion of Jesus’ last visit to Bethany, Mary anointed the feet of Jesus ( John 12:2, 3). Nothing is recorded of her after this time.

(4.) Mary the wife of James/Cleopas is mentioned in John 19:25. She too stood at the cross of Jesus, with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus (that’s confusing!) By comparing Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40, we find that this Mary and “Mary the mother of James the younger” are one and the same person. She was the sister of Jesus’ mother. She was that “other Mary” who was present with Mary of Magdala at the burial of our Lord (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47); and she was one of those who went early in the morning to anoint his body (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1).

(5.) Mary the sister of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) & the mother of John Mark. Her house in Jerusalem was the common meeting-place for Jesus’ disciples.

(6.) Mary, A Christian at Rome who treated Paul with special kindness (Rom 16:6).

I have to give thanks to Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary for helping me figure out which Mary is which in this article!